My company, like many other small businesses was impacted by the pandemic. Because most of my clients are operating from remote locations, it was no longer practical to have a New York City office. My basement was my new office, and I realized that video conference connections were just as efficient as face-to-face meetings.
Zip codes suddenly became zero. Anyone could work wherever they wanted. My wife and I decided to try a new life together. To see what might happen, we packed up our cars and rented temporary accommodation and an office space. We returned to my hometown for one month.
I called it The Pittsburgh Test.
When a strike by the newspaper put us at risk, we had already left Pittsburgh nearly 29 years before. Our first child was due and we needed to have job security. This wasn’t something our employer could guarantee. Both of us ended up at The Detroit Free Press and The New York Times. After leaving Time magazine, I started my own business helping other companies such as AT&T and Chase to tell great stories.
I wanted to make sure my own story resonated, so I created a website. Placed ads in the local media and wrote columns for newspapers. I also did radio interviews. Cartoon versions of me were plastered all around town. My cartoon appeared on billboards along busy streets, in offices windows and as colorful socks and cardboard masks that I gave out to strangers.
It was a surprise to me what The Pittsburgh Test would offer. I’d been back to Pittsburgh several times over the years to visit friends or to eat Primanti’s sandwiches. But not enough to really experience it.
Even me, the results were surprising.
We fell in love again with Pittsburgh right away. The city’s three rivers are the backdrop to a lively place where large companies such as Google and Facebook opened offices. There is a lot of innovation in this city, as dozens upon dozens have created new ways for people to move around, build buildings and do surgeries. Through IPOs or SPACs, home-grown businesses like Duolingo have been recognized on Wall Street.
Another factor was the quality of my life. It’s possible to ride anywhere on a bike path. I rode 100 miles in my first weekend, and also to the Pirates game. They won! It seemed like no place was more than 10 minutes from the car when traveling. Amazing meals were shared with family and friends, at much lower prices than we used to pay in New York City.
We were sold two weeks after The Pittsburgh Test. The sixth house that we saw was a South Side townhouse within walking distance to many restaurants. It is also a short commute of five minutes from One PPG Place, where I am now based. A 31st-floor downtown office was available for rent at the same price as an interior WeWork space located in Times Square. It has floor-to ceiling windows that overlook Pittsburgh’s Golden Triangle.
I was able to make connections with many Pittsburghers, including entrepreneurs, innovators, investors and educators. These stories were the catalyst for me to move from my home in Connecticut to Pittsburgh. I wanted to join an ecosystem that includes major universities and some of the most well-known companies around. There are also hundreds of other companies you may not have heard about, but will.
Even better, I had the opportunity to meet Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto. He accepted my invitation to meet up under my billboard to shoot a photo. The message from the billboard resonated with Pittsburghers. It also calls for small-business owners to consider a drastic change in scenery.
It said, “Go Big and Go Home.” It is possible, as I learned through The Pittsburgh Test.
Publiated at Thu, 19 August 2021 06:38.16 +0000