President Obama’s announcement that Pittsburgh would be the host city for the G20 Economic Summit in September was met with surprise and even chuckles from the White House Press Corps.
White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said Pittsburgh was selected because of its comeback from the demise of the steel industry and a new commitment to green technology for economic development.
With world leaders, their staff, international media, and other visitors spending time in Pittsburgh for the summit, the economic impact will obviously be positive. Opportunities also exist to maximize media coverage.
Despite the initial cynical response from the White House Press Corps, the announcement has led to positive PR for Pittsburgh and the region, including a big media hit last Sunday via the New York Times story City of Steel (and Other Stuff) to Get Its Turn on the World Economic Stage.
While the story begins with the standard stereotypical descriptors of Pittsburgh (weird traffic patterns, Pittsburghese dialect, french fries on sandwiches as the trademark cuisine), some local leaders made the most of their opportunity to portray Pittsburgh in an appropriate light. Point Park University President Paul Hennigan had this to say about the initial response from the White House Press Corps:
“If the people in Washington were snickering, it’s because they don’t understand Pittsburgh and probably haven’t been here. If you don’t know Pittsburgh, you would snicker about an old Rust Belt industrial city down on its luck, not the beautiful, cutting-edge place it is.”
The story also mentions that local and regional leaders realize the city is still known and referred to as The Steel City but would rather our successes in other key industries be recognized. UPMC President Jeffrey Romoff compares UPMC’s role today to that of the steel companies of the past. Romoff calls Pittsburgh “tomorrow’s city” which seems appropriate based on the region’s ongoing success in the healthcare, higher education, and technology arenas.
But Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato had the last word:
“Anybody who laughs shows their ignorance. Let them have their two seconds of snickering. We’re going to have our three months in the spotlight.”
Take that White House Press Corps…and, by the way, our football and hockey teams are better than yours…