Ben Kamber

As part of a show dedicated to Pittsburgh’s leadership in coal energy, President of CONSOL Energy, Nick DeIuliis, sat down to provide an overview of where the coal industry stands today. DeIuliis remarks that Pittsburgh is leading the way forward in innovation from both the production and downstream sides of operations — a new coal plant is 90 percent cleaner than the one is replaces. And with coal and natural gas already representing 70-75 percent of the nation’s energy mix, and with increasing growth opportunities in both international and domestic coal exports, the Pittsburgh region is poised for a bright future in coal energy.

Is “clean coal” an oxymoron? Many of its critics say it is, but Jared Ciferno, of the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) says the key to answering this question is understanding what exactly we mean when we say “clean coal.” As director of coal & power research and development at NETL, Ciferno conducts cutting-edge research to help make coal extraction and production cleaner, and to reduce C02 emissions in the process.

Booming coal export markets had led Brownsville Marine to make a significant investment in the region. The Fayette County based barge manufacturer is currently undergoing a $15 million expansion and is now on the lookout for skilled workers, especially welders. Michael Hennessey, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, sat down recently to discuss the expansion and why barge building is making a comeback in the region.

Our Region’s Business” airs Sundays at 11 a.m. on WPXI-TV.  Hosted by the Allegheny Conference’s Bill Flanagan, the 30-minute business affairs program is co-produced with Cox Broadcasting. The program is rebroadcast on PCNC-TV at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays, and at 3:30 p.m. Mondays. It also airs Sundays on WJAC-TV (Johnstown-Altoona) at 6 a.m. and WTOV-TV (Wheeling-Steubenville) at 6:30 a.m.

Ben Kamber

Earlier this month, the R.K. Mellon Foundation awarded the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Energy at the Swanson School of Engineering a $22 million grant to expand energy research and education. This gift, one of the largest ever received by Pitt through a private foundation, will allow the university to broaden its energy materials and grid research and continue to position Pittsburgh as the center of innovation in American energy.

As site of the first commercial oil well and nuclear power plant (amongst many other “energy firsts”), the Pittsburgh region has been home to cutting-edge energy research and development for well over a century. Building upon this legacy, Pittsburgh today is creating solutions for tomorrow’s energy challenges through its ability and willingness to tackle energy innovation through a cross-disciplinary approach.

Our region is recognized internationally for the unique way in which corporate, nonprofit, government, university and foundation communities work together to achieve civic and community benefits. This “Pittsburgh Model” is a competitive advantage that helps drive innovation. The R.K. Mellon Foundation’s grant is just the latest in a long string of interdisciplinary commitment and cooperation to energy innovation.

Dean of Pitt’s Swanson School of Engineering Gerald Holder expands upon these points in a recent Pittsburgh Business Times column. In addition to the Center for Energy, Pitt’s world-renowned Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation is working alongside the National Energy Technology Laboratory, and other university and corporate partners to integrate sustainability and energy into one coherent strategy.

Holder writes:

Despite having two separate centers, we fully understand that “sustainability” and “energy” are not wholly separate. They often combine to promote a literal and figurative “synergy,” and often are inextricably linked, providing a new launching point for our region’s economic growth. Companies such as Eaton, Westinghouse and CONSOL, and builders such as Mascaro all are focused on improvements in energy-generating and energy-consuming technology — think smart buildings, smart grids and smart people. As their competitive position strengthens through innovation, they will grow their business and create thousands of high-value jobs in this region.

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Watch Gerald Holder’s recent appearance on Our Region’s Business below to learn more about the work being done at Pitt’s Center for Energy and how R.K. Mellon’s $22 million grant will greatly help expand it.

Kristen Freiss
More than 200 business and economic development leaders joined the Washington County Chamber of Commerce to celebrate the county's remarkable economic growth

The energy level was high in Washington County last Thursday.  The reason:  a celebration of outstanding economic growth for the county.  Assembled at Range Resources, more than 200 business and economic development leaders – including Washington County Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Kotula and Board Chairman Patrick O’Brien, President & CEO, First Federal Savings Bank – heard the good news first hand.

