Rust Belt Revival: Pittsburgh's New Economy

When Uber announced this month that it would test-run its fleet of self-driving cars in the Steel City, many probably asked, "why Pittsburgh?" Unlike other post-industrial places, it's been incubating a 21st-century economy.

August 26, 2016, 12:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc


Pittsburgh at Night

Nick Amoscato / Flickr

Earlier this month, Uber announced that Pittsburgh beat out places like Silicon Valley and Singapore to become the "first place in the world where people will be able to grab a ride in a robotic car."

Suffering from the usual litany of Rust Belt ills, the city has been quite successful in its struggle to revive. Angelo Young writes, "As the new century approached, city officials began to steer economic development toward education, health care and technology. The government of Pittsburgh took a lead role in nurturing more than a dozen public and private organizations with the aim of kick-starting businesses by providing seed funding, office space and networking opportunities."

Notably, "Pittsburgh's home prices are rising and the city's population increased last year for the first time in six decades."

The new wave of startups and incubators is reviving the economy, but not for everyone. In many ways, the city remains an example of post-industrial fatigue. "Home prices are rising but this also hurts local lower-income earners. Unemployment in the area is 5.5 percent, according to the state's Department of Labor and Industry, significantly above the national 4.9 percent average and higher than the state's average."

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