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CEOs for Cities brings fresh insights on tough times to Pittsburgh in May

The forward-thinking national idea lab, CEOs for Cities, arrives in Pittsburgh in May to tackle the national recession in “Next Generation Cities: Finding New Sources of Strength in Tough Times.”

This marks the first visit to Pittsburgh for the organization, a collection of high-powered corporate CEOs, university presidents, foundation officials and business and civic leaders who inspire one another while creating a new agenda for urban America, one that embraces the role of cities as centers of America’s global prosperity.

“This gives us a chance to show off our highlights,” says Anne-Marie Lubenau, president and CEO of the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh. “Remarkably, there exists a misunderstanding of what Pittsburgh is in this century. We can share our transition from an industrial to a green city with LEED-certified building, the redevelopment of our riverfront and our reconnection to the natural environment.”

The 30-member Pittsburgh delegation is the largest contingent in CEOs for Cities, reflecting a commitment and devotion that leaders here feel toward inspiring change in the region.

The Pittsburgh conference will conclude with a new set of insights that city leaders may use to position their region for a new wave of opportunities that will emerge as a result of economic challenges, globalization and climate change.

Writer: Debra Smit
Source: CEO for Cities, Anne-Marie Lubenau, CDCP, Eve Picker, No Wall Productions


Earth Day events range from Mattress Factory event to Saks recycling and more

Everything is coming up green in honor of Earth Day and there’s no shortage of ways to express your sustainability this month.

The Mattress Factory will host a unique new event, "Ecolution: An Earth Day Celebration” on Saturday the 19th at the MF. With the help of Restorative Events, the eco-friendly company that is painting top venues in town green too, the event promises delicious organic cuisine and creative recycling.

Construction Junction, selected as a winner of the 2008 Western Pennsylvania Environmental Awards program, will provide signage and decorations. Tickets are paperless so order online by clicking here.

And if you haven’t heard, MF is also one of the first museums in the world to offer environmental, paperless memberships. To learn more about it, click here.

In the first retail innovation of its kind in Pittsburgh, Fifth Avenue Place will open a temporary environmental store, named reSolution, for Earth Week starting April 22nd. reSolution will accept recyclables or reusable materials like eyeglasses for use in third world countries, rechargeable batteries, ink cartridges and more. To learn more about the week-long collection program, click here.

A unique new Environmental Charter School is opening in the city at 829 Milton Street. Parents are invited to stop by and tour the Environmental Charter School, which will strive to educate children, grades K-3, and foster a knowledge, love of and respect for the environment. For more information on the school and upcoming open house, click here.

And finally, nearly 50 of Pittsburgh’s green filmmakers from 16 area high schools will walk the red carpet at the Carnegie Science Center as they compete in the fourth annual C.A.U.S.E. Challenge High School Film Festival sponsored by Bayer, Carnegie Science Center and Pittsburgh Filmmakers. The festival will showcase the short films by area teens based on the theme, “Mutual Impact: The Environment and You.” Click here for more information.

Another list? Pittsburgh lands in the Forbes Top 10 Tech Cities

A city can never be on too many A-lists.

Famous for its lists, Forbes magazine ranked Pittsburgh No. 6 on its Top 10 Tech Cities list this month. “Resuscitated after decades of economic malaise,” the article begins, “the old steel town has become an innovative force in such areas as health care, biomedical technology, nuclear energy and robotics.”

Forbes also applauded Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute and the school’s Collaborative Innovation Center “that has enticed Intel and Apple to build labs in the area.”

“It’s very gratifying. We’ve done a good job of shouting and sharing and hit some things out of the ballpark,” agrees Audrey Russo, president of the Pittsburgh Technology Council. “But are we incrementally changing or are we changing at the same slow, steady state? How can we really move the needle so we can really catapult into the next 25 years?”

“As a region, we’re becoming recognized for the fact that we’re a high tech city,” notes Pittsburgh Regional Alliance President Dewitt Peart. “From our vantage point, what’s becoming evident is the role that Pittsburgh businesses play in this global economy.”

