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One Young World summit offers Pittsburgh a chance to shine

| Saturday, Oct. 13, 2012, 11:41 p.m.
Adrian Reyes poses for a portrait October 11, 2012 outside of his employer Google, at the software/search companies headquarters at Bakery Square in East Liberty. James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
An Allegheny County Department of Public Works crew hangs a 'One Young World' banner on the Rachel Carson Bridge, Thursday, October 11th, 2012. The One Young World summit will be in Pittsburgh next week. Keith Hodan | Tribune-review

Adrian Reyes chose to live in Pittsburgh when he could have picked San Francisco, Chicago or any other locale.

The city's transformation from an industrial past to its present and future rooted in technology appealed to him, as did its cultural amenities and educational, financial and health care institutions.

“Ten years ago, from what I've heard, I probably would not have picked this as my first city when I started looking to move to the U.S.,” said Reyes, 26, of the Strip District, a native of Queretaro, Mexico, who moved here in June 2011 to work as a software engineer for Google. “But Pittsburgh was my first choice.”

Organizers of One Young World, an international summit of people mostly in their 20s, predict the city will similarly impress the 1,300 delegates attending the four-day conference that begins on Thursday in the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, Downtown.

“This puts Pittsburgh on a world stage,” said Sy Holzer, president of PNC Bank-Pittsburgh and chairman of the One Young World Pittsburgh Partnership executive committee. “I'm sure we can apply a number directly to what it means, but the indirect impact is priceless.”

VisitPittsburgh estimates the conference will pump $5 million into Pittsburgh's economy through hotels, meals, transportation and other expenses for attendees.

The chance to share Pittsburgh's story with young leaders from 180 countries — the largest such gathering outside the United Nations and the Olympics — will resonate in a way that builds the city's reputation and could lead to opportunities in business and education, organizers said.

“We need to continue to hold events that shine the light on Pittsburgh internationally and for people in Pittsburgh to think internationally,” said Steven Sokol, CEO of the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh. “This kind of visibility is really important to stay front and center in people's awareness.”

Yet Jake Haulk, president of the Castle Shannon-based Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, questions how much the conference can impact the economy, based on the results of the 2009 global economic summit of world leaders Downtown.

“The G-20 was a major dud in what they expected and what they got for economic development,” Haulk said. “I'm not real hopeful anything will come out of this, but I am willing to be surprised.”

As with the G-20, organizers believe international news coverage of the youth summit can only benefit Pittsburgh.

The G-20 caused other groups to book conferences in Pittsburgh, said VisitPittsburgh CEO Craig Davis, including the BBI International Greenhouse Gas Conference in 2010, the Catholic Press Association in 2011 and the 2014 National Art Materials Trade Association Conference.

Davis acknowledged that the youth summit does not guarantee dividends, but he noted that people generally don't move their companies or families to Pittsburgh without first visiting.

“These are the up-and-coming kids who will help shape government and industries in their countries,” he said. “Hopefully from this, they will think of Pittsburgh. You just never know how this stuff comes back.”

Though he is not taking part in One Young World, Reyes is the type of person the summit attracts — and the type civic leaders want to attract permanently.

Reyes finished graduate school in Saudi Arabia and wanted to move to the United States. He learned of career prospects in Pittsburgh and researched the city.

“The more I found out, the more I liked,” he said. “It twice was voted the ‘most livable' city. That was a huge selling point for me.”

Other selling points included recreational activities and the number of technology companies and major corporations based here.

Reyes believes One Young World delegates — many of whom have never been to the United States, let alone Pittsburgh — will react similarly.

“I don't think it could go wrong,” Reyes said. “I think it's a pretty safe bet that they will like it.”

One Young World began three years ago as a project to bring together young people to discuss global issues and develop ways to address them. Topics include health, education, business and human rights, among others.

“It's a platform to effect positive change,” summit co-founder David Jones, global CEO of the advertising groups Havas and Havas International, told the Tribune-Review in April. “These are bright and inspiring people who are doing amazing things. This gives them an amazing network to get things done.”

London hosted the first summit in 2010. The event moved to Zurich last year. Pittsburgh beat out cities that included Melbourne and Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

A star-studded lineup will offer expertise, guidance and inspiration to delegates. Speakers will include former President Bill Clinton, Nobel Prize-winning economist Muhammad Yunus, musician/activist Bob Geldof and the founders of Twitter, Wikipedia and Mashable.

Delegates will view Pittsburgh's skyline during a kickoff party on Thursday night on the Roberto Clemente Bridge. More than 100 residents will host dinners in their homes.

“The biggest gain and the biggest value is all about the reputation of Pittsburgh,” said Katie McSorley, head of Havas' Pittsburgh office. “What's the next step? It's still to be determined. But we can use the experience of opening our city up to people from 180 countries to help determine what is next. We are building momentum.”

Jason Cato is a staff writer forTrib Total Media. He can be reached at412-320-7936 or jcato@tribweb.com.

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