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 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. (Click here to read the first of this two-part series.)

Green Wall at One PNC Plaza, Wood Street, Downtown Pittsburgh

E2P: PNC is about to begin construction of a new tower in downtown Pittsburgh, and it’s been predicted to be the world’s greenest skyrise. What exactly does that mean?

NW: The Tower at PNC is going to be the greenest skyrise in the world, and the basic idea is that the building is going to use less energy than any comparable building in the world. It’s also going to more efficient just in terms of the operation of the building itself. It won’t necessarily meet the definition of what’s become known as a “living building,” but that’s definitely the direction toward which we wanted the design to lean.

E2P: In what ways, apart from green building, is PNC working to become a greener company?

NW: With energy management, we have the controlled side that is doing lighting retrofits and similar energy efficiency improvements, and we have the uncontrolled side that has to do with the intangibles like the behaviors of the people who inhabit our buildings. PNC has been very good at educating our employees to make energy conservation a real part of our culture. We reinforce our commitment to green business practices everyday, and our employees really take pride in doing their part, even if that just means switching off their computer monitors and their desk lights when they’re going to be away from their workstations.  We also have green teams within the company – employees who meet and share ideas about how to further reduce energy consumption and, in turn, our environmental impact.

But when we talk about PNC Green as a part of our culture, it’s really evident in the degree to which it’s permeated every facet of the business. In the financial services industry, PNC has always strived to be at the forefront of every technological advance that might make our businesses more efficient and that might create more value for our customers. And now we look to do the same when it comes to technologies that can help us improve energy efficiency and reduce our impact on the environment. We have an innovation team within our real estate group that is continuously looking at new materials, processes and technologies to determine what’s applicable for our purposes. We’re very proud of the fact that we’re frequently leading the way and rarely trying to catch up when it comes to implementing new technologies. Lighting retrofits is a great example. PNC has spent more than $8 million on lighting retrofits to dramatically improve energy efficiency in our existing facilities. We can see the long-term benefits, and so we understand the value of that investment. We’re definitely leading the way as other companies continue their cost/benefit analyses and struggle to justify an expense that we already know will pay for itself in the long run.

E2P: PNC’s headquarters in Pittsburgh is virtually surrounded by companies that are finding innovative solutions to the energy challenges that many predict will define the 21st century. Are you partnering with any local companies as you continue your pursuit of green building and greener business practices?

NW: We’re actually working with a lot of local contractors. For example, we work with Scott Electric and LaFace & McGovern Associates, which are both local electrical distribution companies. We work closely with the utility providers in the area, like Duquesne Light, to ensure our buildings are as energy efficient as they can be. These are just a few examples.  We’re fortunate to have so much expertise and so much ongoing energy innovation happening here in the region, and we won’t turn a blind eye to good ideas from anybody if they help us to better control our energy consumption, improve productivity and reduce PNC’s environmental impact.

To read the first part of this series, click here.

Ben Kamber

We’ve taken Our Region’s Business on the road to Pittsburgh’s newest and greenest building — the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at historic Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The recently opened structure is vying for a Living Building designation, which exceeds LEED Platinum status. Through a number of cutting-edge technologies, the CSL produces all of its own energy and treats all of its water on-site, a remarkable accomplishment designed to make the building net-zero energy and net-zero water. Phipps Executive Director Richard Piacentini takes us on an exclusive tour of the CSL and describes some of the innovations behind this uber-green structure. And Dr. Barbara Schaal, vice president of the National Academy of Sciences and an evolutionary biologist at Washington University in St. Louis sits down to offer her take on the CSL and previews the National Academies’ science ambassador program which is being piloted in Pittsburgh.

National Academies Pilot Science Ambassador Program in Pittsburgh
When the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, two D.C. based research organizations, were scoping out a region to pilot their national science ambassadors program, Pittsburgh rose to the top of the list. This was in large part due to the region’s word-class leadership in energy and science and the top top-tier universities, institutions and talent that has historically defined the region. President of the National Academy of Sciences Dr. Ralph Cicerone and President of the National Academy of Engineering Dr. Charles Vest sit down at Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes to unveil the ambassador program and discuss why Pittsburgh was chosen as its pilot region.

Homegrown Technologies Form the Backbone of the Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes
The story of the Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) is one of a number of regional companies lending their technologies to help create one of the world’s most sustainable structures. Berner International and Epiphany Solar Water Systems, both New Castle-based, are two of these companies which have created unique systems to help the CSL meet the Living Building Challenge. Georgia Berner, president and CEO of Berner International is joined by Tom Joseph, president and CTO of Epiphany Solar Water Systems to discuss their companies’ respective contributions to the CSL.

National and International Journalists Offer Reflections on Pittsburgh
As part of the “Green Pittsburgh Media Study Tour” 16 journalists from as far away as Spain and Germany were in Pittsburgh for the opening of the Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes. The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and VisitPittsburgh collaborated on the tour which focused on the region’s transformation story and leadership in sustainability and energy. Three of the participating journalists, Daniel Cusick (Environmental and Energy Publishing), Tracey Greenstein (Forbes.com) and Jan Olefkin (German Wire Service) offer their take on Pittsburgh and what they learned about the region’s energy and sustainability assets.

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

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.