Our competitive advantage is not products we are producing but the huge appetite for products we’ve been historically known for: life sciences, media communications, robotics, adds Peart. “Last year exports grew by 20 percent while the average across country was 8 percent. "We happen to be producing what the world needs at that moment. Academics in our region are the innovators of the future.”

And there’s more. Pennsylvania received good news last week when AeA, the nation’s largest technology trade association, released its annual Cyberstates report detailing national and state job trends. Pennsylvania’s high-tech industry added 6,400 jobs, moving up one spot to become the seventh largest cyberstate.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Forbes, Audrey Russo, Pittsburgh Technology Council, Dewitt Peart, PRA


Pittsburgh region receives $26M to develop clean fossil fuel technology

A consortium of three regional universities will receive up to $26 million in funding to develop cleaner fossil fuel technologies that may reduce greenhouse gases and the nation’s dependence on foreign oil.

Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, and West Virginia University will form a partnership, called CWP Inc., and will work through an onsite contractor, RDS Inc., at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL). NETL is the national laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Fossil Energy with facilities in South Park, Morgantown and three other states. More than 75 scientists and student researchers will work with more than 150 NETL scientists and researchers here to study cleaner methods for generating coal, oil and gas energy.

Areas of study will include carbon capture and sequestration, the conversion of coal to liquid fuels, developing improved turbine generators and new fuel cell technologies that use coal-derived synthetic fuels, says Andrew Gellman, Carnegie Mellon chemical engineering professor and director for the consortium.

“This offers an opportunity for the three universities to really enhance the research they’re doing in fossil fuels,” explains Gellman. “It creates a mechanism for the schools to collaborate with one another, bringing together different skill sets. Together we can do much more; it creates a synergetic kind of relationship.”

With fossil fuels comprising an 86 percent share of the U.S. energy supply into 2030, this research holds promise, Gellman adds. “In the next several decades, society has to rely on fossil fuel for energy. What we need is to use the fuel we have efficiently, without destroying the environment.”

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Andrew Gellman, Carnegie Mellon University, Morgan Kelly, University of Pittsburgh

Pittsburgh ranks #2 nationally in venture capital growth

Innovation Works’ Matt Harbaugh saw it coming. In fact, he predicted it.

The national figures for venture capital investment in 2007 are in and Pittsburgh is the second fastest growing region in the country, according to The Money Tree Report by PricewaterhouseCoopers and The National Venture Capital Association.

The analysis focused on the ten-year growth rates for regions across the country and ranked the fastest growing areas based on number of companies funded, excluding areas that had under $100 million in investment in 2007.

Pittsburgh ranked right behind the state of New Mexico with total investment in 2007 of $198 million compared to $32 million in 1997. Its growth rate of 513 percent beat out other cities like Seattle (211 percent), Los Angeles (155 percent) and Washington, D.C. (130 percent). (For the analysis, click here.)

“Pittsburgh is starting to show some real maturity and momentum. It’s a sign that a lot of things are happening,” notes Rich Lunak, president and CEO of Innovation Works. “The region is bringing in more research dollars and organizations like Innovation Works are putting more seed money into companies.”

Sixty-six percent of the companies receiving investments were seed and early stage companies, according to the NVCA report. The top industries in Pittsburgh receiving funding were life sciences, software and clean technology. The investments that topped the chart in 2007 were Millennium Pharmacy, Logical Therapeutics and BPL Global.

“The numbers are even more impressive when you consider that Pittsburgh isn’t as large as the other regions being recognized here,” adds Matt Harbaugh, IW chief investment officer. "We’re well on our way to achieving that critical mass of entrepreneurial companies that feed on themselves, becoming a real engine for growth in the region.”

With the fastest growing VC regions now outside of the Silicon Valley, California is coming here. For this week’s Pop City story, click here.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Rich Lunak, Matt Harbaugh, Innovation Works


Businesses invest $4 billion in the Pittsburgh region in 2007

Despite news of a looming economic stall, 2007 proved to be a “golden year” for businesses in the Pittsburgh region.

