2 min read November 2021 — Fragasso Financial Advisors is an investment management and financial planning firm headquartered in Pittsburgh. In an interview with Invest:, Chairman and CEO Robert Fragasso discussed what makes the Pittsburgh market so special and areas the region needs to address moving forward, as well as providing insight into the investment markets.
What makes Pittsburgh a great place to reside and do business?
We have successfully converted an old steel town, over the course of several decades, into a city that embraces the technological revolution. Tech companies have transformed our inner cities from old, dilapidated and poor into gentrified, upscale areas that continue to attract companies and individuals. Old-time capital is also a unique aspect of Pittsburgh. We have more foundations in Pittsburgh than Denver has. It is this old-time foundation money that has propped up Pittsburgh and helped in the transition from where we were to where we are today.
We have actually added population over the past decade, stopping a downward trend. Our cost of living is very reasonable, you can be 15 miles away from Pittsburgh’s center city and be in the country. We’re becoming a young person’s town. There is great cooperation across the 10-county Southwest PA region politically, economically and strategically to create a prosperous economy. For example, we have a $1.4 billion airport project that wouldn’t have broken ground without regional cooperation.
What was a key lesson learned over the pandemic?
Three or four years ago, when we weren’t set up well for a work-from-home environment, I said working from home doesn’t work. Today, we operate flawlessly from home. We continue to add new assets to our firm, with a record year from a work-from-home environment in 2020. 2021 is tracking just as well. We’ve learned the lesson of decentralization and trusting people to do the right thing on their own.
How has the pandemic impacted demand for your services?
History repeats itself. Each generation eventually realizes that bad things happen from time to time and that things are beyond their control, and so they seek professional guidance. Many people came to this realization during COVID and reached out for our help.
Are investment markets saturated with capital at this time?
Investment markets, whether real estate or commodity markets, are driven in large part by availability of capital. However, it’s not just the availability of capital that impacts investments. The earnings that are generated on that capital and future earnings expectations are also critical. We’re in a metamorphosis at this time, and so I don’t think there is too much capital in the markets. There is a lot that can be done. In WWII, for example, there was a tremendous amount of innovation but there wasn’t enough capital to fuel all those ideas. Today, in some aspects, there is not enough capital to fuel the initiatives that should be pursued, especially with so many new innovations coming out of the adversity we have faced through the pandemic. All those things command capital.
What is your outlook for Pittsburgh?
It’s positive. We have turned the corner and we’re turning in the right direction. The underlying dynamics of Pittsburgh can’t be denied or reversed at this point. We’re moving headlong into the technological revolution. If we can patch up some of our infrastructure issues, we will be very successful.
What needs greater attention to ensure Pittsburgh grows responsibly?
We need greater ease of transportation on a countywide and MSA-wide basis. Denver has accomplished this, miraculously connecting all its counties. We need to follow suit. We need to finish highway systems, but we don’t need more cars; we need more public transportation to get people Downtown. It is this lack of public transportation that results in Pittsburgh not being as ethnically diversified as we could and should be. Diversity is critical to creativity and attracting talent, and people need to feel welcome here for us to achieve that diversity.
One of the primary factors companies consider when expanding into a new geographic area is the quality of the local school systems. The Pittsburgh Public School District, like every inner-city school district, has its challenges. The suburban school districts, as you move further out in Allegheny County, go from pretty good to really great. The dichotomy between Pittsburgh’s school district and the suburban school districts is not good. We need to address this underservicing, not necessarily through more effort or funding but through greater coordination and putting the right talent in place.
For more information, visit: