Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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I  was out in Pittsburgh visiting my son and future daughter- in- law in  this past weekend. We took the “Just Ducky Tour” and learned a lot about this great city.

Pittsburgh has 446 bridges, and with its proximity to three major rivers and countless hills and ravines, Pittsburgh is known as “The City of Bridges”. That is 3 more than Venice, Italy! It is also surprisingly hilly-there are two verniculars that you can take up the side of the mountain to get great views. There is PPG Place-called “the crown jewel of the Pittsburgh skyline”. It is a 6 building complex,complete with an outdoor skating rink,adjacent to Market Square.

Rich and productive, Pittsburgh was also the “Smoky City,” with smog sometimes so thick that streetlights burned during the day as well as rivers that resembled open sewers. Civic leaders, notably Mayor David Lawrence elected in 1945, and Richard Mellon, chairman of Mellon Bank, began smoke control and urban revitalization, also known as Urban Renewal projects that transformed the city.

Beginning in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the steel industry in Pittsburgh began to implode along with the deindustrialization of the U.S. Following the 1981–1982 recession, for example, the mills laid off 153,000 workers. The steel mills began to shut down. These closures caused a ripple effect, as railroads, mines, and other factories across the region lost business and closed. The local economy suffered a depression, marked by high unemployment and underemployment, as laid-off workers took lower-paying, non-union jobs. Pittsburgh suffered as elsewhere in the Rust belt with a declining population, and like many other U.S. cities, it also saw flight to the suburbs.

Top corporate headquarters such as  Gulf Oil(1985), Koppers (1987), Westinghouse (1996) and Rockwell International (1989) were bought out by larger firms, with the loss of high paying, white collar headquarters and research personnel (the “brain drain”) as well as massive charitable contributions by the “home based” companies to local cultural and educational institutions. At the time of the Gulf Oil merger in 1985 it was the largest buyout in world history involving the company that was No. 7 on the Fortune 500 just six years earlier. Over 1,000 high paying white collar corporate and PhD research jobs were lost in one day.

Pittsburgh is home to three universities that are included in most under-graduate and graduate school national rankings, The University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon University and Duquesne University.Carnegie Mellon and the University of Pittsburgh had evolved in the mid-20th century along lines that followed the needs of the heavy industries that financed and directed their development. The collapse of steel put pressure on those two universities to reinvent themselves as research centers in science and technology which acted to pull the regional economy toward high-technology fields.

Beginning in the 1980s, Pittsburgh’s economy shifted from heavy industry to services, medicine, higher education, tourism, banking, corporate headquarters, and high technology. Today, the top two private employers in the city are the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center(26,000 employees) and the West Penn Allegheny Health System(13,000 employees).

Present-day Pittsburgh, with a diversified economy, a low cost of living, and a rich infrastructure for education and culture, has been ranked as one of the World’s most livable cities. The Pittsburgh diaspora that left the area during the Steel Crisis and comprise Steeler Nation, supporters of the Pittsburgh Steeler football team, celebrate an industrial city and ethnic culture that no longer exists; according to one scholar, “The blue-collar Pittsburgh that you see flashed on the screen during games exists only in Steeler bars and in the visitors’ parking lot during tailgate parties!”

-excerpts from Wikepedia

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