An “unscientific survey” compiled by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and the Allegheny Conference on Community Development reveals that the job market here is healthy and strong. Jobs and investments in the manufacturing, information and communications technology and life sciences sectors are growing and Pittsburgh export trade figures are higher than the national average -- 20 percent compared to the national average of 8 percent.

“This is the first year we attempted on a regional scale to collect successes across our 10-county region,” explains DeWitt Peart, executive vice president of economic development for the Allegheny Conference. “This survey, which by no means is comprehensive, helps us to understand our economy, understand our competitive advantage and tell the world our story.”

Highlights of the tally reveal the following about 2007:        

·    308 corporate investments and development projects were announced.
·    215 companies added or retained jobs.
·    13,000 new jobs were created and 11,000 jobs were retained.
·    On the investment side, companies committed to $2 billion in                      investments and another $2 billion in development, a total of $4 billion in investment overall.
·    The three largest-growing sectors out of 308 projects were manufacturing, 112, information and communications technology, 42, and life sciences, 18.

The largest investments were made by PITG Gaming, $450 million; Westinghouse Electric at $200 million; and Meadows Racetrack & Casino at $200 million.

Other companies that made major investments in the region last year included: NorAM Biofuels, $115 million; BNY Mellon, $70 million; Johnson Matthey, $43 million; Perryman Company, $40 million; and St.Clair Hospital, $37 million.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: DeWitt Peart, Allegheny Conference

NYC Publicolor plans to color Pittsburgh public schools in many hues, hiring director

There’s nothing quite like color to lift the spirit and convey a mood. That’s the idea behind an innovative New York City program that will launch its first pilot opportunity in Pittsburgh.

Publicolor has been changing lives and breathing new life into some of the toughest New York City public schools since its inception in 1996. More than 88 schools and 200,000 students have benefited from the program, which uses the power of color, collaboration and an after school paint club to engage at-risk students by teaching them to paint their schools, catalyzing a lasting change.

The Pittsburgh School District recently gave Publicolor the lime green light to bring its palette of Benjamin Moore donated colors to Peabody High School in East Liberty this April. The students will work with a team of community volunteers on the weekends to turn the school’s walls shades of Hibiscus, key lime and plum.

“What is amazing is what happens when the students are confronted with the opportunity to succeed,” says Dana Bishop-Root, who moved to Braddock from NYC where she worked with Publicolor. “It’s going to be amazing to watch what happens in the school.”

The Alcoa Foundation has given a generous grant to launch the program in two schools and Publicolor hopes to hire a director to run the program here, “someone who understands Publicolor, has roots in Pittsburgh, cares about the organization and wants to build it from the ground up. It’s an awesome opportunity,” says Bishop-Root. Publicolor plans to replicate the Pittsburgh model and take the program across the country.

“Getting the students to color the environment they work in with our help just has to be a huge win for them and the school system.” says Henry Thorne, a local entrepreneur who was instrumental in bringing the program here. “I look forward to grabbing a paint brush."

To learn more about Publicolor opportunities in Pittsburgh, email Dana Bishop-Root at dana@pubicolor.org

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Dana Bishop-Root, Publicolor, Henry Thorne

Image courtesy Publicolor

Regional Climate Change forum explores sustainable business innovations

Three Pittsburgh organizations have joined forces to convene a one-day regional conversation about climate change and possibilities for businesses.

Climate Change Uncertainties: Opportunities for Business Innovation? brings together local business, engineering and professional organizations to ponder innovative approaches to meeting the challenges of sustainability.

The event is the first in a series of solutions that are being presented to the region as part of Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Champions for Sustainability (C4S), a network for that will convene six times a year and aspires to be the nation’s largest and most effective region-based collaboration of leaders accelerating the practice and policy of sustainability in business and civic circles.

C4S brings together a new network of companies, large and small, from many different industries and includes entrepreneurs, community leaders, university researchers, educators, and other social ventures.

“With so much interest, confusion and uncertainty in this area, we hope to begin a dialogue,” says Matt Mehalik, program manager for Sustainable Pittsburgh. “There needs to be some kind of response that advances the innovation and interest in this for our region.”

