Robbie Matesic: Looking Back – and Ahead – at Economic Development Success in Greene County

by on May 10, 2017

Part IX of a Weekly, 12-Part Series

Note:  The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) invited each of its economic development partners from the 10-county region to share insight and maybe some hindsight about business investment and the economy’s growth – at the county and regional levels – looking through the rearview mirror at 2016 and at the road ahead and where it might be taking them, their counties and our region in 2017 and beyond.

Here are some of the responses that Robbie Matesic, executive director of economic development, Greene County Department of Economic Development

What do you count as the most strategically significant (not necessarily the largest in size or investment dollars) economic development-related deal or activity in your county in 2016? Why?

“In 2016, many dynamic opportunities to leverage energy resources for diversification have emerged, despite a slowdown in the industry and transitions in both domestic and global energy markets. The extraction of energy resources is still the most prominent economic activity in Greene County.  Our energy workforce is focusing a keen eye on technology and advanced manufacturing thanks to the leadership of our educators, non-profits and a phenomenal drive in the region to push us all toward the future.”

 

Last year, the Allegheny Conference released a landmark report, Inflection Point: Supply, Demand and the Future of Work in the Pittsburgh Region, detailing a dramatically changing workforce – both in numbers and skill sets.  What has your county done, is doing or planning to do to turn a regional workforce challenge into opportunity? What do you consider your county’s greatest workforce asset(s) to be and why?

Inflection Point showed us – by giving a deeper dive into data and the facts – that there’s a true story of huge employment opportunity across the region and across all our industry sectors, but we must prepare for it.   In the county, educators are responding by working with each other, as well as with educators in the region to expand STEAM curriculum.  We are also spreading the word with our manufacturers and other businesses.   Workers here are availing themselves of a premier coding boot camp, Mined Minds, and their participation is proving, beyond a doubt, that the occupational, safety and dependable team skills of our energy workforce lend themselves to a natural transition to the technologies that drive our industries and opportunities of the future.”

 

What is one of your top priorities for your county, relative to economic development, in 2017 and why?

“Our region has an abundance of great human and natural resources, as well as premier institutions focused on driving advancements in new technology and manufacturing.  During the past decade, Greene County witnessed a major industry shift to non-conventional energy extraction which demonstrated the unparalleled ingenuity and business savvy of many people right here.   In 2017 we will continue to seek out our most innovative individuals and dedicate every resource available to their success.”

 

How important is regional partnership to economic development success in your county and what do you count among your best partnership assets/allies for achieving success. Can you share a particular memory or reflection about a project when partnership moved the needle? If so, please do.

“By definition, regional partnerships erase boundaries and emphasize the common ground among us in critical infrastructure and institutional development.   The new opportunities in an emerging petrochemical manufacturing industry and its value chain are without precedent, and the region’s dedicated effort to make this opportunity a reality is a great example of partnering.  Southwestern Pennsylvania’s elected officials, planning, policy, economic development agencies, and private sector are aligned like never before.”

 

What is better about the economic development/business investment climate in the region now, versus 10 years ago? Conversely, what do hope will be improved within the next decade?

“In 2015 and 2016, when the energy sector faced rapid market decline and furloughs, the concern and outreach from across the region to the counties most impacted by the situation were outstanding.   Resources that were directed here then are still coming in.  Even regional economic policy shifted to address the widespread impact.   Sometimes, a thank-you just isn’t enough to express how important that really was and is.   Pittsburgh has always been known as the friendly city, but it’s really a much bigger reflection than that friendliness comes from all corners of the region.  My hope for the next decade is that the strength of regional efforts across the tri-state coalesce to set us apart in the nation and across the globe in a diversified economy and workforce education.  Within this region, the rural areas need to play a larger role in the strategy and ultimately benefit from more diversity in business, workforce and our communities.”

 

BONUS QUESTION (don’t be bashful!): If you were a fan of “Mad Men,” you’ll likely recall Don Draper’s concept – “New York: Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” – for a Bethlehem Steel campaign the Sterling Cooper agency was trying to land. When considering economic development marketing, the product that we’re selling in southwestern Pennsylvania is “10 counties, 1 region.” Channeling your inner “Mad Men,” what would be the headline on an ad you’re charged with creating to market our product – the region?

“We’re making again – like never before!”

Read the complete article, “The Rearview Mirror and the Road Ahead,” featuring responses from all of the region’s economic development professionals.  The piece was originally published in the Pittsburgh Business Times as part of a supplement for NAIOP Pittsburgh’s 24th annual awards banquet in March.

Check back on the PRA Blog every Tuesday for the next installment in the series.