As part of out Top 50 businesses' package of stories, readers have been invited to share their thoughts after taking our Web business page poll on the question: What are the key factors that southwestern Pennsylvania must address to allow the region's economy to grow and prosper?
We received hundreds of comments, and with apologies to those whose words we couldn't include due to volume, here you find a sampling of what our readers have to say in a range of topics:
Alina Nash, Pittsburgh: Southwestern Pa in general and the Pittsburgh area specifically need an improvement in the variety of labor opportunities and recreational resources. Not everyone wants to work in healthcare at UPMC or drink beer at a sports bar.
Paul A. Scripko, Austin, TX: Pittsburgh already has a good foundation of factors that will result in economic prosperity: world-ranked education institutions, a relatively low cost of living and a generally acknowledged good quality of life. At the least, government should not put up roadblocks to the entrepreneurial spirit building in western Pennsylvania. And a better answer is to use taxpayers money to the advantage of encouraging those factors that reinforce that inevitable growth. Let it happen and then get out of the way.
Lewis Orth (age 9), Pittsburgh (Arlington): I'd like to see the City have less crime.
Kim D. Hyde, Pittsburgh: Luke Ravenstahl needs to step up with Dan Onorato and effect some major changes in the way government operates in the city and the county. Luke seems now to have feathered his nest and Dan is more focused on the governorship. They need to step up to move and shake things and come up with and implement a consolidation action and reduce taxes across the board.
Scott Dietz, Bellevue: It is time for Pennsylvania to stop the empty rhetoric and make substantial changes to the structure of our tax and business incentive plans to attract talent and companies to our region. But more importantly to keep the companies that are already here and have the potential for growth in the region by giving them the means and incentives to hire, invest, and expand. Stop providing funding for pet projects and things that get your face in the newspaper and institute a sound economic plan for short- and long-term growth of the state.
Janet Jones, Upper St. Clair: Our township has so many rules and regulations that you wonder if they really want businesses to exist within the township borders. They do however seem eager to collect all taxes.
Dan Casey, Wateroo, Belgium (I'm from Beaver Falls originally): If PA voters would stop blindly voting for Democrats, business would be attracted to the lower tax rates Republicans would bring in. Decades of corrupt, socialist Democrats helping the Ted Kennedy, Nancy Pelosi, tax & spend wing of government have killed PA. Businesses started leaving PA in the '70s. Now, PA is paying for it.
Gene Nawojski, Johnstown: Pay the workers a lot more money and they will stimulate the economy by spending it. Most of the money (profits) go to just a few people.
Bill Camp, Dorseyville: The tax structure in Western PA is very unfriendly to new business development. Why pay the high taxes when 70 miles away you can improve your business plan with a lower tax structure?
Matthew Gaughan, Shadyside: Lower property taxes. No one wants to live here at these rates!
Pam Ross, Wexford: Taxes are too high for businesses to be profitable. Develop surrounding areas and offer incentives. Downtown is a mess to drive. Develop the waterfront to its highest potential. Look to cities who have done so as models. Our rivers are beautiful ... use what GOD has given us.
John Kornick, Fredricktown: Encourage businesses instead of making their ventures a burden. Do not punish entrepreneurs for being successful, they employ people. I have seen gov't officials take great pride in bringing companies to their knees.
Jennifer Mahler, Butler: We should look at keeping educated young people here in the region by raising pay rates. Pittsburgh is one of the lowest paying metropolitan areas. We will not be able to retain educated people until we pay them a competitive salary.
Sean Brennan, Upper St. Clair: I graduated from Carnegie Mellon University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. I would have gladly stayed in Pittsburgh, where I had spent the first 22 years of my life, but I had to leave to find work. This economy is full of new technology and new industries that Pittsburgh must attract with its wealth of universities and affordable real estate.
Fred Perlmutter, Chicago: I was born and raised in Chicago but lived in Pittsburgh for 5 years which on balance were some of the happiest years of my life. Your city has so many things to offer its residents with diverse cultural opportunities, outdoor activities and great ethnic neighborhoods. I believe the best way for Pittsburgh to increase its economic development is to reduce business taxes and make targeted tax credits for businesses being spun off from your 2 major universities, which all seem to be purchased by California or Boston area companies after they show some promise. Young people go where the jobs are so it is important to retain these emerging technological companies.
Sharon Stevens, Northern Virginia originally: We need to keep jobs here instead of sending them overseas. Being responsible for helping the rest of the world seems to be more important than helping to keep ourselves out of poverty and subsequent property loss (note the increase of public assistance recipients & the number of homes up for sheriff's sale). Pittsburgh has lost too many jobs to other countries, resulting in career changes that often bring a lot less money into our households. Thanks for listening.
Dann Franklin, Brookline: We need to assist startup entrepreneurs and businesses that are coming out of our universities then find out what work-force education is needed and teach these courses in our schools. Then give tax breaks to new entrepreneurs and businesses for locating in the area.
Margaret J. Yinger, Penn Hills (62 yrs.) : I made the decision to leave the Pgh. area in '05 for many reasons. I am a retired Penn Hills School District teacher of 30 yrs and a part-time teacher for another 10 years at St. Bernadette's in Monroeville. Statistics showed even then that more people were being buried there than children being born in the Pgh area. That truly tipped the scales for me. In my heart Pgh. will always be home, but I did not want to stick around to witness the decay/loss any longer.
