Peduto charts new economic development strategy for Pittsburgh with URA hires
Pittsburgh officials on Thursday hired a Kansas City economic development specialist to head the Urban Redevelopment Authority in a refocused effort to rebuild the city through neighborhood and workforce development, equity and affordable housing.
Mayor Bill Peduto and URA board Chairman Sam Williamson announced the hiring of Greg Flisram, 57, interim president and CEO of the Kansas City Economic Development Corp., as URA’s executive director.
They also announced the promotion of URA interim Executive Director Diamonte Walker, 38, to deputy executive director.
“We are extremely excited to announce the dynamic leadership team of Greg Flisram and Diamonte Walker,” Williamson said. “[Flisram] is a talented and committed economic development professional, who is also committed to equity and to people. He’s the perfect fit for this job, the perfect fit for the city of Pittsburgh and the perfect fit for the URA.”
Flisram will be paid $165,000 per year and Walker $140,000, according to Williamson. The URA board unanimously approved the two hires and their salaries Thursday.
Flisram has served for more than two decades in economic development positions across the country. In Kansas City, he headed an agency credited with creating 3,500 new jobs and bringing $1 billion in capital investment per year to the city, according to the Peduto’s office.
He previously served as development director for Green Bay, Wis., where he led efforts to develop the Green Bay Packers’ sports and entertainment complex dubbed the Titletown District. He also served in private sector development positions in five other cities.
Flisram was chosen through a nationwide search and from among a list of 143 candidates, Williamson said.
Walker, 38, of the Hill District, has served as the URA’s interim executive director since August after Executive Director Robert Rubinstein stepped down to become the authority’s director of special projects. She becomes the first black woman to hold the post of deputy executive director.
“There are so many women, black women in particular, who made this moment possible by giving me sturdy shoulders to stand on, and I honor them today,” Walker said in thanking her family and the URA staff.
Flisram, who appeared with Walker, Peduto, Williamson and other city officials for the announcement in the mayor’s conference room, said his first order of business would be to “communicate with people, get to know the staff, reach out to folks who may have not had a voice or don’t believe they have a voice in the economic development process.”
He said he plans to work on a new business plan for the URA and a revised economic development strategy for the city.
“I think there’s definitely philosophical alignment between what I bring and what I’d like to bring and where the board of the URA and the mayor are at this point in terms of how do you spread prosperity to a wider population, to neighborhoods that haven’t seen it,” Flisram said. “That’s the stuff I’m living now and I believe in.”
Peduto said the URA has gone through two evolutions since former Mayor David L. Lawrence created it in 1946. The first made Pittsburgh a corporate center behind only New York and Chicago, Peduto said, and the second focused on large development projects to pull the city out of an economic disaster caused by the collapse of the steel industry.
“From this day forward, the economic development strategy of the city of Pittsburgh is forever changed,” Peduto said. “It is now one that will focus on building a new economy for all and restoring our neighborhoods through housing and entrepreneurship in order to be able to see the full potential of the people who call Pittsburgh home.”
Peduto said before year’s end he intends to hire a chief economic development officer who will work out of his office and focus on economic development activities happening in the city. He said the city is conducting a nationwide search for a new planning director to replace Ray Gastil, who recently accepted a job with Carnegie Mellon University as director of the Remaking Cities Institute.
Together, they will work with the URA in creating a blueprint for rebuilding the city neighborhood by neighborhood, Peduto said.
“With nearly 17,000 vacant properties, blighted properties, abandoned properties and vacant land, we have the ability to rebuild neighborhoods in the vision of the people that live there,” he said. “It’s an incredible resource to have available to us.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-564-3080, [email protected] or via Twitter .