Fort Pitt Bridge

Pittsburgh – with a rank of 45 – has landed among the top 100 metropolitan areas with employment in advanced industries. The ranking was released earlier this month by D.C.-based independent research firm The Brookings Institution in its report, “America’s Advanced Industries: What They Are, Where They Are, and Why They Matter.”

Employing 12.5 million workers in the United States – or 8.7 percent of the U.S. workforce – advanced industries are high-value industries with an intense focus in the areas of R & D and science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). They include manufacturing and energy sectors in industries ranging from aerospace and automotive to energy generation, computer software and biotech.

According to the report, there were 102,900 advanced industry workers in Pittsburgh in 2013.

Advance industries employs 20 percent of its workers in highly skilled STEM occupations such as engineers and research scientists as well as applied workers on assembly lines.

A video  produced by Brookings as part of the report highlights Carnegie Mellon University’s spinout Aquion Energy, a local manufacturer of sodium ion batteries and energy storage systems.

Inventor of the environmentally friendly batteries, Pittsburgh-based Aquion uses new technology to process non-toxic materials like saltwater into powders used in batteries for large-scale energy systems as solar and wind power generators.

“Even though steel processing spun down here 10 to 20 years ago, those people are still here and that heritage is still here, and it’s amazing how much we benefit from that,” says Aquion founder Jay Whitacre in the video.

Founded in 2008, the company has approximately 150 employees.

“A significant part of them are dedicated to manufacturing positions – as technicians, process engineers and manufacturing leadership – at the plant (in Mount Pleasant),” says Matt Maroon, senior director of product management for Aquion.

“Places like Pittsburgh with sophisticated technology assets and their experienced work forces epitomize the kind of synergies that a city can provide to a company,” notes Mark Muro of Brookings, who co-authored the report with Jonathan Rothwell, Scott Andes, Kenan Fikri and Siddharth Kulkarni.

Pittsburgh falls into place ahead of Atlanta, GA and just behind Charlotte, NC. The top three metropolitan areas for advanced industries are San Jose, CA, Seattle, WA and Wichita, KS.

Laurie Bailey is a freelance writer who has reported for many local publications. When she isn't writing she serves as a media consultant for nonprofits and other local companies.