One America Works:
Bringing Technology Jobs to Pittsburgh
In 2018, Patrick McKenna, founder and managing partner of High Ridge Venture Partners, using a seed investment of $250,000 from the Foundation, launched One America Works (OAW), which reintegrates the American economy by shifting talent, investment, and jobs away from the west coast and back to the heartland.
Mr. McKenna has been leading a national dialogue about technology companies seeking to exit Silicon Valley because of the high cost of living, low quality of life, rising costs to obtain talent, and effects of tax reform. Stories on the topic have appeared in the New York Times (“Silicon Valley is Over, Says Silicon Valley”) and the Wall Street Journal. To date, most of companies exiting Silicon Valley have gone to Salt Lake City, Utah; Phoenix, Arizona; or Austin, Texas; without even considering cities such as Pittsburgh.
OAW made progress toward its initial goal to create 100 jobs within 18 months. Specifically, OAW hired two experienced, Silicon Valley-based entrepreneurs and technologists to represent Pittsburgh; created a “Growth Playbook” to market the region to companies and venture investors; established relationships with a network of venture investors, hosting a tour of Pittsburgh for 13 of them; and developed new video content and website resources to raise the bar for how Pittsburgh leverages its renaissance story.
Through its growing network and direct outreach, OAW connected with more than 325 Silicon Valley companies seeking to expand their presence to a new city. Within that pipeline, one company has moved four people to Pittsburgh with plans to add five more in 2020, and 15 other companies are expected to decide about making a commitment to Pittsburgh by early 2020. Even if only 20 to 30 percent of those prospects materialize, 70 to 100 new jobs will be created for Pittsburgh. In addition, Pittsburgh-based technology companies Duolingo and IAM Robotics are working with OAW to recruit as many as 31 developers and project managers from Silicon Valley to work in Pittsburgh. OAW has also been partnering with the local universities, InnovatePGH, the Allegheny Conference, and the City of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County to align economic development efforts.
With a grant of $1 million from the Foundation, OAW will maintain two representatives in Silicon Valley to reach out directly to companies; hire a Pittsburgh director; coordinate events; develop new tools and marketing content to recruit Silicon Valley companies; and expand efforts to rust-belt cities located close to Pittsburgh, including Cleveland and one as-yet undetermined city, all in an effort to attract 500 new technology jobs to Pittsburgh over a two-year period.