Bonnie Pfister

BlogChazThink you’re busy? We dare you to try to catch up with Chaz Kellem.

When he’s not at PNC Park managing diversity initiatives and connecting the region’s kids with the magic and meaning in sports, he’s coaching the  Pittsburgh Steelwheelers, taking in a night of acoustic music, shooting pool or visiting an art gallery. “I tell everyone, ‘Don’t go home. There’s so much to do here.’ ” Learn more about Chaz here.

Phil Cynar
GAP trail enthusiast/actor David Conrad
GAP trail enthusiast/actor David Conrad

ImaginePittsburgh.com “Neighbors” – men and women who have found their place in Pittsburgh and are serving as regional ambassadors – marked the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage bike trail at the Point Made! Celebration on Sat., June 15, 2013.

Gathering at the Hot Metal Bridge over the Monongahela River on Pittsburgh’s South Side, the “Neighbors” and hundreds of other bicyclists came together with those who were finishing a five-day, Washington D.C. to Pittsburgh trek on the 335-mile, no-cars-allowed Great Allegheny Passage.

In a grand parade, hardcore and recreational cyclists pedaled into downtown Pittsburgh to Point State Park, the western terminus of the trail, a regional asset – and international tourism attraction – representing 35 years of effort and an $80 million investment of public and private funds. Actor David Conrad of TV’s Ghost Whisperer and a Pittsburgh region native who lives part-time in Braddock, Pa., joined the festivities.

Watch the video below to hear what Conrad had to say about the “magic” of the trail experience and hear from Neighbor Jimmy Liu. Meet all the Neighbors and make your own live-work-play connections in Pittsburgh at ImaginePittsburgh.com.

Bill Flanagan

Saturday I got to strap on a bike helmet and join hundreds of cyclists for the final segment of Point Made, the celebration of the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP). I know, you’re probably looking at the picture of me on the Hot Metal Bridge and thinking, “he doesn’t look like much of a cyclist.” And, you’re right, I’m hardly a lean, mean cycling machine, but that’s entirely the point.

A011

What’s been constructed in our region over the past 35 years is called by some the most accessible great trail experience in the world. No matter what condition you’re in, you can walk or ride any portion of it. And the fact that it exists at all is a testament to the spirit of innovation and collaboration that enabled our region’s economic, environmental and quality of life comeback over the past 30 years. The GAP exists thanks to the sweat equity of thousands of volunteers and the public and private sector contributors that funded an $80 million investment.

KDKA’s Ralph Iannotti did a great story on the dedication on Saturday that really sums up the recreational and economic development value of the investment. But it was more than a regional story. There is national and international interest in the project. USA Today updated an earlier story with news that the trail is now complete to downtown Pittsburgh.

I rode along on Saturday as a sponsor with ImaginePittsburgh.com, a brand-new “virtual concierge” for making live-work-play connections in the region. We felt that there’s no better way to showcase our region as a great place to live than with a ride along the trail and what it says about our commitment to quality of place. During the Pittsburgh 250th anniversary celebration five years ago, completion of the trail and restoration of Point State Park were named as two of three signature projects. Over the past 10 days, we’ve celebrated the completion of both.

Pittsburgh’s transformation caught the eye of Andrew Zimmern, during the Travel Channel host’s recent shoot here. The story’s mostly about Bizarre Foods, his ongoing series. But when asked about the cities he’s visited, Zimmern takes a real detour through Pittsburgh. “I hate to be one of those people who’s like ‘Pittsburgh is the next big thing,’ but I get around more than most people and I’m telling you, Pittsburgh is like the next big thing.”

Now online is Part I of a three-part series on Pittsburgh and its “green museum innovators” by suburban DC-based Roberta Faul-Zeitler, editor of the digital Green News Update. The introduction and first installment cover the Children’s Museum, Heinz History Center and Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens – three very distinct Pittsburgh area destinations, but each embracing sustainable operations that complement the region’s leadership in the innovation and practice of intelligent building systems. Parts II and III, coming in July and August, will cover the Natural History Museum, Carnegie Science Center, National Aviary, Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium and the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. Faul-Zeitler was in town in May 2012 as a participant in a “Green Pittsburgh” media study tour co-sponsored by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, VisitPittsburgh and Phipps.

