Phil Cynar

Pittsburgh just keeps popping up on impressive lists – most recently on Site Selection magazine’s newly released list of Top U.S. Economic Development Groups.   The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA), southwestern Pennsylvania’s business investment marketing organization, is among the top 11 such organizations in the country for 2012 – and the only one in the Northeast U.S., according to this globally circulated magazine of corporate real estate strategy and area economic development.

The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and Allegheny Conference Team
The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and Allegheny Conference Team

“This year’s Best to Invest Top Groups in the U.S. all demonstrated a resiliency to bounce back from previous economic setbacks,” said Ron Starner, general manager and executive vice president of Conway Data Inc. and Site Selection, and author of the Top Groups report. “They also continued a long track record of supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in their communities.  These organizations did not get ahead by following the herd.”

Local economic development groups, including the PRA, were first ranked according to four objective categories:  new jobs, new jobs per 10,000 residents, new investment amount and new investment per 10,000 residents.  Then they were scrutinized for more subjective attributes such as innovation, leadership and customer service.

“The Pittsburgh region has strength in numbers when it comes to sectors, partners and investment deals,” said PRA President Dewitt Peart. “We have hundreds of partners at allied organizations across all 10 counties of southwestern Pennsylvania, and 50 of these partners make up the PRA Partnership – professionals and leaders from the public and private sectors who work together to create a climate that’s competitive for business investment and to generate leads and secure deals.

“The efforts of all of these partners have paved the way for the PRA organization to secure project deals in 2012 representing capital investment of nearly $500 million and 3,731 total jobs – both created and retained.  These deals translate to bricks and mortar facilities of all sorts and sizes that build up the Pittsburgh region’s business landscape and enhance our overall marketability,” he said.

“We swing higher than our weight.  Pittsburgh competes with primary markets – Atlanta, New York, San Francisco and others – on projects where it has distinct advantages, like workforce, and where our competitive cost to do business is attractive. I congratulate all of the PRA team and its partners whose expertise in marketing the region helps to put Pittsburgh on many lists of top performers,” said Peart.

Additional recognition for efforts to attract business investment came last month from the London-based magazine of globalization, fDi (Foreign Direct Investment), a publication of the Financial Times.  Among its annual American Cities of the Future, Pittsburgh was ranked No. 5 among large cities for foreign direct investment strategy.

Bill Flanagan

First our region tops the U-Haul index for the fastest growth rate in people moving into any region and now we’ve made a top ten – this time among the “up and coming downtowns.”

According to, downtowns are being reborn across America, with double-digit population growth in the decade ending 2010 – more than double the rate of growth for cities overall.  Young adults are big drivers of this, particularly college-educated men and women ages 25 to 34, who are opting for urban lifestyles.

Downtown Pittsburgh turned up in Forbes’ top ten. The magazine notes that Class A office space was 94.5 percent leased as of the end of the third quarter of last year and the neighborhood’s population was about 8,000, up 21 percent from 2000.  And there’s more residential living on the way. According to the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, 219 units have come to market since 2009 with another 346 under construction.

The transformation of Downtown has been underway since the beginning of our region’s comeback 30-years ago.  (I’ve noted before that Pittsburgh’s darkest days were 30-years ago this year.  In 1983 the metro unemployment rate topped out above 18%.)

First came strategic investment in the arts, transforming a red light district into a cultural district.  About seven years ago PNC green-lighted a $170 million office tower (another skyrise is under construction) and jump-started the revitalization of the Fifth-Forbes corridor. Add to that the amazing success of the renovation of Market Square into a European-style piazza and the rest, as they say, is history.

But there’s more to come. Riverlife and the PA Department of Natural Resources are putting the finishing touches on a $41 million restoration of Point State Park, the biggest investment in a state park in state history, tying together the waterfront with trails and linear parks along the Allegheny and the Mon. Point Park University has already greened its urban campus with a plaza at the corner of Wood Street and the Boulevard of the Allies – and it’s got big plans for the Wood Street corridor, which connects to PNC’s new skyrise.

All of this is something to celebrate, something the entire community can do on Friday, June 7, when Governor Corbett will throw the switch to turn on the fountain in Point State Park.  The light show that weekend will be extraordinary, with a display called Riverlights showcasing the fountain – and Downtown – in a way none of us has ever seen before.

