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Region is portrayed as a 'cool' place to live

Tuesday, December 19, 2000

By Dan Fitzpatrick, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

In February 1999, Gov. Tom Ridge was in Pittsburgh to promote "Pennsylvania's Part of You," a campaign designed to lure ex-Pennsylvanians back to their home state.

A related article

Pennsylvania, other states try to fill holes in labor force


At the event, Ridge handed out baskets of Pennsylvania-made Hershey chocolate bars, Slinkys and Silly Putty. He showed a video that featured Fred Rogers, Bill Cowher and Joe Paterno, all of whom had returned home after living elsewhere. Ridge announced plans to mail 4,000 of these videos to people who recently left Pennsylvania after receiving degrees from local universities.

"We want you back," he said.

The event, held at the National Robotics Engineering Consortium in Lawrenceville, was yet another illustration of how far politicians and economic development officials will go to attract workers and keep them happy.

One of the region's first coordinated attraction campaigns began in 1998, when the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance targeted young ex-Pennsylvanians home for the holidays. Appearing on the radio, in newspapers and on billboards, the $50,000 effort promised young people "a cool job, a kick-ass computer and plenty of cash left to party."

It also asked people to "Look Before You Leave."

The PRA's marketing effort took another turn in November 1999, when the nonprofit organization began running televisions ads capturing the observations of the local scene by an inline skater, an Ultimate Frisbee player and a coxswain. All three agreed to mount a camera to their heads and spend a day recording their lives in the city. The idea was to convince young people that Pittsburgh is a fun, cool and interesting place to live.

Last summer, the PRA and the Pittsburgh Technology Council also targeted summer interns. With a program called "Interns 2000," the two organizations tried to expose young college students working here for the summer to the region's array of attractions by taking them to the Carnegie Science Center, Heinz Hall, the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, and other popular local destinations.

Some of the efforts to lure and keep workers never made it past the drawing board.

One was Border Guard Bob, a fictional Barney Fife-type character who was to star in a television ad. The idea was for Border Guard Bob to wear a uniform and stop young people at Western Pennsylvania's borders, before they had a chance to leave for other cities. If he was unable to persuade people to stay, Border Guard Bob would have hitched a bungee cord to the car's back bumper and, looking into the camera, say: "He'll be back." The proposal was abandoned by the PRA before production could even begin.

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