Pittsburgh’s tech economy is definitely booming — but so are other sectors, according to a new report.
On Wednesday morning, the Allegheny Conference on Community Development released its annual Pittsburgh Region Business Investment Scorecard — a compilation of data tracking the business investment activity and jobs in the region, as collected from the organization’s economic development partners across 10 counties. Now in its 15th year, the report is described as the only regional view of investment and job activity that’s captured in one place.
This year’s scorecard reported that those 10 counties brought in about $3 billion in combined capital investment in 2021 across a total of 215 deals, an increase of seven from 2020. A total of 150 of those deals were investments for companies with plans to add or retain employees, while 65 were related to infrastructure real estate developments that aren’t specifically tied to employment impact.
Location and industry changes
Outside of investments, Pittsburgh saw 39 new business attractions or relocations to the city, nearly double the 21 it saw in 2020.
“Despite the transition to hybrid work, remote work environment, you still do see the need for these more traditional types of back office operations,” Allegheny Conference VP of Market Research Jim Futrell said in a webinar on the scorecard.
That aligns with the significant number of office openings and expansions the Pittsburgh region has seen over the past year from its tech industry alone. Duolingo, Sheetz, DoorDash, 3M, Aurora and more have all either launched new engineering offices or expanded their existing footprints here.
“In recent years, technology, robotics and life sciences became leading sectors,” Futrell said in a statement. “And in 2021, we saw the emergence of distribution centers and a rebound in manufacturing as key economic drivers. In this pandemic era, facilities such as manufacturing plants, distribution centers and R&D centers have captured a higher percentage of announcements. These are the types of facilities that could not be easily transferred to a remote or hybrid work environment.”
The scorecard’s sector analysis showed that Pittsburgh’s manufacturing companies drew in the most deals at 60 — nearly double what that number was in 2020 and marking the first time since 2016 that manufacturing drew in the most investment deals. For the past four years, tech and robotics held the top deal title among sectors. But in 2021, those saw a mere 31 deals, a decrease from a total of 38 in 2020. Following tech was financial and business services with 17 deals, energy with 13 deals and healthcare and life sciences with 10 deals.
Pittsburgh jobs are on the rise
Though some industries saw more activity in 2020 than others, one undeniable takeaway from this year’s scorecard is the healthy impact it had on the region’s jobs. Overall, the total job impact related to regional investments was 10,123, marking a 29% increase from the same measure in 2020. Of those, 8,405 were new jobs — the highest level since 2011 — while 1,718 were retained jobs. On average, each investment project created 56.3 new jobs, marking the second highest number for that data point on record. That job growth was largely driven by four projects that announced 500 or more jobs: Amazon, Trulieve, Iron Synergy and Express Med.
Pittsburgh Regional Alliance President Mark Anthony Thomas credits this rebound and the increased investment deals to the efforts made by Pittsburgh’s economic development orgs.
“Amid pandemic-related economic recovery, we doubled down in 2021 — a year of transition — on playing to the region’s strengths and their intersection with market demand. This included more interest from businesses looking to invest in American manufacturing, logistics capabilities to relieve supply chain bottlenecks and climate-related innovations — such as energy storage and carbon capture, both of which are essential to a low-carbon future,” Thomas said in a statement. The investments and development projects “underscore our message to companies world wide: ‘the Pittsburgh region is open for business.’”
What’s next for the region
It remains unclear whether 2022 will show a continuation of the trends illustrated on this latest scorecard, but as Allegheny Conference Market Research Manager Ellen Gaus noted in the webinar, “we are seeing signs of recovery” in terms of investment volumes compared to pre-pandemic levels. She added that so far, “advanced manufacturing comprises a larger share of announcements than it has historically,” while investment announcements from industries that are more easily translated to a remote setting, like financial services or branch operations, have declined recently.
“However, headquarter and distribution announcements have continued to perform well over the years,” Gaus said. “The share of announcements related to energy in the first four months of 2022 have exceeded pre-pandemic levels.”
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-