The event will be held on Thursday, March 27th at the Four Points by Sheraton Pittsburgh North in Mars, PA. The cost is $100 per person and there is a special student rate of $35.

The seminar is sponsored by local chapters of the American Society of Civil Engineers’ (ASCE), and the Environmental and Water Resources Institute (EWRI) in association with the Allegheny Mountain section of the Air & Waste Management Association (AWMA) and Sustainable Pittsburgh’s Champions for Sustainability (C4S).

For more information on the event and Champions for Sustainability, click here.

Pittsburgh region schools outrank the rest of state in math and reading

Pittsburgh region schools are doing a better job of meeting proficiency goals in math and reading than the rest of the state according to a new report.

The report, Proficiency by 10: Annual Report on Fifth-Grade Proficiency in Reading and Mathematics in Southwestern Pennsylvania, assesses each school in the 10-county Pittsburgh region based on the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) scores of fifth graders taken in 2007. The report was released by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and the Pennsylvania Economy League of Southwestern Pennsylvania.

PSSAs are used by the state to gauge if students, schools and school districts are meeting or exceeding proficiency levels in both reading and math.

Among the findings:
  • Fifth-graders in southwestern Pennsylvania are consistently outperforming their statewide peers. They scored four percentage points higher than the state as a whole in both math and reading.
  • Some demographic subgroups—such as students with disabilities, low-income students, and African-American students—still face achievement gaps.
  • Test scores in mathematics have consistently improved since 2002, but reading scores have remained relatively flat over the same period.
Math scores have consistently been higher than reading for the past few years, perhaps because teaching reading is more complicated for districts than math, offers Paul Leger, senior vice president, workforce quality programs for the Allegheny Conference. “It’s good news for our region and in keeping the Allegheny Conference objective of having every 5th grader proficient by 2010.”

“Imagine the possibilities that will exist when we prepare today's students to succeed in tomorrow's workforce and ensure the vitality of our Pittsburgh region," adds Michael Langley, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Paul Leger, Michael Langley, Allegheny Conference

The Hispanic Center publishes Pittsburgh’s first Spanish Services Directory

The Hispanic population in Pittsburgh is growing steadily and has its first Spanish directory to prove it.

The Hispanic Center/El Centro Hispano launched its 302-page Directorio de Servicios Para la Comunidad Latina (Spanish Service Directory for the Latino Community) and it’s now available to Pittsburgh residents and businesses.

The directory was written as a guide for new Spanish-speaking residents, human resource managers and anyone wishing to learn more about the Spanish-speaking community in the region.

“The directory is very comprehensive. It’s one way of helping our community to connect,” says Pedro Paulo Bretz, executive director of The Hispanic Center. “We’ve also distributed it to human resource managers so they can provide it to their employees to help them find services in our region that are available in Spanish.”

While Pittsburgh’s population has steadily declined during the past 10 years, the Hispanic population has grown. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Hispanics living in our nine county region rose from 15,734 in 2000 to 23,947 in 2006, a 34 percent increase.

The directory provides 20 chapters with listings that include information on financial, legal, health, education, social, and restaurant businesses. “It’s a go-to guide for all new residents and international students and businesses, as well as for human resource managers seeking a more diverse, Spanish-speaking workforce,” says Bretz.

The Hispanic Center in Pittsburgh serves the Pittsburgh Hispanic community through services offering career development, job training, and job referral. LAst year the center helped 200 Spanish-speaking and bilingual people to find employment, which in turn helped to give back to the local economy, Bretz says.

For more information on the directory or to view a copy online, click here.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Pedro Paulo Bretz

Image courtesy of The Hispanic Center

Pittsburgh tech sector reports flourishing activity and jobs, hiring

A gathering of CEOs and local and state leaders assembled in the Innovation Works lobby on Technology Drive this month to celebrate the strength of its portfolio and announce new companies and hiring.

IW invested in its 100th company last year and attracted more than $100M in follow-on investment from private and other sources in 2007. Since its inception in late 1999, IW has invested more than $35M and its portfolio companies have gone on to raise $425M in follow-on financing.

