Old US Manufacturing Town Prepares for Coming-Out Party With G20 Summit


For the third time in less than one year, international leaders will gather to discuss the global economic crisis. The first G20 summit was in Washington. The second was in London. But this time, the leaders are taking a different route, forgoing the glamour of a world capital to meet in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, an old American manufacturing town that has changed to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is preparing to welcome the world.

When White House spokesman Robert Gibbs announced the site for the G20 summit, there was laughter from the press corps.

"The United States will host the next G20 summit, September 24th through the 25th, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania," he said.


Lifelong residents of Pittsburgh, like Joe Sabino Mistick, just shrugged it off.

"We get some chuckles and we get used to it," he said. "My response generally is, 'Well, what do they know?'"

Pittsburghers say they are ready to prove the doubters wrong and show off their city.

Dan Onorato is the Allegheny County Executive, the highest elected official in the Pittsburgh metropolitan area. He says the G20 is a big opportunity.

"It is amazing the number of calls I get on a daily basis from CEOs to schoolchildren who are offering to volunteer, to do whatever they can to sell this region, to tell their story," he said.

There is, of course, a downside to hosting a big summit. Traffic will be a mess. Schools will close.

But Pittsburghers are taking it in stride.

"I know they are planning on closing down all of those roads," said Joe Valentri, who works near the summit site. "I personally will not be here those days at work. I will work from home on those days they are here."

He sits with his morning eggs and coffee at Pamela's Diner in a part of town known simply as "The Strip."

It is an old produce warehouse district that has grown into an international bazaar.

Local resident Lyn Parkinson says the G20 leaders should come for a stroll.

"I hope they come down to the Strip District and see how we work together, how we enjoy each others' cultures and how everything can work together," she said.

It is a place where Pittsburgh's ethnic diversity is on display. An Italian grocery store sits next to a shop selling delicacies from Greece. Shoppers buy Korean kimchee near a spice merchant from the Middle East.

An old man sells raffle tickets for a Polish Church in front of a vendor filling tortillas at a taco stand.    

But if there is a heart of the Strip, it is Primanti's - a sandwich shop with working class roots where everything - including the French fries - is packed between slices of bread.

A man named Pete pushes away the paper wrapping a sandwich, and surveys the crowd.

"There are always people in the restaurant," he said. "And they come from all over town and all over the area around town, just to come down, get a bite to eat, and you never know who you are going to run into. It is just part of the soul of the city."

Primanti's is a microcosm of Pittsburgh - boisterous and welcoming.

Jacob Roman, 15, says the spirit is contagious.

"No matter where you come from, people just, they get excited - like when the prime ministers and the kings are going to come, they are going to feel like they are at home," he said.

It is a home decorated in black and gold - the colors of the local sports teams. And if Jacob had his way, the first stop for the G20 guests would be Heinz Field, where the National Football League's Pittsburgh Steelers play.

The Steelers are a metaphor for the city - a team with 40 losing seasons that would not give in and began to win.

Rocky Bleier played on the Steelers first championship team.

"It is kind of what this city is about," he said. "The city is about hope. The city is more about perseverance."

Pittsburgh is known around the globe as a city of champions. But Bleier says the world's leaders may find they are meeting in a city of resilience.

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs