Civic News

Ed Gainey won a historic mayoral election. Here’s what Pittsburgh tech wants to see from his administration

As mayor, the state representative will face pressure to continue the recent momentum of the tech economy successes of the past few years, say community leaders.

The founders of Launch Lane's inaugural cohort.

(Courtesy photo)

After a historic campaign and primary win last spring, State Rep. Ed Gainey will officially be Pittsburgh’s next mayor.

Late last night, after a majority of ballots had been counted, Gainey gave a victory speech at the Benedum Center, where he had hosted his election party.

“Let me tell you why this is beautiful. Because you proved that we could have a city for all,” Gainey said at the event, as reported by PublicSource. “You proved that everybody can change.” With his win, Gainey will become the first Black mayor in the city’s history.

Previously, Technical.ly covered Gainey’s campaign with a mayoral survey on the candidate’s plans for the tech industry, which saw explosive growth under his predecessor Mayor Bill Peduto. Over the last eight years, Peduto’s administration has led the city in attracting local offices for Big Tech companies as well as successful exits for homegrown ones, including Duolingo, Cognition Therapeutics and soon, Aurora Innovation.

Gainey spoke of these accomplishments and more to come in a more in-depth interview with Technical.ly last month, but added that there need to be better pipelines for everyone to access the economic benefits that the tech industry can offer.

“There has to be an infrastructure between the tech communities, the universities,” as well as Pittsburgh Public Schools and Community College of Allegheny County, he said at the time, “to begin to talk about, how do you create that skill set that’s needed to thrive in the tech industry?”

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Members of the tech community want to see him put these words into action, not just for students but for new founders and growing startups as well.

“I would love to see the Pittsburgh government work better with startups as a customer,” wrote BlastPoint cofounder and CEO Alison Alvarez in Technical.ly’s community Slack. “I recall a program for the city to run pilots with startups, but they were unpaid (if I’m remembering correctly), and most of us have to put a priority on making payroll. The expectations were really high for what small teams would be able to produce.”

Pittsburgh’s City-County Building. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Meter Feeder cofounder and CEO Jim Gibbs echoed Alvarez’s sentiments, referring to the city government-sponsored incubator PGH Lab. He shared his own experience in applying to the program.

“I applied twice. Once, I didn’t get to the second round of interviews. The other, the person that was supposed to make the decision never showed up to my presentation,” Gibbs wrote in the Slack. Under the new administration, he continued, he’d like to see startups taken more seriously and an openness to input from community organizations like Black Tech Nation and Community Forge (though the latter is based in Wilkinsburg).

One way to do that might be through a transition committee similar to the one that Peduto had when he first took over, said Colin Dean, a lead AI engineer for Target and the managing director of tech community and coworking space Code & Supply. Dean himself was on that committee back in 2013, and put together a report of recommendations on information systems in the city with his subcommittee. While he said the Peduto administration carried out some of the suggestions in the report, there is room for more work, and Gainey’s arrival could also be a good chance to update some of those earlier goals.

More broadly, though, Dean wrote in the Slack that he’d like “to see the city lead on policies that make Pittsburgh more attractive for tech talent and more able to retain talent that comes here for school and work” — a commitment that will be necessary if the city wants to take advantage of the recent momentum in company growth here and use it to cement Pittsburgh’s status as a tech hub.

Part of that effort will require leadership that’s willing to advertise local successes on a global stage, rather than getting bogged down in the Silicon Valley comparisons that many emerging tech hubs fall prey to. That’s according to Michele Migliuolo, a serial entrepreneur and the executive director of the Center for Excellence in Entrepreneurship at Duquesne University’s Palumbo Donahue School of Business (though he emphasized that his personal views are not reflective of the university’s).

Mentioning Peduto’s recent trip to the United Nations Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, Migliuolo told Technical.ly, “Now, a normal citizen might say, ‘Why is our mayor wasting our tax dollars going to Glasgow?’ But that’s what puts the city on the map.”


Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-
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