News & Knowledge

80-member City Beautiful contingent visiting Steel City for innovation, strategy ideas

80-member City Beautiful contingent visiting Steel City for innovation, strategy ideas
by Sean Sonnenberg

October 2, 2018

The Orlando Sentinel

By: Stephen Hudak

An entourage of 80 Central Florida leaders, including Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orange County Mayor-elect Jerry Demings, are in Pittsburgh to see what the City Beautiful can learn from the Steel City, a city that has remade itself.

Business, education, health-care and government chiefs left Sunday on the four-day trip, which was arranged by the nonprofit Orlando Economic Partnership. The organization’s goal is to create high-wage, high-value jobs and expanding Central Florida’s global reach and competitiveness.

The delegation is focusing on Pittsburgh’s economic renaissance and studying its community philosophy which is centered on creating broad-based prosperity, an effort summarized in its economic development campaign, “If it’s not for all, it’s not for us.”

“This mission was built around the themes of innovation, sustainability, and resiliency as well as Pittsburgh’s ability to change its image and ultimately its course toward a better future by doing the hard work of looking at its challenges and coming up with smart strategies that are inclusive of its entire community,” said Tim Giuliani, president and CEO of the partnership, which is funded 70 percent by private industry.

The delegates are paying their own way including flights, hotel, food, transportation and entry to venues, partnership spokeswoman Laureen Martinez said.

Once a gritty, dirty town, where the air was so polluted by steel mill soot that street lights were turned on at midday, Pittsburgh has retooled itself as a global center for health-care and other clean, high-tech industries, though U.S. Steel is still headquartered downtown. The company is the world’s eighth-largest steel producer.

The city, home to world championship sports franchises in the NFL’s Steelers and the NHL’s Penguins, also boasts of tech giant Google, which employs 500 workers in Pittsburgh’s Bakery Square at a former factory where Nabisco once made Nilla wafers.

“Gaining insights from other leaders has been invaluable in the past and I know Pittsburgh will be no different,” said Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, who has been part of previous partnership trips to Phoenix, Austin, Texas, and Denver. “Pittsburgh has a unique story and great success leveraging their solid economic foundation on the steel industry into so much more. “

Since 2014, Orlando, too, has tried to re-brand itself as more than theme parks.

The region has sought to connect with CEOs and other corporate decision-makers with its own marketing campaign, “Orlando: You don’t know the half of it.

The multimillion-dollar media blitz highlighted Central Florida’s businesses, industries, infrastructure and quality of life.

With 72 million visitors in 2017, Orlando boasts that it is the most popular tourist destination on Earth, but it wants more.

The regions are similar in population — the Pittsburgh metropolitan area has an estimated 2.3 million residents while Orlando’s metro is about 2.1 million.

The itinerary for the Orlando contingent included sessions with scholars and experts on venture capital and entrepreneurship, transportation and community building.

They heard Monday from Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto and former Mayor Thomas Murphy, credited as one of the architects of Pittsburgh’s renaissance.

But the Orlando group also planned to tour Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, the National Robotics Engineering Center, the Energy Innovation Center and The Andy Warhol Museum, home to a vast collection of works by the Pittsburgh-born pop-art icon.

Some delegates also took in Sunday night’s NFL game at Heinz Field between the Pittsburgh Steelers and arch-rival Baltimore Ravens.

Coincidentally, the University of Central Florida’s undefeated football team whipped the University of Pittsburgh’s team Saturday at Spectrum Stadium in Orlando, a fact re-tweeted by UCF President Dale Whittaker, part of the Orlando contingent.

Others in the Orlando delegation include Partnership Chair Yolanda Londoño, vice president of global social responsibility for Tupperware Brands; Chair-elect Bill Dymond, president and CEO of the Orlando-based law firm Lowndes; Vice Chair Daryl Tol, president and CEO of Florida Hospital; Barbara Jenkins, superintendent of Orange County Public Schools; Avido Khahaifa, publisher and editor-in-chief of the Orlando Sentinel; and representatives from UCF, Valencia College and Seminole State College.

Orange County government was represented by Demings and Eric Ushkowitz, the county’s economic development administrator.

Demings said he hopes the trip will provide insight into how Pittsburgh has improved the quality of life for poor and working-class families by diversifying its economy and that it will lead to improved collaboration among Central Florida leaders as they tackle the region’s challenges.

Outgoing Mayor Teresa Jacobs, recently elected Orange County School Board chair, was unable to attend because of a family commitment.

According to the Orlando Economic Partnership, the organization arranged previous missions in 2015 to Phoenix, which boasts a downtown campus for Arizona State University, a model for UCF ‘s downtown Orlando campus; in 2012 to Austin, which offered insights into becoming a magnet for tech companies; and in 2010 to Denver, where the group learned about the city’s sustainable energy and transportation policies.

The partnership encompasses Orlando and seven counties — Brevard, Lake, Orange, Osceola, Polk, Seminole and Volusia.

The partnership was renamed in 2017 when the Central Florida Partnership and the Orlando Economic Development Commission merged.

Related Professional