Laura Fisher

As previewed in my April 16th post, I had the good fortune to be in Dunfermline, Scotland for the unveiling of the striking bronze marker honoring Brigadier General John Forbes at his birthplace. Dunfermline is a beautiful town just across the Firth of Forth from Edinburgh. The marker (made in Pittsburgh by Mathews International, the oldest company in Allegheny County) is a permanent reminder of the deep ties that exist between western Pennsylvania and Scotland.

Pittsburgh and Edinburgh share both history and the “burgh,” but we also share crazy April weather (it was sunny, raining, snowing and sleeting all in one day), as well as a neighborly penchant to take anyone a “wee bit” lost by the hand, and deliver them personally to their destination.

The Allegheny Conference's Laura Fisher is flanked by "Gen. John Forbes" and "Andrew Carnegie," as well as real-life Forbes descendant Lawrence Kippie in Dunfermline, Scotland.

“General Forbes,” “Andrew Carnegie” and a real-life Forbes descendent, Lawrence Keppie, joined me in unveiling the marker. I thought the Forbes re-enactor looked just as he should and just as I’d imagined the general. When I asked him what he liked about portraying Forbes, he said it was actually a somewhat new experience as he usually portrays kings (he does a great Robert the Bruce, apparently). It was fun to talk about these historic figures with someone who helps bring them to life for the public.

Joining me in Scotland for the festivities were Scott Stephenson, an expert on the Seven Years War in North America and curator of collections at the Museum of the American Revolution, soon to be under construction in Philadelphia, and Joanne Hanley, a trustee of Fort Ligonier and the president of the Gettysburg Foundation. Joanne and I found Scott to be a marvelous guide, with incredibly deep and resonant knowledge of the people and places in Scotland that helped shape events in 18th-century North America.

Historic Dunfermline and members of the Fife Council welcomed us with a memorable dinner at Pitfirrane House, the family seat of the Halkett family which was built in the 1540s. Sir Peter Halkett and his son James were both killed at the Battle of Braddock in 1755, and are buried somewhere near the Edgar Thompson Works in Braddock, PA. At the dinner we also met members of the Carnegie UK Trust who are discussing a possible exhibition with The Andy Warhol Museum, and who regularly work with counterparts in the U.S. on the Carnegie philanthropy awards. We all agreed it makes compelling sense to connect the various relationship threads to create a more coherent and vibrant ongoing transatlantic partnership.

The chance to meet some truly engaging and thoughtful people, especially our facilitator extraordinaire Frank Connelly, made for many happy memories. But we also experienced powerful and sometimes melancholy reminders of how individual decisions and actions quite literally can change the course of history. Seeing the refined and orderly world that John Forbes called home made the wilderness and sheer terror of the frontier he faced in Pennsylvania even more compelling. His sense of duty, honor and perseverance — even in the face of fatal illness — exemplifies the power of such personal influence. We also encountered another startling example. We spent a morning enthralled by the Forbes papers at the National Archives of Scotland in Edinburgh. There we saw a letter from George Washington to John Stanwix, then British commander in Pennsylvania, dated March 4, 1758, just a month before the Forbes campaign got underway.

In his letter, Washington complains of an ongoing and debilitating gastric illness that surely made the reality of mid-18th century daily life an ordeal. In the same letter, he told Stanwix of his keen disappointment to have received no promotion in the British military, and he was, in fact, contemplating complete retirement from the army. Talk about a “What if”! Had Washington actually retired, he most certainly would not have played a significant role 20 years later in 1776, as his French and Indian War service is what led to his starring military role in the American Revolution.

In 2013, we’ll have the chance to invite our friends in Scotland to Pittsburgh for the completion of reconstruction of Point State Park. That is when we’ll be able to install permanently our own Forbes Trail marker here. It will be another occasion to celebrate some common bonds and a shared appreciation for the power and importance of our historic sites.

The Scotland Courier ran this story about the unveiling ceremony.

Ben Kamber

Calgon Carbon President and CEO John Stanik discusses the opportunities for environmental stewardship in treating bilge water, the water stored in the bottom of a ship that keeps it balanced and afloat. Using UV light disinfection machines manufactured in Pittsburgh and special pressure filtration techniques, this emerging market is estimated to become a $20 to 30 billion industry over the next seven years.

