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Creighton plant's fate: 'Creative destruction' illustrated

| Thursday, Oct. 12, 2017, 8:55 p.m.
The Pittsburgh Glass Works plant in East Deer.
Louis B. Ruediger | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh Glass Works plant in East Deer.

Word that Pittsburgh Glass Works likely will close its Creighton plant in East Deer next year is sad for its 200 unionized workers and their families, the township, nearby businesses and the whole Alle-Kiski Valley. It's a situation that teaches a painful yet necessary economic lesson.

This news comes as Wall Street routinely breaks records and other signs indicate economic strengthening. Such dynamism derives not from established players resting on laurels, but from innovators developing more efficient, more capable, more desirable processes and products that displace older ones — what late economist Joseph Schumpeter called capitalism's “creative destruction.”

The Creighton facility, which makes automotive glass, opened in 1883 as the original Pittsburgh Plate Glass plant. Today, PGW says, its two-story layout and inability to accommodate automakers' increasing use of cameras, sensors, antennas and other high-tech safety, warning and autonomous-driving gizmos — combined with increased competition, a downturn in U.S. new-car production and overcapacity across the company's eight U.S. auto-glass plants — dictate its likely demise.

That's a business decision linked inexorably to others made over the years that now render the Creighton plant uncompetitive. And the hard lesson for workers, managers, owners and investors? Keep up with technology, stay ahead of rivals, adapt to customers' changing needs and maximize efficiency — or be displaced by competitors who do.

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