We didn't have to look far for the theme for this year's Top 50 Businesses in Pittsburgh section.
The Allegheny Conference on Community Development is spearheading the effort to make sure that Pittsburghers near and far know about the city's 250th birthday. (The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra even toured Europe as part of the celebration. How's that for spreading the news?)
Local companies and organizations are joining in the "Pittsburgh 250: Imagine What You Can Do Here" marketing initiative. The list of sponsors at the celebration's official Web site (www.imaginepittsburgh.com) reads like a who's who of Pittsburgh business.
One of the main events, a six-day, 450-mile bike race from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh in June, even bears the name of American Eagle Outfitters, a company that in many ways symbolizes the changing face of the region. (Highmark Healthy High 5, an initiative of the Highmark Foundation, is the presenting sponsor of the American Eagle Tour of Pennsylvania). United States Steel Corp. transferred property to help make possible the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage, a 335-mile biking and hiking trail that will stretch from Point State Park to Washington, D.C., and on to Mount Vernon. And the PNC Legacy Trail Ride will celebrate the trail and the grand reopening of Point State Park.
But it's not all about having a good time.
The official Web site has a prominent section about "Doing Business Here," aimed at turning some of the goodwill the celebration will generate into a positive impact on the local economy.
So it seemed logical that the Post-Gazette's annual business section should, in addition to cataloguing the past year's top companies, look at our past as well.
Inside the section you'll find a story by Ann Belser on the evolution of the land at the southern end of the Hot Metal Bridge on the South Side that has been a microcosm of Pittsburgh's economy.
Joyce Gannon writes about the city's difficult evolution from an economy dominated by heavy industry to one that features a mix of service, technology and less traditional manufacturing.
The 23-story Three PNC Plaza building under construction on Fifth Avenue, Downtown, is part of Pittsburgh's future but in building it, a lot of the city's past was unearthed, Dan Fitzpatrick reports. And Tim Grant looks at what life was like when the city was new.
Speaking of the local celebration, Bill Toland sees how much it costs to throw a birthday party on a grand scale -- around $50 million over two years -- and what the city and the companies and foundations hope to gain from the expense. And Ann Belser looks at past Allegheny Conference projects and how they shaped the city.
Of course, there is a host of bonus material at post-gazette.com that enhances the print edition.
For the numbers crunchers and list makers, the second half of the section ranks the Top 50 public companies on our usual measures -- revenue, change in revenue, net income, change in net income, change in stock price, return on equity and market value.
We also look at local private companies and companies based outside the area that have a significant local presence.
Then there is our snapshot of local foundations, colleges and universities, the arts and health care companies.
And we continue our examination of local public companies with women in positions of authority.
We hope this section is a must-read for business professionals and anyone else who wants to understand where the city's business community has been, where it stands and where it could be heading in the next 250 years.
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Business Editor Brian Hyslop can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1936.