Manufacturing

Joaquin Gonzalez / 90.5 WESA

A new facility on Pittsburgh's North Side is seeking to help local startups keep their first rounds of manufacturing in the Steel City.

In the past, many startups have gone overseas to have those small batches manufactured, said Bernie Lynch, founder of Factory Unlocked. Lynch said, historically, larger manufacturers in the U.S. haven’t had much interest in early stage companies. Smaller facilities like maker-spaces aren’t really equipped to pump out batches of 100 or 200 at a time.

Loren Elliot / AP

In less than a month, the U.S. Department of Commerce will make a decision on whether or not they will be excluding certain American companies from the effects of the Trump administration’s proposed tariffs. Some Pittsburgh-area businesses are hoping to get on the list.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

In western Pennsylvania and West Virginia, three towns all share an astronomical feature in their names. None of them have an observatory, and no groundbreaking space discoveries were made in any of them, but the trio of cities, within 200 miles of each other, all begin with the word “star.”

David Cook, of Whitehall, brought the idea to the attention of 90.5 WESA’s Good Question series. He wondered about the origins of Star City, Wv., Star Junction, Pa. and Starbrick, Pa.

Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ

Robots designed by teams of teens from 53 schools in southwestern Pennsylvania will compete in a two-day, gladiator-style tournament starting Friday.

The aim of the Southwestern Pennsylvania BotsIQ competition, which is being hosted at California University of Pennsylvania, is to get high schoolers to think creatively and collaboratively, while also exposing them to careers in manufacturing.

BotsIQ executive director Michel Conklin said the robots are judged on a variety of criteria.

Liz Reid / 90.5 WESA

U.S. Steel might soon be paying a fine for several violations of both county and federal environmental protections at its plant in Braddock.

Katie Blackley / 90.5 WESA

Alongside Route 51 by a Denny’s and a Huntington Bank in West Mifflin, there are two round, rust-colored sculptures. There’s no informational plaque, and there are no signs posted.

John Miller / 90.5 WESA

One of President Trump’s signature campaign speeches was at a scrap aluminum plant near Pittsburgh in January 2016.

“We are going to put American steel -- and aluminum – back into the backbone of our country,” he said at the speech in Monessen, Pa. “This alone will create massive numbers of jobs, high-paying jobs.”


John Miller / 90.5 WESA

Amid Uber's self-driving cars and vans ferrying bread and vegetables to trendy restaurants, a plaque on Smallman Street in the Strip District celebrates the invention of the modern process used to make aluminum by a young engineer named Charles Martin Hall. 

John Miller / 90.5 WESA

After moving its headquarters to New York 11 years ago, iconic aluminum manufacturer Alcoa is returning to Pittsburgh, where it was founded, at the beginning of next month.

Matt Rourke / AP

 Retail and manufacturing jobs are on the decline--both in Pennsylvania, and around the country.

So a state lawmaker is looking for ways to pinpoint exactly where those jobs are going--and how to stop the bleeding.

Kathleen J. Davis / 90.5 WESA

United Steelworkers President Leo Gerard said Wednesday he supports a NAFTA rewrite but he's concerned President Donald Trump's closed-door meetings won't take workers' needs into consideration.

"During the re-negotiations, it's really important and urgent that workers' voices be heard so the labor movement in the United States, Canada and Mexico will work together to advance workers rights," Gerard said.

Mark Lennihan / AP

Terry Collins will tell you BPA is a scary compound. It's a chemical that's used to manufacture plastics, and more than 6 billion pounds of it are produced every year.

National Energy Technology Laboratory

Researchers at the National Energy Technology Laboratory south of Pittsburgh are discovering valuable rare earth elements in coal waste.

Trendy Hat Brand Kangol Is Struggling After Returning Jobs To The U.S.

May 31, 2017
Matt Rourke / AP

If home is where you hang your hat, Kangol is struggling to afford its pricey new U.S. digs.

When the famous hat brand worn by celebrities like Samuel L. Jackson, Brad Pitt and Gwen Stefani moved into a Pennsylvania factory last year from China, executives with the Bollman Hat Co. billed it as an effort to create U.S. manufacturing jobs.

But as labor costs went up, profits went down. Way down. The 149-year-old company behind Kangol says it's losing money on every kangaroo-logo cap knitted at its factory in Adamstown, 60 miles west of Philadelphia.

Chris Stalnaker

A handheld device that can detect bedsores is one of the designs aiming for a $50,000 grand prize at AlphaLab Gear’s Hardware Cup next month.

 

The device was designed by a team named Rubitection, which beat out six other groups and took home a $3,000 prize at the Mid-Atlantic regional qualifier last month.

 

The start-up incubator, located in East Liberty, is hosting the innovation contest for its third year.

 

Other designs included a robotic material-sorting waste bin and an assistive video-game controller for people in wheelchairs.

 

Amy Scott

In a lab at Reading Area Community College, 18-year-old Benjamin Eckenrode stands in front of a blue wall rigged with pistons, pumps and gauges. It’s a pneumatic troubleshooting system, designed to teach students how to identify and solve problems with manufacturing equipment.

“This piston is supposed to go down and actually pick up a ball, but it is not,” he said.

