The story of Pittsburgh’s economy is a familiar one: Manufacturing jobs bled out of the region during the 1970s and 1980s, crippling the local economy, which lately has been revived thanks to “eds and meds” and, most recently, an infusion of energy industry jobs thanks to the Marcellus Shale.
It’s true as far as it goes. Health care, for example, represents more than 120,000 jobs in the Pittsburgh region, about 10 percent of our workforce – a higher proportion than the steel industry represented in 1981, according to research by Harold Miller of Future Strategies LLC in Pittsburgh. Education employs more than 40,000 people. And while jobs in fields related to energy mining are still a small part of our economy, they have doubled over the past five years and are more abundant here than in any other region, according to Miller.
But manufacturing is not dead, and that’s a good thing. In the United States, workers in manufacturing earn, on average, $77,186 annually including benefits, versus $56,436 for workers in all other industries, according to the National Association of Manufacturers. Miller reminds us that Pittsburgh still has more steel manufacturing jobs than any other region of the country. We are the nation’s fourth largest exporter of primary metals, according to the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, and manufacturing represents approximately 11 percent of the region’s economic output.
Bottom line, manufacturing represents a critical component of a diversified economy, something Pittsburgh sorely needs if it wants to avoid being buffeted – as it was so violently once before – by contractions and collapse in any one industry. It’s our job at Robert Morris University to educate students to be leaders and innovators in manufacturing: a technology-driven, globally competitive field that calls for the management of an increasingly high-skilled workforce.
The alumni profiled in the President’s Insider below, along with the manufacturing firms they lead, prove that RMU has a long record of success on which to build. These men believe America is ripe for a manufacturing renaissance, and Pittsburgh is poised to lead the way thanks to our burgeoning energy industry and the proximity of leading research universities.
Robert Morris is standing among their ranks. We are partners – along with Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, among others – in a $70 million, federally funded research initiative to develop new technologies that will make manufacturing more efficient and less expensive. You can learn about this initiative and the work of RMU alumna Sana Ali, who is working to make manufacturing safer and more efficient. You’ll see that RMU can play a unique role in restoring America’s competitive edge in an industry so vital to the future of our region and our nation.
Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D.
The President's Insider is published quarterly for members of the President's Council. To have the newsletter delivered to your home, join the President's Council today.