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Release Date: Thursday, August 6th 2015

Demchak talks workforce development, downtown's revival and Pittsburgh's transformation

By Patty Tascarella

Not long after Bill Demchak joined PNC Financial Services Group Inc. in 2002, he popped by the human resources department with a question. What would happen, he wondered, if Pittsburgh’s biggest bank retired, hired and fired at the same pace? The answer was a surprise and not a pleasant one.

“We’d have 25 percent fewer employees and the median employee age was 55,” he said.

That hit home the fact that PNC (NYSE:PNC) would have to step up recruiting, which it did, and Demchak’s interest in education and training was triggered. Demchak, PNC’s president, CEO and chairman, told the story as he addressed VisionPittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Business Times’ quarterly luncheon series, Thursday at the Duquesne Club. Demchak’s talk centered on his work with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development on educating and training a workforce that can accommodate current and future needs, and with Envision Downtown, a public-private partnership where he’s leading the drive to make Pittsburgh an “easier, safer place to get across” for pedestrians, commuters and cyclists.

“About 54 percent of the people who come to work in downtown Pittsburgh take mass transit,” Demchak said, “but we don’t make it easy for them.”

High-tech lights that adjust for traffic patterns, reworking intersections with paint and squared off curbs are part of the efforts underway, along with better bus stands that are more comfortable and provide shelter from the weather.

The education efforts include not just training but creating better communication from administrators to children and their parents about the options and opportunities.

"We live in a world of science and math, and a lot of people don't want to admit it, but that's where the jobs are," Demchak said.

Demchak, who grew up in Fox Chapel, joined PNC in 2002 as CFO. He became CEO in April 2013 and chairman a year later. His parents moved the family here from Chicago in the early 1970s, so Demchak witnessed the decline of the steel mills and the city’s pollution problems as a teen. When he and his wife and young children moved here from New York City 13 years ago, he encountered a downtown that basically closed at 6 p.m.

“I didn’t know it, but 2002 was the cusp of what we call Pittsburgh’s third renaissance,” Demchak said.

Just as Demchak’s personal experiences discovering Pittsburgh parallel transformative times in the city’s recent history, PNC is a big player in its evolution, as a major employer and a cultural, civic and community supporter.

“PNC is a microcosm of what’s happening in the region,” he said.

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