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

TechShop Opens Newest Location in East Liberty’s Bakery Square

Billed as a Kinko’s for geeks or a 24-hour fitness center for makers, TechShop has brought its makers paradise to Pittsburgh. Founded in California in 2006, TechShop is a membership-based, do-it-yourself fabrication studio that provides more than $1 million of professional equipment and software to budding entrepreneurs looking to bring their ideas to life. Mark Hatch, TechShop’s CEO is joined by Rich Lunak, president and CEO of Innovation Works and Jeff Thompson, president of the Product Management and Development Association, to discuss TechShop’s offerings and the impact this new location will have on Pittsburgh’s entrepreneurial community.

Business Bout Champion Crowned; Start-Up Incubator Launched

What began several years ago as a backyard gathering to help connect young professionals in Pittsburgh has morphed into a full-scale business plan competition that recently awarded $25,000, its biggest prize to date, to Project Aura – a bike safety lighting company started by two CMU undergrads. The overall effort, which now includes a start-up incubator in East Liberty, is called the Thrill Mill and is the brainchild of College Prowler CEO Luke Skurman and several friends including Bobby Zappala, Thrill Mill’s CEO. Skurman and Zappala are joined by Jonathan Ota and Ethan Frier to discuss what’s next for the Thrill Mill and why Project Aura was chosen as this round’s winner.

Pittsburgh Technology Council Celebrates 30 Years of Helping to Build Region’s Tech Sector

Thirty years ago, civic, business and university leaders came together to form the Pittsburgh High Technology Council – a collaborative organization committed to building Pittsburgh’s technology driven economy. Today, technology and innovation are integral to many of Pittsburgh’s most impactful economic sectors from manufacturing to financial and business services. Audrey Russo, president and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council sits down to reflect on the organization’s history and successes over the years.

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
Revelers at last year’s Vodka/Latke bash. Photo Courtesy Ohad Cadji

An evening of dancing and schmoozing, replete with lots of latkes and vodka, await the hundreds of young – and young-at-heart – planning to attend Pittsburgh’s hottest Hanukkah party. Cleverly called Vodka / Latke, this annual “Festival of Lights” celebration hits one of downtown Pittsburgh’s leading venues – SPACE Gallery at 812 Liberty Ave. – this Saturday, Dec. 15, from 8 p.m. to midnight. It’s sponsored by Shalom Pittsburgh, a social group for young Jewish adults.

What do vodka and latkes have to do with Hanukkah?

Latkes are easy. For those unacquainted with these crispy potato delicacies, latkes (or potato pancakes) are a traditional treat enjoyed throughout the eight-day festival. Some people prefer their latkes the conventional way – grated potatoes, onions, salt, eggs, perhaps some matzo meal – fried and served with a dollop of sour cream or a side of applesauce. Others get a whole lot more creative.

Yet, however you take your latkes, one thing’s for certain: by eating them, you are paying homage to the miracle of the story of Hanukkah. As the tale goes, after a series of events in the second century B.C. that left the Jewish temple in Jerusalem defiled, one day’s worth of oil miraculously kept the temple’s menorah lit for eight days – the time needed to spiritually purify the temple. Thus, this miracle of oil is remembered today by eating fried food such as latkes and donuts (called sufganiyot).

As for vodka’s connection to the Hanukkah story, well, let’s just say its ties to the Hanukkah story are a little less agreed upon… (Perhaps it was Judah Maccabee’s spirit of choice during his competitive dreidel spinning sessions).

Either way, Shalom Pittsburgh’s Vodka / Latke 2012 is bound to be blast. Advance tickets are still available for $15 by clicking here. You can also show up at the door and pay $20. Tickets include an open bar (with plenty of vodka), a dance floor (music requests available) and more latkes and other fried Hanukkah treats than your heart (and arteries) could ever desire.

For more information, head over to Hope to see you there!

In 2011, highlighted the sustainability of some of Pittsburgh’s most cherished holiday traditions. This year we’re calling attention to a few of our favorite seasonal things, with a bit of a twist toward greater diversity or international flair. Send your suggestions to us at, or
African American Chamber Board Chair Samuel Stephenson presents a lapel pin to keynote speaker Dennis Yablonsky,

Since the collapse of the steel industry 30 years ago, the Pittsburgh region has transformed itself into a diversified economy. More recently, it is one of just three metros in the country to have fully recovered from the Great Recession that began in 2008.

But there’s still much to be done to connect all Pittsburghers to the opportunities that are here and to close the “skills gap” that could lead to labor supply shortage in the years to come.

Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development,  outlined these challenges and more at a keynote address to more than 300 members of the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania at the group’s Dec. 3 annual luncheon.

You can read more about it at the New Pittsburgh Courier, and the Pittsburgh Business Times.
World’s Fair Christmas Trees in the Hall of Architecture

The elaborately decorated Christmas trees at the Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hall of Architecture are a beloved 51-year-old tradition for the Pittsburgh region. We asked the museum’s Jonathan Gaugler to tell us more about the display and presepio, or Nativity scene. His reflections follow, as well as video from the museum’s David D’Agostino. Thanks to both of them!

“Here at Carnegie Museum of Art, the Carnegie Trees are a decades-old tradition carried out through the dedication of the museum’s Women’s Committee. The trees transform the Hall of Architecture – one of the grandest spaces in the city – into a special, festive display. Every year, the decorations and themes of the trees change, and curators set up the presepio differently (see if you can spot the bird’s nest!), but through it all, the museum’s displays remain a treasured Pittsburgh tradition.

“At the center of the display in the Hall of Architecture is the museum’s magnificent 18th-century Neapolitan presepio – a Nativity scene unlike most others. Just before Thanksgiving weekend, Associate Curator of Decorative Arts Rachel Delphia quietly begins the days-long process of installing the presepio, a scene that spills out beyond the crèche and portrays Italian village life of the 1700s, including merchants, farmers, mendicant beggars and musicians.

