Tess Lojacono of East Aurora, New York wins in public vote; will relocate to realize dream of expanding her business in Pittsburgh's vibrant regional economy
PITTSBURGH, April 18, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Officials in Pittsburgh today announced that Tess Lojacono of East Aurora, N.Y., has won the public vote in the $100,000 Experienced Dreamers contest – a program launched last Fall to raise awareness of the Pittsburgh region as a great place to live, work, run a business, raise a family and realize your dreams.
The contest invited people from across the country to take a fresh look at Pittsburgh. It encouraged people 45 and over to think about what they'd like to do in the next chapter of their lives and to share their dreams – all for a chance at winning $100,000 to relocate and pursue those dreams in Pittsburgh. After two rounds of judging, five entrants' dreams were presented to the public for an online vote this month, resulting in Ms. Lojacono's selection as Pittsburgh's choice as the Experienced Dreamers contest winner.
Ms. Lojacono is the owner of "Fine Arts Miracles," a self-started business that primarily teaches fine art to the residents of assisted living and nursing homes. The dream she shared in her contest application is to expand the business, establish a headquarters in a community that is thriving, train and employ staff as teachers, formalize all the classes they've designed, and create a training package that can be put into practice by Activity departments at similar facilities all over the country. (Read about Ms. Lojacono's dream in her own words at http://imaginepittsburgh.com/Dreamers/Lojacono.asp).
"First I'd just like to just thank the people of Pittsburgh and all the folks who were involved for putting this contest together; it truly was an aptly named program," said Tess Lojacono. "This really is a dream come true. Between the quality of life, the vibrancy and the demographics of the region, it's a perfect fit for me, for my family and for my business to thrive. I couldn't be happier or more grateful for this opportunity to come to Pittsburgh and realize my dream."
Under the terms of the contest, Ms. Lojacono has until the end of the year to establish residency in Pittsburgh in order to collect the $50,000 cash prize that will help her begin the work of realizing her dream. A year after she relocates, she'll receive the other $50,000 of the prize in the form of a donor-controlled charitable trust that she'll oversee in coordination with The Pittsburgh Foundation to support nonprofit organizations in the Pittsburgh region.
"The Experienced Dreamers contest is a terrific example of what makes Pittsburgh such a unique and wonderful place – leaders from the nonprofit and business community working hand-in-hand with local government to promote the region for talent attraction and economic development," said Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl. "I'm very pleased to congratulate Ms. Lojacono. I have no doubt she'll find Pittsburgh to be every bit America's most livable city. We're excited to have her create a new home for her business here and to see her become engaged like so many other business leaders in the work we do together each day to maintain and improve the quality of life in our community."
"This contest has really been a success on all fronts, and I'd like to congratulate Ms. Lojacono on behalf of all of Allegheny County," said Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald. "The positive publicity the region has received as a result of this effort has been phenomenal with coverage on CNN, BBC radio, talk radio stations across the country, web sites like GeekWire.com, and very energetic discussions popping up on blogs and social media sites. This is one more item in a long list of positive news stories about our region and the reasons the region has earned so many accolades in recent years. That publicity will continue to help us attract talented professionals and businesses to the region well into the future."
The effort to leverage the contest in order to spread the message of Pittsburgh's virtues to communities across the country led to widespread media interest and inspired people from 29 different states and the District of Columbia to submit entries. Additionally, the thousands of people who visited the contest website as a result of the publicity were exposed to news and information about Pittsburgh, its diverse regional economy, high standard of living, abundant career and lifestyle opportunities, and stories of others who have made the decision to relocate to Pittsburgh to pursue their own dreams.
A recent article on the independent website Solutions4Cities.com suggests that the contest was one of the first successful contests of its kind, that other regions are picking up on what Pittsburgh has done and are following suit, and that "The enormous amount of positive publicity stimulated by the contest makes the $100,000 winning award seem tiny by comparison. Imagine the number of productive, potential tax-payers who are learning of the contest and reconsidering Pittsburgh. It's a great boon to economic development and image."
"This entire effort was really a pilot for us to see if we could earn some attention for the region, raise awareness among a demographic that represents significant economic impact potential, and hopefully inspire some folks in that demographic to think about moving to Pittsburgh to start the next chapter of their lives. As important, it's a way to support Pittsburgh charities," said Fred Thieman, president of the Buhl Foundation, one of the organizations that partnered to make the Experienced Dreamers contest possible.
About the Experienced Dreamers Contest: The Experienced Dreamers contest is made possible through the generous support of the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, the Benedum Foundation, the Buhl Foundation, the Heinz Endowments, the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, Leadership Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Richard King Mellon Foundation and VisitPittsburgh. For more information visit www.ExperiencedDreamers.org.