What was once an industrial hub churning with robust coal mining and steel production operations is now an innovative city buzzing with a diversified 21st-century economy, positioning itself for continued success through digital transformation.
Between the late 1800s and mid-1900s, Pittsburgh was one of the nation’s largest cities, accounting for roughly half of the country’s steel output, according to VisitPITTSBURGH, the city’s official Tourism Development Organization. Pittsburgh’s strategic location, entrepreneurial spirit, and abundance of natural resources helped establish the industrial city as one of the most productive in the world.
While steel production has all but disappeared from within Pittsburgh’s city limits, a new, advanced economy has emerged that is focused on high technology, fintech, advanced manufacturing, robotics, healthcare and life sciences, and education.
“Pittsburgh is at the forefront of what is next. The city is brimming with innovators and thought leaders, working to solve the world’s problems,” said tourism development officials with MeetPITTSBURGH.
“It went from Rust Belt to AI and Med Belt,” Mark Cuban, a Pittsburgh area native, told the news site GeekWire back in 2018.
In fact, Pittsburgh was selected to host the 2009 G-20 Summit because of its economic transformation.
“Pittsburgh stands as a bold example of how to create new jobs and industries while transitioning to a 21st-century economy,” President Obama stated in a 2009 White House release about the G-20 Summit taking place in Pittsburgh. “As a city that has transformed itself from the city of steel to a center for high-tech innovation –including green technology, education and training, and research and development – Pittsburgh will provide both a beautiful backdrop and a powerful example for our work.”
The 2009 G-20 Summit took place amid a frenzied global economy devastated by the Great Recession. While cities around the world faced a serious fiscal crisis, Pittsburgh managed to emerge as a leader in economic transformation.
Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has led to unprecedented disruptions in the global supply chain, consumer demand, and productivity, Pittsburgh has positioned itself to forge ahead once again as a shepherd of innovation prowess.
While federal data shows the Pittsburgh area is slower to recover from the pandemic than other metro areas, the city continues to push ahead as a leader in technological transformation.
For essentially every industry, the pandemic has sped up the adoption of digital technologies, which are electronic tools, systems, devices, and resources that generate, store, or process data. Business leaders of both the “new” and “old” Pittsburgh understand the critical need to integrate digital technology into all areas of the enterprise.
Carnegie Mellon University, for example, has an entire center dedicated to Digital Transformation and Innovation, producing specialized tech graduates each year.
“Digital transformation is disrupting previously unchangeable industries, while also accelerating progress in nascent fields at an unprecedented pace,” the University states on its website.
In late March of this year, the Pittsburgh Technology Council held a discussion focused on digital transformation from a manufacturer’s perspective, including best practices, pitfalls to avoid, and lessons learned.
Kraft Heinz, one of Pittsburgh’s oldest players, recently announced a new partnership with Google to advance the company’s tech initiatives, reported Technical.ly, a news organization that serves a community of technology professionals. Through this partnership, Kraft Heinz will advance its digital transformation using Google’s artificial intelligence and data analytics.
“Digital transformation not only requires an investment in new technologies, but also an investment in human capital. Even the best technology can go to waste if you do not have the talent with continuously evolving skills in a workplace where diversity, equity, and inclusion are highly valued and rewarded.”
– Bo Burch, Human Capital Solutions, Inc. Founder, CEO
Human Capital Solutions CEO and Founder Bo Burch recently visited Pittsburgh and met with a number of executives across several large organizations. One of Burch’s key takeaways from these meetings was that executives have accelerated their original digital transformation plans not only to meet the demands of the present but to ensure continued success in today’s rapidly changing business environment. Burch adds that it’s the people and the technology that differentiates organizations, improving margins, share, and ESG goals.
Older, well-established Pittsburgh companies look to hire top talent to build out this transformation, while big tech and emerging tech companies continue to turn to The Steel City as the optimal setting to amplify their innovative success.
“One of my key takeaways from the number of visits I had with several large organizations is the imperativeness of getting to the cloud, deploying artificial intelligence, and transforming network capabilities,” said Burch. “Digital transformation not only requires an investment in new technologies, but also an investment in human capital. Even the best technology can go to waste if you do not have the talent with continuously evolving skills in a workplace where diversity, equity, and inclusion are highly valued and rewarded.”