A robot cut the ribbon at the groundbreaking for a new technology innovation facility in Hazelwood Wednesday.
The machine was an appropriate touch for Mill 19, the first renovated building to open at Hazelwood Green, the 178-acre site that sits on the former Jones & Laughlin Steel Company land along Second Avenue.
The 60,000-square-foot space will feature Carnegie Mellon University’s Manufacturing Futures Initiative and the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing nonprofit as anchor tenants. Gary Fedder with MFI said the space will be a high-tech resource for manufacturers in the region.
“We’ve constructed this, right now, to be open space that we can conceive having mobile robots being able to run around from work cell to work cell, project to project,” Fedder said.
While the robots weren’t exactly running through Mill 19, the opening celebrations featured multiple demonstrations of manufacturing machines. One display pitted a crane-like machine against a human to sort red and white pills. Laura Evans with the automation company FANUC said the robot is already widely used to sort pills in pharmaceutical settings and the food industry.
“These types of robots with vision are very popular in any consumer products,” Evans said. “In food, for picking things off a bakery belt or a frozen food belt and sorting them into the flow wrappers.”
I’m at the opening of Mill 19, a 178-acre site on Hazelwood Green. Inside, advanced robotics and manufacturing innovators are demonstrating some of the machines that will operate here. The site was once home to one of the city’s most productive steel mills. @905wesa pic.twitter.com/VbdsZXRucy
— Katie Blackley (@kate_blackley) September 4, 2019
Many of the officials at the ceremony spoke about the “future of manufacturing” and how Mill 19 and Pittsburgh innovation would fit into the industry. But many acknowledged the growing workforce gap, which is estimated to leave millions of jobs available due to lack of training. Petra Mitchell with the economic development agency Catalyst Connections says that’s exactly why her company will be embedded in Mill 19.
“We will be leading initiatives to engage employers in career awareness and workplace learning to bridge this gap between employment demand and the supply of workers,” Mitchell said. “This new space is just the beginning.”
In the 1970s, J & L Steel sold the site to the LTV Incorporation, who owned it up until the late 1990s. After years of remediation work and investment, modern efforts began around 2012. The site has received pushback from the nearby Hazelwood community, whose residents fear development will drive up costs and force longtime neighbors to leave. But Mayor Bill Peduto, among others at the ribbon-cutting, assured the crowd that no one would be left behind.
“What happens here will benefit all,” Peduto said.
Work continues on the Hazelwood Green site and more tenants are expected to move into Mill 19.