Eckenrode’s assignment is to figure out why the piston isn’t moving. The high school senior is taking this college class as part of a program to prepare more young people for careers in the technical trades.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Pittsburgh is a pretty good place to talk about why reliable infrastructure matters, said Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Megan Harris / 90.5 WESA

Along the Allegheny River in an unassuming former car garage sits the 112-year-old Natrona Bottling Company. Established in 1904, the business has distributed thousands of glass bottles with their signature Red Ribbon Cherry Supreme, spicy ginger beer and mint julep.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Democratic Pennsylvania U.S. Senate Candidate Katie McGinty rolled out her jobs creating package Wednesday during a stop in Pittsburgh.

She said manufacturing jobs are a part of Pittsburgh’s past, but also need to be a part of its future.

“The cutting edge of manufacturing is not about cheap labor,” McGinty said while standing in front of the “Industry” mural at the Allegheny County Courthouse. “It’s about skilled labor, plus technology, plus speed to market.”

Can Anyone 'Bring Back' Steel And Coal To The 'Burgh?

Apr 20, 2016
Mark Goebel / flickr

Could bringing steel and coal back to the Steel City solve economic and industrial woes?  GOP front-runner Donald Trump captured Pittsburgh’s attention when he announced his commitment to bringing back such manufacturing to the region during his recent campaign stop.  But is this legitimately possible?

Gov. Tom Wolf / Flickr

Automation-driven manufacturing continues to lead steady economic growth in the Pittsburgh-region.  

An annual report released by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance Thursday said advanced manufacturing in the 10 counties around the city are expected to see $2.9 billion in investments from deals made last year.

Etsy

  The online marketplace Etsy is inviting Pittsburgh-area manufacturers to connect with its designers to help them produce on a larger scale.

Local manufacturers and designers – whether already affiliated with Etsy or new to the service – are welcome to attend Etsy Manufacturing Day, a free event from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. March 8 at the Energy Innovation Center at 1435 Bedford Ave. in the Hill District.

Reid Frazier / Allegheny Front

The Commonwealth's once-mighty manufacturing sector has been ailing for decades. But some industry leaders think the key to a massive comeback may be buried deep in the Marcellus shale.

"This new petrochemical-based manufacturing industry, which is waiting to be born, will be bigger than the economic impact of the drilling," said David Taylor, president of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association. Between ethane-derived plastics and recent advances in additive manufacturing technology, Taylor sees potential for a manufacturing revival.

Courtesy ZENO Group

Back in the 1910s, rail companies had a problem. The lanterns on their trains were very hot, and when they went through colder climates, the glass globes would burst. Scientists at Corning Glass were charged with creating a heat-tempered glass that could withstand the fluctuations in temperature.

According to Pyrex brand manager Mike Scheffki, scientist Jesse Littleton brought home a casserole-sized piece of the glass for his wife Bessie to try out in the kitchen.

The Associated Press

While Pittsburgh’s economy has recovered from the recession that began in 2008, growth is slowing, and policy makers need to address that reality.

That’s according to a new report from the Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program. The fourth edition of the Global MetroMonitor examined economic performance in the 300 largest metropolitan economies in the world. Pittsburgh ranked at #253 in 2014. That’s down from a ranking of #192 between 2009 and 2014.

Deanna Garcia / 90.5 WESA

Governor Tom Corbett announced Friday that U.S. Steel is keeping its headquarters in Pittsburgh and expanding its Mon Valley Works operation.

The announcement came as state officials fanned across Pennsylvania to mark National Manufacturing Day.

U.S. Steel employs some 4,300 people in the Pittsburgh region. In an effort to keep them headquartered in the steel city, Corbett says the state has committed up to $30.7 million in grants for expansions and improvements.

For an industry that is struggling to find workers, this Friday is especially important.  

On National Manufacturing Day, plants in Pennsylvania will host open houses, career workshops and public tours in an effort to recruit future employees.

Manufacturers are facing a skilled labor shortage. Employers are struggling to keep up with retirement rates and increased needs for production, said Tom Reed, managing director of marketing and communications for Catalyst Connection.  

Irina Zhorov / 90.5 WESA

Oberg Industries’ tucked away buildings in Freeport, Pennsylvania are easy to miss.

But inside the nondescript structures are tidy rows of machinery worth hundreds of thousands of dollars each. In one department, refrigerator-sized electric discharge machines, which cut metal using wire, sizzle away like cooking bacon. In another, workers operate manual machines. In one room a worker runs quality assurance using a high-tech instrument.

whitehouse.gov

American manufacturing was the focus of President Obama’s visit to Pittsburgh Tuesday.

The president stopped at TechShop in Bakery Square, a facility that allows start-up businesses, tinkerers and hobbyists to use high-end instruments they may not otherwise have access to. Obama said part of continuing the manufacturing boom in the country will be finding ways to make resources of the federal government more available to the general public.

Dyanna Hyde / Flickr

A bipartisan group of state lawmakers has introduced a bill to create a "Made in PA" program, complete with a logo and website to encourage consumers to purchase products made close to home.

State Rep. Eli Evankovich and David Taylor, executive director of the Pennsylvania Manufacturers' Association, say consumers already look for labels such as "Made in the USA," while shopping.

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