ImaginePittsburgh.com

Uber’s driverless vehicles — the first to hit American roadways — have begun picking up passengers in Pittsburgh.

In a race with Google and Tesla to bring autonomous vehicles to market, Uber is poised to leap ahead thanks in part to the talented engineers that emerge from Carnegie Mellon University, Bloomberg News, Forbes and others have reported.

A few of Uber’s modified Volvo XC90 sport-utility vehicle began appearing on Pittsburgh streets around Labor Day, with a fleet of 100 to be rolled out by year’s end. Cars in Pittsbugh will have safety drivers and co-pilots.

Uber began operating in Allegheny County in early 2014, and recently expanded service to several adjacent counties. In February 2015, the San Francisco based company partnered with CMU to create the Uber Advanced Technologies Center just off campus, foucsing on developing long-term technologies. The partnership includes collaboration between Uber and the National Robotics Engineering Center in Lawrenceville around mapping, vehicle safety and autonomy technology.

Check out the Bloomberg’s video here, and read the full article here.

 

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Pittsburgh has jobs: more than 20,000 across 10 counties, including at Uber. Tap into ImaginePittsburgh.com to explore southwestern PA’s trending careers and industries.

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

 

Alison Treaster

For the first time in history, a team of athletes comprised entirely of refugees is competing in the Olympic games. Ten athletes from Syria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan and Ethiopia comprise the official Refugee Olympic Team. The International Olympic Committee formed the team to protect athletes who were forced to flee their home countries due to international crises. Displacement from their homes leaves them without a national Olympic committee to support them, without a flag to wear on their chests, without an anthem to play on the podium following their hoped-for victories. In 2016, these athletes reflect the unity represented by the Olympics rings as they compete in swimming, judo and various track and field events. Learn more about these incredible athletes here.

Once again, the Olympics has provided common ground for athletes to represent their countries and for fans to show their national pride by embracing the diversity while uniting through sports. Perhaps those of us watching can carry forward that notion of common ground and be mindful of the contributions of the individuals we encounter daily in our cities, our workplaces and among our neighbors.

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Pittsburgh has jobs: more than 20,000 across 10 counties. Tap into ImaginePittsburgh.com to explore southwestern PA’s trending careers and industries.

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

Alison Treaster

For decades, the Pittsburgh region has been a haven for refugees fleeing violence and oppression in their home countries. Refugee families, children and individuals have put down roots in southwestern Pennsylvania with the help of local resettlement agencies, religious organizations and nondenominational groups. Today, our region is dotted with vibrant communities of hard-working Bhutanese, Bosnian, Burmese, Congolese, Iraqi, Somali, Sudanese and Syrian refugees, among others.

While adapting to a new home with different languages and customs is difficult even in the best of circumstances, refugees positively contribute to the Pittsburgh community in a variety of ways. On June 17, Pittsburgh’s World Refugee Day in Market Square celebrated those contributions with musical and dance performances, as well as “Refugee Voices” presentations and food and fares from the local communities.

WRD_Poster_2016Who are refugees? A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. While returning home is often a goal, many refugees spend years in temporary camps in third countries before either returning home or being approved for resettlement in an adopted country. Their plight has been brought to wider public attention over the past year as conflict in Syria and ongoing violence around the world has forced more than 15 million people to flee their country of origin. The United Nations’ Refugee Agency calls this the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Through it all, Pittsburgh has remained a welcoming city. Thanks to the tireless efforts of various organizations, our region continues to help more than 500 refugees create homes here each year. The U.S. refugee process is grueling and typically takes years. Refugees remain among the most highly vetted population to enter our country, undergoing screenings by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and one-on-one interviews abroad before they may be approved to enter the United States.

For more information or to help refugees in the Pittsburgh region, contact a local refugee resettlement agency such as  AJAPOCatholic CharitiesJewish Family & Children’s Services or the Northern Area Multi-Service Center.

ImaginePittsburgh.com

Shell Chemical Appalachia LLC announced on June 7 that it will — after four years of consideration – build a major petrochemical complex on the banks of the Ohio River in Potter Township, Beaver County (about 30 miles northwest of downtown Pittsburgh). The project will create 6,000 jobs during construction and 600 during operation when completed. Learn more from Shell’s news release. A statement from Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, is available here.

For complete, ongoing information check out the Pittsburgh Regional AllianceThe PRA is the business development affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, of which ImaginePittsburgh.com is a project. 

From the Pittsburgh Tribune Review’s June 7, 2016 story:  Royal Dutch Shell’s decision to go ahead with its multibillion-dollar petrochemical plant in Beaver County shifts the discussion over reaping benefits of the shale gas boom from whether it will spur manufacturing to how much.

