by Meg Huber
Pittsburgh is known for technological innovations, a thriving healthcare industry beginning with the invention of the Salk polio vaccine, vibrant college campuses and educational esteem — a financial hub and the Hollywood of the East.
But not so long ago, the city thrived on the production of steel. In fact, in 1875, Edgar Thomson Steel Works was the first major steel mill built in the country. During the 1920’s, one third of the steel produced in the country came from Pittsburgh. This steel-centered economy stemmed from the Monongahela Valley, also known as Mon Valley, and included areas like Braddock, Clairton, Swissvale and others.
Then in the 1980’s the steel industry took a downturn. What were once vibrant, manufacturing communities in the Mon Valley became lifeless, as factories closed and young people moved out.
Pittsburgh as a city turned its focus to the industries its known for today, and has revived its economy.
But what about the people? Those who stayed in the Mon Valley, whose small businesses struggle, whose children live in poverty, whose neighborhoods are almost empty? The towns are barely surviving, as most businesses close their doors, unable to survive in this downward spiral. Residents are elderly or poverty-stricken. Homes are boarded up, buildings are broken, streets are riddled with crime.
In 2011, the UPMC hospital in Braddock, its last remaining hope, closed its doors forever. There are plans in the future to build a four-lane toll road right through the center of the town, destroying half of what is left. Braddock mayor John Fetterman has earned national recognition in this attempts to rescue his decimated town, but walls are still crumbling.
The people are barely surviving as the city of Pittsburgh grows up so close to them. They fight, they struggle, and they hope.
These people have a story to tell. They have things to say, battles to win and an economy to revive.
The documentary, Renaissance IV: Mon Valley Moving Mountains (produced by Ron Turowski and Veronica Halpin of Cool Attitude Films) follows their stories and shares their struggles. It brings to light a community that has been forgotten — a community that has a chance to start again if only given the chance.
The documentary is currently in production. The expected release date is May, 2013.
For more information about the documentary visit http://www.coolattitudefilms.com/renaissance-iv-mon-valley-moving-mountains