Former Pittsburgh Mayor discusses drivers for economic growth

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge city leaders, business groups, and investors gathered Tuesday to learn the secret to bringing in big business and turning around a city's economy from a man whose done both, former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy. Murphy was the key note speaker at the latest Baton Rouge Area Chamber's Speaker Series.

Murphy's method is simple: if families want to call your city home big business will, too. The former mayor explains when he was in office, Pittsburg was low of funds and their young people weren't sticking around either. He says the city started investing in what he calls quality of space, making the city a better place to live. People started staying, and soon business like Google and Uber followed.

Murphy, who currently serves as a senior fellow for the Urban Land Institute, also said universities play a vital role in attracting and growing a talented workforce.

"Quality of life right now is a big piece of attracting talent. That talent will drive the economy," said Murphy. "Google is not in Pittsburg because we have great weather or we're by the ocean. They're in Pittsburg because of the university."

It's a formula that Baton Rouge is working on. For example, a private company is working to turn the old Entergy station on Government street, a blighted eyesore, into a usable, livable space known as the Electric Depot.

Downtown Baton Rouge is another example. Years of revitalization have attracted new hotels, restaurants, and businesses like IBM. However, the head of the Baton Rouge Area Chamber says it can't stop there.

"It's as much about taking broken neighborhoods, under invested neighborhoods, struggling communities and finding ways to see them revitalized to become higher performing parts of the community," said BRAC President and CEO Adam Knapp.

As for funding these improvements, Murphy says city leaders have to think outside the box and seek things like partnerships or even tax credits.

"Too many times people say well we would love to do that, but we don't have any money. That should be the last piece of the conversation. The vision is what drives the opportunity," said Murphy.

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