“Pittsburgh was once a flyover for executives from other cities,” noted Rich Lunak, president and CEO of IW. “No more. Fifty-five out-of-town VC firms have invested in local companies in the last three years.” The phone is ringing as well as executives from cities like Cincinnati, Cleveland and St. Louis call to learn more about IW’s successful model for tech-based economic development.

While jobs and the economy may be lagging locally and elsewhere, the region's venture capital sector is the fastest growing in the state. “Jobs are created by entrepreneurs who take risks, work late at night and get up every day and make it happen,” said Dennis Yablonsky, secretary of the Pa. Dept. of Community and Economic Development.

Yablonsky also announced that the state has helped to lure an IT company to Pittsburgh and another will expand operations here, creating 152 jobs thanks to state grants and loans of $907,200.

Technology consultant TechAssist of Washington, D.C., plans to move its national operations center to 11,000 sf at the National City Bank Building, Downtown. The move will create 96 positions in engineering, sales and marketing and administration.

Credit/debit card manager CardWorks considered moving to New Jersey but instead was coaxed by the state to stay and expand 57,500 sf in Station Square's Commerce Court. CardWorks will hire an additional 56 people in the next three years.

Another IW company and Pop City 2008 Tech Company to Watch, Knopp Neurosciences, received $10 M in a series B funding round from out-of-town investors Saturn Management of Boston. The money will help with clinical trials as the firm grows its staff from 14 to 18.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Dennis Yablonsky, DCED, Rich Lunak and Terri Glueck, Innovation Works

Thar Technologies receives unprecedented $1.9 M to develop a greener biodiesal

Harmarville-based Thar Technologies received a significant $1.9 M federal grant for the development of a greener biodiesal production process that, if successful, could set a new standard for biodiesal production across the country.

A world leader in the development of supercritical fluid chromatography (SFC) systems used for pharmaceuticals, chemicals, food and electronics, Thar will use its SFC technology to develop a more environmentally-sound, less costly biodiesal that avoids the use of toxic hexane.

The EPA classifies hexane, which is used to extract oil from oilseeds, as a hazardous air pollutant. “Cost-effective biodiesal for mass production is finally on the horizon,” says Lalit Chordia, Thar CEO. “This process will set multiple standards for zero to little pollution in the environment.”

Chordia also says that because the process will use less energy than the current biodiesal production processes and have a greater yield, Thar’s biodiesal will ultimately stand on its own without the need for a government subsidy. “That says a lot,” quips Choridia.

“This is a really significant investment in our region. The federal government rarely ever gives a grant out this large,” notes Nathaniel Doyno, executive director for Steel City Biofuels. “This technology presents significant opportunities to overcome some pretty big barriers to biodiesal development.”

The Advanced Technology Program of the National Institute of Science and Technology is funding the research. If all goes as planned, Thar will construct a biodiesal plant to pilot the new development process prior to bringing the process to full commercialization.

This is good news for the state, which has lagged behind other states in providing more incentives for biodiesal production.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Lalit Chorida, Thar Technologies; Nathaniel Doyno, Steel City Biofuels


Recession or growth stall? Either way Pittsburgh is inching up

While the country may be heading into a “severe growth stall” or a recession, Southwestern Pennsylvania may avoid the downturn completely and see small but positive growth in the coming year.

PNC Financial Services Group chief economist Stuart Hoffman and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. chief economist Richard Hoey both stopped short of calling for a full blown national recession but warned that the signs of a serious downturn are there. Their comments came during an Economic Forecast Luncheon at the Omni William Penn downtown Tuesday.

"There's a 40 percent chance that we'll have a recession, but if we have two or three months of job losses, we're in a recession," says Hoffman . The slump, however, may be short lived and the second half of the year may see more robust activity than the first. Southwestern Pennsylvania will stay the course of slow growth although that growth may continue at a somewhat slower pace in certain sectors.

Global and national economic indicators suggest that falling housing prices and credit concerns will take its toll nationally, while Asia and China will continue to grow but at a slower pace, reports Hoey, who offered a general outlook on the global picture.

