About Phil Cynar

Phil Cynar Phil Cynar is senior communications specialist at the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. By trade and by choice, he is a proud promoter of the Pittsburgh region.
Phil Cynar

This post first appeared on the blog of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, a sister organization to ImaginePittsburgh.com the focuses on business development. Get the PRA’s updates delivered to your inbox here

Pittsburgh will always be known as the “Steel City,” but a visit to the town now reveals a fresh new identity as a hub for innovation, arts and culture. That is what Yahoo News reported when its Global News Anchor (and broadcast journalism icon) Katie Couric took a look at the technology and innovation revitalizing the iconic Rust Belt city for the latest stop in her series, “Cities Rising: Rebuilding America.”

“It wasn’t steel that built Pittsburgh, it was innovation,” said Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto in the 12-minute mini-documentary – noting that even during steel’s heyday in the region, it was innovation behind the steel-making that allowed it to grow to a global scale industry.

The same drive has created a hub of game-changing robotics expertise in Pittsburgh now that is on par with the claim to fame that steel once provided. Yet, in spite of all of its brain power, Pittsburgh has not lost its human touch. It continues to nourish arts and culture as it did – even during its darkest economic times – because it recognized that the arts bring richness and quality of life (for both natives and visitors). And with a similar mind to investment for a greater good, Pittsburgh is committing resources to revitalizing materials, people and communities that could be left behind.

If you’re a Pittsburgher or an ex-pat Pittsburgher, this documentary will make you proud. And if you’re looking at Pittsburgh, maybe for the first time, for a career or a soft landing destination to grow a business, Katie Couric’s “walk on the innovation side” of the fabled Steel City will let you see for yourself more than you might have imagined about this place: “a global center of innovation that will change the world.”

Phil Cynar

That’s Lawrence County you see in the lovely photo attached to this blogpost. Recently, our colleague Phil Cynar with the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (part of the Allegheny Conference, of which ImaginePittsburgh.com is a program) reached out to the PRA’s regional partners to help paint a picture of the places that help create “one extraordinary region” – as our 2015 holiday season promotional campaign touts. (Look for the campaign in regional print and online publications, as well as in this video.

Here is Phil’s Q&A with Linda Nitch, executive director of the Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation.

What are three “fun facts” about Lawrence County that would pleasantly surprise people?

  • The county seat of New Castle is officially dubbed the Fireworks Capital of America as a result of two of the nation’s largest fireworks companies – Zambelli Internationale and Vitale Pyrotechnico Industries – calling it home.
  • Spanning over 2,500 acres, McConnells Mill State Park has been a long-time favorite for outdoor activity. The park boasts nine miles of trails ranging from easy to difficult, whitewater rafting on Slippery Rock Creek and prime spots for fishing.
  • Peppered among the countryside surrounding New Wilmington and Volant is the Amish community, small in number but significant in their historical presence. The descendants of Jakob Amman have carried out the same simple way of life for generations. Families can often be seen on the area’s back roads in horse and carriage or at work on the farms their ancestors founded decades ago.

What are your three wishes for Lawrence County in the new year?

  • Lawrence County becomes home to Lawrence Downs, a racino, offering harness racing and gaming to the county and the region.
  • Westminster College continues its successful tradition of being an affordable liberal arts college.
  • Ellwood City becomes a bedroom community to the thriving Cranberry Township area.
Phil Cynar

That’s Fayette County you see in the lovely photo attached to this blogpost. Recently, our colleague Phil Cynar with the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (part of the Allegheny Conference, of which ImaginePittsburgh.com is a program) reached out to the PRA’s regional partners to help paint a picture of the places that help create “one extraordinary region” – as our 2015 holiday season promotional campaign touts. (Look for the campaign in regional print and online publications, as well as in this video.

Here is Phil’s Q&A with Bob Shark, executive director of Fay-Penn Economic Development Council.

OhiopyleHolidayMemesIn the spirit of the holidays, give us “five golden things” about Fayette County that might surprise people?

  • The county is the birthplace of the Big Mac.® In 1967, franchise owner Jim Delligati invented the Big Mac® at the McDonald’s on Morgantown Street in Uniontown.
  • Fayette County is home to one of Pennsylvania’s largest state parks. The gateway to the Laurel Mountains, Ohiopyle State Park encompasses over 20,000 acres and attracts over 1.5 million visitors annually. With its 65 miles of hiking trails, 18 miles of biking trails, a natural waterslide and some of the best Class 1 to Class 5 rapids for whitewater adventures in the East, is it any wonder?
  • Uniontown, the county seat of Fayette County, was founded on July 4, 1776 – the same date the Declaration of Independence was signed.
  • During the Coal Boom of the early part of the 20th century, Uniontown was home to at least 13 millionaires, the most (per capita) of any city in the U.S.
  • Fayette County boasts two Frank Lloyd Wright homes. The more renowned, Fallingwater has been named the “best all-time work of American architecture” by members of the American Institute of Architects and is on the Smithsonian’s list of “places to see before you die.” The second is Kentuck Knob – the former full-time residence of the I.N. Hagan family (owners of the notable local Hagan’s Dairy). The house was commissioned by the Hagans after a visit to nearby Fallingwater, a mountain retreat/summer home of their friends, the Edgar J. Kaufmann family of Pittsburgh, owners of former Kaufmann’s Department Store. Kentuck Knob is now owned by Lord Peter Palumbo of Great Britain and is open to the public.


