Pittsburgh, once known as America’s Steel City, is laying its Rustbelt heritage to rest by fostering growth in education and health services, while drawing strength from the booming natural-gas industry it keeps at a distance.
Drilling into Marcellus shale deposits is banned in Pittsburgh, yet hydraulic-fracturing, or fracking, operations in the countrysiSde nearby have helped bring in jobs and boost demand for office space in Pennsylvania’s second-biggest city.
“Like eds and meds, like steel once was in Pittsburgh, it would be the industry to grow and employ people and turn the economy around,” Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, 32, said of gas extraction. Nearby drilling can provide a “growth mechanism” the city can use to propel a rebound, he said. The city faced insolvency in late 2003, as the population and employment fell.
Fracking is driving wage, job and population growth, even after health concerns led the City Council to ban it, according to development officials. Wells Fargo & Co. economists recently called Pittsburgh a “logistical hub” for the industry. To fuel the boom, Gov. Tom Corbett, a Republican, is offering Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s biggest oil company, at least $1.65 billion in tax credits to build a gas-fed chemical plant nearby.