The region’s economic prosperity is hindered by a widening gap in economic opportunities among residents and education systems that are not keeping pace with what the workforce of the future needs to compete in the innovation economy.
A region that is an engine for economic growth and vitality by investing in the ingenuity and creativity of its population, enhancing individuals’ economic prosperity, and strengthening our sense of community.
Three primary areas of focus
This investment area aims to advance education, training and development for adults (age 18 and above) in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties to help them gain the skills to succeed in the new economy – an economy marked by continual technological disruption, and innovation that is empowering people to transform our world. As technologies change, so do the skills that are in high demand. We are particularly interested in proposals that aim to grow the adult talent pool’s 21st century skills, facilitate career pathways and pipelines to employment, and improve the region’s workforce systems.
Talent Development proposals should include outcomes such as:
- Improvement in skills
- Participation in, or strengthening of, industry-based partnerships
- Participation in on-the-job and work-based learning opportunities
- Development of career pipelines and pathways
- Navigation and awareness of career opportunities
- Employment and retention in new economy jobs that offer family-sustaining earnings
Priority: 21st Century Skills – Individuals with transferable 21st century skills—such as critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and other workplace competencies—will have the ability to navigate the new economy, improve their employment status and wages, and enhance their resilience to industry-specific shocks. The Foundation seeks proposals that focus on education and training opportunities that convey skills and are performance-based, rather than solely knowledge- or content-based. This could include novel instructional methods that are hands-on and practical, such as on-line as well as brick-and-mortar programming; and embedding work-based learning and on-the-job opportunities within programming.
Priority: Career Pathways – The Foundation seeks proposals that aim to build and support pathways and pipelines to careers in the new economy that are person-centered and accommodate the wide variation in the ways people in our region sequence their education and careers. This could include efforts that enable individuals to secure industry-relevant certification and obtain employment within an occupational area; flexible, stackable, and micro-credentialing efforts that provide sustainable pathways for adults to improve their life opportunities; giving new skills to incumbent workers; transitioning vulnerable workers into viable and high-quality new-economy jobs; or efforts that raise individuals’ awareness about career opportunities.
Priority: Workforce Development Systems – An employment and skills-driven education and training system prepares people for the jobs of today and imparts the skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow. The Foundation seeks proposals that employ a systems approach to workforce development; proposals therefore must include sector-based partnerships or collaboration with employers in new-economy industries.
This investment area aims to foster adults’ access to opportunities for employment in the new economy, thereby allowing them to gain income and wealth and forge economic independence. The Foundation is particularly interested in proposals that aim to expand access to jobs in the new economy, foster entrepreneurism, and support workers in the gig economy.
Employment Opportunities proposals could include outcomes such as:
- Increase in new economy jobs or businesses
- Employment, income, or retention rates of hires in new economy jobs that offer family-sustaining earnings
- Participation in activities that foster new economy business growth
- Attraction of capital to foster start-ups and businesses
- Stabilization of employment and earnings for gig economy and independent workers
- Increase in the re-entry of women or vulnerable populations who have left the labor force or who are underemployed
- Reduction in stressors of workers by supporting connections to the social safety net, improving financial literacy, lessening social isolation, or cultivating resilience in the face of constant change and uncertainty
Priority: Business and Job Creation – The Foundation seeks proposals that support the creation of jobs that offer family-sustaining wages, are career enhancing for individuals, and support individuals in obtaining and succeeding in occupations of the future or that connect underemployed or unemployed people with job opportunities in high-priority occupations in innovation economy fields.
Priority: Entrepreneurship – Small businesses are the backbone of our nation’s economy. Yet, the rate of entrepreneurship has been declining in the United States since the 1970s. Although the region has made recent strides in supporting small businesses and entrepreneurism, more work remains. The Foundation seeks proposals that aim to support efforts to allow entrepreneurship to thrive, to attract capital to foster start-ups and businesses, to build the region’s entrepreneurship ecosystem, and to support efforts for underrepresented groups to jumpstart or grow entrepreneurship efforts.
