Pittsburgh – Story of an amazing comeback

18.05.2017 - Article

Foreign Minister Gabriel is visiting the Rust Belt to get an insight into Pittsburgh’s amazing comeback.

You could actually call Pittsburgh another Phoenix: the city, which used to be the world’s steel capital but then virtually collapsed along with the industry, has risen from the ashes to new glory. During his visit on Thursday (18 May), Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel got an insight into this fantastic story – and the part played in it by Germany.

Pittsburgh skyline
Pittsburgh skyline© Photothek / Koehler

Abandon it!

“Abandon it.” This was the advice given by legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright when asked how Pittsburgh could be improved. When the city’s huge steel plants were hit by crisis, it seemed that the glory days of the home of magnates like Carnegie, Flick or Westinghouse were over for good. From then on, Pittsburgh’s image was to be shaped not by wealth, but by rust. Soon, one in five was unemployed. Half of the city’s population moved away.

Crisis? What crisis?

In 2017, there is absolutely no trace of the crisis: today, Pittsburgh stands for an excellent quality of life, a vibrant, highly innovative start-up scene, and world-class research. Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) boasts 19 Nobel Prize laureates among its alumni. Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Pittsburgh Opera are among the best in the country.

Gabriel at CMU Robotics
Gabriel at CMU Robotics© Photothek / Koehler

Secret of success

The secret of this success is clever strategic planning focusing deliberately on key sectors for the future – IT, robotics and medicine. The city has been able to attract multinational companies such as Google or Alcoa. Major German companies including Bayer and Bosch have established important subsidiaries there. The Bosch Group is one of the sponsors of the Carnegie Bosch Institute at CMU – another indication that import and export figures are not the only way to measure the benefits of economic exchange between Germany and the United States.

Who still burns coal?

Foreign Minister Gabriel used his visit to Pittsburgh to get a first-hand view of the drivers of this success. Researchers at CMU presented their state-of-the-art robotics projects. At the Energy Innovation Center, Gabriel saw how companies and educational institutions are working hand in hand to advance green technology. Here, the burning of coal and oil seems nothing less than prehistoric, and a return to the days before the Paris climate agreement is inconceivable.

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