Smoke off the water Featured

5:49am EDT December 22, 2004
"Not bad for a small company headquartered in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh, not exactly the high-tech capital of the world."

I was a little miffed when I read this sentence in an article by a software industry consultant about ANSYS Inc., our December cover subject. ANSYS is a company that is having a significant impact on the way companies do business in the United States and globally, but it's not an anomaly in Pittsburgh.

Featured in the same issue was RedZone Robotics, a company that has the legs to leverage dramatically just one round of research that has come out of Carnegie Mellon University's robotics program. And there are a lot more.

The above writer probably thinks we're still the Smoky City. Or hell with the lid off. Or some other unflattering sobriquet that we're used to hearing and that makes us bristle. Hasn't he heard about Marconi or FreeMarkets?

Maybe I'm just a little too defensive about our image. We earned a reputation as one of the world's great industrial centers, and now we're having a hard time living it down. Despite all of the great technology companies the region has spawned, people who have never visited our town retain the perception that it's simply a big cluster of smokestacks.

But we are often our own worst enemies, obsessing over the negatives that we encounter as a recovering Rust Belt city and underappreciating our assets and amenities.

Let me point to the companies represented by our 2005 Pacesetters and featured on this month's cover as a counter to the common perceptions. Sony Technology Center is a world-class producer of electronics products. TRACO is a prestigious manufacturer of architectural products. Strategic Energy created a new way to purchase energy, and Respironics has been a pioneer in the development and manufacture of products for the sleep apnea market for nearly three decades.

PNC is one of the largest financial services organizations in the United States. The others, while not as well-known outside Pittsburgh, perhaps, are regional assets that add significant value to the region's commercial activity.

Not bad for a little town in Western Pennsylvania.