Priority: Economic Independence – Increasing numbers of people are disconnected workers—those who are left out of the “formal” economy. Recent estimates report that one in three prime working age (25-54) Black men and one in six white men fit this description. This is also the case for women, as the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate effect on women’s labor-force participation. Concurrently, a relatively large portion of the workforce is made up of independent, gig, and contract workers: in July 2020, 41 percent of Americans on unemployment insurance—nearly 13 million people—were people who had been self-employed; independent contractors; gig-economy workers; those with limited recent work history; and those looking for part-time work. The growth of nontraditional work arrangements such as freelance employment and contract employment has brought about concomitant challenges, since the current labor market and workplace is not keeping pace with the shifting nature of this flexible workforce. Independent, gig and contract work often is considered tenuous and unstable because of the impermanence of “jobs.” However, there are some positive elements to independent work that could be more deeply supported: freelance type of work supports a person-centered economy in which workers have control over the type and flow of tasks. The Foundation seeks proposals that support individuals’ nontraditional, independent employment avenues and careers as freelancers and contractors, or in the gig economy. We also seek proposals that aim to grow young talent to become leaders in the new innovation economy; address inequities and challenges facing workers in these fields; and that foster needed adaptations as the region moves toward remote work in the COVID economy, or toward ways to “work” that have not yet been invented.
This investment area focuses on transformational efforts that improve the quality of life in Allegheny and Westmoreland counties. It aims to support innovation, creativity and infrastructure so the region is vibrant, exciting, welcoming and livable. The Foundation is particularly interested in proposals that enhance arts and culture; innovation districts that act as hubs for new-economy industry, work, and creative spaces; and infrastructure and transportation. These investments work in tandem to attract visitors and new residents to the region, as well as to enhance the lives of current residents.
Priority: Arts and Culture – A core element of economic development, arts and culture enhance the region’s vitality and livability. The Foundation aims to support the region as it becomes an international arts destination by investing in core arts institutions, artists, and artistic and creative communities.
Priority: Innovation Districts – Innovation Districts are geographic areas where leading-edge anchor institutions and companies cluster and connect with start-ups, business incubators and accelerators. These are investments in places and spaces where entrepreneurs and businesses can grow and thrive, further enhancing the quality of life of residents in the neighborhoods around these districts.
Priority: Infrastructure and Transportation – By investing in infrastructure, transportation, and in nimble solutions for increasing mobility and accessibility, the Foundation aims to support the region to meet the needs of a variety of users, as well as drive regional growth and competitiveness. Investments aim to connect communities to economic centers, ease traffic congestion and related air pollution, as well as facilitate economic mobility by connecting individuals to cultural and recreational assets, employment opportunities, support resources and more.
Apply for a Grant
In 2021, the Foundation awarded 57 grants and investments totaling $287,027,503 to advance its Economic Development strategy, including the two largest grants in Foundation history—$150 million to Carnegie Mellon University and $100 million to the University of Pittsburgh. Both grants will be paid out over 10 years.
FAQ: Economic Development
The two programs focus on different populations and have different goals. The goal of the Economic Mobility program is to improve the social, economic and academic outcomes of children and young people, aged 0 through 24, who are living in poverty. The goal of the Economic Development program is to foster the economic prosperity of the Pittsburgh region. Investments within the Economic Development program’s Talent Development and Employment Opportunities areas focus on adults aged 18 and above. Both programs require that services and activities occur within Allegheny and Westmoreland counties.
Arts and culture organizations are pivotal economic drivers in the region. The Foundation has historically focused on enhancing the cultural experience in Downtown Pittsburgh, but will also consider applications from organizations outside of Downtown that support the region’s economic development.
To receive Foundation funding for an Economic Development application, the initiative needs to focus on economic development in Allegheny or Westmoreland counties. If your organization has an idea to economically activate lands the Foundation has historically conserved to promote sustainable rural economic development, please consider applying through the Foundation’s Conservation program.
Yes, we consider applications from organizations that are not based in Allegheny or Westmoreland counties. In your application, you should be clear about why and in what ways the project will serve economic development in these counties.