Bill Flanagan

From the number of global groups that have turned up on our region’s doorstep in the past couple of weeks you might think the G-20 was here last fall instead of more than three years ago. Since the Pittsburgh Summit in 2009 we’ve hosted more than 30 civic leadership delegations from across the country, most of them led by Chambers of Commerce. For the most part they’ve been interested in the transformation story they heard about through all the coverage of the summit. We haven’t been tracking the international visits, but there seem to have been at least as many, if not more.

A couple of weeks ago a delegation from Hamilton, Ontario, another steel town in transition, came to look at innovation and entrepreneurship. They spent a weekend tooling around the East End of Pittsburgh and admiring the view from Mt. Washington. Last week, Tulsa, Oklahoma sent an advance team for an upcoming leadership visit this fall. They’re interested in how a one-industry town diversifies its economy and enhances its reputation.

On Sunday I told our story to a delegation organized by the government of Abu Dhabi, hosted by the American Middle East Institute. They’re here for the better part of the week, learning about free enterprise and the “power of Pittsburgh” to transform itself through public and private partnership. Yesterday, Global Pittsburgh brought over a group from eastern and central Europe interested in regional transformation and clean energy.

I had thought the interest in our region might flag so long after the summit, but so far this year it’s been picking up steam. Roanoke, Denver and Greenville, South Carolina have all reached out about visits in the fall, which happens to coincide with the Remaking Cities Congress being organized by CMU.  2013 is, after all, the 25th anniversary of Prince Charles’ visit to our region for the first and only remaking cities conference.

The online media are back on the case, too. The “Grumpy Traveler” calls Pittsburgh the “most under-rated” city in the United States in this recent post. The Wall Street Journal included Vibrant Pittsburgh in a story on cities in the Heartland reaching out to immigrants to offset population declines. (Separately we had worked together with VisitPittsburgh, the Hispanic Chamber and the Pittsburgh Promise to organize a Latino media tour during the weekend of the Pittsburgh Marathon, which had adopted a Cinco de Mayo theme.) The New York Times also featured local restaurants and food purveyors in an article on the emerging farm-to-table scene from Toledo to Pittsburgh entitled Replanting the Rust Belt, that begins, “Pittsburgh in springtime is an edible city.”

In the tourism space you’ve got to give VisitPittsburgh a lot of credit for keeping the story alive. In a recent e-newsletter, President and CEO Craig Davis noted that the organization generated $9 million in advertising equivalency value for the region just from its public relations efforts, attracting more than 1,000,000 visits each year to its website. We’re working closely with VisitPittsburgh and dozens of other partners on communication around the series of big events on tap in early June, the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, bookended by Riverlights, the dedication of the restored fountain in Point State Park and PointMade!, the celebration of the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage.

But I think the best of the lot I’ve seen recently is “Pittsburgh: The Movie,” a video project of Mt. Lebanon native Aron Zelkowicz, who just happens to be a professional cellist. The video speaks for itself – and it’s already generated about 124,000 views on YouTube. Enjoy.

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.

Ben Kamber

Egyptian Ambassador Visits Pittsburgh

He has only been the Egyptian Ambassador to the U.S. for a short time, but Mohamed Tawfik has decided to make Pittsburgh his second U.S. city to visit (the first being New York). While Egyptian politics are still in a state of flux since the Arab Spring, Tawfik discusses the growing opportunities for American companies in Egypt. Tawfik is joined by Devesh Sharma, managing director of Aquatech –  a company that has conducted business in Egypt for many years — to discuss how he wishes to build a bridge between Egypt and Pittsburgh.

Taking the Pulse of German-Owned Businesses in Pittsburgh

Cautious optimism defines the state of German-owned business in our region according to an annual survey conducted by the German American Business Circle. The companies surveyed go well beyond the big names such as Bayer and LANXESS and represent some of the nearly 75 German-owned business that have made investments in our region. Jeffrey Deanne, CEO of Malin Berquist & Co., who helped conduct the survey, is joined by Sam Bennardo, president of Auma Actuators and Tony Pauly, VP and general manager of Ventana USA, to discuss the state of German-owned business in Pittsburgh.

Bayer Extends a Helping Hand to Super Storm Sandy Victims

One of our region’s largest chemical companies, Bayer Corporation, is also one of the region’s most generous corporations when it comes to philanthropic endeavors. This was recently on display when the Bayer U.S.A. Foundation, which oversees corporate philanthropy in North America for the German-owned company, partnered with the American Red Cross to provide aid to those affected by Super Storm Sandy. Sarah Toulouse, executive director of the Bayer U.S.A. Foundation, discusses this as well as other commitments that Bayer has made in the areas of education and workforce development.

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.

Jim Futrell
Jim Judkis/Courtesy Washington Post The 1978 photo of Fred Rogers and an  unnamed boy at Pittsburgh's Children's Institute
Jim Judkis/Courtesy Washington Post
Fred Rogers and an unnamed boy at Pittsburgh’s Children’s Institute, 1978

In honor of what would have been the 85th birthday of Fred Rogers — that quintessential Pittsburgher, educator, songwriter, author and creator and host of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood – we revisit a previously published post by Jim Futrell, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance’s vice president of market research. A sometimes-gruff repository of facts and figures about the 10-county region, Futrell slowed down and waxed philosophical about growing up in Albuquerque, New Mexico with ImaginePittsburghNow’s Phil Cynar.

