Bloggers, activists head to Pittsburgh for Netroots Nation confab

PITTSBURGH, Pa. — With more than 1,500 progressive bloggers and activists streaming into Steel City for the Netroots Nation confab this week, Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., joined United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard, Campaign for America’s Future co-director Robert Borosage and Netroots Nation spokesperson Mary Rickles on a conference call today to set the scene and preview the star-studded three-day event, which opens Aug. 13.

In addition to major addresses from President Bill Clinton, Gov. Howard Dean and White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett and a match-up between Sen. Arlen Specter, D-Pa., and Rep. Joe Sestak, D-Pa., the gathering will feature several activities sponsored by the Campaign for America’s Future, including a straw poll, a tour of a modern steel plant and a party with batting practice at Pirates Stadium.

National and international attention is turning to Pittsburgh with the arrival of the Netroots Nation convention, followed next month by the AFL-CIO’s national convention and the G-20 Summit. Attention is also turning towards the city’s struggle to forge new jobs in an economy where millions have disappeared.

Pittsburgh’s economic revival is due to a high degree of collaboration between industry, labor and government, according to a new report by the Campaign for America’s Future. The report explains how Pittsburgh is an example of a city that has made the transition from the old to the new economy, citing lessons for the nation.

Sen. Casey, who welcomed delegates to the city for the major gatherings, cited that report and said a specifically designed industrial policy, not “market forces,” brought Pittsburgh back.

“Pittsburgh faced challenges as early as the 1950s, but by the 1970s it was losing tens of thousands of jobs,” said Sen. Casey “Pittsburgh had to transition out of that to the economy we have today, which includes a new manufacturing base that is unheralded in the nation. This recovery was the result of deliberate planning. You have to have government leadership but you also have to have corporate leadership and industrial leadership that's willing to work together to give meaning to words like ‘collaboration’ and ‘strategic planning.’”

Gerard, who along with Borosage is setting up this week’s steel mill tour for bloggers and reporters, said that the manufacturing sector in Pittsburgh, which pays much higher than its service counterparts, is defining a national model.

“I take issue with the term Rust Belt. There is no rust,” said Gerard. “The modern steel mill is a very high-tech and space-aged facility. They release a small fraction, less than one-third, of the carbon that a steel mill in China lets loose. Some say we can forget about manufacturing and move to a services economy, but a service economy won't produce good-paying jobs.”

The Campaign for America’s Future report on Pittsburgh is available online at .