Ben Kamber

June is the month for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) to celebrate nationwide in cities large and small. The recent Pittsburgh Pride 2012 festivities brought together more than 81,000 people for 10 days of celebrating the diversity that makes our region an inviting place for a weekend or a lifetime.

To recognize the importance of LGBT people to the region’s economy and quality of life, ImaginePittsburghNow.com is spotlighting some members of the community who are proud to talk about why Pittsburgh is their destination of choice for living and working. This is part two of a three-part series. The other profiles may be found here.

Loni McCartney is a supervisor and program specialist at Pittsburgh Mercy Health System. She grew up in Ambridge, 20 miles northwest of Pittsburgh and graduated from Ambridge Area High School. She earned an associate’s degree from ITT Technical Institute and is currently pursuing a B.A. in Organizational Leadership from Point Park University.

Loni McCartney (R) with her partner Diane Richie

IPN: What brought you to Pittsburgh?

MCCARTNEY: I remember being a child and wishing I lived in Pittsburgh.  I promised myself that when I was old enough, I would move to the city. It took a bit longer than anticipated, but I have been a city resident for six years now. I love the hustle and bustle of city life and the fact that there is always something to do.

IPN: What does your job at Pittsburgh Mercy entail day to day?

MCCARTNEY: I am a supervisor of two group homes and run the day-to-day operations of the sites, in addition to overseeing 12 staff members. My job is to make sure that our clients are getting the best possible care and that my staff is recognized for its work. Another part of my job is to prevent burnout among the employees.

IPN: What do you do for fun?

MCCARTNEY: My favorite thing to do in the city is to choose a neighborhood and  explore it: walk or bike around when the weather is good, and in the winter, drive around. From an undiscovered piece of architecture to an event that we didn’t know was happening, my partner Diane and I love exploring neighborhoods and discovering new things in them.  Many neighborhood-based activities are also free, such as concerts, downtown gallery crawls, Saturday shopping  in the Strip and kayaking in West Park on the North Side. I also enjoy being on the board of the Bach Choir of Pittsburgh.

IPN: How welcome – or less than welcome, if that’s the case – do you feel as an LGBT person in Pittsburgh – both as a professional and as a resident of the Pittsburgh region?

MCCARTNEY: In my professional career I feel completely welcome, and for the most part, I feel extremely welcome as a resident. I am on the Mayor’s LGBT Advisory Council and worked with him on his recent signing of the Freedom to Marry petition. I also worked with City Council to pass the Domestic Partnership Registry in 2008.

While Pittsburgh is taking steps in the right direction, there is still room for improvement.  Here, as everywhere, there are people who are close-minded and who are not comfortable embracing differences.

But because of organizations like The Delta Foundation and Persad which are keeping LGBT issues in the forefront, I feel much better about being a part of the LGBT community than I did even 10 years ago. I am very out and proud, and there is no hiding the person who I am.

IPN: What do you consider to be advantages of being LGBT in Pittsburgh?

MCCARTNEY: Pittsburgh is a small city that’s making big things happen in the LGBT community. Within five years Pittsburgh Pride went from 10,000 visitors to almost 80,000 this year. Seeing other small and medium-sized cities emulating Pittsburgh’s embrace of LGBT individuals is an amazing thing.

Who would have thought that 25 years ago Pittsburgh would have a thriving LGBT community?  We had Melissa Etheridge in town for Pride this June.  There was no bigger headliner for a Pride celebration anywhere else in the country. I can’t wait to see what we are able to achieve next – given the strong advocates we have in this region.  It’s inspiring to me.

IPN: What advice would you give to employers; civic leaders and fellow Pittsburghers about how to make our region and our workplaces more inclusive?

MCCARTNEY: Educate, educate, educate – yourself as well as the people who work for (and with) you. Diversity of all varieties is extremely important and leads to success in any organization. Cultural awareness classes should be offered to all employees, not only on LGBT awareness, but on all aspects of diversity.

And be vocal.  If you are an ally, be a strong ally. Saying you are supportive of the LGBT community is great. However we need more people who are not part of the LGBT community – our straight allies – to stand strong beside us and support our rights to live and pursue our dreams just like everyone else.

Ben Kamber
Billie Jean King and Elton John created the TeamTennis Smash Hits charity event in 1993 to help raise AIDS/HIV awareness

Tennis’s biggest stars including Andy Roddick, Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf are arriving in Pittsburgh this October 16 for the 20th anniversary of the Mylan World TeamTennis Smash Hits – a charity event hosted by longtime friends Elton John and tennis great Billie Jean King.  This is Pittsburgh’s first time as the host city for the event, which will raise money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation and the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force.

