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Three keys to Pittsburgh's transformation: CMU president
News Date: 4th May 2013

Pittsburgh can serve as a model for the economic transformation in the United States, and there are three keys to its success, Jared Cohon, president of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), told Xinhua in a recent interview.


"I think firstly we have to realize that it took a long time" for Pittsburgh to transform itself into a more diverse economy, said Cohon, the eighth president of the 113-year-old, well-known private research university in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

"It took a lot of patience and hard work. Thirty years is a long time. It doesn't happen in overnight," added the 65-year-old president, who will step down on June 30.

Beginning in 1980s, Pittsburgh, a city that once was defined by the steel industry, has shifted its economic focus to health care, higher education, financial services and advanced technology. It is now seen as a successful industrial transformation legend for U.S. cities.

Today, it is hard for a visitor to identify Pittsburgh as a "Steel City" without the knowledge of its history, as the steel mills and heavy smog that once filled the streets have now mostly vanished.

Even the well-known U.S. Steel Tower, the tallest skyscraper in Pittsburgh and a major part of the city's identity, has been adorned with the logo of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, which has become the largest employer in the region.


Cohon listed three keys to Pittsburgh's success, with the first being the economic crisis Pittsburgh faced in the 1980s. It came very suddenly, led to huge job losses and brought people together.

Cohon said that Pittsburgh approximately lost 120,000 jobs from the steel industry from 1980 to 1982 as a result of the economic crisis. According to U.S. Census figures, Pittsburgh had about 420,000 residents in 1980.

"That was a real crisis. I think it's hard for people to respond. I think that brought people together," Cohon noted.

The second is Pittsburgh's ability to diversify the economy away from just manufacturing to include financial services, higher education, health care and ground transportation.

"The result is that we don't fall down as much as we used to when the international economy goes down. We also have grown up quickly," said Cohon.

Pittsburgh weathered the recent global financial crisis, which hit the world in 2008, with surprising resilience, as the housing market was relatively stable and job growth much better than other cities in the country.

It was one of the only three U.S. metros to be deemed "fully recovered from the Recession" by the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank.

The third is that institutions of education, especially University of Pittsburgh and CMU, have been direct contributors to the economic development of the city and played a leading role in the transformation.

"The president of CMU before me played a very important role in helping lead the community to envision different economic futures for itself. And partnership between University of Pittsburgh and CMU is also important," said Cohon, who has led the university since 1997.

Source: GNA

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