Steve Massaro talks enthusiastically about the Pirates game he attended at PNC Park against their American League archrivals, the Cleveland Indians.
“It was a packed house, a beautiful day, the backdrop of the city right there, a fun crowd, a family crowd, something for everyone,” says Massaro, vice president for business development for the 170-employee construction contractor Massaro Co.
Without considerable effort by a group of civic, government and business leaders, PNC Park may never have been built, and Massaro and thousands of others wouldn’t have had the game to talk about.
Failure on the first try to put together a financing scheme for PNC Park and a desire to boost the region’s image in the minds of young people spurred Massaro and his two brothers, also officers in the family business, to launch Pittsburgh’s NEXT in 1998. The group is dedicated to introducing and educating the region’s young people to the desirability living here.
Always a big fan of the city, Massaro says he couldn’t wait to return to Pittsburgh to work after attending college in Washington, D.C.
He credits his father, the company’s chairman and CEO, for encouraging his sons to take an active role to benefit the region.
“My father said you have three choices: do nothing, leave or do something,” says Massaro. “We decided to do something.”
Smart Business talked with Massaro about the program he launched and what it means for the city.
How did Pittsburgh’s NEXT get started?
We sat down and said, ‘There’s enough people in this region supportive of moving forward and being progressive. Let’s invite some people to our offices to see if we can get some support for the idea.’ We invited 40 people, and 38 of the 40 came.
Why do you care so much about Pittsburgh?
For a couple of reasons. One, aside from going to Washington, D.C., for college for four years, I’ve always been in Pittsburgh. I was anxious to get back after being away.
I didn’t want to work anywhere else, unlike my brothers, who worked in Washington, D.C., and New York (before coming back to Pittsburgh). I love the city, I want to see it do well.
After we took it on the chin with the collapse of the steel industry and other major corporations leaving the city, you almost feel an obligation or duty to do what you can to help. You can sit back and complain about the lack of progress, but that’s easy to do.
The hard thing to do is to get involved, even to a small degree, at least to do something. The selfish reason is if the region can progress, there’s going to be more business, not just for me, but for everybody.
Was your father supportive?
It was actually his idea. My brothers had just moved back from D.C. and New York around the same time. Both of them were saying, ‘Man, this is terrible. If this is what Pittsburgh is today after being gone for seven years, maybe we don’t want to be here.’
It was all of us collectively, but it was his laying the cards on the table. He loves the city, too. He said everything’s achievable if you work for it.
What does it take to attract and keep young people here?
I think Pittsburgh’s NEXT has a good formula. You do it by keeping them informed.
We have bi-monthly programs, lunch programs, breakfast programs, where you talk about important issues, keeping them informed so they know everything that Pittsburgh has to offer.
The second thing is Connect Pittsburgh. Young people are invited three times a year to meet with organizations in Pittsburgh where they can do volunteer work and get connected to the community. There’s Discover Pittsburgh, where you have organizations coming to the (Carnegie Science Center or the Heinz Regional History Center) to (help them) discover everything Pittsburgh has to offer.
That’s more for the college students, where they can really discover Pittsburgh, so when it’s time to graduate, they’re not heading off to New York or Atlanta or Chicago or wherever.
Are young people getting the message that Pittsburgh is a good place to live, work and do business?
I think so. I think you’ll always have some naysayers. I continue to be impressed by the people who are here and committed.
People who aren’t committed to it would probably go to another city and say the same things about that city. How to reach: Pittsburgh’s NEXT, www.pittsburghsnext.org; Massaro Co., www.massarocompany.com