Session looks at challenges of future

May 23, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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Bill Flanagan, chief corporate relations officer for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, speaks on the changes the region has seen over the past 15 years and the challenges that remain.

CRANBERRY TWP — Scores of movers and shakers from around the region gathered Tuesday to discuss how to meet the challenges of the future.

Representatives from corporations, nonprofits, academic institutions and area and state government representatives packed into the Noah's Event Venue at 3 p.m. for the “Our Next 75 Workshop,” hosted by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Tuesday's event was the last of a series across the region.

“This is the 75th anniversary of not only the Allegheny Conference, but also the Pittsburgh region,” said Jeff Broadhurst, president and CEO of Eat'n Park. “We're on the verge of the next decade.”

Butler County is one of 10 Southwestern Pennsylvania counties in the Allegheny Conference

He and other speakers emphasized the importance of area groups working together to capitalize on the growth and opportunities in the region.

“The one word that stands out to me is 'together,'” said Toni Murphy, vice-president of Comcast. “It has to be a collective brain trust of the entire 10-county system.”

Murphy brought up a slide inviting attendees to go to a website on their phones and list the biggest challenges facing the region.

Education, transportation and infrastructure topped the list.

“We really want to look at what we've done in the past and reenergize around what this region can be,” Murphy said.

Bill Flanagan, chief corporate relations officer for the Allegheny Conference, spoke about the changes the region has seen over the past 15 years and the challenges that remain.

He pointed out how robotics was still consigned to universities and specialists in 2004, but today such technology can be seen in grocery stores and driving the streets of major urban areas. Even cell phones, he noted, were just becoming widespread.

He said investment in the region 15 years ago looked nothing like it does in 2019, adding that more people are employed here than ever before and billions of dollars continue to be invested into the area every year.

“What a difference 15 years can make,” he said. “You've all played a part in making that happen.”

But it hasn't all been positive, Flanagan said in terms of economic growth, Western Pennsylvania still has room to grow. He said Pittsburgh's growth is lagging behind similarly sized cities, such as Detroit and Cincinnati, and diversity is way behind most urban centers.

Tuesday's event aimed to help community leaders and corporate executives discuss how to effectively work together to meet those challenges.

“The overall goal is to drive regional vitality,” Flanagan said. “I am confident there are even better stories to come.”

The audience split into smaller groups, brainstormed and tackled topics such as economic development, transportation, business climate, diversity, education and quality of life.

Murphy encouraged groups to analyze each issue and consider how to effectively work together to tackle it.

“How do we take this brain trust and really move things forward?” she said.

The workshop series marks the 75th anniversary of the Pittsburgh Renaissance and its impact on the region.

The conference plans to bring area leaders together June 27 in downtown Pittsburgh for the “Our Next 75 Summit.”

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Caleb Harshberger

Caleb Harshberger

Caleb Harshberger is a reporter covering Adams, Forward and Middlesex Townships and Evans City, Callery and Valencia Boroughs. He started as an intern with the Butler Eagle in Jan. 2017 and was hired as a staff writer in June of that year. Harshberger earned a degree in philosophy at Grove City College in 2017 and is originally from Syracuse, N.Y.