Joel S. Hinckley, Salt Lake City: You've missed the boat on this poll. Pittsburgh's real problem is infrastructure. It's impossible to get around. You can't attract employees, because no one wants to commute for an hour.
Pete McQuillin, Spring Hill: You're asking the wrong questions. It's leadership, leadership, leadership, and it's almost totally lacking in government today.
Dennis Pogany, Willock: Executives should not get large bonuses, should put back into business as new equipment, and train employees. Make PA a right-to-work state. Unions have too much power. Unions should make companies upgrade equipment for future employment.
Gil Notoriana, Las Vegas: Your residents will not contribute very much to your growth; however, they will contribute tremendous growth for the casino industry and the credit card banks. Bankruptcies and suicides will also grow.
Mike Rapach, McCandless: Government consolidation is a key issue. Without it, there cannot be clear, efficient efforts toward attracting jobs and reducing costs of government.
Tom Kuder, Houston, Texas (Pittsburgh) : The cost of small local governments, including the city of Pittsburgh, is detrimental to the development of a region so rich in resources that rival any city in the U.S.
Gary Jurgovsky, North Huntingdon: We must begin to pay for the excesses our politicians have spent. Somehow, they must learn TOUGH LOVE IS STILL LOVE.
Kathleen Burke, Carnegie: Money for businesses should be available in the community to keep the business afloat in this inflationary economy. Example: many small restaurants have opened in Carnegie, and it is a day-to-day struggle to stay open.
Lisa Haley Huff, Pittsburgh: It is very critical that we get more direct flights in and out of Pgh. This is a detrement to luring diverse businesses to our city. We need to develop our urban areas with business growth.
Russ Streiner, Pittsburgh: A much overlooked segment of economic growth for this region is new money from movie production. In the first six months of 2008 the Pittsburgh area will host more than 100 million dollars of new movie productions.
Brian Oleary, South Park: Have the gov't work with the many schools and universities in the area. Poll the students and universities to see what is needed to keep them here and what would inspire them to start their businesses here. So many exciting opportunities are happening at CMU, Pitt and others that it would be negligence on the region to not be involved in helping grow these many opportunities. There is a reason Microsoft, Google, Apple and many of the companies are coming here to be near these schools. The region should find out how they can help.
Ian Miller, Pittsburgh: As a new and growing business owner, it's both frustrating and disheartening to see would-be profits very quickly go to paying taxes to the city and state. In turn, I haven't seen much in the way of assistance or a partner-type relationship from the entities I'm forced to pay for the "privilege" of doing business in this region.
Thomas F. McGarry, Sewickley: Pittsburgh's infrastructure, i.e. failing power and utilities, was one of the highest in the area when we first moved here and I started a business with 260 people. There is not a good coordination of the communities to fix the problem; rather it seems like a lot of wasted and duplicated assets. While Pittsburgh has a lot more to offer, look at Indianapolis and the progress they made in the last 15 years after consolidating all of the little mini-municipalities. Keeping this system is preventing Pittsburgh from ever growing and being not just a first-rate city but a growing community.
David C. Harrison, Aurora, Colo. : Last time I lived near Pittsburgh, from '84 to '95, the city's leadership had the same top-down approach to economic development it was known for from the time it became an industrial, financial & corporate HQ town. It hadn't learned how to attract new people and ideas or how to support them when they did arrive. The city was notably unpopular among communities in the surrounding region. That was appalling and inexcusable. I hope the current generation of leaders, public and private sector, is doing better, because Pittsburgh, with its outstanding history and achievements, deserves better.
Robert J. Sheehan, Pittsburgh: The Pittsburgh area business and political environment is provincial to the point that it is not attractive to investment and growth. Change with its attending risks are needed to break from the past.
Ken Lockaton, Boschung America, Cranberry: The area needs to be more agressive in bringing technology and industry in. This includes improving transportation and neighborhoods.
Jonathan D. Egger, Lancaster, PA: I am a former resident of Pittsburgh who left the region because of the lack of jobs in the planning/GIS sector. I think a combination of things need to happen. Corporate taxes need to be reduced by a quarter at least, international airline service restored, and more immigration into the region. All three of these may create a bit of a chain reaction that could really help the region.
Jose Ramos, North Side: Give Latinos a chance.
Scott Smith, Boulder Colo.: Get GOVERNMENT AND THE BUREAUCRATS outta the way and let the free market and private industry do their best: create capital. Pittsburgh is a closed society and very unfriendly to local businesses. The egos of Pittsburgh's business elite are overwrought and ponderous. The only reason there is any business in town is because the local execs love the attention and purposely attempt to keep the competition low. Big fish + small pond = stagnant fetid waters.
Hubert Schindler, Coraopolis: We need to cut taxes, cap property tax rates, force local governments and school boards to go on a spending diet. We need to adopt Right to Work legislation and ban government workers from belonging to unions.
Douglas Tunney, Lincoln Place: With every unneeded school, police station, government office kept open at the request of the nightly news and a complete lack of commitment by government to consolidate, our city will never bring the immigrants that it needs to grow into a new economy.
Gary Boyle, Forest Hills: Fix up downtown.
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