In addition to being a recommendation for writing good fiction, the adage, “show me, don’t tell me,” could just as easily be applied to economic development, a practice that includes marketing a location, attracting business to it and enhancing its economic well being and quality of life. Being able to actually see or experience what a particular location – a city or a region – has to offer can help to bring economic development deals to fruition.
The concept of “show, don’t tell” motivated the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) to recently bring eight national site location consultants and capital market experts to Pittsburgh for a two-day familiarization tour. The tour was designed to acquaint these influential individuals – advisors to high-profile corporate clients worldwide on the best locations for business investment – with the spectrum of advantages that Pittsburgh, a “world’s best” destination*, has to offer.
The PRA brings these professionals to town to show, not just to tell them about the assets that make the region a solid investment. At the same time, their visit provides an opportunity for the 10-county Pittsburgh region’s economic development and commercial real estate community to hear about any improvements that could be made to enhance the market’s competitiveness. This year was the first time that the PRA included capital market experts in the tour. Inviting them to participate was in response to increasing interest in the region from outside investors. A prime example is last year’s acquisition of downtown’s iconic PPG Place by North Carolina-based Highwoods Properties, with a total investment of $214.1 million anticipated. Maintaining and increasing this outside interest and investment motivation is a goal.
While in town on Nov. 12 and 13, the group visited American Eagle Outfitters at SouthSide Works and Google Pittsburgh at Bakery Square – two globally recognized brands that have chosen Pittsburgh for either a headquarters or other significant business operation. Interestingly, both of these companies chose former Pittsburgh brownfield sites for their investments.
The group also participated in the developers’ showcase of NAIOP Pittsburgh (the Commercial Real Estate Development Association) at Allegheny Center on the North Side. This event, attended by professionals from the commercial real estate and economic development communities, included a panel discussion featuring the site location consultants and capital market experts. They responded to questions from Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce President Barbara McNees, who moderated the panel, as well as to questions from the floor regarding the state of the region and its attractiveness for business investment.
Watch the video clip below featuring three of the experts participating in the PRA’s familiarization tour to hear their reactions to Pittsburgh and their recommendations for taking the region to the next level.
Additionally, you can read the reflections of one of the tour participants, Dean Barber, principal at Barber Business Advisors, LLC in Plano, Texas, who’s also included in the video. Barber’s piece, “The Journey of a Hungry Caterpillar,” was recently posted on his blog, BarberBiz. Although he says that he considers himself “a Southerner and a now a nuevo Texan,” Barber writes that he grew up in a manufacturing family and that his father was from Pittsburgh, allowing him to “feel a certain affinity for the city.” He further shares, “ … I must admit that I come upon places that I naturally like. Sometimes I cannot fully explain it, but I just do. Such is the case with Pittsburgh.”
That said, we’re casting our vote for “show, don’t tell” when it comes to selling this region. Clearly, the “eyes” have it.