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Western Pennsylvania heading in right direction, poll says

| Wednesday, May 17, 2017
Downtown Pittsburgh in 2014.

Most Pittsburghers own at least one Terrible Towel, believe the region's sports culture is its biggest draw and think Western Pennsylvania is moving in the right direction, according to Allstate Corp.'s Renewal Poll.

The poll found that residents are optimistic, describe the area as “proud” and “resilient” and believe technology and health care industries will drive the new economy. They also want to preserve existing historic landmarks.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said he wasn't surprised.

“The city is seeing an economic resurgence based around technology and medicine,” he said. “At the same time, there is a concern of many that we don't want to see Pittsburgh change, that the character of this city needs to stay intact with a new economy that's coming.”

Washington-based FTI Consulting Inc., on behalf of Allstate, from April 22-26, surveyed adults 18 or older living in Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland counties. The poll's margin of error is plus or minus 4.9 percent.

Eighty percent of those polled said the Pittsburgh region is moving in a positive direction. A total of 16 percent think the region is moving in a negative direction, according to the poll.

Megan McNally, director of FTI's consulting research team, said the sentiment is not unusual in regional polls.

“People tend to be more optimistic in a regional sense,” she said. “They are much more positive than they would be about the country or the state on a whole. In Pittsburgh, we've seen this big change happen as part the renewal process. People are more excited about it.”

Sixty-three percent believe the region's economic rebound has at least partially impacted their quality of life, with 22 percent saying it has helped a great deal.

Pittsburghers believe the region's economic base will be a diversified one, with 21 percent saying technology will be the “next new steel” followed by health care (19 percent), natural gas (7 percent) and higher education (2 percent).

Residents are proud of the region's professional sports teams, with 54 percent saying sports culture is the biggest draw. Sixty-eight percent of respondents said they own at least one Terrible Towel.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald falls into that category but couldn't pinpoint exactly how many.

“Every time you go somewhere, somebody gives you one,” he said.

Seventy-seven percent of participants said they think colleges and universities have helped renew the area through community service and innovative, community-focused curriculum. Eight out of 10 residents said redevelopment of former industrial sites should be a priority.

Allstate began polling in 2009 to gauge how its middle-class customer base was dealing with the recession, according to Stacy Drumtra, director of the Renewal Project. Since 2015, it has conducted the Renewal Poll to highlight efforts in cities that are reinventing themselves, she said.

“We want to be able to highlight stories of people working hard to renew their communities,” she said. “That's a good story. That's a good thing for us to do.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312, bbauder@tribweb.com or @bobbauder.