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URA, economic development department merger considered

| Saturday, May 29, 2004, 12:00 p.m.

A day after Mulugetta Birru announced his resignation as executive director of the city Urban Redevelopment Authority, Mayor Tom Murphy and county Chief Executive Dan Onorato said they'll explore merging the URA and the county Economic Development Department.

The agencies were partly joined until Onorato's predecessor, Jim Roddey, cut the ties because he didn't want Birru serving the county part-time.

"It probably makes some sense, but there's a lot to work through," said Dennis Davin, director of the county Economic Development Department. "There's so much that's different, but in the end there's a lot that is the same, too."

Issues will be whether the city and county can reduce a combined staff, how to deal with each agency's revenue and resolving differences in pay and benefits. City and county officials started broad talks about a merger after Onorato took office in January, Davin said.

The city and county agencies were never fully merged. But from 1997 to 2000, Birru split his time as director of both groups. When Roddey became the county's first chief executive, he dumped Birru.

Birru will be involved in the merger talks until the end of July, when he leaves for his new job as executive director of the Wayne County Economic Development Corp. in Detroit.

"I believe that we can achieve a joint arrangement that will enable us to better market our area to outside companies and developers, and that will allow us to take better advantage of the natural strengths of Pittsburgh," Murphy said in a statement he and Onorato released Friday.

Onorato said a merger would "create a one-stop shop" for businesses.

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