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North Hills Monthly

Big Ideas Start in the ‘Burgh

Sep 30, 2015 02:38PM ● By Larry Richert
What is it about Pittsburgh that makes us a hotbed for entrepreneurs? We seem to love to be known as the city of firsts, and when you consider what started here, it’s truly mind-boggling.

First for me is the fact that in my day job at KDKA radio, I am employed at the world’s very first commercial radio station. I take great pride in the fact that this November 2, we turn 95. I would like to think that everyone in Pittsburgh would appreciate the significance of that, too—to think that the world of communications has its roots here is amazing.

In addition to radio there’s Vladimir Zvorkin, the Russian immigrant who perfected the picture tube at Westinghouse while earning his Ph.D. at the University of Pittsburgh. It revolutionized television’s role in becoming a practical home entertainment device, and in 1954, WQED-TV was born in Pittsburgh—the first public TV station.

From broadcasting to robotics to mechanical marvels like the Ferris wheel, the city is at the forefront of so many firsts. Some are more mainstream, like Dr. Jonas Salk’s polio vaccine that circumnavigated the globe and prevented unimaginable suffering, which began here in 1954, and some are just fun—like the first Ice Capades taking place in Pittsburgh in 1940.

We also have many sports firsts, including being the home of the only NFL team with six Super Bowl trophies. The Pirates played the first World Series night game in 1971, and the Penguins old building, known originally as the Civic Arena, was the world’s first such sports facility built with a retractable dome roof in 1962.

Maybe the world most appreciates Pittsburgh’s food firsts. Let’s start with H.J. Heinz, who introduced ketchup to the planet, just for starters. Did you know that Pittsburgh McDonald’s franchise owner Jim Delligatti invented the world’s most famous hamburger, the Big Mac, in 1967? How about Sam Isaly’s ice cream treat, the Klondike Bar, which he introduced in 1929, before following that discovery with chipped ham in 1933.

We have a lot to be proud of living in Pittsburgh, including the entrepreneurial spirit that makes this region great. Even Lewis and Clark began their famous journey west from right here at the Point. Maybe that’s where it all began—people from all over the world coming here to find a better way and create a better life.

Have you ever heard of an innovation and thought to yourself, “I already thought of that?” or said out loud, “Why didn’t I think of that?” So what are you waiting for? Perhaps you can create the next best thing. Who hasn’t seen the hit TV show, Shark Tank, and though that they could do better? I’d like to think the best is yet to come, and that somebody reading this has the new secret sauce for success. Feel free to spread the wealth!