Over its 20 year-history, the Smash Hits charity tennis tournament has raised more than $10.5 million in support of AIDS education and research. The world’s third-largest generic and specialty pharmaceutical company and a global provider of antiretroviral AIDS/HIV medications, Canonsburg-based Mylan is partnering to bring the annual charity tournament to Pittsburgh. Elton John and Billie Jean King, who together created the tournament to help fund AIDS research and reduce the stigma associated with the disease, will serve as captains of the teams composed of the superstar players.

This is just the latest announcement in a banner year of national and international conferences and sporting events that have chosen Pittsburgh. Already the city has hosted the Intel International Science and Engineering  Fair, the National Society of Black Engineers conference, the NHL Draft, and several rounds of the NCAA Division One Championships, just to name a few. Coming up later this summer is the National Association of Counties Conference and Expo (NACo) as well as the global One Young World Summit in October.

Tickets for the October 16 Mylan World TeamTennis Smash Hits, which is taking place at the Peterson Events Center, will go on sale at 10:00 a.m., Monday, July 16. More information can be found at WTTSmashHits.com.

Ben Kamber

Bakery Square 2.0: New East End Residential / Retail / Office Development
Home of Google Pittsburgh and the UPMC Technology Development Center, Bakery Square in Pittsburgh’s East End is already outgrowing its existing space. Because of increased demand from the high-tech, educational and medical communities, the project’s developer, Walnut Capital, has announced Bakery Square 2.0 — an expansion of the existing site which will offer additional retail, residential and office options. CEO Gregg Perelman and President Todd Reidbord of Walnut Capital discuss the new project which will occupy the site of the former Reizenstein School.

The Beauty Shoppe: Fostering Innovation and Entrepreneurship in East Liberty
Need office space to get your next great idea off the ground, but don’t have the resources to sign a lease? For the cost of three cups of coffee per day, The Beauty Shoppe in revitalized East Liberty is the answer to your entrepreneurial needs. This unique co-working space in a former beauty shoppe provides budding innovators with a no-risk, low-cost option for securing office space and is just one part of the broader East Liberty success story. Nate Cunningham, director of real estate at East Liberty Development, Inc. and Matthew Ciccone, founder of Edile, the developer behind the Beauty Shoppe and several other projects in East Liberty, discuss how innovation, entrepreneurship and public-private partnership are fueling East Liberty’s renaissance.

Carnegie Mellon Brings MEMS Conference to Pittsburgh
MEMS, short for microelectromechanical systems, are very small electronic systems that power many of the devices we use every day. Recently, Carnegie Mellon University hosted several leading technology officers from international MEMS companies to learn more about the word-renowned MEMS research being conducted in Pittsburgh. Karen Lightman, managing director of the MEMS Industry Group and Maarten de Boer, a mechanical engineering professor at CMU, recap the conference and discuss our region’s global MEMS leadership.

“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.

Dow Jones Newswires reporter Isabel Ordonez visited southwestern Pennsylvania this spring to learn more about how companies tapping into the Marcellus Shale are building their workforces. Click here to read her article on the online site of The Wall Street Journal. You can also find her text below, copyright The Wall Street Journal/Dow Jones Newswires.

Marcellus Shale Job Program Turns Unskilled Into Shale Workers

By Isabel Ordonez, Dow Jones Newswires

The Wall Street Journal / May 25, 2012

  • Workforce-development program, ShaleNET, is funded by a $4.6 million federal grant
  • Residents in Pennsylvania, neighboring states are trained to compete for Marcellus Shale jobs
  • Average annual income for a worker handling pipelines, maintaining a rig could be $100,000

PITTSBURGH (Dow Jones)–Professor Byron Kohut helps hundreds of low-income adults land coveted jobs in the booming shale-gas industry in Pennsylvania. But only the tough need apply, he said.

“If they are not physically capable of working outside, in bad weather, dangerous conditions, I scare them out of drilling,” said Kohut, who coordinates a natural-gas job-training course at Westmoreland County Community College, about 40 miles southwest of Pittsburgh. “It’s not easy work,” Kohut said, adding that people with backgrounds in agriculture, construction and mechanics have a better shot at getting in.

The community college’s course, part of a workforce-development program funded by a $4.6 million federal grant, prepares residents in Pennsylvania and neighboring states to compete for the torrent of jobs being generated by natural-gas companies tapping the prolific Marcellus Shale. The multi-state program, called ShaleNET, is trying to fix a mismatch between the rising number of jobs emerging with the shale-gas business in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York, and the many unemployed, or low-paid, workers who can’t be hired by the shale industry due to their lack of basic skills.

Labor demand in the Marcellus Shale, a deeply buried layer of tight rock containing vast amounts of natural gas, has continued to grow despite recent rock-bottom prices for the commodity, in part because the area’s highly productive wells, and their proximity to huge markets in the Northeast, allow drilling there to remain profitable.

Almost half of the 400 people needed to drill a single well do jobs that don’t require four-year college degrees, including general labor, heavy-equipment operators, and truck drivers. In about four weeks of training, the ShaleNET program turns young farmers, construction workers, veterans and carpenters, among others, into certified gas-field workers who know the basics about drilling and controlling a well.

The program’s standards are high because, otherwise, students wouldn’t be able to compete with more-experienced workers coming from Texas and Louisiana who have a long relationship with the energy industry, said Laura Fisher, senior vice president at Allegheny Conference on Community Development, a non-profit organization that created ShaleNET. The non-profit entity has a long list of applicants, but there are only a few dozen spots available.

While the shale-gas industry has already helped the Pittsburgh region’s March unemployment rate of 7.1% to best the nationwide rate of 8.4%, many of the higher-paid occupations–such as tool pushers or pump operators–were going to the newcomers from out of state, Fisher said. Many companies preferred the out-of-state workers because they already knew the basics about safety and were accustomed to working the 12-hour-per-day shifts that are common in the drilling industry, Fisher said.

The ShaleNET program, which has graduated 250 students, along with new industry-community partnerships, is helping to increase the rate of local hires. About 180 students have been hired by 56 companies. The program has also helped about 1,000 people to find jobs in the shale industry through its website or through various partnership it has with federal job-placement agencies, Kohut said. In addition, 13 community colleges, one university and six vocational high schools in the region are starting the same training program.

Labor demand in the Marcellus Shale area is expected to continue to surge in coming years, said Sue Mukherjee, director of the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry’s Center for Workforce Information and Analysis.

For instance, jobs for drill operators are expected to grow 84.9% to 2,674 this year from 1,446 in 2010. This compares to 2.6% estimated growth for all type of jobs state-wide in the same period, Mukherjee said.

Mark Madonna, a 24-year-old who until last year worked in construction, was hired in February by Falcon Drilling, a service provider based in Indiana, Pa. He is now a rig ground worker.

Madonna, a single father who didn’t attend college, said the training provided by Westmoreland County Community College was “extremely vital” in his getting his new job.

He tried for nine months to apply directly to companies he knew were hiring, but nobody took him seriously until he was admitted to the course. Madonna, like most of his classmates, received a job offer from Falcon Drilling the day after he graduated. “I love physical labor, I love machinery and I love to be working outdoors,” Madonna said. “I’m not afraid to work.”

His new job pays $12.56 per hour, about the same as he was making when he was building counter tops and cabinets. But the big difference, he said, is that his take-home pay will jump, thanks to overtime, and, in a few months, can almost triple if he gets promoted.

Kohut, who has a doctorate in education, said many of his former students are making significantly more money than he does. The average annual income of a roughneck–a member of the oil rig in charge of handling pipelines and maintaining the rig–is $100,000. That includes overtime, daily stipends and room and board.

“It’s a dangerous job, but it pays well,” Kohut said.

-By Isabel Ordonez, Dow Jones Newswires; 713-314-6090; isabel.ordonez@dowjones.com

ShaleNET is a training and placement program that helps to connect workers from Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and New York with jobs in natural gas exploration and production. Among the program’s founders is the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which runs the ImaginePittsburghNow.com blog.

 

Phil Cynar

June is the month for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) to celebrate nationwide in cities large and small. The recent Pittsburgh Pride 2012 festivities brought together more than 81,000 people for 10 days of celebrating the diversity that makes our region an inviting place for a weekend or a lifetime.

To recognize the importance of LGBT people to the region’s economy and quality of life, ImaginePittsburghNow.com is spotlighting some members of the community who are proud to talk about why Pittsburgh is their destination of choice for living and working. This is part one of a three-part series. To read the other profiles, click here.

Joshua Stewart is vice president, diversity and inclusion manager at The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. He grew up in White Oak, graduating from McKeesport Area School District in 2000. He earned a bachelor’s degree in communications from the University of Pittsburgh, and is pursuing a Diversity Management Certification from Cornell University.

Josh Stewart

IPN:  What kept you in Pittsburgh?

STEWART:  Almost 11 years ago I met Chuck, the love of my life and now “husband.” We both were born and raised in southwestern Pennsylvania and have strong family ties in the region. Together we have built our life here, including our careers, our home in Baldwin and our five-year-old Collie-Shepherd, Murphy. Soon we hope to adopt a child via the Children’s Home of Pittsburgh.

Although we both love to travel, the history, the people, the community and our family reminds us that Pittsburgh is our true home and where we want to grow our family.

IPN:  What does your job entail day to day?

STEWART:  My primary role is to lead diversity and inclusion training and education initiatives for the organization and to provide oversight for the company’s 13 diversity and inclusion councils. I collaborate with business leaders across the company to strengthen their awareness around these initiatives, educate and coach employees on core concepts and best practices, and connect all employees with the strategy. Together with PNC’s chief diversity officer, the team develops, communicates and supports the diversity and inclusion strategy – the delivery of which allows us to create an atmosphere where we can celebrate and leverage both our collective strengths and our individual uniqueness.

I also hold the position of president of “PNC Proud-Pittsburgh,” the company’s Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Allies (LGBTA) Employee Business Resource Group. PNC Proud-Pittsburgh is a group of 150 employees who focus on LGBTA initiatives for the southwestern Pennsylvania market.

IPN:  What do you do for fun?

STEWART:  My partner and I enjoy attending theater, going to arts festivals and checking out other cultural events around the city. We especially love trying new restaurants in the area. While I definitely have my favorites (shout-out: Pointe Brugge, Cure, La Tavola, Smiling Banana Leaf, Square Café and MANY more…), I’m always on the lookout for a new spot!

Although I’m partial to vacationing in big cities, (New York, San Fran, D.C.), one of my favorite day trips is to head to Ohiopyle, to relax and explore the river and trails. Chuck grew up nearby and took me there early in our relationship. What an amazing place right in our backyard! I also bike along the many trails around the city, and hope to bike the rail trail to  D.C. in the near future.

IPN:  How welcome – or less than welcome, if that’s the case – do you feel as an LGBT person in Pittsburgh, both as a professional and as resident?

STEWART:  I have found Pittsburgh to be a place that fosters a welcoming environment for the LGBT community.

I have been “out” in the workplace at PNC since my very first day a little over nine years ago. Prior to joining the diversity and inclusion team I worked in various roles within PNC’s Consumer Lending business, starting originally in the call center. This career path may seem surprising, but along the way I have been surrounded by welcoming, encouraging and engaging managers and colleagues who recognized the value of diversity and inclusion in the workplace. My colleagues both supported my bringing my entire self to work, including being an “out” member of the LGBT community and also supported my sincere interests in advocating for diversity and inclusion at PNC. In this environment I was given opportunities to connect professional aspirations with personal passions through programs like the LGBTA Employee Business Resource Group, which eventually led to my current role on the diversity and inclusion team.

It is important to acknowledge that not every workplace interaction I’ve had has been as welcoming and inclusive as it could be. But there is always an opportunity to learn and share. I remind myself to always “meet people where they are.” Only when we do this respectfully can we begin to change hearts and minds.

On a personal level, coming out to my family was a very difficult experience. Although it was a long journey, my family is now fully accepting of me and my partner, and I think we’re a stronger family as a result.

As a gay resident, I have always found Pittsburgh to be a welcoming city in general. It may not have the same status as cities with larger LGBT populations, but the strong sense of community creates a welcoming environment. Pittsburgh has the community resources (Persad, Pittsburgh AIDS task Force and others) and opportunities of a larger city – including a first-rate annual Pride celebration — but retains the family-oriented, tight-knit community feeling of a small town or city. I believe the LGBT community in Pittsburgh is just at the beginning of an exciting journey.

IPN:  What advice would you give to employers, civic leaders and fellow Pittsburghers about how make our region and our workplaces more inclusive?

STEWART:  This question is one that I’m asked and ask nearly every day as a diversity and inclusion professional. While there is no single answer, here are two thoughts:

Inclusion is a dialogue. To be more inclusive with our neighbors, employees, coworkers and constituents, we must ask questions and be willing to share individual experiences. Inclusion depends on open and respectful communication. In turn, help those in your life, professionally and personally, understand how you wish to be included

Uncover and share your own diversity. Diversity is the presence of differences that make each one of us unique; everyone is diverse. Uncovering, understanding and sharing the many facets our own diversity – LGBT and otherwise – will help you to connect with others who are similar, appreciate those who are different and begin more inclusive dialogues with your co-workers, constituents and neighbors in the Pittsburgh region.

In 2002, Pittsburgh-based PNC Financial Services Group became the first major U.S. bank to pledge that it would apply green building standards to all of its newly constructed or renovated offices. The company already had an impressive record, opening the nation’s largest corporate green building its 650,000-square-foot Firstside Center in 2000.

Today, Pittsburgh’s Three PNC Plaza is one of the largest environmentally friendly mixed-use buildings in the United States, and construction is about to begin on the Tower at PNC Plaza, the world’s largest green skyrise. PNC has more newly constructed Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified buildings than any other company in the world. As PNC Vice President and Energy Manager Nana Wilberforce (known by those within PNC as the company’s “Energy Czar”) recently told the Energy to the Power of Pittsburgh (E2P) public awareness campaign, the company has turned doing what’s good for the environment into doing what’s also good for the bottom line.

PNC "Energy Czar" Nana Wilberforce

E2P: What’s an Energy Czar? And why does a financial services company like PNC —  which isn’t consuming energy the way a heavy industrial manufacturers might — need one?

NW: My job at PNC is to make sure we use energy in the most efficient way, and my duties break down to three parts. The first is to make sure that the rates we pay for the utilities we use – water, gas and electric – are as competitive as possible. Second is making sure that the resources we consume are used as efficiently as possible. The third part is making sure that whatever resources we use have the least-possible impact on the environment.

When you look at any company’s expenses – whether it’s a financial services company or a major manufacturer – you find that one of the highest expenses next to payroll is real estate and facilities management. Under that umbrella energy is among the highest expenditures. Now, energy costs tend to increase by almost five percent to seven percent annually. If you look at a period of 15 or 20 years at a company that isn’t aggressively working to control its energy costs, you’re looking at higher and higher energy costs every year. It’s unsustainable for any business. My role at PNC is to help make sure we’re keeping our energy costs down, and we do that in part by making sure that our properties are as energy efficient as they can be.

E2P: It’s interesting that a Pittsburgh-based company has become such a leader in green building and energy conservation given the region’s history, and while becoming one of the largest banks in the country.

NW: It is interesting, and it’s fitting. Look at the transformation of the region — from its industrial roots through dramatically reducing pollution and reclaiming old brownfields to where it stands today.  You can observe a real shift from the days when Pittsburgh was known as a part of the Rust Belt to now, when we’re defining what could one day be known as America’s Green Belt. Considering the footprint of PNC in this region, it makes perfect sense that we’re doing all we can to contribute to the greening of this community even as we expand.

E2P: PNC seems to have found a formula that works not only for the environment and for the shareholders. How important has the business case been to PNC’s commitment to the green effort?

NW: We made our commitment to green building and to having as little environmental impact as possible because it was the right thing to do. We looked at our energy consumption and thought about the fact that our natural resources are not limitless, and we made a decision to begin investing with more discipline in materials, processes and construction or renovation that would use less natural resources and have less effect on the environment. As we’ve monitored the results we’ve found that energy consumption of a typical green building is about 20 percent less than a non-green building. Interestingly, we also noticed that the number of financial deposits we’ve seen at green branches are higher than at non-green branches. As you dig into that fact, you find studies, conducted primarily in Canada, that indicate that the attitudes of employees and customers in green buildings are more positive, meaning higher employee morale and higher customer satisfaction. This is a terrific example of doing what’s right is good not only for the environment but also for business.

E2P: Still, there are those who assume that green building isn’t cost-effective. How do you answer those folks?

NW: Maybe 15 years or even 10 years ago the attitude was that the whole green movement was a non-starter for business and that it was crazy to invest in green building materials and technologies. That was kind of the default attitude even among people who had never been involved in a green building project or energy efficiency initiative. But there were some companies – PNC included – that took a chance because it was the right thing to do, and we’ve found that virtually all of our green building projects have come in at or under budget. What’s more, the long-term payoff in terms of our dramatically reduced energy costs have more than made up for any cost difference in construction costs between green buildings and non-green buildings. PNC was something of an earlier adopter of green practices, but I think we’re now seeing a shift culturally to people being more aware of the reasons for going green and better understanding the benefits.  This makes them much more supportive today than they might have been a decade or so ago.

Click here to read part two of of this Q&A with PNC’s Nana Wilberforce at ImaginePittsburghNow.com.