What are your three wishes for Fayette County in the new year?

  • Improved transportation: extension of the rail lines and the airport runways at the Joseph A. Hardy/Connellsville Airport.
  • Continued improvement of the public infrastructure; providing water, sewerage and internet access throughout all of Fayette County.
  • Adequate emergency response services (police, fire, and EMS) for all and no reason to ever use them!


Finally, why the Pittsburgh region right now … considering business investment and live-work-play-learn opportunities?

Southwestern Pennsylvania is loaded with key ingredients: a low cost of living with a high quality of life; a talented workforce, both experienced and developing and one known for its work ethic; a wealth of education opportunities from technical schools to top-rated universities; a location in the heart of the Marcellus Shale with the availability of well-priced sites and a competitive cost of doing business. I think the question should be “why not southwestern Pennsylvania?”

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Looking for a job? ImaginePittsburgh.com‘s got ‘em — more than 20,000 open positions on our powerful, 10-county job search aggregator, updated nightly.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.

Phil Cynar

At the holidays, all roads lead to home … whether you head there in person, in your heart or via a virtual trip on your trusty phone or tablet. No matter how you get there, home can easily tug at your heartstrings and rouse your loyalties. It’s a place where memories were made once upon a time. But home can also be seen with a “fresh perspective”… a destination full of discoveries, opportunities and adventures – the stuff of which new memories are made.

Pittsburgh is that kind of place, and this season, ImaginePittsburgh.com – the 10-county region’s portal to live-work-play-learn opportunities and a program of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development – invites you to celebrate all that’s Pittsburgh with a fresh perspective.

Now through the New Year holiday, a series of pro bono advertising placements and spots – print, digital, radio, TV and billboard – will be popping up around southwestern Pennsylvania. Featuring unexpected images of the region – captured in fresh and artistic ways by local photographer Dave DiCello – the ads encourage people to “celebrate Pittsburgh … 10 unique counties creating one extraordinary region with 20K+ open jobs and live, play and learn possibilities for everyone.”

From narrowing the options for a rewarding new job here in the region (where a new generation of workforce will be in high demand as Baby Boomers continue to retire) to introducing some 50 “Neighbors” who have found their place here and want to share their experiences, ImaginePittsburgh.com is a portal to seeing the region with fresh eyes.

As you ready to head home for the holidays – or as you prepare to welcome your loved ones back to the region for a visit (knowing how much you’d like to see them stay for good) – pop over to ImaginePittsburgh.com and see what’s new … for you, for them and for our region.

View our seasonal “Fresh Perspectives” television PSA here. And please pass it along to your family and friends through this post, or by sharing it from our Facebook page or Twitter feed.



Phil Cynar

The 2015 Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award recipient for 2015 is Lynn M. Banaszak, executive director of the Disruptive Health Technology Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. She was presented with the award – recognizing professional excellence, contributions to the community and mentorship of other women – at the 25th annual ATHENA Awards luncheon on Oct. 9.

Named for the Greek goddess of strength and wisdom, the ATHENA Awards are unique among regional honors for professional women because of the focus on developing the next generation of leaders through mentorship.

Lynn BanaszakAt the Disruptive Health Technology Institute, for which she led the launch in 2013, Lynn Banaszak has directed more than $4.5 million to 36 new, disruptive technologies that are bringing transformational improvements in the affordability, accessibility, quality and simplicity of healthcare solutions. Over the past 15 years she has been responsible for developing strategic road mapping for many healthcare and life sciences companies and has overseen product and technology development and marketing implementation for tech startups. Formerly, she was chief relationship officer at the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse.

In addition to her professional duties, Banaszak is noted by her peers for providing extensive mentoring activities and commitments to help foster leadership skills, civic engagement, professional and personal development and entrepreneurial creativity, regionally and nationally. She is described as a “connector” … one who is “thoughtful and strategic about making sure that the most constituents as possible can benefit from any situation, particularly women and girls.” Just a few of the many organizations and groups with which she actively engages include 100 Women Who Care, Pittsburgh Women in Bio, the Women’s Center and Shelter of Greater Pittsburgh’s Tile Quilt Campaign, Women and Girls Foundation, Coro Pittsburgh’s Women in Leadership and A Day in My Shoes Pittsburgh. In nominating her for the ATHENA award, one of Banaszak’s peers wrote, “She pays it forward and is always quick to help, connect and mentor whenever the opportunity presents itself. She epitomizes the character of ATHENA.”