Warmer temperatures and ice skating can now coexist, thanks to UltraSkate, a special plastic that imitates ice and makes skating possible year round. With the ability to recreate a full-sized rink, Bob Gierl, owner of Bare Bones, Inc. and distributor of UltraSkate, explains the convenience and cost advantages of its use. A new partnership with the Pittsburgh Penguins will allow inquiring minds to test this new material at CONSOL Energy Center on June 21, 22 and 23.

The Pittsburgh region is the midst of a time of economic growth and revitalization spurred by active leadership from the public, private and nonprofit sectors. But what can be done to continue this success through the next 30 years? Leadership Pittsburgh is a nonprofit that cultivates and connects current and emerging community leaders to tackle civic issues. Bill Flanagan engages Sean Fabich, Program Director of Leadership Pittsburgh, and Dara Ware Allen and John C. Schrott III, participants in this year’s Leadership Pittsburgh class, now in its 28th year.

This edition of Dollars & Sense, Bill Flanagan catches up with Gary Saulson, Director of Corporate Real Estate at PNC, about the progress made at the future site of The Tower at PNC Plaza. Upon completion, The Tower will be the greenest skyscraper in the world. PNC is utilizing many sustainable techniques, including “deconstruction,” which includes recycling the steel and concrete of the previous building and diverting as much as 95% of the site’s materials from a landfill.

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.

What career options are available for students who don’t complete four years of college? How can today’s students best prepare for the workforce of tomorrow? These and other questions will be explored on a local level during Imagine! Career Week, from Thursday, April 26 to Friday, May 4. For six years running, this week of coordinated events connects young people, their parents and educators with employers and youth-serving agencies.

Students receive advice on how to dress for an interview.

Sponsored again this year by Citizens Bank, Imagine! Career Week highlights the resources that can equip youth and young adults in the region with the skills and knowledge needed to compete and excel in 21st century career preparation. Events include a breakfast on Tuesday, May 1 to showcase regional employers that are dedicated to nurturing Pittsburgh’s future workforce.

So what is 21st-century career preparation? Stefani Pashman, CEO of the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (TRWIB), says it begins with a solid foundation in core subjects such as English and math. It then builds on this base with exposure to entrepreneurship and global issues, and includes experiential learning opportunities to develop talent in leadership, accountability, critical thinking and collaboration — all important skills in any workplace.

“A clear connection between employers and educators is vital to fulfilling the region’s workforce needs,” Pashman said. “Educators cannot shape the future workforce if they’re unaware of the skills needed in today’s labor market, and employers cannot anticipate a strong and steady pipeline if they aren’t involved in shaping the training opportunities offered in schools.  Only programs that are industry-driven and develop skills based on clear employer demand can effectively reduce the supply-demand disconnect we see today.”

These competencies can be reinforced at school, home and work. By volunteering a few hours a year as a Classroom Speaker or participating in Take Your Child To Work Day, employers can explain to students the proficiencies employers seek, and the careers that correspond with their interests.

Join the conversation as leaders in business, workforce development and education discuss the regional labor market and the pathways to careers available to today’s youth. Click here to find out how you can get involved, and read more coverage of the event in this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article.

Phil Cynar

It’s Imagine! Career Week in the Pittsburgh region – a time each spring devoted to helping better prepare today’s young people for their futures as our workforce of tomorrow.  Students, their parents, educators and employers will all be coming together at this time to find answers to questions such as “what do I want to be?” … “what kind of training and education is necessary?” … and “where will the jobs be?”

Here in the region where the economy is driven by knowledge, many of the job and career opportunities have STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills at their root now, and this requisite will continue.  Successful candidates for the region’s careers of tomorrow will need to be STEM-fluent (or even STEAM-fluent … Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics).  The time is now for the region’s young people to acquire and hone skills ruled by the left and right brain – analytical ability and creativity.  Command of these skills will differentiate the best candidates for exciting jobs and careers here in the Pittsburgh region, now and in the years to come.