Pittsburgh’s becoming recognized more and more as a thought leader in the sustainability space. This week Phipps Conservatory is the setting for the Summer Program Conference of the Council of Environmental Deans and Directors from colleges and universities across the country. Right on its heels is the Association for Environmental Studies and Sciences conference at Duquesne University.

Phipps itself just racked up another national accolade. It’s the recipient of a Green Good Design™ Award from The European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design. The award celebrates the world’s “most important examples of sustainable design.”

Not a bad 10 days or so for those of us who are spreading the word about today’s cleaner, greener Pittsburgh – with one of the healthiest economies in America to go along with. It really is a great time to Imagine Pittsburgh.

Bonnie Pfister

Thanks to the wonderful Imagine Pittsburgh Neighbors who joined us for the Point Made! celebration, the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage at Hot Metal Bridge near Southside Works Saturday. It was great to greet the “Point Made!” trail team that made the DC-Pittsburgh soujourn.

You can check out more photos on our Facebook page or through this link.

A short ceremony and photo op on the Hot Metal Bridge – with downtown Pittsburgh as the backdrop – was followed by all bikers pedaling to downtown’s Point State Park, where the beloved fountain resumed operation on June 7. Ringing their bells in concert, riders will make some noise for the Great Allegheny Passage and Pittsburgh as the place to “advance your career and build a life you’ll love.”

The Great Allegheny GAP trail offers 150 miles of hiking and biking between Point Park and Cumberland, Md. along on the pathways of former rail lines. In Cumberland, the GAP joins the CEO Canal Towpath to create a continuous, 350-mile trail between Washington D.C. and downtown Pittsburgh.

Phil Cynar

A grand bike parade is scheduled for Saturday, June 15 to celebrate Point Made!, the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage and Pittsburgh “Re-Made,” as showcased on ImaginePittsburgh.com.

ImaginePittsburgh.com is a new “virtual concierge” that introduces the real Pittsburgh region people and opportunities to job seekers around the world – or around the corner. As part of the Point Made! celebration, the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage, riders will begin gathering on the Hot Metal Bridge at Southside Works beginning at 10:45 a.m. to receive free ImaginePittsburgh.com T-shirts and vintage-style bike bells.  At approximately 11:30 a.m., ceremonial bell ringing will begin. (Riders who would like to join the ride a little earlier — at Sandcastle in Homestead, site of a ribbon-cutting ceremony of the long-awaited final one-mile stretch between Hays and the Waterfront – can get T-shirts and bike bells beginning at 9:30 a.m.)
June15BikeRide
A short ceremony and photo op on the Hot Metal Bridge – with downtown Pittsburgh as the backdrop – will be followed by all bikers pedaling to downtown’s Point State Park, where the beloved fountain resumed operation on June 7. Ringing their bells in concert, riders will make some noise for the Great Allegheny Passage and Pittsburgh as the place to “advance your career and build a life you’ll love.”

The Great Allegheny (GAP) trail offers 150 miles of hiking and biking between Point Park and Cumberland, Md. along on the pathways of former rail lines. In Cumberland, the GAP joins the CEO Canal Towpath to create a continuous, 350-mile trail between Washington D.C. and downtown Pittsburgh.

Check out the Post-Gazette’s story about this beloved recreational gem, and how “ambitious — or, depending on one’s view, lawless” – cyclists managed that once woe-begotten bit of unfinished trail. You can also follow the blog of the “Point Made!” trail team that is making the DC-Pgh trip in time for this Saturday’s festivities here in the Pittsburgh region.

See you Saturday! We’ll be there with bells on!

Bill Flanagan

I had a lot of fun Tuesday, the first time in my career I got to use a major league baseball park as a prop. The Pittsburgh Pirates hosted our roll out of ImaginePittsburgh.com at PNC Park.

