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As part of the Big Picture election series focusing on Pittsburgh, Ray Suarez examines how the economy and other issues are weighing on the minds of voters in Steel City as the region works to reinvent itself from an industrial-based economy.
Like many American cities in the old Rust Belt, Pittsburgh is in the process of reinventing itself from the old Steel City of decades ago to something modern and sustainable. Ray Suarez gauges its progress.
In 1950, Pittsburgh was home to almost 700,000 people. It was pouring hot metal and pouring black smoke into the air, but paying good union wages.
Almost 60 years later, the smokestacks are gone and so are the jobs, but the air is clean. And like many American cities, Pittsburgh had to figure out what to do for a second act.
This is part of Pittsburgh's Act II, the new economy: manufacturing high-tech circuit boards for radio-controlled mining equipment.
These non-union jobs pay only $9 to $19 an hour, though workers are making high-value electronics using multimillion-dollar machines. LaBarge and other modern companies inhabit an old Westinghouse plant that once turned out massive turbine engines.
AUDREY RUSSO, CEO, Pittsburgh Technology Council:
There's been quite a transformation.
Pittsburgh's high-tech firms have organized a council led by Audrey Russo.
We have a strong information technology base, but we also have an amazing emergence of biotechnology, which includes fuel, energy. We have medical equipment. We've got tissue re-engineering. You know, I could go on and on.
Audrey Russo's office sits on what was once industrial land on the Monongahela River, land that's been reclaimed for office parks, new apartments, shopping malls, and a high-tech sports medicine center big enough for professional and college football teams to practice indoors.
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