Rust Belt Is Going Green

Eco-friendly industries and renewable energies are replacing steel mills.

ByABC News
November 14, 2008, 1:24 PM

EBENSBURG, Pa., April 13, 2008— -- Troy Galloway, who worked in the steel mills of western Pennsylvania for 15 years, never thought he'd be a "green collar" worker.

"I started there as a young man, and I thought I would retired from there," Galloway said.

But in 1980s, the U.S. steel industry collapsed when steel from overseas became cheaper. In just 10 years, half the country's steel workers lost their jobs and in 2000, Galloway lost his.

He said he was stunned.

"I didn't see it coming," he said.

Three years his later, his wife Tina lost her manufacturing job when her company outscourced to Mexico. With four children to raise, Tina said she was scared.

"There just wasn't enough money coming in to take care of everything," she said.

Galloway spent years struggling to find a steady job. He opened a construction company and tried selling real estate, but the housing market in western Pennsylvania had been "devastated."

Then he found a lifeline. Gamesa, a Spanish wind turbine company, opened two plants in Pennsylvania, bringing more than 1,200 jobs to the state.

Today, Galloway crafts the blades for wind turbines. It's called a "green-collar job," which is really just a blue-collar job that is good for the environment.

"We'd all heard of alternative energies and stuff, but as far as thinking they'd be jobs that would sustain families in our areas ... I wouldn't have thought that it would be," Galloway said.

Jobs that are good for the environment and good for workers have created some unusual partnerships. The United Steelworkers union is now partnering with the Sierra Club to push for eco-friendly economic policies.

Union leaders are betting that green-collar jobs could replace some of the good-paying manufacturing jobs that have vanished from the United States in recent decades.

Green collar jobs offer competitive wages, benefits and -- most importantly -- staying power. The wind turbines created at Gamesa are gigantic -- 400 feet high -- so it would be costly to build them overseas and ship them to the United States.