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Fitzgerald touts Pittsburgh’s development, cleaner air, economy

During a spring visit to Pittsburgh, government, business, education and nonprofit leaders from Portland, Ore., did what people from Portland do.

They rented bikes, hired a guide and toured miles of bike paths.

“We’re a city of bridges, too, and we just felt at home,” said Randy Miller, the Greater Portland Inc. board member who organized the May visit. “We came away feeling better about Pittsburgh. We thought we’d see a lot of old vestiges … and we didn’t.”

Since 2010, Pittsburgh and Allegheny County have hosted delegations from nearly 35 cities, a surge of visits compared to the one or two visits every other year the region entertained in the past decade, said Bill Flanagan, executive vice president at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which often facilitates visits from city delegations.

“Word got out,” Flanagan said.

Most visitors meet with officials from the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon and colleges and universities to study the collaborations among the institutions and with local governments, foundations and businesses, Flanagan said. Visitors interested in community development often tour East Liberty.

Tampa Bay looked at public transportation. Portland, Nashville, Louisville and river cities wanted to see how the region used its riverfronts, Flanagan said.

County Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the region has become a destination for cities seeking inspiration.

“They wanted to see the Pittsburgh success story. How did we do it? What did we do? What was our secret sauce?” Fitzgerald, 55, a Squirrel Hill Democrat, said. “There are cities that are noticing what’s going on here and seeing that we’re succeeding.”

Related: Report finds Pennsylvania is a rising leader in clean energy.

Mayor Bill Peduto, Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle of Forest Hills, Republican Gov. Tom Corbett, the state House and Senate, the business community, economic development and tourism organizations, labor unions and universities contribute and collaborate, Fitzgerald said. Together, they are responsible for many accomplishments in the city and county over the past year.

“Every day, we seem to be advancing the ball,” said Fitzgerald, who this month said he will seek re-election.

U.S. Steel announced it would keep its headquarters in Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh International Airport added four airline carriers and 14 flights.

Development projects progressed in East Liberty, the Strip District and McKees Rocks, and long-awaited agreement on the future of the former Civic Arena site materialized.

Drilling for natural gas started on airport property, and the county signed a lease to permit drilling under Deer Lakes Park.

Air pollution levels met federal requirements. Property values continued to increase while the property tax rate stayed the same.

Boyce Park had a record-breaking ski season. The North Park boathouse restaurant is packed on weekends.

People can text emergencies to 911.

Women and minorities were named in 24 of Fitzgerald’s 38 appointments for directors and deputy directors of county departments.

“We’re all working together to improve the quality of life and the economic climate in Western Pennsylvania,” Fitzgerald said. “There are more opportunities than there have been before, and folks that own businesses, restaurants, whatever their businesses might be, they see improvement and they see optimism for the coming year and the next couple of years.”

Tom West, owner of TRIM Pittsburgh, a menswear boutique in East Liberty, said he’s optimistic, to a point.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily anything that the government is doing,” West said. “They are taking opportunities and going with it. They are optimistic because they are making opportunities for themselves.”

Aaron Aupperlee is a Trib Total Media staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7986 or aaupperlee@tribweb.com.

This article was written by Aaron Aupperlee from The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.

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