The region’s new front door to the world arrives in 2025: an airport built for Pittsburgh by Pittsburgh.
“I’m Pittsburgh from my head to my toes,” said Jim Gillespie, of Thoroughbred Construction and IBEW Local Union #5. “Being born and raised here and being part of large projects like this, it makes me very proud to be a Pittsburgher.”
Hundreds of men and women from the region are part of the Terminal Modernization Program, which includes a new landside terminal, multi-modal parking garage and roadway system.
The skilled trades members working on the construction are moms and dads, aunts and uncles and citizens of the greater Pittsburgh community.
“It’s really great to see familiar faces and everybody really taking pride in this project because it is so close to home,” said Bobie Sue Clawson, site safety manager for PJ Dick/Hunt, two longtime construction companies from the region that have collaborated on significant local projects before, including Heinz Field.
This week, the Allegheny County Airport Authority is launching a video series called “Built for Pittsburgh by Pittsburgh,” highlighting the men and women building the new terminal. The series kicks off with a look at the various skilled trades on the construction site and introduces some of the individuals involved.
The series will profile eight men and women, including a father and son who are electricians and proud members of IBEW Local Union #5, an Ironworkers Local Union #3 member who helped build Heinz Field, and a third-generation family business owner. All profiles will debut on Blue Sky News for the rest of the year.
“We are really proud of the fact that almost 90 percent of the products and services are being sourced locally,” said Christina Cassotis, ACAA CEO. “It was really important to us that we would be providing an opportunity for Pittsburghers, people from this region, to build this facility.”
Terminal construction is creating 14,300 direct and indirect jobs and has an economic impact of $2.5 billion for the region, including $1 billion in direct labor income.
“It helps our economy. It helps our families,” said Chad Edwards, Ironworkers Local Union #3. “Without jobs in Pittsburgh, I wouldn’t have a job. None of the guys behind us would have a job. It’s truly not just for Pittsburgh but for all of our families as well.”
“This project is helping the construction industry and all my coworkers and all the people I have worked with really thrive out here,” said Clawson.
Stretch and flex
Safety is a top priority on the project, with a comprehensive approach to making sure everyone onsite returns home to their families safe every day. Crews start out the day with “Stretch and Flex” to warm up their muscles before the workday starts.
“It develops that team mentality and what we are ultimately looking for is every contractor to watch the back of every other contractor on the project,” said Jason Timmerman, ACAA Vice President of Environment and Workplace Safety.
“You Asked, We Did” is an environmental health and safety department-led initiative that encourages everyone on the construction site to share their thoughts on how safety can be improved. Anyone with a suggestion can scan the QR code on a special hard hat sticker to offer suggestions.
The ACAA also engaged the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration in an innovative partnership to share best practices and ensure health and safety transparency.
The project also includes a monthly Five Worker Lunch session, where workers are encouraged to share candid observations with project leaders in a small group setting. Those sessions have produced many improvements, such as having a more delineated roadway, heated bathrooms, marking overhead utility lines, additional dust control on the site and sending inclement weather text notifications to the trades.
Construction workers also enjoy the benefit of being able to park within walking distance of the construction site.
“We want workers to want to be here, and the No. 1 way to make this a project of choice is by protecting them,” Timmerman said. “We’re going to do everything in our power to protect every person out there all day, every day.”
Equal access and opportunity
Balancing work and childcare can be a challenge for many families. As part of PIT’s commitment to workforce development, the airport opened an on-site childcare center, La Petite Academy, for airport employees and workers on the TMP.
“This one is personal,” said Cassotis. “I think we have an obligation to make sure that we take care of the people who build the buildings, that we build the builders as well as the buildings. That there is dignity in every single role, and everybody deserves equal access to quality childcare. I think that’s table stakes when you are trying to grow an economy.”
Childcare is one part of PIT’s commitment to workforce development. Transportation is another. The airport partnered with Pittsburgh Regional Transit to increase the number of 28X buses servicing the airport.
And when it comes to job training, PIT created an on-the-job training program with local unions and trades groups called PIT2Work. The first PIT2Work cohort was made up of 12 men and women, recently graduated the five-week training course and put some participants to work just days later.