Marketing Potemkin Pittsburgh

Marketing Potemkin Pittsburgh

The once-iconic Allegheny Conference on Community Development, credited with shepherding the moneyed forces of the 1940s to begin cleaning up the polluted cesspool that Pittsburgh once was, is celebrating its 75th anniversary.

It successfully pushed itself to irrelevance 20 years ago when it supported not just “The Stadiums Tax” for new homes for Pittsburgh’s barons of sport but, worse, unelected regional governance under the guise of 1997’s “Regional Renaissance Initiative.”

Fortunately, voters in 11 Southwestern Pennsylvania counties handed these hustlers their collective(ist) hats. Ever since, the conference has struggled to regain its credibility.

Now, upon its diamond jubilee, the Allegheny Conference has announced its next initiative, dubbing it “Our Next 75.” It might as well have borrowed that Buzz Lightyear phrase from the “Toy Story” movies of “To Infinity and Beyond!” for the tone-deafness of the conference’s future mission.

The Allegheny Conference’s brain trust, according to the Post-Gazette, seeks “to launch another regional renaissance – this time focused on leveraging Pittsburgh’s new tech and health care economy to attract and retain a more inclusive, diverse population.”

One of the self-anointed titans of this new “renaissance,” Peoples Gas President and CEO Morgan O’Brien, even mocks those who orchestrated Pittsburgh’s first renaissance, noting that it was probably conceived “by a bunch of old, white guys sitting around the Duquesne Club.”

Of course, Pittsburgh’s current smart set loves to mock the erstwhile Steel City’s old money and how it was earned. But they sure as heck love to tap that legacy money to this day, don’t they?

Furthermore, a key component of “Our Next 75” will be a marketing effort to attract individuals and companies from outside the Pittsburgh region.

Don’t, however, count on the conference’s PR flacks to offer any peek behind the facades of the Potemkin Village it has worked so assiduously to build and maintain for scores of years.

Now, surely this scrivener’s fusillade is an extreme assessment?

Oh, such stridency is beyond the pale?

Goodness, such harshness and, indeed, unnecessarily so?

Ah, the constancy of the you, you, you naysayers, right?


If the Allegheny Conference truly wants to attract and retain a more inclusive, diverse population, it must redirect its focus and resources — not on the facades of the social causes du jour but on the solid footers and foundations required for real renaissance.

Take, for instance, Pittsburgh Public Schools, which shamefully and continually fails its students, particularly its black students. “Achievement” is a joke. Yet scholarships are awarded for mediocrity.

Or consider the travesty of government officials poison-pilling the chance to more effectively and economically deliver water and sewer services. That’s exactly what the administration of Mayor Bill Peduto did when he orchestrated the barring of any consideration of privatizing the long-derelict Pittsburgh Water & Sewer Authority.

The list goes on and on.

The denial goes deeper and deeper.

And the Allegheny Conference, all too ready and willing to keep marketing Potemkin Pittsburgh, becomes more and more irrelevant — debasing the sense of community that, through scheme after scheme, it so steadfastly claims it seeks to develop.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (