For generations, the Mon Valley was the economic engine that drove the Pittsburgh economy. However, as most people in this region are well aware, over the past three decades the Valley’s industrial base was virtually decimated.
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, US Steel, Westinghouse Electric, WABCO, Union Switch and Signal, and Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel all closed major manufacturing plants in the Monongahela Valley. Some sources indicate that as many as 175,000 jobs were lost in the region when these plants closed.
Major industrial sites occupied hundreds of acres of land, and as landowners, the corporations were major taxpayers. Without this business tax, communities in the Mon Valley were hard-pressed to provide basic services to their residents. People moved out, and the Valley’s role as the engine of the regional economy was lost.
As the steel industry was crumbling, a number of the major local business and industry leaders representing Pittsburgh’s largest corporations began an aggressive plan to address the problems that arose from the fall of the steel industry. This group of business leaders made up the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.
The group focused their work on setting strategic investment strategies for the region to address the devastating economic decline. They developed a strategy that included hiring a community organizer to find a way to create reinvestment in the Mon Valley. That organizer, Michael Eichler, and key leaders and funders of the Allegheny Conference valued seeking solutions directly from those who lived and worked in the Valley. They recommended strategies that offered a means to broadly engage local people in implementing economic and community development projects.
In addition to helping to form new grassroots organizations, Eichler also provided support to the CDCs that were already in existence. Through the Allegheny Conference the “Mon Valley Development Team” was formed in January of 1987.
In April 1988, the representatives of these grassroots CDCs began to discuss the possibility of forming some type of regional coalition. These discussions led to the incorporation of the “Mon Valley Initiative” in December 1988.
Through the years, the strategic goals and program areas of MVI have shifted as conditions in the Mon Valley warranted. However, all of the changes were made in an effort to address the current needs of the Mon Valley communities. Today, the Mon Valley Initiative has four main program areas: Workforce & Business Development, Housing Counseling, Housing & Real Estate Development, and Community Outreach. From our offices in the heart of Homestead, the Mon Valley Initiative continues to strive toward its mission of working together to unite the communities and restore the economic vitality of the Mon Valley.
We work to meet this goal by renovating and constructing high quality, affordable housing and assisting communities to develop and maintain their main street districts, providing individuals with the tools they need to enter in to the workforce, offering in-depth, one-on-one housing counseling services to put people on the path to successful home ownership, and helping member Community Development Corporations become efficient and effective organizations.