This was my first experience with the Allegheny Conference.
I guess it wasn’t strictly speaking a production of the Allegheny Conference of Community Development; officially it was a collaboration among the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, GloabalPittsburgh, Leadership Pittsburgh, the New Pittsburgh Collaborative, the Pittsburgh Urban Magnet Project, Global Beats and the Pittsburgh G-20 Partnership; with the G-20 Partnership itself being comprised of Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh, Visit Pittsburgh and the Allegheny Conference.
1/7 divided by 1/4 is 1/28, so you could say the Conference was only 3.6% responsible. However, Bill Flanagan of the Conference did most of the talking, and somebody he described as his boss was positively looming alone way up in the rafters at the back of the Pittsburgh Opera building, so I’m content to describe this as a Conference event.
Aradhna Dhanda of Leadership Pittsburgh delivered a very brief welcoming address. “Positive, motivation, energy, fun — that’s what this evening is all about.” Also, we would be provided with “something fun — things we would not otherwise know.”
The cuisine was certainly fun-oriented: kielbasa and sour kraut, pirogi, black and gold tortilla chips and baklava. There was also a cash bar.
Carla Andrea Leininger of Global Beats and the Brazilian Radio Hour on WRCT 88.3 came on to moderate the discussion and facilitate audience questions-and-answers, Phil Donahue-style. She introduced both Craig Davis of VisitPittsburgh (left) and Flanagan (right).
As you can hear above, Flanagan pointed out toward the end of his opening remarks that yes, for a little while, the G20 Summit was “supposed” to alight in New York City. When that did not pan out, Pittsburgh was put on an “enormously short list” of alternate host cities.
“If it wasn’t for the City and the County saying yes,” Flanagan declared, “the G20 wouldn’t have come here.”
“We believe there are many, many stories about Pittsburgh that are going to come out of this,” Flanagan said. “The opportunity,” he clarified, would lie not so much at the G-20 Summit itself, but lies “from now until September 23rd.”
Multiple editors from global publications such as the Financial Times, the Economist and Forbes Magazine are already in town doing research on Pittsburgh’s economic story, he asserted. The Financial Times is planning something really special.
Davis later added that hosting the Summit would make his job easier at VisitPittsburgh. “If we can handle the G20,” he anticipates being able to tell future conference-goers, “we can handle your little American Medical Association thing” to much laughter.
One reason Pittsburgh was given the opportunity to host the Summit is the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. “Somebody decided Pittsburgh needed a green convention center,” remarked Flanagan wonderingly, and lauded that mystery person’s “foresight and stick-to-it-iveness” back before environmentalism and green design became all the rage.
Another reason is Pittsburgh’s economic transformation over the last 30 years, and he cited “three keys to success” which the G20 Parntership settled upon for the purposes of describing the region’s success story when asked:
1) Building on the best of our past
a) Financial services, our #1 economic contributor
b) Business services
c) Our “historic strengths” in energy (we have 700 energy companies)
2) Adding new industries
a) Health care and the life sciences, our #1 employer
3) Investing in infrastructure
a) Quality of life
b) The Cultural District
c) Green practices
If you’d like to get your organization’s story out to the media, it’d be best to fit it somewhere into that paradigm, he advised.
What else. There will be hospitality desks at each hotel, and there is a need for translators, go check the website. Don’t hold your breath trying to woo foreign delegations for special cultural welcome events. Downtown restaurants are implored to stay open for business. There is a rough estimate of $20 million in economic influx coming into the city/region for this event, likely more, though the costs portion of that audience question was not addressed. Flanagan wishes the media would stay focused on facts such as that 300 residents came out to brainstorm ideas, instead of getting distracted by “the stuff” they’re focused on now. In the crowd I heard a rumor that the Consol Energy Center AKA Penguins hockey arena is in line to receive extra protection including security personnel and special fencing, considering its name may make it a target for some stuff.