“By 2009 the U.S. will be back recovering and Europe will be weaker,” Hoey adds. "We're in the 8th inning because of weakness in our economy and other economies (like Europe) will be weaker later."

In Southwestern Pennsylvania, where housing prices never ballooned to outrageous levels and job growth remains well below the national average, the outlook is brighter comparatively, Hoffman says. Unemployment last year fell slightly to 4.4 percent from 4.9 percent and employment should hold steady in the region at 1.14 million.

Pittsburgh should benefit in residential construction, healthcare services, technology and financial services, Hoffman says. Commercial property markets should grow due to several downtown condominium projects and office demand will ease through 2008 allowing the office vacancy rate to creep back and take the pressure off rent growth.

For PNC's economic forecast for the region, click here.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Richard Hoey, The BNY Mellon Corp.; Stuart Hoffman, PNC Financial Services

First virtual law firm in the state opens for business on the web

Two Pittsburgh attorneys have opened the first virtual law firm in Pennsylvania, having developed a unique business model that makes it quite unlike any other virtual model in the country.

Delta Law Group was developed by Karl Schieneman and Brian Walters, a Monroeville-based firm that focuses on consumers, innovative project management, web-based legal technology and the use of contract attorneys.

It’s an idea Schieneman has worked with and expanded on since his days as co-founder of one of his faward-winning ormer companies, Legal Network, an attorney-owned legal staffing agency. The biggest benefit of virtual law is that clients can keep close watch on their cases, he explains. “You can go online and use a password to see the work that’s going on, the filings, the strategy, the documents.”

Delta Law Group draws on a network of 20 solo practitioners who specialize in different areas of the law. A client who is looking for help with estate planning, family law or bankruptcy can connect with an attorney who prefers to work in that area. “And we’re extremely efficient and paperless. Everything is done through technology so we’ve been able to substantially reduce the client’s bill,” says Schieneman.

Delta Law uses video streaming for client interviews and online case management tools, a system that helps attorneys who are in court to manage their case load and stay connected with clients.

“There’s no phone tag and clients love it,” says Schieneman.    

Delta Law opened its virtual doors in the fall with five employees who handle the administrative details of the daily operation. And while “virtual” may imply no office space, Delta Law has four locations in Wexford, Greentree, Monroeville and downtown Pittsburgh.

To hear Scheineman's Talkshoe progrm "Making Law Easy," click here.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Karl Schieneman, Delta Law Group

Pittsburgh company supports a tiny Himalayan country through a unique CD-ROM stamp

The Kingdom of Bhutan, nestled in the heart of the Himalayas between Tibet and India, is a bucolic, peaceful nation that has abided under the modern radar for centuries.

A predominantly Buddhist country whose national creed is “Gross National Happiness,” Bhutan is preparing for a major political transition this year as its leader, King Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuck, abdicates the throne in favor of his democratically elected son, a 27-year-old Oxford graduate.

What makes this all the more compelling is that a Pittsburgh-based company, Creative Products International, is helping to support this tiny country’s economy through the innovative development of a mini CD-ROM stamp to be released this spring, sure to be another sought after collector’s item for philatelists worldwide.

Bhutan has had a long, colorful history of exotic, prized stamps, explains Frances Todd Stewart, president of CPI. It was her late father, who formed a close friendship with the Bhutan queen-to-be while he attended Oxford University, who suggested stamps as an economic development project for the country.

The late Todd helped the country create several beautiful stamps, including a vinyl talking and 3-D stamp. Todd Stewart is following in his footsteps with a CD-ROM stamp that attaches to an envelope and includes pictures, music and the history of the country, developed and designed by CPI, new product developers and an international custom manufacturer.

The stamp has already attracted national attention, having been featured on "Where in the World is Matt Lauer?" on the NBC Today Show earlier this year.

“I feel very honored to be part of an experience to carry on my father’s legacy,” says Todd Stewart. “It’s wonderful to think that through this documentary there is a connection between the past and what is happening now as Bhutan moves into a democracy.”

To view the CD-ROM stamp, click here.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Frances Todd Stewart, Creative Products International

Image courtesy Creative Products International

167 East Liberty Articles | Page: | Show All
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