Why?

ImaginePittsburgh.com aggregates in one powerful search engine all the open jobs posted online in the 10-county Pittsburgh region. At last count there were about 29,000, pretty close to the 30,000 or so seats at PNC Park.

jumbotron

Lately the Pirates have been doing a pretty good job of filling seats – especially with phenom Gerrit Cole making his major league debut June 11. As a region, we need to do better job of filling all the empty jobs in the region.

I know — it doesn’t make a lot of sense. With the unemployment rate still above 7 percent (although lower than the national and state averages), how can 30,000 jobs go begging around Pittsburgh?

As Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky noted during Tuesday’s news conference, there are a couple reasons. A big one is the skills gap. Too many people looking for work here don’t have the skills employers need to fill the open positions. Another one is demographics. Although our population is growing again and getting younger, it’s not happening fast enough to keep up with the new jobs being created and – even more important – the accelerating retirement of the Baby Boomers will impact the entire country. (If you missed the initial coverage, you can check out our multimedia news release here, and watch a video that we created of it here.)

The trailing edge of the Baby Boom is pushing 50, and the “Don’t Trust Anyone Over 30” generation now makes up about 18 percent of our region’s workforce. There are twice as many 50-somethings in our workforce as there are 20-somethings. All of this is the result of the economic bottoming-out of our region exactly 30 years ago, when the metro unemployment rate was more than 18 percent.

Over the past generation, the region as a whole engineered a pretty remarkable recovery. Our labor force and total employment are at or near record levels – and growing. But we remain a bit long in the tooth. We’re also lacking in diversity at a time when the fastest growing populations are non-white.

Fortunately we don’t have a crisis yet – our employers are getting by. But you don’t need much of a crystal ball to look to the end of the decade, just seven years away, to see that we have to do more to fill our talent pipeline. So, that’s the genesis of the re-engineered ImaginePittsburgh.com, a talent attraction and retention initiative with a website at its core.

If we spread the word about opportunity in the region both today and tomorrow, people already here, across the country and even around the world may consider Pittsburgh when they think about advancing their careers or just building lives they’ll love. Of course, it starts with each of us – the entire global “Pittsburgh nation.” We’ve got to spread the word that there is opportunity today and especially tomorrow. Several regional employers have stepped up to help by sponsoring the new initiative, including our founding sponsors, BNY Mellon, PNC and UPMC. (More are joining every week; contact imaginepghinfo@alleghenyconference.org for more information.)

Dozens of Pittsburghers, natives, newcomers and boomerangs have signed on as official Imagine Pittsburgh.com “Neighbors.” You’ll find their profiles on the site, and find a Facebook photo album of them to share with your social-media savvy contacts – which may include your kids, grandkids, or other loved ones in the Pittsburgh Diaspora. The idea is for folks who don’t know Pittsburgh or that haven’t been here in awhile to see our region through the eyes of people with similar interests and occupations. There’s even a survey to help match job seekers to Neighbors.

To encourage people to take the survey, we’re kicking things off with a promotional giveaway – a month of rent-free living at River Vue, a sleek, luxury high-rise right across the street from Point State Park. Big thanks go out to Millcraft Industries for donating the apartment and CORT for furnishing it. We’re thinking it might encourage somebody from outside the region to come visit and stay for awhile, but it’s just as good a prize for folks from around here. Think about it: An elegant downtown apartment for the holidays! What a great way to convince the kids and grandkids to come home to visit – and maybe think about making it permanent.

We’ve got a lot going for us. Last year Pittsburgh led the northeast in the total number of business expansions and relocations – according to Site Selection magazine. MSN Money literally called Pittsburgh a “boomtown.”

The economic game has changed here. No longer is it only about creating enough jobs to put people to work (the priority of the past 30 years). Now, it’s also about educating, training, attracting and retaining enough people to meet the growing demands on the horizon.

It’s a nice problem to have. But it means we can’t rest on our laurels. We’ve got to spread the word to talented people to “Imagine Pittsburgh.