Thursday, September 24, 2009

G-20 Youngstown

Thus far, the G-20 Summit has been a public relations coup for Pittsburgh. All that is missing is a landmark agreement forever remembered as the Pittsburgh Accord. The press seems quite smitten with Pittsburgh's transformation and some of the love is spilling over into the surrounding hinterlands:

Karl Leet, a resident of nearby Youngstown, says his home town is undergoing a revival of its own. But in many parts of the region 'they are still going through knocking down the housing and waiting for something to happen'.

The message to G20 leaders, says Tom Murphy, is that waiting around doesn't cut it. 'You have to be willing to take some risks.'

Youngstown is on its own path, but the transformation of the Mahoning Valley is no less remarkable. However, the area is being framed as a counterpoint to the gilding of Pittsburgh:

So, very close to Pittsburgh with its stirring symbolic story of regeneration and post-industrial prosperity lies this other America of the Mahoning Valley where they see the costs of globalisation in their closed-down factories and derelict buildings on Main Street.

One needn't go to Ohio to find the other side of the story. Pittsburgh is full of such places. As for Youngstown, the city is positioning itself to plug into globalization. It isn't a message of reform or an alternative approach. The handwriting on the wall is that the United States needs to be more export driven. In layman's terms, we need to make things.

The bet is on green manufacturing and clean tech. Obama is highlighting that very sector in Pittsburgh. In some respects, the result is a pro-globalization rally with Mahoning Valley residents leading the way:

To coincide with the global meetings, hundreds flocked to Point State Park for a rally on a hot issue expected to emerge at the meetings, the importance of clean energy jobs. United Steelworkers members already see the need. "We can created millions of jobs. Somebody's gotta build the windmills, put the solar panels on the roof, build the tubing for the thermal, that needs to be the steelworkers' union, American jobs," says Lee Geisse of United Steelworkers, Local 1046.

About 25 people from the Valley made the trip down, including some who used to work at Severstal Steel. They want to make sure leaders know local workers want to take on green jobs. "These are the things I want to see manufactured, not only in our country, but in our state because we have a strong manufacturing base in Youngstown. We have some of the most skilled workforce in the world and I'd really like to see my friends and neighbors back to work as soon as possible," says George Calko of United Steelworkers, Local 1375.

Beyond the rally, the fact that such a huge event is taking place in our own backyard has attracted attention, "This is a great moment in history that we can be a part of, and the Valley can show we're a force for change, and we really want to be a part of making the world a better place," adds Sheila Klasovsky, a supporter of clean energy jobs.

The G-20 isn't just about Pittsburgh. It's really about the entire Rust Belt and how places such as Youngstown are rising out of the slag heap. The world is looking for a way forward and Obama is holding up Pittsburgh. In my mind, he's admiring Youngstown too.

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