Civic and business leaders said Tuesday’s long-anticipated announcement by the energy giant — more than four years after it picked a site at a shuttered zinc smelter along the Ohio River — signals good news: for shale drillers challenged by low prices, for a manufacturing base left low by steel’s demise, and for 6,000 workers Shell will employ during construction.

“The term game-changer is much overused, and I’m guilty of over-using it. But it absolutely is appropriate in this case,” Gov. Tom Wolf told the Tribune-Review hours after Shell made the announcement with little fanfare. “This is a game-changer for our economy.”

The so-called final investment decision sets up another four or five years of work; Shell said construction will begin within 18 months and wrap up “early in the next decade” on the first major ethane cracker to be built outside the Gulf Coast in 20 years. It eventually will employ 600 people.
The company cited as reasons for its decision the site’s proximity both to plentiful ethane produced by many Marcellus shale gas wells here and to potential customers for the ethylene it will produce — a building block of plastics. It also stands to receive a tax credit package worth tens of millions annually.

“More than 70 percent of North American polyethylene customers are within a 700-mile radius of Pittsburgh,” the company said in a news release.
The announcement appears to end years of debate that swirled as Shell prepared the massive site in Potter and Center while a global collapse in oil and natural gas prices prompted the company to lay off thousands and halt other projects. Increased work on the site — which included construction of a bridge over nearby Route 18, movements of power lines and $80 million in environmental remediation — escalated speculation even as Shell cut costs worldwide.

“The fact that Royal Dutch Shell is still moving forward on this tremendous investment at a time of historic low oil and gas prices is a testament to our commonwealth’s commitment to developing our abundant natural resources,” said Sen. Camera Bartolotta, a Republican whose district includes southern Beaver County.

CEO Ben van Beurden said the company, which recently acquired gas producer BG Group, would reduce capital spending this year to $29 billion, 35 percent lower than the two companies spent in 2014. Shell has not put a price tag on the Beaver County project, though analysts estimate it at between $6 billion and $7 billion.

Shell’s delay in starting construction prompted questions from at least one analyst who said an 18-month pause is unusual.

“I guess I’m not 100 percent convinced,” said Steve Lewandowski, global business director for olefins at Houston-based energy analyst IHS. He said Shell still needs to watch its cash flow as oil remains around $50 per barrel.

The delay might provide time for workers to finish plants on the Gulf Coast over the next few years before shifting to Beaver County, Lewandowski said. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development said the region will need to pull from other states to fill the construction jobs needed to build the plant.

Shell spokesman Ray Fisher said the company has canceled projects it began, though he could not say whether that was after final investment decisions were announced.

Wolf and others said they have no doubt Shell is moving ahead on Western Pennsylvania’s largest building project in a generation.

“We believe that a capital investment of this magnitude indicates to other companies in the energy, petrochemical and plastics industries that southwestern Pennsylvania should be on their short list of locations for new facilities and expansions,” said Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky. He noted that polyethylene demand is forecast to grow worldwide.

Environmental groups fought the state air permits Shell received in 2015 and complained about the wide swath of land cleared on both sides of Route 18 after the company bought the former Horsehead Holdings Corp. zinc smelter and neighboring properties for $13.5 million.

“We continue to have concerns about the significant air pollution being added to our region, just as we are starting to make progress cleaning up our air,” said Myron Arnowitt, Pennsylvania director for Clean Water Action.

Advocates say the plant will bring more benefits as plastics manufacturers set up shop close to the cracker.

“Those products will span from food to fabrics to outdoor decks. All those things can now be made here, in the middle of the market, the Keystone State,” Wolf said, noting the company he used to own had to source its PVC for decks and railings from Texas.

That will provide relief for gas drillers who will get a large local customer for 90,000 barrels of their ethane daily. Limited pipelines to more lucrative markets have pushed down prices, prompting layoffs and a huge slowdown in drilling.

Cecil-based Consol Energy, one of the companies that contracted with Shell to sell it ethane, said the announcement “marks a major turning point for the region.”

“This investment … reflects that fact that domestic manufacturing’s potential is near limitless thanks to our abundant and stable energy supplies from natural gas,” said David Spigelmyer, president of the North Fayette-based Marcellus Shale Coalition.

The Shell plant is one of three proposed for the region. Brazilian energy companies Braskem and Odebrecht put on hold a plan to build in West Virginia, but Thai firm PTT Global Chemical continues to assess a possible site in Belmont County, Ohio.

Belmont County Commissioner Mark Thomas said he does not think Shell’s decision will deter PTT.

“In my mind it validates that southwestern Pennsylvania and eastern Ohio … have sufficient resources to handle multiple cracker plants, at least two,” he said.

Potential contractors also expect to see benefits.

