(From left) Kevin Acklin, Ed Gainey, Rich Fitzgerald, Patricia Beeson, Mark Peterson and Dennis Davin at the Manufacturing Assistance Center ribbon cutting. Photo by J.L. Martello/18ricco

Residents of Homewood and other communities now have direct access to valuable career training through the University of Pittsburgh’s new Manufacturing Assistance Center.

Better known as MAC, the center, which previously ran out of a facility in Harmarville, relocated to a 150,000-square-foot building at 7800 Susquehanna Street. From there, Pitt will reach out to offer machining certification programs to interested candidates in the distressed neighborhoods of Homewood, Wilkinsburg and Larimer.

Launched in 1994 by Pitt’s Department of Industrial Engineering, MAC supports manufacturers by providing a workforce skilled in the latest advanced manufacturing technology. The new location offers a formal classroom space and a machining lab with equipment such as lathes, mills, drill presses and precision surface grinders. It also includes a maker space and a computer-aided design and manufacturing lab.

The centerwhich occupies an 11,500-square-foot space in the five-floor buildingofficially opened last Friday during a ribbon-cutting ceremony attended by state and local officials, as well as representatives from Pitt.

Inside the Manufacturing Assistance Center. Photo by J.L. Martello/18ricco.
Inside the Manufacturing Assistance Center. Photo by J.L. Martello/18ricco.

Also in attendance was Bridgeway Capital, a community development financial institution that bought the Susquehanna Street property in 2013. The firm worked with Pitt engineering professor Dr. Bopaya Bidanda and Pitt social work professor John Wallace to bring the center to the mixed use space, which was originally built in 1926 as a Westinghouse Electric plant.

Along with MAC, the building also houses 20 different local companies and organizations, including the 3D printing startup BoXZY, the Trade Institute of Pittsburgh, Stak Ceramics and Rebuilding Together Pittsburgh.

Bridgeway Capital founder Mark Peterson believes MAC will provide the kind of training necessary to meet the region’s increasing demand for manufacturing talent.

“These are good jobs in Pittsburgh,” he says. “There are 4,000 small manufacturing firms in our region and they all need people, and so this is a pathway to that kind of employment.”

Experts foresee the lack of skilled manufacturing workers becoming an issue in the region and nationwide. At a recent Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce event, National Association of Manufacturers president and CEO Jay Timmons said he believed that relaxed regulations under the Trump administration would boost the country’s manufacturing industry. He also projected that the boom would result in a severe lack of skilled workers, estimating that about two million manufacturing jobs would go unfilled every year over the next 10 years.

While MAC classes are available to anyone, Peterson sees the facility as playing an essential role in the surrounding area.

“I think this is an important resource for Homewood, and Bridgeway is pleased to be able to provide the space for it,” says Peterson.

Amanda Waltz

Amanda Waltz is a freelance journalist and film critic whose work has appeared locally in numerous publications. She writes for The Film Stage and is the founder and editor of Steel Cinema, a blog dedicated to covering Pittsburgh film culture. She currently lives in Pittsburgh with her husband and oversized house cat.