How Pittsburgh Shot to the Top of a “Most Livable Cities” List

A new report by the Campaign for America’s Future points to the fundamental changes in Steel City that led to its resurgence as a high-tech hub that hasn’t forgotten its industrial heritage.

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Pittsburgh has weathered the economic ups and downs well. And although it is largely ignored as what most would consider a “great American city,“ Pittsburgh was recently ranked as the most livable city in the U.S and 29th in the world by The Economist.

Now is a particularly exciting time for the Steel City. Finally finding its spot on the map, Pittsburgh will be playing host to three very important national and international events: Netroots Nation, the AFL-CIO conference and the G-20 Summit.

Last Tuesday, a conference featuring Senator Bob Casey, D-PA; Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America’s Future and Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, featured discussion about why Pittsburgh is receiving so much buzz lately and how the city can continue to be a model for other American cities.

Borosage, who worked recently with The Campaign for America’s Future to release a report entitled “Pittsburgh: The Rest of the Story” cited Pittsburgh as a city that “understands and supports the sustainable sector.” While many cities are considered to be of either the industrial economy or the creative economy, Pittsburgh, it seems, has found a way to keep its industrial roots intact while moving on to high technology, such as robotics and nuclear engineering.

In reference to the “Making It in America” Pittsburgh report, Sen. Bob Casey said that it told “not just Pittsburgh story, but the American story.” Having worked in Pennsylvania politics for over a decade, he has witnessed first-hand some of the issues that Pittsburgh has faced and still struggles with today. He said that the city has made great strides due to its “real foundation.”

“As people look in amazement at the rebirth of Pittsburgh, many are surprised that there are still manufacturing jobs.” commented Leo Gerard of the United Steelworkers. Just as the report points out, manufacturing matters. The United States is importing $840 billion more goods than it exports. The Allegheny Conference, which included the Pittsburgh mayor, the county commissioner and the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, made some surprising decisions for a city on the edge of modernism. Instead of doing away with the steel industry, they reworked it. “A million and a half dollars went in to develop and modernize the steel mills.” said Gerard. “There is no rust. It’s a very high tech, almost space-like facility.”

While manufacturing plants are largely associated with being wasteful and harmful to the environment, Pittsburgh has worked to turn that stereotype upside down as one of the country’s leaders in the manufacturing of green building products. Pittsburgh also boasts the rank of 8th in the U.S. for most LEED certified buildings, included their David L. Lawrence Convention Center – the first of its kind in North America.

Still, what the report and conference participants stressed is “The Rest of the Story.” Pittsburgh is well-deserving of the praise it receives, but it must be recognized that the city is only “halfway to a success story.” There are many more jobs to be created and something is still to be done about the dwindling population. The more important lesson to be learned by Pittsburgh is that an “invisible hand didn’t save Pittsburgh….Planning did.”

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Tags: governancepittsburgh

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