World leaders to hold economic summit in Pittsburgh
Article from Pittsburgh Post Gazette
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Thursday, May 28, 2009
By Ed Blazina and Rich Lord, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Pittsburgh will host the world's major economic powers at a G20 Summit in September.
The White House made the announcement at a press briefing in Washington, D.C. this afternoon. The summit will be held on Sept. 24 and 25.
Presidential spokesman Robert Gibbs said the U.S. agreed to host the next summit during the London meeting earlier in the spring. Pittsburgh is "a good place" to hold the summit because of its recovery from the decline of the steel industry in the 1980s, he said.
At the Pittsburgh Summit, President Barack Obama will meet with leaders representing 85 percent of the world's economy to take stock of progress made since the most recent summits and discuss further actions to assure a sound and sustainable recovery from the global economic and financial crisis, officials said.
"With leaders already scheduled to be in the United States in September to attend the United Nations General Assembly, President Obama offered to host the Summit and leaders of the G20 welcomed the invitation," a White House statement said. "Pittsburgh has demonstrated a commitment to employing new and green technology to further economic recovery and development. The summit will be held at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown Pittsburgh, an exemplar of that commitment. The facility is proud to have a LEED Gold Certification from the U.S Green Building Council for leadership in energy and environmental design."
"This is a tremendous opportunity for Pittsburgh," said city Chief of Staff Yarone Zober. "This is a chance for us to showcase our city, and our region, for the world."
He said that Mr. Obama, perhaps joined by First Lady Michelle Obama, would be among the world leaders in attendance, "as well as hundreds of dignitaries, world leaders from around the globe, and thousands of journalists from around the world."
Mr. Zober said the decision to hold the summit here was based on repeated contact between White House staff, Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and his staff, and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato and his staff.
Among the selling points: "Pittsburgh has really been a model for an economic turnaround," he said, noting the smokestacks-to-knowledge transformation of the regional economy and the development of environmentally friendly "green" job sectors.
It doesn't hurt, he said, that "President Obama is a big Pittsburgh fan in so many ways, and we're glad of it."
He acknowledged that preparing the city to host the world's leaders would be a big job.
"We're going to be ready to welcome the world to Pittsburgh in September," he said. "We're going to make sure that this city shines. . . . This is potentially one of the largest things to happen in Pittsburgh."
The short-term economic impact to hotels, restaurants and other Downtown businesses is significant, he said. So may be the long-term impacts of introducing so many top leaders and international journalists to the city, hopefully including its neighborhoods, he said.
The city's public safety departments have already begun coordinating security planning with the Secret Service, he said, but details are not yet worked out.
Mr. Onorato said hosting the summit is a sign of the area's economic stability and environmental innovations. Pittsburgh's convention center is the largest LEED-certified convention center in the world.
"I want to thank President Obama for giving us this remarkable opportunity to showcase our accomplishments and transformation on a world stage," he said.
The G20 includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union (along with the European Central Bank).
The most recent summit occurred in April in London, Mr. Obama's first major international conference.
Previous conferences have spawned demonstrations that have sometimes become violent in the host cities. Pittsburgh had a peaceful protest in April during the London conference when marchers went from Market Square to the Federal Building on Liberty Avenue.