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Glen Meakem

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Glen Meakem is co-founder and chief executive officer of FreeMarkets OnLine, a company that organizes and conducts online auctions for industrial customers. Formerly with General Electric Co. and McKinsey & Co., Meakem received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University. His graduate work was interrupted by a six-month tour of duty leading an engineer platoon in Operation Desert Storm.

I co-founded the company about four years ago with Sam Kinney, who lived in Pittsburgh. The first time I’d ever set foot in Pittsburgh was January ’95. I liked it.

The hub airport is critical. We wouldn’t be here without the airport. It’s a great example of where government does have a role. Things like that don’t get built unless government comes in. I think Pittsburgh used to be a place that was sort of isolated, but the airport puts us on the map.

Another thing is the fact that Pittsburgh has the software industry and the universities. Without the universities, this place is nowhere. Carnegie Mellon University is a key strategic asset of the city, and it needs to be supported in a big way. And it needs to step up and have a greater vision of its future. The thing I like about it is that 100 years ago, it was nothing. Even 30 years ago, as Carnegie Tech, it was not much above nothing. Slowly it’s become a university with an international reputation.

Other cities — New Haven, Conn., Philadelphia and Providence, R.I. — have not taken advantage of having world-class universities. Thirty years from now, CMU could be even more important. I would go out and raise $100 million tomorrow. Build a Harvard-Yale-like housing system, and make it a top, top undergraduate institution. I would buy up blocks and blocks and blocks of land around it and put in a residential undergraduate university. And make it join the Ivy League.

I’m a Republican, rather conservative, but I tip my hat to the more Democratic thinking on urban planning here. The fact that beltways have been fought, and the fact that all roads lead through Downtown is a huge asset to the city.

It’s a low cost, low crime, high quality of life place. It’s got great universities, a hub airport that’s terrific. So it’s got a lot going for it. My wife and I have lived in Houston, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Boston and New York. And we like this place a lot better than any of the others.

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