The Pittsburgh Regional Compact – a partnership between educators and employers in the region who are collaborating to prepare young people for the region’s jobs and careers of the future – has just released its Spring 2012 issue of the Compact Quarterly newsletter.  This issue explores STEM and its impact on the workforce of tomorrow from a variety of perspectives.

In fact, we’ve dubbed this our “STEM” edition of the newsletter.  The communiqué and its articles complement much of the information and activities that will be presented during this year’s Imagine! Career Week.

It’s spring; the ground is soft and ready for hearty, sustaining roots.  Let’s plant some STEM seeds, nurture and cultivate them, and grow amazing individuals ready for the opportunities our region has to offer.

Think engineers are made in college? Think again.

Calvin Phelps, national chair of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) says engineers are built in the third or fourth grade.

Tre’ Bohannon is an eighth-grader from Dallas whose team, part of Project Still I Rise, competed in NSBE student competitions in Pittsburgh recently.

Phelps made his point at the recent NSBE gathering in Pittsburgh, which drew more than 8,500 engineers, students and teachers  to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.The organization’s  mission is “to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community.”

One way NSBE does this is by dedicating countless hours of mentorship to students  with interest in the “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering and math. As Phelps points out in the video interview below, NSBE hosts the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK) to expose youth in grades 3-5 to engineering and technology.

Serving a broader audience is the Pre-Collegiate Institute, which addresses K-12 students who demonstrate talent in engineering. Elisha Clayton and Cavon Cormack discuss that in a second video, also below.

At the event, I met Tre’ Bohannon, an eighth-grader whose team, part of Project Still I Rise, from Dallas, Texas, won first place in a robotics and engineering design competition.  Many students first become interested in engineering through robot competitions, such as the recent BotsIQ competition in Westmoreland County.

With the growth of STEM companies and a surplus of jobs in these fields, our region’s students have a lot to be excited about as they prepare to enter the workforce. And NSBE – which is primarily led by college students and recent graduates – is well-positioned to help bridge the gap between younger students and the workforce.

Listen to Phelps talk about the SEEK Camps:

Hear Clayton and Cormack discuss the Pre-Collegiate Initiative:

Phil Cynar

When the going is tough – as in the worst national recession since the 1930s – the tough get going. It’s exactly that tough-get-going drive, exhibited by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA), which has earned the alliance a place among the top 10 economic development groups in the U.S. for 2011.

Site Selection magazine – the nation’s oldest publication focused on corporate real estate strategy and area economic development – announced its Top 10 economic development groups on April 23 at the Industrial Asset Management Council’s Spring Forum in Austin, Texas. The recognition is based on the PRA’s performance in 2011 measured against a range of criteria in four categories: new jobs, new jobs per 10,000 residents, new investment amount and new investment per 10,000 residents. Organizations were also scrutinized for more subjective qualities including innovation, leadership and customer service.

An affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the PRA is the 10-county Pittsburgh region’s public-private economic development partnership that markets the benefits of conducting business in southwestern Pennsylvania to companies worldwide that are growing, relocating or expanding.

In March, the PRA released its own annual inventory of comprehensive, region-wide economic development deals, or “wins,” announced during 2011 – data which is complementary to Site Selection’s criteria for a top economic development organization. Despite a sluggish national economy, continued strength across a diverse portfolio of sectors helped the Pittsburgh region to land 286 economic development deals tied to nearly $1.5 billion in capital investment and a total employment impact of 17,000 jobs. That includes 11, 440 new jobs that are to be created over time. The region is nearing pre-recession levels of business investment.

“We’re sustaining positive momentum in the Pittsburgh region not just because of a diverse economy that’s strong, but also because of the strength of our PRA partnership approach to economic development,” said David Malone, PRA Partnership chair, vice chair of the Allegheny Conference and president and CEO of Gateway Financial. “We have 50-plus organizations pulling in the same direction to make this region a destination of choice for new business investment, as well as a place where existing business can expand and grow. Collaboration – a network of partners ready to work for the success of companies that invest here – is how we do business. That’s the power of Pittsburgh.”