The other 2015 finalists, chosen from among 49 nominees, were:

  • Doris Carson Williams, president and chief executive officer, African American Chamber of Commerce
  • Lisa Lenihan, United States magistrate judge, United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
  • Rhonda Moore Johnson, senior medical director of Health Equity and Quality Services, Highmark Inc.
  • Lucille Prater-Holliday, founder, Black Women’s Empowerment Institute

Acknowledging a leader age 35 or younger is the ATHENA Young Professional Award. Begun in 2011, this award celebrates excellence among women who will be the leaders and changemakers of tomorrow. Recognized as one such individual with the 2015 ATHENA Young Professional Award is Josie Badger, youth development director at the Parent Education and Advocacy Leadership (PEAL) Center.

Josie BadgerBadger is recognized across Pennsylvania and nationally for her work in leadership development among youth with disabilities. In 2007, she graduated summa cum laude from Geneva College, majoring in disability law and advocacy. She earned a master’s degree in rehabilitation counseling in 2009 from the University of Pittsburgh and pursued a doctorate in healthcare ethics from Duquesne University in 2014. She serves as campaign manager for #IWantToWork, a statewide advocacy campaign that has successfully lobbied for changes to policy and legislation to promote employment and full inclusion for individuals with disabilities.

Badger helped to found and then lead the Children’s Hospital Advisory Network for Guidance and Empowerment (CHANGE), an organization dedicated to improving the transition from pediatric to adult healthcare for youth with disabilities and complex health conditions. She was selected in 2011 as Ms. Wheelchair America – traveling nationally and internationally in that role – to educate the public about the potential for people with disabilities to lead full and enriching lives. In her award nomination it was recognized that “women and girls need to learn to navigate both internal and external barriers to success – issues which are compounded for women with disabilities who encounter daily stigma and discrimination.” One of her mentees shared how Badger “helped her find her own voice [as a woman with a disability] and to realize that “being ordinary isn’t really what I wanted. Walking or not walking, I wanted to be extraordinary.”

The other 2015 ATHENA Young Professional Award finalists, chosen from among 29 nominees, were:

  • Meredith Meyer Grelli, co-founder and co-owner, Wigle Whiskey
  • Aurora Sharrard, executive director and vice president of innovation, Green Building Alliance

During the event, the 2015 ATHENA Host Committee announced that a new scholarship fund has been created that will enable young female leaders to hone their negotiation skills.

“The Barbara McNees Spirit of ATHENA Scholarship Fund makes this year’s milestone awards luncheon even more special. Because of this scholarship – named after one of the region’s truly great female leaders – a young female leader will be able to attend the CMU Leadership and Negotiation Academy tuition-free to further develop her skills. This scholarship is a fitting tribute to Barbara McNees,” said 2015 ATHENA Host Committee Chair Beth Bershok.

Marking its silver anniversary this year, the Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards Program Luncheon is one of the largest stand-alone events of its kind among some 500 presented annually across the globe in affiliation with ATHENA International. Learn more at ATHENA-Pittsburgh.com. 

The ATHENA Awards are convened by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the parent entity of ImaginePittsburgh.com.

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Looking for a job? Pittsburgh’s got ‘more than 20,000 open positions across the 10-county region. Check out our powerful job search aggregator and career exploration hub at ImaginePittsburgh.com.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.

Phil Cynar
autumn, fall, farmers' market, Market Square, Thursday, Pittsburgh
Offerings at recent Market Square farmers market.

In the market for good food and good music? Then you need not look farther than the Market Square Farmers Market. This Thursday, Oct. 9 and again on Oct. 16, amid an array of all-things-autumn (pumpkins and fall fruits, flowers and vegetables), there will be free lunchtime performances by the Pittsburgh Opera’s Resident Artists.

Between 11:30 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., the Opera’s Resident Artists will sing in solos, duets and ensembles, performing some of the best-loved and well-known opera classics al fresco.

These include “La donna e mobile” from Verdi’s Rigoletto; “Au fond du temple saint” from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers; “La ci darem la mano” from Mozart’s Don Giovanni; and “O mio babbino caro” from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi … plus more.

An encore of sorts – back by popular demand after a premier at 2013’s Fall Farmers Market – the artists’ performances received a spectacular response, according to Jeremy Waldrup, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “We are pleased to again support this downtown arts organization by providing a unique and visible venue to showcase their tremendous talents, which offer something truly special for the weekly visitors to our Farmers Market,” he said.

In addition to the performances, Pittsburgh Opera will offer free tote bags to the first 100 people who visit its booth and sign up to join its mailing list. With this will come an opportunity to win one of three sets of tickets to Verdi’s Otello – last staged in Pittsburgh in 1990 – which returns to the stage at the Benedum Center, Nov. 8, 11, 14 and 16.

Stop by and end your Thursday lunch hours – for the next two autumn weeks – on a high note.

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Looking for a job? Pittsburgh’s got ‘em — more than 22,000 open positions across the 10-county region. Check out our powerful job search aggregator at ImaginePittsburgh.com/work.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.