The technology industry continues to be a vital part of Pittsburgh’s economy. Fortunately, the Pittsburgh Technology Council lends a hand to these businesses in several ways to meet the unique needs within the industry. We spoke with Jonathan Kersting, vice president of communications and media, to get a perspective on the council’s role in fostering and supporting the region’s tech community.
North Hills Monthly (NHM): What is the mission of the Pittsburgh Technology Council?
Jonathan Kersting (Kersting): First and foremost, our mission is to help our region’s tech companies succeed across four core service areas—acquiring talent, business development, government relations and visibility. We connect our members with business opportunities and financing options as needed. We help clients find the talent they need. We provide visibility through our radio show, events and other means. And with government relations, we act as an advocate for our clients working to maintain a productive business environment.
NHM: How long has the Pittsburgh Technology Council been involved with the region’s tech companies?
Kersting: Incredibly, we’ve been in business since 1983, which means we’ll be celebrating our 40th year in 2023. It’s cool to look back and realize how far we’ve come over the years. Also, I’m looking forward to seeing what the next 40 years will bring. On a side note, I guess I should start making plans for the celebration!
NHM: Tell us a little bit about your annual TechFest that took place in June.
Kersting: Pittsburgh TechFest brings software development professionals together to basically geek out over software development. But it’s also an opportunity to learn about best practices, cyber-security and other topics like navigating the return to the workplace. Although we’ve hosted virtual events throughout the pandemic, giving people the opportunity to get away from their offices and into the idyllic environment of La Roche University created space for networking where cool collisions could happen.
NHM: How has the technology world changed for Pittsburgh?
Kersting: I’ve been with the Pittsburgh Technology Council for 25 of its 40 years. Primarily, I have noticed that the media, along with Pittsburgh area residents, take the tech business more seriously than they did initially. Media outlets are publishing stories about our members and various technology changes. Residents and the community in general are talking about the region’s new growth, new buildings and even new residents moving into the Strip District and all across our area. We no longer have to tell the story, “Oh, steel went away and now we need to do something else.” It’s like we became a 30-to-40-year overnight success story!
NHM: How do tech businesses help the city?
Kersting: Over the past 40 years, technology has become the key driver of Pittsburgh’s economy. If we look at last year’s State of the Industry report, we see three key factors:
The 10,229 technology establishments tallied in the year 2020 represent more than 13 percent of all companies in the 13-county region.
These businesses employ 305,615 individuals and account for nearly 26 percent of the area’s overall workforce.
Finally—and the most astounding—the $26.5 billion annual payroll of technology and related companies represents more than 37 percent of our region’s total wages.
NHM: How did the Pittsburgh Technology Council assist members during the height of the pandemic and what changes did you notice with your members?
Kersting: Across our membership, we noted that most continued to hire new talent throughout the pandemic. By embracing the “work from anywhere” trend, the talent pool opened up for many employers. We’ve also seen an influx of people moving into the Pittsburgh area since this location is less stressful than some of the bigger metropolitan regions.
As for the PTC assisting members throughout the pandemic, we wanted to focus on bringing people together by launching a ‘Business as Usual’ webinar series in April 2020 as a temporary adjustment to the COVID-19 challenges. We’d have a guest stop by with relevant information about things like tech companies with solutions that were being deployed for the pandemic. I think it gave people a sense of connection and created a new community to combat the isolation the pandemic created. What began as a short-term solution ultimately lasted 19 months.
The tech community also stepped up to help with local charitable drives. For example, Aurora and its neighborhood allies raised over $250,000 to get laptops in the hands of children in public schools. In my 25 years of working with the PTC, I’ve never felt so freaked out yet so inspired at the same time.
To learn more about the Pittsburgh Technology Council, visit www.pghtech.org.