The event kicks off the Dollar Bank Three Rivers Arts Festival, the JazzLive International Festival and Pride Fest, which all lead up PointMade!, the celebration of the completion of the Great Allegheny Passage, a 335-mile long biking and hiking trail that links Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C.

It’s the perfect time to invite friends and family to check out everything that’s been accomplished here.  And, if they’re really into downtown living and looking for their next great career move, it’s a great opportunity to share with them one of America’s ten best “up-and-coming” downtowns.

The first six months of the Pittsburgh Impact initiative provided some important insights as we engaged, personally and collectively, with companies that are growing. We learned from these businesses and the network of organizations that support their growth that we should tackle three areas of activity: communicate with businesses to exchange information; connect companies with the business opportunities, resources, and talent they need to continue to grow; and champion their success through a variety of communication channels. We’ve successfully implemented that strategy, and we’re always looking for new opportunities to improve.

Albert Ciuksza, director, Pittsburgh Impact Initiative

With that focus, we’re excited to announce the introduction of Pittsburgh Impact Radio on KQV AM 1410, broadcast this Sunday (and every first Sunday of the month) at 8:30 – 9:00 a.m., with a replay on the following Monday at 7:30 p.m. and always available via podcast on iTunes.

Why radio?

We think that radio will give people in the region the opportunity to hear the stories of those organizations that help enable business growth in the region, as well as the companies that are creating jobs and driving our economy. We believe we can use this medium to help other business owners learn more about the more than 150 different organizations and programs that exist solely to support their growth. Finally, we believe that this show, and its easy-to-share audio, will help to broadcast the message of the great things happening in our region’s business community.

So, please join us this Sunday morning and first Sunday mornings thereafter (or on your MP3 player or iPhone anytime) as we explore the many opportunities for small business and economic development in Pittsburgh. To kick things off, we’ll be speaking with De Peart, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance  – an affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.  Hear about the services his organization provides and the successes it’s had recently with marketing the region for business investment.  One such investment is Reaxis, an expanding chemicals and coatings firm with its headquarters and multiple locations in the region.   Vice President, Technology and Business Development, Leon Perez tells why the company is growing here.

Ben Kamber

Pennsylvania’s Pension Time Bomb

Of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, 66 have at least one local government in financial distress. Some of this can be attributed to municipal pension fragmentation throughout the Commonwealth. Nearly one quarter of all municipal pension plans in the country are located in Pennsylvania – a recipe for high costs and anemic returns. Chad Amond is seeing the effects of this fragmentation first hand as president of the Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce and as a member of the Coalition for Sustainable Communities – a statewide coalition committed to addressing municipal fiscal distress. He discusses how Pennsylvania found itself in this position and what can be done about it.

Buck Consultants Launches Private Health Care Exchange

As part of the Affordable Care Act, there’s been a lot talk about health care exchanges – both federal and state. But Buck Consultants, a human resource consultant firm owned by Xerox, is delving into the private exchange market by launching an exchange aimed at helping larger companies comply with the health care law. Sherri Bockhorst, principal of health & productivity with Buck Consultants discusses what a private health care exchange is and how companies can benefit from joining one.

Legume Bistro Receives National Recognition

A leader in the transformation of Pittsburgh’s dining scene, Trevett Hooper, co-owner and chef at Pittsburgh’s Legume Bistro, was recently recognized as a James Beard Award semi-finalist – one of the culinary industry’s most prestigious honors. Legume, which started in Regent Square in 2007 before moving to a larger space in Oakland in 2011, is committed to the ideals of locally sourced ingredients and whole animal butchery. Hooper discusses his path to Pittsburgh, which came by way of Ohio, California and Boston, and what has led to Legume’s success.

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.

Barbara McNees

Do you know a woman in the Pittsburgh region who goes above and beyond in her work and mentorship of other women? Or a younger woman who is emerging as a leader? Nominate them here by June 28, 2013 for the Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards.

The ATHENA Award recognizes women who demonstrate excellence in their profession, contribute to their community and help other women to succeed. Former recipients include Judge Kim Berkeley Clark, M.J. Tocci and Bernadette Eyler Smith. Beginning in 2011, the local ATHENA committee has also recognize an emerging leader age 35 or younger with the ATHENA Young Professional Award. Previous recipient are Christy Uffelman and Jennifer Cairns. (Click here to watch all videos from previous ATHENA events.)

