Is Pittsburgh a Model for Manufacturing?

Aug. 12, 2009
Collaboration, not market forces, keeps city vital

Pittsburgh's revival is due to the high degree of collaboration between industry, labor and government, according to Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.) A specifically designed industrial policy brought Pittsburgh back, not market forces, explains Casey.

As the Pittsburgh economy changed The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center replaced U.S. Steel as the regions largest employer. However the manufacturing base diversified into products ranging from advanced metal alloys to surgical implants and sophisticated robotics.

With roughly 100,000 workers, or 10% of the area workforce, manufacturing remains a vital part of the regional economy. United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard spoke at the conference as well and pointed out that in Pittsburgh manufacturing, which pays much higher than its service counterpoints, is moving forward. "I take issue with the term Rust Belt. There is no rust. The modern steel mill is a very high tech, almost space-like facility," he said. He also pointed out that these mills release 1/3 of the carbon than a steel mill in China.

The transformation in Pittsburgh, as well as the issues that still must be addressed, is the subject of the report, Pittsburgh the Rest of the Story" released on August 11 by the Campaign for America's Future. The city of Pittsburgh is often given as an example of a locale that has successfully made the transition from the old to the new, explained Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future. The report examines Pittsburgh's story and points out lessons for us as a nation.

To view the report visit

About the Author

Adrienne Selko | Senior Editor

Focus: Workforce, Talent 

Follow Me on Twitter: @ASelkoIW

Bio: Adrienne Selko has written about many topics over the 17 years she has been with the publication and currently focuses on workforce development strategies. Previously Adrienne was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck? which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics and EHS Today

Editorial mission statement: Manufacturing is the enviable position of creating products, processes and policies that solve the world’s problems. When the industry stepped up to manufacture what was necessary to combat the pandemic, it revealed its true nature. My goal is to showcase the sector’s ability to address a broad range of workforce issues including technology, training, diversity & inclusion, with a goal of enticing future generations to join this amazing sector.

Why I find manufacturing interesting: On my first day working for a company that made medical equipment such as MRIs, I toured the plant floor. On every wall was a photo of a person, mostly children. I asked my supervisor why this was the case and he said that the work we do at this company has saved these people’s lives. “We never forget how important our work is and everyone’s contribution to that.” From that moment on I was hooked on manufacturing.

I have talked with many people in this field who have transformed their own career development to assist others. For example, companies are hiring those with disabilities, those previously incarcerated and other talent pools that have been underutilized. I have talked with leaders who have brought out the best in their workforce, as well as employees doing their best work while doing good for the world. 

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