The Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh (PELGP), the public policy research affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, provides research and analysis on the most critical issues for our region’s competitiveness. The information we provide serves the business, civic and governmental leadership of southwestern Pennsylvania in support of improvements for living and doing business in the region.
The Pennsylvania Economy League (PEL) was founded in 1936 by a group of business and civic leaders seeking to improve the quality of government and promote economic development in Pennsylvania. With a rich history of civic and community involvement and its emphasis on comparative research and policy analysis, the organization holds a statewide reputation for objectivity, integrity and consensus-building. While always based upon these principles, the particular role of PEL throughout the decades has adjusted to meet the needs of the region.
During the Depression years, as state and local governments adjusted to handle new responsibilities, much of PEL's initial structure and programs were based on existing taxpayer and municipal reform agendas, developed in response to growing concern about public expenditures and taxation. Through the remainder of the 1930s, PEL worked to establish itself as a statewide research organization as well as a fiscal and administrative consultant and advisor to public officials. It continued to serve those functions during and after World War II, when focus shifted away from social concerns and economic needs, pre-war budget deficits were replaced with surpluses, and state and local debts stabilized.
By the 1950s, the PEL had established itself as a reputable and reliable source of assistance to both taxpayers and public officials. During this period, PEL's Western Division (Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh) played a key role in Pittsburgh's Renaissance, working closely with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. Its studies and recommendations also resulted in the development of Action Housing.
Throughout the 1960s and 1970s the progressive expansion of public functions and programs produced a growing need for larger, formal management consultation and research projects, which PEL stepped in to provide. It continued to perform day-to-day routine services but also worked on such projects as the development of the United Way in Allegheny County and the production of recommendations that helped to form the Allegheny County Department of Administration.
In 1967-1968, PEL played an instrumental role in the planning and execution of Pennsylvania’s Constitutional Convention by leading its Preparatory Committee. Major outcomes of the Convention included the ability of counties and municipalities to adopt home rule charters and an overhaul of the judicial system.
In recent decades, PEL served increasingly as a research advisor to – and occasionally member of – official study commissions appointed by public officials and governing bodies to deal with high priority and often controversial public issues. It has a long history of involvement, for instance, with efforts to streamline local government operations for increased efficiency and effectiveness and enhance City/County cooperation, which continues today.
Since the 1980s, a growing trend has been to depend on PEL for comprehensive public policy research, analysis, and planning for government and civic agencies. This shift eventually led the organization to become an important instrument for building consensus among private leadership – a function that is further enhanced today through its affiliation with the Allegheny Conference.
PEL efforts during the 1980s and 1990s include the successful promotion of the new Pittsburgh International Airport and efforts that led to the improvements of Westmoreland County government. In 1982 PEL published a two-year study documenting that the City of Pittsburgh was a "regional city with a local tax base." In 1993 a PEL report endorsed the idea of a regional asset district funded by a local sales tax, as well as the sales tax as an appropriate substitute for the personal property tax. The local option sales tax was implemented in Allegheny County in 1994.
In 2000, the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh (PELGP) entered into a “joint venture” with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) that brought the four organizations together under a common CEO. The relationship was formalized into a strategic affiliation in 2003, with a single membership, staff and strategic plan supporting and guiding the activities of all four affiliates under the leadership of the Allegheny Conference board of directors. The structure plays to the strengths of each organization – the research and analysis expertise of PELGP, the advocacy efforts of the Chamber, and the marketing intelligence capabilities of the PRA. These strengths, guided by private sector leadership, enable an efficient model for regional improvement.