Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Gov. Josh Shapiro affirms commitment to boosting region’s innovation at Pittsburgh Aviation and Robotics Summit

Gov. Josh Shapiro delivered remarks Tuesday at the Pittsburgh Aviation and Robotics Summit, where he reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to stimulating innovation and economic development in Pennsylvania.

Speaking at The Vision on Fifteenth in the Strip District, Mr. Shapiro pointed to industries such as robotics and artificial intelligence as drivers of growth within the region and commonwealth, and highlighted multiple initiatives to target economic redevelopment his administration has already enacted since his taking office.

“Aside from all the plans, the policies and proposals and grants and budget investments, most importantly, I believe in you. And I believe that the future success of our commonwealth depends on what happens in rooms like this,” Mr. Shapiro said.

Shortly after taking office, Mr. Shapiro signed an executive order to create an Office of Transformation and Opportunity, which he called a “one-stop shop” for emerging businesses looking to grow or expand in Pennsylvania.

Last month, he unveiled a budget proposal that included increases in funding for government initiatives geared toward scientific innovation, such as the Manufacturing PA Innovation Program and PA Smart Program. In his speech, Mr. Shapiro called on lawmakers in the General Assembly to pass his proposed budget as part of the commonwealth’s continuing support of the industry.

Outgoing Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald also spoke at the summit’s opening event, highlighting the need for innovation within aviation and the potential of a burgeoning robotics industry.

“Years ago, when the National Football League was starting up a franchise, it really made sense that the name of the team that played here was called the Steelers, after the industry that we had. Well, the next time we get a franchise, we’re going to be calling it the Robots,” Mr. Fitzgerald said.

Mr. Fitzgerald praised Mr. Shapiro’s ongoing efforts to support emerging industries in southwestern Pennsylvania and the funding from the federal Economic Development Administration that subsidized the summit.

In September, the EDA awarded $63 million to the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Collaborative — a group of university, philanthropic and private entities based in the region — through the Build Back Better Regional Challenge.

A competitive grant program designed to “supercharge” struggling local economies, the Build Back Better Regional Challenge is considered an anchor of the Biden administration’s American Rescue Plan initiatives.

“These are the kinds of investments that send a signal to the world that Pennsylvania understands economic development. And I must tell you, it also sends a clear signal that we are open for business,” Mr. Shapiro said.

The invite-only event brought hundreds of senior executives in the aviation industry to Pittsburgh — advertised as “the robotics capital of the world” — for a three-day summit that includes workshops, facility tours and networking opportunities.

The program is being hosted by the Robotics Factory, a collective of robotics programs also funded by the EDA’s federal grant program.

In a region that has seen a dwindling population and stagnating economy since major industrial declines in the 1970s, Pittsburgh has already become an emerging hotbed for the robotics industry, according to a report from the Pittsburgh Robotics Network.

More than 100 robotics companies have taken root in Pittsburgh, creating almost 15,000 jobs and attracting billions in capital investment within the past five years, the report found.

Mike Harding, vice president of business investment for the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, said collaboration between government officials and the private sector has become crucial to southwestern Pennsylvania’s development.

“We’re fortunate to have a friendly public-private partnership here in the region, where we’re able to try things like autonomous vehicles on our roadways, because we also have a state that supports that type of deployment. So we have that opportunity to use the city as our living laboratory,” Mr. Harding said.

View the full article at post-gazette.com