Few people would have put Pittsburgh at the top of their list of possible sites for the upcoming G-20 summit. After all, the two previous sites for the meeting were Washington and London, both national capitals and political centers.
But President Obama, who is poised to host the summit, announced in May that the G-20 leaders (heads of nations that make up 85% of the world’s economy) would be invited to hold their next meeting in Pittsburgh September 24-25.
The midsized city in the southwestern corner of Pennsylvania might appear at first to be an unlikely venue. In the U.S., Pittsburgh has a reputation as a polluted “factory town.” And despite successful clean-up efforts, the reputation has been hard to shake.
In fact, Pittsburgh once was a major industrial powerhouse and a major steel production center. But with the collapse of the steel industry in the 1970’s and 80’s, the city saw a steady decline.
In recent years, city fathers have worked hard to accomplish an economic renewal centered on the technology, medicine and education sectors. Pittsburgh is “an area that has seen its share of economic woes,” said White House spokesman Robert Gibbs. “But because of foresight and investment is now renewed, giving birth to renewed industries that are creating the jobs of the future,” he said.
Pittsburgh has not “turned its back on industry, but has, in fact, diversified,” says Joe McGrath the president and C.E.O of Visit Pittsburgh, an agency that promotes the city. Pittsburgh has “gone with the kinds of things that are cutting edge today in the world economy,” he said. As an example, McGrath pointed to the city’s environment-friendly convention center, where the summit will take place.
“We are confident that the reality will exceed the expectations,” McGrath said of those who might be skeptical that Pittsburgh is the right place for the summit.
City leaders seem confident that they will make a good impression. “All the advertising and marketing in the world does not beat someone’s firsthand experience,” McGrath explained.
Pittsburgh officials hope the summit will showcase the best the city has to offer in order to promote future growth. “What we’re really hoping long term is that we have this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to tell the world that they should take a look,” McGrath said.
The Obama administration has decided Pittsburgh is the perfect place to highlight the possibility of overcoming the challenges of the current worldwide economic recession. It hopes the G-20 leaders will use their time in a reborn Pittsburgh to focus on economic renewal.