At the event, Commissioners Larry Maggi, Diana Irey Vaughan and Harlan Shober shared a report on the county’s economic vitality.  Highlights included:

  • In 2011, Washington County attracted 45 economic development projects that accounted for $198+ million in capital investment. Range Resource’s brand new $30 million regional headquarters in the Southpointe Business Park (the venue for the event) – is just one of the deals fueling the county’s growth. Other notable expansion/attraction projects include Alstom Grid, Chapman Corporation, Gardner Denver Nash and Mark West Energy Partners.
  • Largely driven by the expansion of the natural gas industry, the county’s 4.3 percent rate of employment growth recently ranked third in the nation. Moreover, the county has experienced unemployment rates lower than the national average.
  • The county has benefited from $279+ million in additional investments that have been leveraged through the Washington County Local Share Account – a fund that is capitalized by gaming revenues over the past five years.  Funds have been used to invest in infrastructure, business parks and community development projects.

Commissioner Maggi attributed the success to a number of factors.

“Washington County government believes in partnering with our business community to create jobs and increase economic development activities through collaborative public/private efforts.  We further encourage economic growth by keeping taxes low as well as investing in infrastructure, business parks and other job creation projects.”

Pittsburgh Regional Alliance President Dewitt Peart offered his congratulations on the news:

“Washington County’s remarkable growth demonstrates the positive impact that the Marcellus Shale industry is having throughout southwestern Pennsylvania.”

Read more here.

Phil Cynar

Last week, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra gave Silent Spring – a new composition for orchestra inspired by the book of the same name – its world premiere at Heinz Hall.  This weekend, the PSO takes Silent Spring to Lincoln Center for a special matinee performance in the Big Apple.

Commissioned by the PSO and the Rachel Carson Institute, the composition is a part of a year-long celebration of the golden anniversary of the publication of the bestseller by Springdale native (and Chatham University alumna) Rachel Carson. Her writings are credited with setting the stage for the environmental movement in the U.S. and around the globe.

We recently featured a blog post about the world premiere and a video interview with Steven Stucky, the composer of the piece as well as the PSO’s Composer of the Year.  Revisit it here.

Amanda Sennert

ShaleNET has announced in its current newsletter that 883 local workers have landed jobs in the natural gas industry since June 2010 as a result of its training and placement efforts.

ShaleNET is a multi-state, comprehensive recruitment, training, placement and retention program for jobs in the gas industry throughout the Marcellus Shale footprint. The program plans to add three more Certified Training Providers to its program, bringing the total number to 14 across the Marcellus Shale footprint in Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. ( For the entire list visit: )

The newsletter also highlights the start of ShaleNET floorhand classes which were held in McKean and Indiana County. This course trains workers for positions in the entry level floor hand position, and differs from roustabout training by focusing on rig and electrical components, basic well control, and less on heavy equipment operation.

ShaleNET links industry, workforce investment boards and training providers to ensure local worker placement in six entry-level, family sustaining positions that have been identified as High Priority Occupations  by the Pennsylvania Workforce Development, a program of the state’s Department of Labor & Industry. To learn more or register for the newsletter, go to

And watch the Our Region’s Business video below featuring ShaleNET’s  Byron Kohut,  Col. Grey Berrier II, deputy commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team and CONSOL Energy’s  Gary Slagel.

Bill Flanagan

A key economic benefit of western Pennsylvania’s shale gas boom is the growth it is spurring for companies that supply equipment and services to the industry. Among the 750 energy companies in our region is Elliott Group, a century-old manufacturer in Jeannette, Westmoreland County.  A unit of Ebara Corporation of Japan, Elliott supplies and services turbo-machinery for the full spectrum of oil and gas, refining, LNG, petrochemical and other process and power applications. And it’s growing.  Elliott has doubled in size over the past five years, with hopes to do the same in the next five years.

Last year the company broke ground on a new, $16 million administration building adjacent to its factory. Currently, Elliott accommodates about 420 office workers in several older buildings, one dating all the way back to 1914. When it’s completed later this year, the new Centennial Building will accommodate 500 people in an open office environment designed by Kingsland Scott Bauer Associates of Pittsburgh.

After the groundbreaking, Tony Casillo, then the chief operating officer, talked with me about Elliott’s bright future in our region and its need for skilled workers to keep up with global demand for its products and services. Check out the video below.