Made in Pittsburgh 2014

The city of steel always has been known for its industry – what we make. Today, that defining characteristic expands beyond manufacturing into every aspect of modern life: to technology, clothing, home goods and unique food and drink products as well.



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photos by Mark Simpson

 

It’s a phrase that once conjured images of steel, glass and iron. For nearly as long as our city has existed at the confluence of the three rivers, Pittsburgh has been blending raw materials, innovation and an industrious nature to produce a little bit of everything. In 2014, our city is known for robots, apps and other high-tech inventions too new to even have names. We’re still making steel, glass and iron, too — right alongside clothing, liquor, household goods and just about everything else, as illustrated by the 50 examples that follow. Wherever you are, there’s probably something nearby that was made in Pittsburgh.
 



Bombardier Transportation first got a foothold in Pittsburgh in 2001, when it purchased the train division of another multinational transportation conglomerate, DaimlerChrysler Rail Systems GmbH (Adtranz). With the acquisition came a former Westinghouse facility next to the rail lines in West Mifflin that dates back to 1894. The Montreal-based manufacturer of trains and planes employs a local workforce of 900 in three specialties: train propulsion, rail-control systems and automated people movers (the thing at the airport that takes you from baggage to the gate — and warns you to stay clear of the door before it swishes open). Bombardier is the world leader in these, installing them in airports in Atlanta, Miami, Houston, Dubai, Frankfurt, Rome, Madrid, London and, yes, Pittsburgh. — NK

You can give free rein to your national pride while cycling around the region in apparel from Aero Tech Designs, a full-service e-retailer. Though it’s located in Coraopolis, the company’s history is rooted in Florida, where founder and CEO Cathy Schnaubelt Rogers started making women-specific bike shorts in college. There was no existing market for women’s apparel, and the then-standard black wool shorts didn’t offer much for the aesthetically discerning cyclist. Her bright cycling shorts, made from swimwear fabric, were a hit. The company now has four factories in the United States that craft Aero Tech’s bike shorts, tights and jerseys. Working with 3M engineers, Aero Tech Designs also has created reflective wear that helps to keep cyclists visible in low light conditions. Of all of the company’s engineering feats, though, its padded bike shorts take pride of place. Engineered for all shapes and sizes, the shorts represent Aero Tech’s other bottom line: lasting comfort. — MJK

Miller’s Mustard has grown from a family recipe to a fixture on shelves in 800 stores — and now adds a dash of spice to dips worldwide. The Millers established their family-run business 12 years ago, when neighbors requested more of the mustard the clan made each Labor Day weekend in Mars, Pa. When the demand exceeded 3,000 jars, the Millers moved the operation from their kitchen stovetop to a co-packer in Lancaster, Pa. Unlike in traditional mustard recipes, the Millers add sizable chunks of crisp banana peppers to achieve the mustard’s signature zest. Despite remaining a part-time operation, Miller’s Mustard now exports to four foreign countries. Company owner Robb Miller says his family’s success would not have been possible “without those Pittsburgh stores taking a chance on us.” — JS

Nine years ago, Rob Daley, a businessman, and Henry Thorne, an engineer, sat down at Penn Avenue Fish Co. and talked about starting a company. After researching areas where technology would be useful but didn’t yet play a large role, they determined the juvenile-products industry was a perfect fit. The result was 4moms, which now ships 1,500 products a day from its Strip District home, employs 160 people in seven sites worldwide and is forecast to generate $50 million in revenue by the end of 2014. So far the company has six products in the market, including the rockaRoo, a swinglike rocker with an  MP3 plug-in; an infant tub with a digital thermometer; and the origami, a stroller that opens with the push of a button and includes a generator in the back wheels for charging cell phones and a LCD dashboard with a thermometer, odometer and speedometer. “There’s a massive transformation in [the] $8.9-billion-a-year juvenile-product industry, and we’re leading it right here in Pittsburgh,” Daley says. Their next planned endeavor is a car seat that installs itself and runs a safety diagnostic test before each trip. — LD

 



Glass block, commonly known as glass brick, was developed in the early 1900s as a way to admit light into dim manufacturing plants. Typical glass brick is thick and break-resistant with a hollow center; each glass block is made by pressing together two molten halves and allowing them to cool. Family-owned Pittsburgh Glass Block realized that what worked for large buildings also would appeal to private citizens; the architectural feature saves energy and allows for privacy, while allowing natural light into a space. Founded in 1965 as a four-person company, Pittsburgh Glass Block now employs 50 and has made its mark on the region from its home in Etna. Take a stroll through any of Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods for a fun, easy glass-block scavenger hunt: You’ll see all kinds of creative uses shining in unlikely places. — MJK
 




The road from idea to product can be long and expensive. A design requires a prototype, which must be commissioned, tested and revised — often repeatedly. “One of the ideas behind this robot was to make a super-prototyping machine,” says Daniel Goncharov of the Pittsburgh startup ZeGo Robotics. The ZeGo is a multifunctional tool: a 3-D printer, a plotter, an LCD plotter, an engraver, a wood burner and a pick-and-place machine used for making simple circuit boards. With those tools, inventors can “prototype fast,” as Goncharov puts it. The back-and-forth prototyping process that once took weeks now can happen in hours. By making its design open-source and hosting workshops, ZeGo hopes to attract third-party tool attachments; one recent demonstration featured a cupcake decorator. — EL

