Homegrown Businesses Fuel Pittsburgh’s Corporate Growth

PPG acquisitions, Duolingo public offering showcase region’s economic reach

By Matt Neistei

Published July 12, 2021

Read Time: 3 mins


The slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic may not be officially over, but in Pittsburgh, business is booming for some companies with global reach.

PPG makes another acquisition

PPG Industries, founded in 1883 as the Pittsburgh Plate Glass Company and now a Fortune 500 firm supplying paints and coatings worldwide, just made its fifth acquisition in less than a year.

The $1.7 billion purchase of Finland’s Tikkurila Oyj in June is the latest in a series of aggressive moves. Late last year, PPG bought Carolina-based Ennis Flint. This spring, the company added Kansas City-based VersaFle as well as Cetelon Lackfabrik and Worwag, both based in Germany.

And the largest coatings company in the world doesn’t sound like it’s going to slow down anytime soon.

“We’re going to continue to look for opportunities going forward. We think this is a much better use of shareholder money than to buy back stocks,” chairman and CEO Michael McGarry told the Pittsburgh Business Times. “For us, acquisitions is a normal thing that we do here, and we’re going to continue that going forward.”

PPG Industries’ purchase of Tikkurila Oyj is the latest of several acquisitions made by the Pittsburgh-based company in the last year. (Photo courtesy of PPG)

Duolingo, Pittsburgh’s first unicorn, ready to go public

While it’s about 130 years junior to PPG, language-learning company Duolingo quickly established itself as one of the early titans in Pittsburgh’s rapidly developing technology sector, and now it’s ready to go public.

A late June announcement about the initial public offering also came with the news that the company’s revenue more than doubled in the first quarter, a surge that will likely make the IPO that much more appealing to investors.

With more than 300 million users worldwide, Duolingo’s roots at Carnegie Mellon University and headquarters in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood make it one of the region’s biggest homegrown tech successes. In November, it was valued at $2.4 billion.

Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto said the most important aspect of Duolingo’s rise is that it highlights the economic ecosystem that’s been developed in Western Pennsylvania.

“I think the first part of it is the recognition that comes from within the tech industry itself—that a company of this magnitude, a billion-dollar company, can be born, grow and continue to rise as a public corporation in Pittsburgh,” he told TechCrunch.

Business is booming in Pittsburgh’s Strip District

The Strip District, home to offices for Facebook, Honeywell Robotics and Argo AI, remains one of the hottest neighborhoods for development in Western Pennsylvania. And with nearly $1.5 billion in real estate investment over the past decade, the boom is likely to continue.

A recent report from community group Strip District Neighbors detailed explosive residential and business growth, including 1.2 million square feet of office space currently under construction with 300,000 more to come.

That accompanies the near doubling of the number of condos and rental units in the next few years, including more than 660 units currently being built. Retail and hospitality are expanding as well, with 140 hotel rooms in the planning stages to join the more than 420 already in place.

“The Strip District remains an ethnically diverse, pedestrian–friendly, and ideally situated place to visit, work, and live,” said Pamela Austin, president and board chair of Strip District Neighbors. “It continues to blend retail and wholesale businesses, tech giants and start–ups with recreational experiences and urban residences.”

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