Clearly, the western Pennsylvania region is blessed with many assets which are unmatched anywhere, and the transformation of the region into the technology-based focus of today has been fun to watch and experience first-hand. When I left Beaver Falls, Pa. in 1969 to take a job in Ohio (in the then dominating manufacturing industry), I never once envisioned returning 20 years later into the high technology sector, where innovative computer technology from Carnegie Mellon was patterning the human brain and helping to make better decisions much faster in many industry sectors. And to envision a healthcare and life sciences career was not even remotely possible.
During the time I left Beaver Falls more than four decades ago, the Babcock & Wilcox tubular products plant, which was literally across the street from my house on College Hill, employed more than 7,500 people. In addition to that, the manufacturing industry in the region employed hundreds of thousands of people, supplying food and providing for a solid future for the entire local population, including all of my family. Today, that plant and others like it are empty, and employment in advanced technologies, including healthcare and life sciences, is providing the food and future for our families, again, including mine.
A lot has been said about innovation and innovative solutions, and its impact on the region cannot be overstated. Area universities have provided the basis for this innovation, by providing more and more technology to solve the world’s problems. But the people in western Pennsylvania are focused on making the old catchphrase of “two steps forward, one step back” come true for them is what is making the difference. If you are not moving forward, you are falling behind by definition and the mindset of our region has always been to move ahead, maybe fail, but move ahead again anyway. This mentality has been our foundation and what has helped make us great and put the region on a pedestal to be admired by other areas of the country and the world.
When asked where our life sciences companies come from, I always lead with the universities: Pitt, CMU, Duquesne and others like Geneva College, Grove City and Clarion. Without them, we would not be able to sustain our region’s continued advancement and growth. However, most people are amazed to find out that nearly half of PLSG’s life sciences ideas have come from local entrepreneurs with a passion to make a difference and imported technologies that come here because we have the environment they need to grow and become successful.
The Pittsburgh region is indeed a special place and well positioned for future growth. And with more and more capital being deployed here, much of which is from outside the region, technology in general, and healthcare and life sciences in particular will prosper, and so will our families and our future.
Stay tuned for the future…