“The Pittsburgh region is rich in dynamic, smart women who mentor other women and girls while achieving great things in their professional lives and for their companies,” said Beth Marcello, PNC’s director of women’s business development and chair of the ATHENA Host Committee. “But they’re not always recognized. We encourage men and women across Greater Pittsburgh to think about the women in their networks and nominate those who help advance women in leadership through their exceptional professional and personal work.”

Taking its name from the Greek goddess of strength and wisdom, the Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards luncheon is one of the largest gatherings among the hundreds of ATHENA International-affiliated events presented around the world each year. More than 900 women and men attended the Pittsburgh event in 2011.

Learn more and submit nominations here by 5 p.m. on June 28, 2013. Nominations will only be accepted online. Please also mark your calendar for the awards luncheon on Monday, Sept. 30, 2013 at the Westin Convention Center Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh. ESB Bank and UPMC Health Plan are this year’s presenting sponsors.

Watch the video below to hear from three Pittsburgh region executives at they share their perspectives on the importance of women’s leadership to their companies’ success. Robert Krizner (KPMG) Daniel Roderick (Westinghouse) and John Barbour (BIR) were panelists at the 2013 Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards launch event on April 25, 2013 at the Heinz History Center.

The Allegheny Conference on Community Development organizes the annual ATHENA awards ceremony. The Conference and its affiliates – the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Pennsylvania Economy League of Greater Pittsburgh – work with public and private sector partners to stimulate economic growth and enhance the quality of life in southwestern Pennsylvania. The Conference is a private sector leadership organization with more than 300 Regional Investors, employers who provide the time, talent and resources to advance this agenda.

Phil Cynar

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania received a major nod for its leadership in biotechnology when BIO – the world’s largest biotech trade organization – presented Governor Tom Corbett with the 2013 Biotechnology Industry Organization Governor of the Year Award. The award was presented on April 23 at the BIO International Convention in Chicago, and it recognizes the Governor’s efforts to put Pennsylvania on the forefront of the biotechnology industry.

2013 BIO International Convention in Chicago, Ill.

Life sciences has been a focus of the Corbett administration from the start.  In 2011, his first year in office, Governor Corbett assembled a Life Sciences Leadership Advisory Council to develop a 10-year strategic plan to grow the industry and facilitate job creation.

Signature programs like the state’s three Life Sciences Greenhouses continue to cultivate Pennsylvania’s life sciences industry. In the last two years alone, the Greenhouses have aided in the creation of 32 new bioscience firms. The Greenhouses have the proven success of 156 new companies formed, 3,465 jobs created and 2,227 jobs retained.

In Pittsburgh, biotech is alive and well – from highly recognizable names such as Bayer, Philips Respironics and Mylan to start-up ventures that include Rinovum, Cognition Therapeutics, Complexa and Health Monitoring Systems. Healthcare and life sciences is the region’s fourth largest industry in terms of gross regional product – contributing $11.5B and employing some 119,000 with wages that are 18% higher than the regional average.

Fueling innovation in this sector, are our centers of excellence – the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine, The Pittsburgh Tissue Engineering Initiative and the University of Pittsburgh – as well as our own Greenhouse – the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse which fosters the growth of promising biotechnology innovations by bridging the gap between concept and commercialization, providing entrepreneurial life sciences enterprises with the resources and tools they need to grow.

“The Pittsburgh region – once a world capital of steel manufacturing and industry – is now a place where healthcare and life sciences have a robust presence and are growing, and for good reason.  There’s $70 million-plus in life sciences venture capital and a strong economic development support system for companies in this sector – startups and established firms – led by the Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, an incubator that I had the privilege to found in 2000 and one that’s focused exclusively on growing bioscience companies,” said Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Dennis Yablonsky.

“These assets – the venture capital, the networks and world-class universities – make Pittsburgh a compelling place for innovators looking for a viable alternative to the more widely recognized biotech hubs.  Pittsburgh is large enough to have all of the critical assets but small enough for talented individuals to become ‘big fish in a smaller pond.’  When you couple this opportunity with our stable economy and ‘most livable’ quality of life, Pittsburgh is accessible in ways that places like San Jose, San Francisco or Boston won’t likely be for many people,” said Yablonsky.