Steamfitters Local 449 in Pittsburgh has been ramping up its apprenticeship program in anticipation of Shell’s announcement, union business manager Ken Broadbent said.

“I brought in 70 percent more apprentices than usual,” Broadbent said. “I’m trying to be proactive and get ready for a big project like this.”

Downtown-based specialty steel producer Allegheny Technologies Inc. said the cracker project could benefit the company’s Flat Rolled Products business, which makes stainless steel and titanium alloys for pipes used in the energy industry. ATI laid off about a third of the nonunion workers from the Flat Rolled Products business in April in response to the downturn. The layoffs followed the indefinite idling of mills in Midland and Gilpin where more than 600 workers were employed.

What’s a cracker? According to Shell, such plants “break down large molecules from oil and natural gas into smaller ones. An ethylene cracker produces base petrochemical ‘building blocks,’ which are the first stage in the chemicals manufacturing chain.”

The cracker will produce polyethylene, which Shell says “is used to produce many common household items ranging from packaging to sports equipment, construction materials, automotive fuel tanks, toys and garden furniture.”

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Learn what makes a winning ATHENA nomination at Athena-Pittsburgh.com

It’s that time again — time to recognize the extraordinary women in the Pittsburgh region who go above and beyond in their work and mentorship of other women. Nominations for the 2016 Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards will be accepted (online only) until 5 p.m. on Thursday, June 30.

Taking its name from the Greek goddess of strength and wisdom, the traditional ATHENA Award recognizes a woman who demonstrates excellence in her profession, contributes to her community and helps other women to succeed. Last year’s recipient was  Lynn M. Banaszak, executive director at Health Innovation in Pennsylvania Disruptive Health Technology Institute at Carnegie Mellon University. Josie Badger, Parent Education and Advocacy Leadership (PEAL) Center’s youth development director, received the ATHENA Young Professional Award for emerging leaders age 35 or younger.

Wondering how to craft a winning nomination? Check out this tip sheet put together by Pittsburgh Magazine Publisher Betsy Benson.

There are hundreds of ATHENA International-affiliated events presented around the world each year, but Pittsburgh’s gathering is one of the largest. More than 900 women and men are expected to attend this year’s luncheon on Monday, Sept. 26 at the Westin Convention Center Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh.

Interested in sponsorship? Contact sgaal@alleghenyconference.org.

Watch videos, learn more at Athena-Pittsburgh.com. / Look for updates under #PghAthena on Facebook and Twitter.

 

Bonnie Pfister

The event noted below occurred in the past. But that means ATHENA season is officially on!

Go to Athena-Pittsburgh.com to learn about the awards program.

Pittsburgh routinely leads national rankings for everything from its increasingly youthful talent pool, its tech startups, its affordability and its wealth of innovative restaurants. But how are women faring in these emerging industries? Is our region fully leveraging the competitive strengths of women?

As the ATHENA Awards Program opens its annual call for nominations, its host committee invites men and women who care about equity to the Fairmont Pittsburgh hotel from 8 a.m. – 10 a.m. on Wednesday, May 11 for a lively discussion among women who are pioneers in disruptive innovation, emerging technologies and cuisine. NEXTpittsburgh Publisher Tracy Certo will moderate the panel, which includes:

  • Summer C. Fowler, Director of Cybersecurity Risk & Resilience at CERT, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Jennifer Krusius, General Manager, Pittsburgh + PA Expansion of Uber Technologies, Inc.
  • Priya Narasimhan, CEO & Founder, YinzCam, Inc.; Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor at Carnegie Mellon University
  • Ling Wollenschlaeger, Founder and Head Chef of Pittsburgh Fresh LLC
  • Bethany Zozula, Executive Chef at Whitfield within Ace Hotel Pittsburgh

Tickets are $30 and include continental breakfast. The event is the annual kickoff to the ATHENA season, opening the doors for nominations for awards nominations. The traditional ATHENA Award, now in its 26th year, recognizes a woman who demonstrates excellence in her profession, contributes to her community and helps other women to succeed. The ATHENA Young Professional Award is geared toward emerging leaders age 35 or younger. Nominations may be submitted online between May 11 and June 30.

Named for the Greek goddess of strength and wisdom, the Athena Awards of Greater Pittsburgh are unique among regional honors for professional women because of the focus on developing the next generation of female leaders through mentorship. The awards luncheon, scheduled this year for Sept. 26, is attended by more than 900 men and women and is one of the largest ATHENA events worldwide. The awards are convened by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, of which ImaginePittsburgh.com is a program.

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Pittsburgh has jobs: more than 20,000 across 10 counties. Tap into ImaginePittsburgh.com to explore southwestern PA’s trending careers and industries.