Mr. Rogers was one of my favorite shows. My mom used to joke that I would never miss the two Freds: Rogers and Flintstone.

Why did I like the show so much?  I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that Fred Rogers was an adult talking to me at my level. He always came across to me as a man who respected his audience and who wanted to share cool things about the world. He also had a lot of pretty amazing things in his ‘house’ – Trolley, the stop light, Picture-Picture and the miniatures of the Neighborhood of Make-Believe. I loved the model of the neighborhood at the beginning and end of the show and could not wait until Mr. Rogers changed his jacket and shoes so we could get on with the show.

There are snippets about the Neighborhood of Make-Believe that I’ll never forget:  King Friday XIII’s marriage (he loved Queen Sara Saturday’s cupped custard), the birth of Prince Tuesday, X the Owl changing the supports on his door so they made an ‘X’ rather than a ‘Z,’ the Platypus family moving into the neighborhood, Daniel the Stripèd Tiger getting a wristwatch because ‘when you live in a clock you really should know what time it is,’ and Donkey Hodie who lived in the windmill in Someplace Else.  Of course, Lady Elaine Fairchilde, the cranky, outspoken curator of Museum-Go-Round, was certainly unforgettable.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Rogers! Thanks for being our neighbor — and helping to put Pittsburgh on everyone’s map.

Phil Cynar

Ness Technologies – a global provider of IT solutions and services and end-to-end, commercial-grade software development solutions opened its first U.S. development center in Southpointe, Washington County. The Pittsburgh Development Center (PDC) is part of Ness’ plan to build a strong onshore presence, in addition to multiple offshore and nearshore development centers in India, Eastern Europe, Singapore and Israel, where Ness is headquartered in Tel Aviv.

Up to 200 software engineers – a mix of junior- and senior-level positions – will round out employment at the new PDC when it’s fully staffed. These IT professionals will provide expertise in areas such as mobility and business analytics, as well as full spectrum software engineering services to Ness’ clients, which include notables such as Standard & Poor’s, Google, eBay and PayPal – in addition to many others.  PDC staff serves as an extension of the client team and enable fast, measurable and sustained value creation.

“Today’s business environment demands speed-to-market with the highest quality, and our clients are responding by looking for more personal and responsive service options, including domestic outsourcing services that enable seamless collaboration, more frequent face-to-face visits and more effective development teams,” said Ness President of Software Engineering Services Joe Lagioia.

Teaneck, N.J.-based Ness set its sights on the Pittsburgh region for number of reasons including a strategic location in close proximity to corporate clients and a competitive cost to do business. But one of the key reasons was the access to a highly educated talent pool that’s constantly renewed as the region’s colleges and universities produce IT grads, at this time, in excess of 1,900 annually. It’s a number that’s on the uptick. For Ness, deep relationships with universities are critical to tapping into junior level talent that can be quickly trained.

Ness officials say that the PDC will provide a unique environment for software engineers who will work across different clients and industries – all without having to change jobs. Typically, these types of opportunities are most frequently available in cities such as San Jose, Boston, New York and Austin. As Ness’ Marketing Director Gretchen Rice notes, “For many talented and smart people who don’t live in these key cities – or don’t want to – Ness  can provide a compelling combination of challenging work and job security at a place such as the Pittsburgh PDC.”

Read more here .

Bonnie Pfister

Cindy FernandezThe Latino population in the Pittsburgh region may be small, but it is growing steadily and many of its professionals are making a positive mark here.

A few of them are highlighted in a series of videos as part of the new Latino outreach initiative by Vibrant Pittsburgh, an organization working to grow the regional economy by attracting diverse people to the workforce.

The “¡Hola, Pittsburgh!” (Hello Pittsburgh!) portion of the campaign began last month, introducing the region to four Latinos who have opted to build their careers and lives here. They include:

Roberto Clemente Jr., son of the late, beloved Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder who calls our region his second home, also appears. (All of the videos can be viewed on Vibrant Pittsburgh’s YouTube channel.)

The videos have aired on local TV stations. A second part of the campaign, “¡Pittsburgh Te Invita!” (Pittsburgh Invites You!), will promote the region outward to Latinos in key markets in the northeast and bring key journalists to the city on familiarization tours. That gets underway later in 2013.

The Hispanic population in Allegheny County grew by 71 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census figures. But that still numbers just 20,000 individuals — about 1.6 percent of the county’s total population.

Economic development leaders say more skilled workers and professional talent must be attracted to the Pittsburgh region in order to keep up with a coming labor shortage. That gap will widen as Baby Boomers retire and new jobs emerge that require post-high school training – much of it from technical and community colleges.

The Latino outreach campaign also touts The Pittsburgh Promise, a scholarship program in which graduates of Pittsburgh Public Schools may earn up to $40,000 for college if they maintain at least 90 percent attendance and at least a 2.5 GPA.

You can learn more about this program at Vibrant Pittsburgh, or in this recent episode of Our Region’s Business featuring Victor Diaz, Vibrant Pittsburgh CEO Melanie Harrington and Saleem Ghubril, executive director of The Pittsburgh Promise.