The first six months of the Pittsburgh Impact initiative provided some important insights as we engaged, personally and collectively, with companies that are growing. We learned from these businesses and the network of organizations that support their growth that we should tackle three areas of activity: communicate with businesses to exchange information; connect companies with the business opportunities, resources, and talent they need to continue to grow; and champion their success through a variety of communication channels. We’ve successfully implemented that strategy, and we’re always looking for new opportunities to improve.

IMAG0114
Albert Ciuksza, director, Pittsburgh Impact Initiative

With that focus, we’re excited to announce the introduction of Pittsburgh Impact Radio on KQV AM 1410, broadcast this Sunday (and every first Sunday of the month) at 8:30 – 9:00 a.m., with a replay on the following Monday at 7:30 p.m. and always available via podcast on iTunes.

Why radio?

We think that radio will give people in the region the opportunity to hear the stories of those organizations that help enable business growth in the region, as well as the companies that are creating jobs and driving our economy. We believe we can use this medium to help other business owners learn more about the more than 150 different organizations and programs that exist solely to support their growth. Finally, we believe that this show, and its easy-to-share audio, will help to broadcast the message of the great things happening in our region’s business community.

So, please join us this Sunday morning and first Sunday mornings thereafter (or on your MP3 player or iPhone anytime) as we explore the many opportunities for small business and economic development in Pittsburgh. To kick things off, we’ll be speaking with De Peart, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance  – an affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.  Hear about the services his organization provides and the successes it’s had recently with marketing the region for business investment.  One such investment is Reaxis, an expanding chemicals and coatings firm with its headquarters and multiple locations in the region.   Vice President, Technology and Business Development, Leon Perez tells why the company is growing here.

Ben Kamber

Pennsylvania’s Pension Time Bomb

Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, 66 have at least one local government in financial distress. Some of this can be attributed to municipal pension fragmentation throughout the Commonwealth. Nearly one quarter of all municipal pension plans in the country are located in Pennsylvania – a recipe for high costs and anemic returns. Chad Amond is seeing the effects of this fragmentation first hand as president of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce and as a member of the Coalition for Sustainable Communities – a statewide coalition committed to addressing municipal fiscal distress. He discusses how Pennsylvania found itself in this position and what can be done about it.

Buck Consultants Launches Private Health Care Exchange

As part of the Affordable Care Act, there’s been a lot talk about health care exchanges – both federal and state. But Buck Consultants, a human resource consultant firm owned by Xerox, is delving into the private exchange market by launching an exchange aimed at helping larger companies comply with the health care law. Sherri Bockhorst, principal of health & productivity with Buck Consultants discusses what a private health care exchange is and how companies can benefit from joining one.

Legume Bistro Receives National Recognition

A leader in the transformation of Pittsburgh’s dining scene, Trevett Hooper, co-owner and chef at Pittsburgh’s Legume Bistro, was recently recognized as a James Beard Award semi-finalist – one of the culinary industry’s most prestigious honors. Legume, which started in Regent Square in 2007 before moving to a larger space in Oakland in 2011, is committed to the ideals of locally sourced ingredients and whole animal butchery. Hooper discusses his path to Pittsburgh, which came by way of Ohio, California and Boston, and what has led to Legume’s success.

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.

Phil Cynar

A feature article, “Manufacturing in Armstrong County on Upswing,” published in the April 16 edition of the Leader Times, takes a closer look at the economic development deals or “wins” of 2012 as recently announced by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) . The PRA is the 10-county Pittsburgh region’s economic development marketing organization and an affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. On April 2, the organization presented its annual economic development scorecard for the previous year to the media and regional leaders and business executives. Scorecard marks were high.

10county3DThe scorecard for activity – investments by businesses in new facilities or expansions of existing ones, along with job creation and retention – showed that the region, including Armstrong County, benefited from a diverse economy that’s held up by five key industry sectors. Economic development activity was steady and stable in the county and region, not only in 2012, but during the past five years, including the recession. The region’s diverse economy was a key factor in helping the region weather the recession so well and to be recognized as one of only three U.S. metros to be “fully recovered” from recession by the D.C.-based Brookings Institution.

Manufacturing – one of the region’s key sectors – was a top performer, as far as deals or “wins” were concerned in 2012, around the region. Manufacturing positively impacted Armstrong County last year.

Read the complete Leader Times article to learn about county-based manufacturing wins such as Flir Systems, Inc., Belle Flex Technologies and Sloan Brothers Lubrication Systems. All are growing in the region, including adding jobs. Michael Coonley, Armstrong County Department of Economic Development Council director – and others – describe how and why.

Phil Cynar

Washington County Landscape

Without deserting its “country charm and green space” – as County Commissioner Larry Maggi puts it – Washington County continues to increase its leadership in terms of economic growth and job creation.

At a Feb. 28 breakfast briefing, organized by the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, the Washington County Board of Commissioners were joined by more than 200 county business leaders to recap the robust economic development and tourism activity that occurred in 2012.

“Our business community announced $346,365,000 in new business investment which will account for an additional 2,530 jobs,” said Maggi. “This tremendous growth in business investment and job creation was driven by numerous sectors of our economy – energy, technology, commercial/industrial development, hospitality and manufacturing.” According to Dun & Bradstreet. Washington County has 280 companies involved in manufacturing.

“In an Energy Revolution”

Energy continues to be significant economic driver, with Washington County being ranked first the greater Pittsburgh region and fourth in the state in both natural gas wells drilled and drilling permits issued in 2012. The county’s booming energy sector’s reach extends far beyond drilling rigs, with the Southpointe mixed-use business park in Canonsburg as an example. It has become the epicenter of corporate activity that supports the industry – everything from regional headquarters to law firms.

