By MELISSA SCHILD
The University of Pittsburgh has always been an economic force in our region and across the state, creating jobs and opportunities for local businesses in countless industries to grow.
Each time a student buys a cup of coffee or signs a lease for an apartment, they are supporting local businesses. When the University breaks ground on a building, orders office supplies or engages a business to stock its dining halls, the economy benefits. When a faculty member makes a medical research breakthrough, the advancement is a win for public health and a business opportunity for investors.
In 2021, Pitt generated more than $5.2 billion in economic impact for the state. The University also ranks among the top five employers in Allegheny County and is the ninth largest employer in the state. Yet, as an anchor institution, the University is committed to playing an even larger role in creating opportunities for the regions around its campuses. This work involves hiring more local residents, awarding construction and building contracts to more local businesses and helping these businesses ramp up their capacity for growth over the long term.
This initiative, called Buy/Build/Hire Local, is a key component of the Plan for Pitt. It aligns with the University’s aim to create opportunities for residents, companies and communities as a means of strengthening economic development throughout the region.
The effort stands apart in its focus on partnering with communities, workers and potential business partners that traditionally have been left out—and that can benefit more fully from Pitt’s investments and spending.
Success hinges on support across the entire University and close coordination with community-based organizations.
Some steps that Pitt is taking to support this initiative include:
Updating its policy on diverse spending to enhance equitable economic growth.
Improving its search tools for identifying local and local-diverse suppliers.
Meeting quarterly — with leaders representing procurement, construction, hiring, engagement and community affairs, and equity, diversity, and inclusion — to identify new opportunities and share progress on buying, building and hiring locally.
Partnering with the Black Economic Advancement and Mobility Collaborative, which is identifying and supporting Black-owned businesses that can help meet the University’s needs.
Building supplier relationships with a growing number of local companies, such as Waller Corporation, Tyler Collier & Associates, RS Supply, Emerald Electric, IT’s 4 Me and many more.
Removing red tape and expanding work with the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence to help local small businesses to ultimately expand their capacity to take on commitments and contracts with Pitt and other businesses throughout the region.
Working with union partners, workforce development partners and small, up-and-coming businesses on developing strategies to educate and train potential employees for positions at Pitt and beyond.
This work is constantly evolving — and requires the focus and contributions of the entire University of Pittsburgh community. Pitt is an educational institution, first and foremost. But its longstanding role as a major employer and regional anchor positions it to contribute to the economic growth of southwestern Pennsylvania’s families, businesses and communities in meaningful ways — and for years to come.
Contact the Office of Engagement and Community Affairs to learn how to get involved and support this important initiative.
Questions about the Plan for Pitt or suggestions for implementation? Reach out to Plan4Pitt@pitt.edu.
Melissa Schild is associate vice chancellor for strategic planning and performance and leads the University’s strategic planning efforts.