Shaping the future’: Don Smith aims to make his mark at RIDC

When Don Smith first visited Pittsburgh in 1986, it was during the depth of the steel industry collapse, and he saw a landscape of rusty old mill buildings left deserted and seeming to cry out for help.

“It was like the poster child for industrial decay,” he said, recalling his drive through the Mon Valley nearly four decades ago.

Today, under Mr. Smith’s leadership of the Regional Industrial Development Corp. (RIDC), abandoned steel mills and industrial sites have been transformed into hubs of economic activity. Old factories that might have remained relics of Pittsburgh’s past have been repurposed to house workers for dozens of companies that pioneer new technologies in robotics, electric vehicles and other industries.

“When you [revamp] the obsolete buildings and build new ones, you change the psychology and dynamics of those towns from one of decline to one of hope and change,” Mr. Smith said.

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