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Firms in place also key to jobs

| Saturday, Nov. 16, 2002

Expansion by companies already in the region is an important key to the success of The Allegheny Conference on Community Development's new job creation initiative, "3 Rivers: One Future," announced this week.

It's believed that 70 to 80 percent of any region's employment growth is created by existing and local start-up companies. So economic development leaders said Friday they are proceeding on that basis with plans to implement their new strategy — which targets the creation of 50,000 new jobs and securing $1 billion in new investment in southwest Pennsylvania by the end of 2005.

The plan, unveiled at the organization's annual meeting Thursday, calls for pursuing a wide range of projects and initiatives to promote growth.

Success will depend not only on luring companies from outside the region, but also on help from local companies.

"One of the key issues for the region is to provide jobs for people who live here today and for the people we want to attract," Harold Miller, president of the conference, said yesterday. "Clearly, people won't come here unless there are jobs available."

The new plan comes at the time when general economic conditions across the country continue to be sluggish.

Despite those conditions, the region has been able to make progress, Miller said.

A check of companies headed by the Allegheny Conference's top leaders shows a generally positive outlook.

Mellon Financial Corp. still has more than 7,000 employees in the region, after the sale of its retail banking operations last year to Citizens Financial Group, said Mellon spokesman Ronald Gruendl.

Mellon Chairman Martin McGuinn is the Allegheny Conference's newly elected chairman. Mellon did announce plans early this year to lay off 268 back office and support workers in the aftermath of the Citizens deal. And Citizen's hired more than 4,100 former Mellon retail employees.

Employment has remained stable at PNC Financial Services Group this year, in the range of about 7,700 people, said PNC spokesman Patrick McMahon. PNC Chairman James Rohr is a vice chairman of the Allegheny Conference.

Both PNC and Mellon opened separate, new financial services centers Downtown in recent years. "That (PNC) center could have been built anywhere," McMahon said.

U.S. Steel Corp. Chairman Thomas Usher is the Allegheny Conference's other vice chairman. U.S. Steel's local employment is holding steady, said spokesman Michael Dixon. At the end of 2001, the company employed about 7,400. The company added about 100 local jobs at its Straightline Source division, which has an office in the city's Strip District.

And the Eat 'n Park restaurant chain has posted strong overall growth and added about 500 jobs, spokesman Adam Golomb said.

In the Pittsburgh area, the company — whose president, James Broadhurst is secretary-treasurer of the Allegheny Conference — hired about 100 people when it opened a new restaurant in Wexford, and added 10 new employees at the company's new headquarters at the Waterfront in Homestead.

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