Perhaps the best way to characterize II-VI Incorporated is as an enabler: This vertically integrated powerhouse makes all sorts of high-tech innovation possible. A nexus of businesses turning out a wide range of components, II-VI specializes in synthetic crystal growth, electronics and optics. The infrared division creates parts for industrial lasers. On the military and materials side, LightWorks Optical Systems, Inc. creates products used in defense, aerospace and life-science applications. The Advanced Materials Group focuses on scaling up manufacturing, tackling everything from developing new materials to creating a process to make them. Though headquartered in Saxonburg, II-VI impacts technological development around the globe, with facilities worldwide. — MJK

Decades-old mainstay All-Clad stays true to the city’s origins as well as its own; the company still uses American-made steel and continues to handcraft each piece in its headquarters in Cecil Township. The brand has remained relevant over time by creating lines beyond traditional stainless pieces. A new collaboration with revered chef and longtime All-Clad fan Thomas Keller has yielded a 11-piece collection, sold only by Williams-Sonoma. — KM

An unpleasant reality is that women should consider their safety when they’re out and about by themselves. Rather than rely on weapons, they may opt for LifeShel, which offers safety features via a smartphone case. The hardware, dubbed Whistl, integrates with a native app. When activated, the case issues an alert as loud as a chainsaw, emits a strobe bright enough to temporarily blind someone and contacts both the police and designated loved ones. LifeShel is just out of the incubator stage at AlphaLab Gear, and its three founders (all graduates of Carnegie Mellon University, where they met during their freshman year) have been exploring the creative communities outside of the university setting for their company’s growth. Products are available for preorder now and are scheduled to ship in summer 2015. — AW

Its suave image might suggest that the founders of Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka begat their business with cocky assuredness, but it actually took years of anxious planning and analysis before Prentiss Orr (a marketing pro) and Barry Young (a healthcare executive) quit their day jobs. The two met with professors from Penn State University’s fermentation program to plan future products and commissioned a study from a marketing research firm to determine if there was a public thirst for high-end vodka made from Pennsylvania potatoes. There was. Since its 2008 introduction, Boyd & Blair, produced in Shaler Township, has garnered a five-star review in Spirits Journal and become the vodka of foodies, sold in Whole Foods (where state laws allow) and served in acclaimed restaurants, including Thomas Keller's Bouchon in Beverly Hills. — NK

When Kelly Collier started to design a posture-correcting shirt for her Biomedical Engineering Design course at CMU, her plan was simple: Design the shirt, get her degree and pursue her acceptance into the Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. program at Johns Hopkins University. Instead, she absconded with her mother’s sewing machine and turned her prototype into a business, ActivAided Orthotics, in Pittsburgh. The goal is to keep active people active while addressing their back injuries. Collier’s RecoveryAid shirt uses fabric and elastic rather than rigid braces to give physical cues that make people aware of how to correct their posture. “Basically,” Collier explains, “it’s making ideal posture the path of least resistance.” — KB

Few companies have the Pittsburgh street cred of American Bridge Company, which fabricates bridges and builds other complex steel structures. The 114-year-old company, once a subsidiary of U.S. Steel, has constructed, fabricated or rehabilitated an all-star team of famous local structures, including the Roberto Clemente Bridge, the Andy Warhol Bridge, the Rachel Carson Bridge, the Fort Pitt and Duquesne bridges, PPG Place, the former Civic Arena, the U.S. Steel Tower, the former Three Rivers Stadium, four buildings at Gateway Center and many more. What’s more, the company actually gave birth to a whole town: Take a look at the name of Ambridge, Pa. Am . . . bridge. Not a coincidence. — SC

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Bombardier Transportation


Aero Tech Designs


Miller's Mustard


4moms


Pittsburgh Glass Block


ZeGo


II-VI Incorporated


All-Clad


LifeShel


Boyd & Blair Potato Vodka


American Bridge Company


ActivAided Orthotics


Dykema Rubber Band


Thread


TreeHouse Foods


Shoefitr


FreshTemp


Robinson Fans, Inc.


Victor Ravioli, Inc.


Identified Technologies


Dona Jo Inc.


Adams Manufacturing


Allegheny Technologies Incorporated


Creations by Cicci


NuGo Nutrition


Simple Sugars


MSA


Maggie's Farm Rum


Sapling Press


All Water Systems, Inc.


Little Earth Productions, Inc.


Schell Games


Lanxess Corporation


Aquion Energy, Inc.


BodyMedia / Jawbone


Minimel Design


American Textile Co.


PieceMaker Technologies


Lilliput Play Homes


SolePower


Moop


Brownsville Marine Products


American Beverage Corp.


Dura-Bond Industries


Digital Dream Labs


Sarris Candies


Matthews International Corp.


Kennametal


James Austin Co.


Cellone's Italian Bread Co.

INDUSTRIAL ICONS

Alcoa


Bayer


PPG Industries


U.S. Steel


Wabtec

 

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