How is the Pittsburgh Technology Council Taking the City to the Next Level?
May 31, 2018 08:20PM ● Published by Hilary Daninhirsch
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Pittsburgh is a hub of technology, with countless tech-related companies setting up shop in the region. The Pittsburgh Technology Council was established in 1983 with the mission of helping these companies succeed. We spoke with the trade association’s Vice President of Communications and Media Jonathan Kersting about the benefits of membership and how the PTC fulfills its mission.
North Hills Monthly (NHM): What is the history behind the Pittsburgh Technology Council?
Jonathan Kersting (Kersting): Back in the early ‘80s, steel was on the decline and the unemployment rate was around 20 percent. There was a lot of hurting going on when it came to the loss of jobs, but a lot of business folks were looking at what would be the next iteration of Pittsburgh. They saw a lot of technology and innovation that was serving the steel industry and saw research at CMU and Pitt, and some tech companies and engineering companies were popping up. What they realized was that the next iteration was technology, and they wanted to create a voice for companies and a gathering point for them to meet, connect and grow.
NHM: How many members belong to the association?
Kersting: We have about 1,200 company members altogether, and we service the 13 counties of western Pennsylvania.
NHM: What types of industries are represented?
Kersting: Our tech industry has so many different clusters: there are a lot of software, hardware, artificial intelligence, robotics, and life sciences companies, as well as lots of advanced manufacturers. We have a lot of tech consultants and folks in creative industries that blur the line between art and technology, such as digital agencies and app developers. There are also a lot of traditional companies, like law firms and accounting firms that want to serve the tech industry.
NHM: What is the primary benefit to being a member of the Pittsburgh Technology Council?
Kersting: At the end of the day, it is really the connections that we provide. Even with us being hyper-connected with mobile devices, there is still a need for people to meet face-to-face and have human interaction, and we facilitate much of that with the council.
NHM: How do you operate to fulfill your mission?
Kersting: There are four core pillars:
• Business development, because at the end of the day people want new customers, partnerships and capital, and we facilitate that through a number of ways, such as events and personal introductions.
• We connect the talent—we have companies that require the most insane skill sets, and they use us to help recruit that talent; we do that through our job board and some personalized career events.
• Visibility—folks are looking to get exposure to the marketplace. We do that through our media. We’ve been publishing TEQ Magazine for 25 years. I also do a radio show on KDKA every Friday night with my boss, Audrey Russo; we love talking about the men and women who are building the tech companies that are making Pittsburgh what it is today. We also publish Made in PA Magazine to promote our manufacturing members.
• Government relations—we want to be active representing the tech community at the state and federal level. For example, last year we rallied to defeat Governor Wolf’s $330 million computer services tax proposal, and we are currently working on immigration reform; every region needs immigrant entrepreneurs, and we want to make sure there is plenty of talent.
NHM: How has Pittsburgh’s status evolved as a hub for technology?
Kersting: It’s been a multi-decade, overnight success story! There are about 10,000 technology establishments in the 13-county region, and these clusters include informational technology, advanced materials, environmental technology, healthcare/life sciences, energy technology and advanced manufacturing. Altogether, they account for almost 25 percent of our work force. Technology is a major chunk of what makes the Pittsburgh region tick.
NHM: How do you help companies succeed?
Kersting: I think at the end of the day, it’s us trying to connect companies to opportunities so they can grow. We try to be a career connector, some of which is done formally, and some informally. Our CEO, Audrey Russo, is the ultimate connector! She literally works 24/7 to help our members. We have a very passionate staff; we are all here because we care about the mission of the organization and our members, and how our members can make the region a better place.
NHM: What is the Pittsburgh
Kersting: That is our official job board. Members can post open positions, and we allow people to post resumes for free. We have about 10,000 resumes that are updated every 30 days, and we have about 1,000 jobs posted. It is one of our key services, and we can’t get the word out enough.
NHM: Can you highlight a few examples of programs or events that the council offers?
Kersting: We do about 130 events a year, which is an insane number, but that is what our members want, and they typically sell out; there is a lot of demand for people to connect. Our events work on a couple of different levels:
Our premiere event is our Tech 50 awards, which honors the top tech companies in the Pittsburgh region. It’s a regional celebration of tech companies in Pittsburgh, and it is an amazing event and a great night to focus on what is doing well here, tech-wise.
We just finished the CIO of the Year Awards, which honor the top tech execs.
What got the council started was our Breakfast Briefings—we hold them seven to eight times a year, bringing in CEOS from companies around the world that you cannot get a meeting with—they come in and try to plug into their networks. About 100-200 people show up to those; they’re really the bread and butter of PTC.
NHM: How is the PTC an asset to Pittsburgh?
Kersting: We’re an asset because we’re trying to keep the voice of the tech community being heard so that the region can see the impact that the tech industry is making, and so that they can know what they need to succeed.
NHM: What is the main message you’d like people to understand about the PTC?
Kersting: We’re here to help; we don’t want people to be shy to approach us with an idea. What I’ve learned is that some of the best stuff happens as a complete accident or surprise.
We’re very approachable; we’re a small, passionate staff, and our hearts are in our work. Any way we can be helpful to members in our industry, we are all ears.
To learn more about the Pittsburgh Technology Council, visit www.pghtech.org.