Historic Manufacturing Hub Manchester Mirrors Pittsburgh

by on September 25, 2013
Manchester city centre - the central business district of the City of Manchester

Manchester city centre – the central business district of the City of Manchester

Continuing to make our rounds on this Ireland/UK global marketing venture, we are in Manchester today – a city in northwest England that bears some uncanny resembles to Pittsburgh.  Manchester has three rivers:  the Irwell, Medlock and Mersey, and like Pittsburgh’s signature three rivers, Manchester’s waterways contributed to its industrial prowess.

Historically, Manchester was a center of manufacturing – textiles manufacturing, to be exact.  This expertise brought prosperity to Manchester, but it also resulted in undesirable industrial pollution. Like Pittsburgh, once a steel production powerhouse, Manchester suffered a economic collapse due, in part, to competition from cotton processors in other parts of the world, and between 1961 and 1983 the city lost 150,000 manufacturing jobs.  Sound familiar?

“Comeback” Cities’ Common Ground

Fortunately, Manchester’s comeback – like Pittsburgh’s – was spurred by strategic investments to help rebuild, redefine and revitalize this post-Industrial city for a forward-looking future.  Its city center, like Pittsburgh’s, features an exciting mix of historic architecture and sleek, modern structures of glass and steel.  Arts and culture have enriched the enlivened Manchester, too, and pro-sports are big here, as in Pittsburgh.  Football (the European version) is all the rage, and the Manchester United team is as beloved here as our Steelers are back in Pittsburgh.

Academia, likewise, helps to define 21st-century Manchester with three universities calling the city home, including the University of Manchester.  As in Pittsburgh, these institutions of higher education are centers of R&D and innovation.  Innovation helps to fuel the economy and reveals new opportunities to be competitive and cutting-edge, domestically and globally.  One shining example of new opportunity is found in additive manufacturing or 3D printing, a technology which uses layered printing to produce solid objects – both prototypes and ready-to-use components in plastic, steel and ceramics. It’s a technique that experts say could turn around manufacturing in the U.S.  In the greater Pittsburgh region (which encompasses parts of the neighboring states of Ohio and West Virginia), the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute has recently been established.  It’s a public-private research center that will help to accelerate additive manufacturing technologies in a region where manufacturing has deep roots, not unlike in Manchester.

New Opportunities Arise Where Manufacturing and Energy Meet

Today, we’ve sat down with civic and business leaders in Manchester to talk about how these two cities – oddly, not official “sister cities, but “first cousins” at least, in my opinion – can make the most of their historic strengths and current “re-made” statuses.  Recognizing that manufacturing and natural resources – industry sectors that Manchester and Pittsburgh have in common – still make the world go round, we’re looking for business investment synergies and opportunities for partnerships in this arena.  Pittsburgh has become the “center of American energy.” It has a wealth of below-ground resources as well as the manufacturing expertise that the global energy supply chain demands. Innovation capacity to create and commercialize new solutions and products – capitalizing on advances such as 3D printing –  set the stage for the Pittsburgh region to shape the future with regard to how the world gets and uses energy.

We’re hoping that the many similarities between Pittsburgh and Manchester will make possible, as well as mutually profitable, some joint energy-related business ventures.

Last night, we gathered for a “Create the Connection” Reception with colleagues from the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, UK Trade and Investment and the British American Business Council NW, as well as with young professionals who work for Pittsburgh-based companies with operations in Manchester and the north of England and alums for Pittsburgh universities.  In the midst of city center, the Manchester Art Gallery was the impressive setting.  Not unlike Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museums, it speaks to the importance of investment in art and culture assets that drive economic development and prosperity – which both cities recognize.

Although some 3,500 miles away from Pittsburgh, Manchester – no surprise – feels familiar.  View the photo gallery. Next stop:  London.  Stay tuned here and on Facebook and Twitter, too. Follow us at @pghregion.