- Imagine this: At a meeting, you pull out your
solar-powered, flexible plastic laptop , fueled by an
organic "ink" solution , and roll it out on the desk. Within
two weeks, you dump this piece of cheap technology and buy a
This is the
vision of Plextronics, one of more than 2,600
environmentally friendly companies that have settled in
Pittsburgh and revitalized the local economy through
city whose sprawling steel mills and smoky skies once
symbolized America's industrial might has gone "green."
Pittsburgh's emphasis on green recovery was one reason it
was able to land the Group of 20 global economic summit next
was a city that had some real dire necessity there because
of the loss of old industrial jobs, and they were forced to
reinvent themselves," said Glenn Croston, author of "75
Green Businesses." "We need a future, and this is something
that will be around not just for tomorrow, but for many
the seven-county region earned an average of $53,000 a year
at more than 183,000 technology jobs in 2005, the most
recent numbers available. Of those jobs, nearly one-third
are in green industries, with the average wage surpassing
$55,300 a year, according to the Pittsburgh Technology
The city is
home to the country's largest green-certified building , the
David L. Lawrence Convention Center, where the G-20 leaders
will meet Sept. 24-25. Pittsburgh ranks seventh nationally
for green construction, with 33 such buildings, and the city
offers incentives to build environmentally friendly
region's move from heavy to green industry was partly a
natural evolution, said Kathryn Klaber, a vice president of
the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. Because
of pollution caused by the steel industry, Pittsburgh took
steps in the 1950s , well before it was trendy , to clean
its air and water, passing regulations that later became a
model for federal rules, she said.
Bill Peduto, a sponsor of two bills meant to encourage green
construction and several eco-friendly programs, agreed that
Pittsburgh was a "trailblazer" in the 1940s and 50s, but
said it lags today.
deep down in our psyche, we still believe that pollution
means progress," he said.
more clean industries, Peduto said the city has to do more
to combat water and air pollution, a legacy of more than a
century of steelmaking.
could become a model not just for the Rust Belt, but for
post-industrial cities throughout the world," said Peduto.
Energy Technology Laboratory built in the Pittsburgh suburbs
nearly 100 years ago to research coal mining now invests in
learning how to burn coal cleanly and finding economical
ways to capture carbon from coal-burning power plants.
steelworkers of yesteryear are collaborating with the Sierra
Club through the Blue Green Alliance, which is aimed at
creating environmentally friendly jobs.
Pittsburgh region is one of a few nationwide boasting more
than 25,000 job openings during the recession , with wages
ranging from $20,000 annually to more than $100,000.
industry and companies linked to it account for only some of
the area jobs replacing those lost to manufacturing.
Regional officials note that in 2008, there were more jobs
in the area , at least 1.1 million , than at steel's peak in
1979, when there were just over 1 million jobs.
jobs may also help reverse Pittsburgh's massive population
decline. Plextronics, the company whose carbon-based "ink"
produces solar energy, had just three employees when it was
founded in 2002; today, it has about 70 , with plans to hire
10 to 15 more in the next year-and-a-half.
company's average age is 30, and 43 percent have young
children. More than half are college educated.
cost of living makes it easy to recruit workers, said chief
financial officer Sean Rollman. He also noted there are
large companies in the area, such as Alcoa and Bayer, to
partner with, and that colleges including Carnegie Mellon
and the University of Pittsburgh provide a natural talent
vice president of business development and a transplant from
New York, conceded many are surprised by the company's
location in Pittsburgh.
they get here," said Dietz, "they're pleasantly surprised."