“Details in the presepio bear meanings that would be familiar to viewers in Italy during the 1700s but that might escape notice today. Certain styles of dress, for example, would be unmistakably Sicilian. The band of Turkish musicians playing in the streets would herald the arrival of a ship from the east. And, of course, the craftsmanship of the set is exquisite: the painted terracotta figures have sparkling glass eyes, and merchants’ wares are minutely detailed, right down to salami and hand-tied bunches of grapes. Overhead, angels in silk gowns cascade before the massive architectural cast facade of St. Giles, while other narrative elements from the Christmas story – shepherds, magi and fishermen – are interspersed among the everyday lives of the Neapolitans.

“After Thanksgiving weekend, the Hall of Architecture bustles, as Women’s Committee volunteers set to work with the Museum of Art workshop, employing winches, lifts and muscle to install seven 20-foot trees flanking the presepio. As Tara Safar, co-chair of the Carnegie Trees puts it, the committee is ‘a dedicated group of women who are passionate about the arts and raising awareness of Carnegie Museum of Art to promote its tremendous value in our community.’

“This year’s display takes the world’s fairs as inspiration, coinciding with the exhibition Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs, 1851–1939 right upstairs in the Heinz Galleries. Each tree features handmade ornaments crafted by organizations from around the city, including colorful “space-race” rocket ships made by Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh volunteers; architectural wonders, including the Eiffel Tower and Space Needle, crafted by Women’s Committee members; and historical hat styles, as presented by the Parks Conservancy. The opening reception to unveil the trees also offers a fundraising opportunity for the committee, which has contributed to significant projects for the museum over the years, most recently a $500,000 pledge toward endowing the position of the Richard Armstrong Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, now held by Dan Byers. This year’s Nov. 28 reception drew a rousing 500 attendees.

“With the Hall of Architecture fully decorated, the museum settles for the holiday crowds, especially in the week approaching New Year’s Eve. The building pulses with energy as families take in the decorations before scurrying off to enjoy the museum’s world-class art collection and the Museum of Natural History‘s huge, breathtaking display of dinosaur fossils. We hope to see you at the Carnegie Museums this season!”

Associate Curator of Decorative Arts Rachel Delphia on the presepio.

Neapolitan Presepio from Carnegie Museum of Art on Vimeo.

The Women’s Committee’s Melissa Ferrari on the Carnegie Trees

Carnegie Trees from Carnegie Museum of Art on Vimeo.

In 2011, highlighted the sustainability of some of Pittsburgh’s most cherished holiday traditions. This year we’re calling attention to a few of our favorite seasonal things, with a bit of a twist toward greater diversity or international flair. Send your suggestions to us at, or

In addition to being a recommendation for writing good fiction, the adage, “show me, don’t tell me,” could just as easily be applied to economic development, a practice that includes marketing a location, attracting business to it and enhancing its economic well being and quality of life. Being able to actually see or experience what a particular location – a city or a region – has to offer can help to bring economic development deals to fruition.

The concept of “show, don’t tell” motivated the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) to recently bring eight national site location consultants and capital market experts to Pittsburgh for a two-day familiarization tour. The tour was designed to acquaint these influential individuals – advisors to high-profile corporate clients worldwide on the best locations for business investment – with the spectrum of advantages that Pittsburgh, a “world’s best” destination*, has to offer.

The PRA brings these professionals to town to show, not just to tell them about the assets that make the region a solid investment. At the same time, their visit provides an opportunity for the 10-county Pittsburgh region’s economic development and commercial real estate community to hear about any improvements that could be made to enhance the market’s competitiveness. This year was the first time that the PRA included capital market experts in the tour. Inviting them to participate was in response to increasing interest in the region from outside investors. A prime example is last year’s acquisition of downtown’s iconic PPG Place by North Carolina-based Highwoods Properties, with a total investment of $214.1 million anticipated. Maintaining and increasing this outside interest and investment motivation is a goal.

While in town on Nov. 12 and 13, the group visited American Eagle Outfitters at SouthSide Works and Google Pittsburgh at Bakery Square – two globally recognized brands that have chosen Pittsburgh for either a headquarters or other significant business operation. Interestingly, both of these companies chose former Pittsburgh brownfield sites for their investments.

The group also participated in the developers’ showcase of NAIOP Pittsburgh (the Commercial Real Estate Development Association) at Allegheny Center on the North Side. This event, attended by professionals from the commercial real estate and economic development communities, included a panel discussion featuring the site location consultants and capital market experts. They responded to questions from Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce President Barbara McNees, who moderated the panel, as well as to questions from the floor regarding the state of the region and its attractiveness for business investment.

Watch the video clip below featuring three of the experts participating in the PRA’s familiarization tour to hear their reactions to Pittsburgh and their recommendations for taking the region to the next level.

Additionally, you can read the reflections of one of the tour participants, Dean Barber, principal at Barber Business Advisors, LLC in Plano, Texas, who’s also included in the video.  Barber’s piece, “The Journey of a Hungry Caterpillar,” was recently posted on his blog, BarberBiz. Although he says that he considers himself “a Southerner and a now a nuevo Texan,” Barber writes that he grew up in a manufacturing family and that his father was from Pittsburgh, allowing him to “feel a certain affinity for the city.” He further shares, “ … I must admit that I come upon places that I naturally like. Sometimes I cannot fully explain it, but I just do. Such is the case with Pittsburgh.”

That said, we’re casting our vote for “show, don’t tell” when it comes to selling this region. Clearly, the “eyes” have it.

*National Geographic Traveler, 20 “best of the world, must-see places.”