The Urban Redevelopment Authority wants to promote a program that provides college scholarships to city public school students, in hopes of attracting new residents to the city.
The URA board yesterday voted to seek proposals from marketing firms to design an "integrated marketing campaign" for the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program as well as other incentives, including URA housing programs and residential tax abatements available in some neighborhoods.
"There are several initiatives and several programs that are real economic generators that, quite frankly, we just don't promote enough as things to entice people to move in as residents or business or keep people here," said Yarone Zober, URA chairman.
The Pittsburgh Promise is just getting started, with the first scholarships of up to $5,000 a year for four years going to the Class of 2008. So far, more than 950 students in Pittsburgh Public Schools and charter schools within the city's borders have applied.
The Pittsburgh Promise, which was established at The Pittsburgh Foundation, was started with a $100 million commitment from UPMC, counting $10 million for the 2008 graduates. The remainder is a challenge grant requiring others to contribute $135 million. Grant Oliphant, president and chief executive officer of The Pittsburgh Foundation and ex officio board member of the Promise, said, "It's a great marketing tool for the city. I would fully expect them to leverage it once it is really up and running."
The Pittsburgh Promise this week announced that former Steelers running back Franco Harris has been elected board chairman, and that Maxwell King, retired president of The Heinz Endowments, will become the seventh member of the board on June 1.
Other members are Olga Welch, education dean at Duquesne University; Mayor Luke Ravenstahl; Mark Roosevelt, Pittsburgh Public Schools superintendent; Candi Castleberry-Singleton, chief diversity officer, UPMC; and Richard Reed, executive director of The Pittsburgh Foundation.
The Pittsburgh Promise also expects to appoint an executive director by the end of the month.
Mr. Oliphant did not release a current figure on how much money the Pittsburgh Promise has.
"We're very, very encouraged by the reception we've been getting as we've gone around town to talk to folks," he said.
He said support will be sought from the foundation and business community as well as through a grass-roots campaign in the community.
Tomorrow, the Pittsburgh Promise will be highlighted at Pittsburgh Peabody High School at a program aimed at reducing teen violence and enhancing opportunities.
"There is a lot of activity right now. It's very exciting. This is definitely picking up momentum," Mr. Oliphant said.
Education writer Eleanor Chute can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1955.