“We are in an energy revolution, and Southpointe is in the middle of it,” said County Commissioner Harlan Shober. “Coal is anchored here with the world headquarters of CONSOL Energy, and more and more shale gas companies are arriving – nearly every month it seems.”

A sizeable energy-related tenancy at Southpointe has resulted in the Washington County Chamber’s opening of a second office location in Southpointe, a decision announced at the breakfast briefing by Chamber of Commerce Chairman Barron P. McCune, Jr.

“Many of our 1,100 members are located in Southpointe, and we wanted to ensure that they have closer access to our economic development programs, networking events and advocacy initiatives.” McCune said. “This is especially important with our natural gas and energy members as we work together on expanding energy opportunities and partnerships for our entire business community.”

Millions Make Millions [in Tourism Spending]

Tourism is creating energy of its own in Washington County, where that industry supports 5,740 jobs and generates more than $72 million in federal and state tax revenues, according to a Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development report. Tourism’s significant impact is seen in the Meadows Racetrack & Casino, which marked its five-year anniversary in Washington County in 2012. According to Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan, it is one of the county’s largest employers with 1,400 employees hosting 4.1 million guests annually.

“The Meadows parent company, CCR, has invested more than $535 million in property since 2006 and now The Meadows is spending $18 million on goods and services in Washington County,” Irey said.

Improvements to Washington County’s infrastructure, business parks and community development projects are funded by revenue received through the county’s Local Share Account (LSA) Program, officials reported. The LSA is Washington County’s share of gross revenues from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Since 2008, county commissioners have directed more than $52 million in new projects which help to bolster the county’s economic development and tourism prowess.

Other major economic development investments highlighted during the briefing included Starpointe Business Park, Southpointe II, Alta Vista Business Park and the Washington County Airport.

“The successes we are experiencing in Washington County are not accidental,” said Washington County Chamber President Jeff M. Kotula. “While we did not foresee the tremendous positive economic impacts of the energy industry 15 years ago, the decisions made then to develop ready-to-go sites made our county uniquely positioned to take advantage of these economic opportunities.”

Bill Flanagan

Not only is our region among the most livable, it continues to rank among the “most list-able” as well. And we’re off to a good start in 2013 in racking up Top Five rankings.

NBC’s Today Show started things off by noting Pittsburgh as one of three must-see destinations in the world to visit this year. And now, Forbes reports that Pittsburgh is among the happiest cities in which to work.

This list of the happiest and unhappiest cities to work in, compiled by CareerBliss, is based on an analysis of more than 36,000 independent employee reviews between November 2011 and November 2012. Workers from all over the country were asked to evaluate 10 factors that affect workplace happiness. Those include one’s relationship with the boss and co-workers, work environment, job resources, compensation, growth opportunities, company culture, company reputation, daily tasks and control over the work one does on a daily basis.

Workers in Dayton, Ohio ranked happiest, with Knoxville, Honolulu and Memphis coming in second, third and fourth, respectively. Pittsburgh ranks as fifth happiest.

The unhappiest place in America? Boulder, Colorado. Followed by Reno, Wichita, Fresno and Little Rock.

Cleveland ranks sixth unhappiest, not that we’re counting.

So, given our relative happiness, maybe it’s no surprise that our region’s workforce, at 1,265,110, is the largest it’s been in history – even compared to our industrial heyday, according to PittsburghTODAY.com.

Yes, our jobless rate is higher than we’d like it to be, but that’s in part because fewer people are leaving and more are coming; more people are joining the labor force. There’s a perception that there’s greater opportunity here than in other places, and the perception is a reality.

No wonder folks around here are happier.

Also, be sure to check out the special section on Pittsburgh in fDi magazine, a unit of the Financial Times. The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance sponsored the overview of our region’s economy. The issue will be distributed at the World Economic Forum in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland on Jan. 23-27, in keeping with this year’s forum theme of resilient dynamism.

Phil Cynar
Arte’s video web report is divided into five chapters that look at Pittsburgh’s image, heroes, economy, democracy and lifestyle. Click the image above to view them all.

Late in 2012,  a two-man creative team from Arte (Association Relative à la Télévision Européenne) – a Franco-German television network that’s akin to the U.S.’s PBS – spent a week in Pittsburgh, filming interviews and footage of Pittsburgh today, vis a vis the famous black-and-white images of the city captured during the 1950s by the great American photographer W. Eugene Smith. These images are iconic of post-war America and illustrate the evolution in Pittsburgh and its environmental and economic transformation that spans over half a century.

The footage was used to create a short TV documentary that aired in France and Germany, as well as a five-episode web report on the Pittsburgh then and now – probing how this transformation was realized and the work that remains to be done.  Promoting the project on Arte’s website, Producer Vladimir Vasak notes, “Pittsburgh is a city that has undergone total transformation: from a city of steel, industrialized and polluted, it is now green and high-tech … a miracle of which Americans are proud.”

With France and Germany being among the top global destinations for foreign direct investment into the Pittsburgh region, Arte’s program and web report provide reinforcement in those countries about the region’s 21st-century strengths and illustrate why Pittsburgh is a choice destination for business investment, as well as tourism.  As it’s been said, “everything [including investment] begins with a visit.”

For regional residents, the web report is a great reminder of how easy it is to overlook what we have.  Seeing the region through the eyes of our visitors from Arte makes it nearly impossible to not proclaim,  “J’adore Pittsburgh!”

Check out two of the episodes below (“Visit Pittsburgh” and “Pittsburgh’s Renaissance”) and view the complete web report here. It’s divided into five chapters that look at Pittsburgh’s image, heroes, economy, democracy and lifestyle.