Game Change: Economic Equity and Regional Growth

From the Blog

Game Change: How Economic Equity Plays Central Role in Regional Growth

In the 25 years that Majestic Lane has lived in Pittsburgh, he has seen a major shift that indicates the region is poised for transition in the area of economic equity. And as the new chief equity officer of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, he’s excited about helping to shape that change. 

Equity and inclusion are not just moral issues, Lane says: they are, in fact, economic necessities for building a business ecosystem that attracts and retains high-caliber talent and the companies these workers populate. 

Regions that dedicate themselves to achieving high degrees of economic equity and inclusion are far more successful in attracting talent and business than those that do not. A 2017 report by the Brookings Institution notes that cities and regions are best positioned to address inequality because they are best able to accommodate unique differences in local structure. 

By acknowledging economic equity as an imperative for the success and future of the region, and by making this principle a central plank in strategies moving forward, regional leaders are taking responsibility for creating a place where everyone can succeed and flourish.

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Fifth Season’s Vertical Farm ‘Lettuce Factory’ Takes Root

Inside a 60,000-square-foot building in Braddock – a historic community once dominated by the steel industry and about eight miles east of Pittsburgh’s city center – lies a farm that functions like a lettuce factory. Fifth Season uses advanced robotics, vast arrays of LEDs, and state-of-the-art systems engineering in lieu of plows and tractors. 

The company was co-founded by Austin Webb, a Carnegie Mellon University MBA who joined an industry segment known as controlled environment agriculture. The idea of vertical farming has taken root, attracting billions in startup capital during the past decade.

The premise is that vertical farms grow crops faster with higher yields than traditional farms, using less water and no pesticides. 

“This is smart manufacturing,” says Webb, who is Fifth Season’s chief executive officer. “We just happen to manufacture living organisms.”

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“When we cut the ribbon on yet another expansion project for a robotics science and life science center in Pittsburgh, it signals to the world that if you’re a tech and innovation company and you’re looking for a place to grow and expand, Pittsburgh is a place to do it.”

Pennsylvania Secretary of Community and Economic Development Dennis Davin (on the official opening of Smith+Nephew’s Pittsburgh R&D center and medical training facility for robotics surgery)

Economic equity is a business necessity