ImaginePittsburghNow

Elliott Group may be 113 years old, but its new headquarters are anything but old fashioned.

The manufacturer opened a new $16 million administration building adjacent to its factory in Jeannette in 2012. The airy space features brightly colored furnishings, casual spaces for meetings and vibrant flags from the many nations where Elliott does business.

A unit of Ebara Corporation of Japan, Elliott supplies and services turbo-machinery used by the oil and gas, refining, LNG and petrochemical industries, as well as in process and power applications. While the regional shale gas boom has benefited the company, more than 70 percent of the products built at the Westmoreland County campus are sold overseas, as Elliott’s Tom Brown explains in the video below.

The company employs about 2,100 people worldwide, with about 1,100 in southwestern Pennsylvania. Some 400 people work in the manufacturing facility on Elliott’s 100-acre campus. The new headquarters, dubbed the Centennial Building, is home to engineers, draftsmen, programmers and administrative workers previously spread out across multiple buildings.

Get a look at the building in the video below, and hear Brown explain why Elliott is thriving – as well as his shout-out to Lawrenceville architects Kingsland Scott Bauer Associates and contractor Landau Building Company of Wexford.

You can read more about Elliott Group here.

Ben Kamber

Duquesne University has a lot to be proud of these days. At 1,500, this year’s freshman class is the largest and one of the most selective ever for the 134 year-old uptown university. Dr. Charles Dougherty, Duquesne’s president, sits down to discuss what’s behind this growth and why Pittsburgh and the university’s urban setting have become huge selling points for recruitment.

Superstorm Sandy Puts Spotlight on Nation’s Electrical Grid

As Superstorm Sandy painfully indicated, power outages represent a lot more than just an inconvenience for those impacted. It’s not until a crisis like a natural disaster that we realize how dependent we are on the nation’s energy grid and other energy infrastructure – and just how much it’s all in dire need of modernization. Greg Reed, director of Pitt’s Center of Energy at the Swanson School of Engineering, discusses the type of improvements that are needed to bring our energy infrastructure into the 21st century.

Grand Theft Auto Creator Harnesses Empathy in New Social Media Venture

Donora native J. Moses, who green-lighted Grand Theft Auto, is out with a new social media venture that aims to revolutionize the way we interact on the web. WeChi and GoodChi tap into the behavioral realm of users to encourage empathetic connections across the Internet. Moses sat down to discuss these products and what led him to explore empathy across online social networks.

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.

Bonnie Pfister
Don Charlton, founder of The Resumator

Among the persistent myths about Pittsburgh is the notion that our young bright people leave town as soon as they’re able. For a good 20 years that was true; after steel hit bottom in 1983, our overall regional economy floundered painfully and an exodus of skilled and educated workers ensued. In the past decade, however, that trend has reversed. As Jim Futrell, vice president of market research and analysis for the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance has noted, our population – particularly of college-educated 18- to 34-year-olds – is increasing. It’s a pattern that’s expected to continue.

Here at ImaginePittsburghNow.com, we’ve done a lot of stories and videos about the startups and the young professionals who are finding Pittsburgh to be a creative, affordable place to work, invest and build a life. Another example is Don Charlton, a Fayette County native who left the region for college but came back to launch a career and ultimately an idea that’s taken off in a big way. His software company, the Resumator, provides integrated, easy-to-use recruiting tools and social media features to make finding, sorting and reviewing job applicants easy. It’s prized by companies without big HR departments that need to ramp up staffing quickly, and is used by such customers as HootSuite, Mashable, Instagram and Tumblr– as well as the 2012 presidential campaigns of Mitt Romney and Barack Obama.

The Resumator itself is growing fast, and many bright young and mid-career professionals are moving to – or opting to stay in – the Pittsburgh region to be a part of this work. Check out this interview with Charlton, marketing director Laurie Barkman and other Resumator staffers in their cheery offices just north of downtown Pittsburgh.

The Resumator got started with the help of AlphaLab, a business incubator on the South Side. Learn more about it in this recent Atlantic article.

Ben Kamber

Specialty chemicals company Reaxis is growing its operations with a new production facility in U-PARK in Harmarville. The $40 million company, which is headquartered in Washington County, relies on global exports for half of its business, with customers throughout Europe, Asia and Brazil. Marco van der Poel, president and CEO of Reaxis, discusses the company’s recent expansion and ongoing trends in the global chemicals industry.

AEC Group: Creating Impact in the Pittsburgh Region

Designated by the Pittsburgh Business Times as one of the region’s 100 fastest growing companies, AEC Group provides a broad range of technology solutions to businesses near and far. The 20-year old company, which has facilities in McKeesport and Bridgeville, is planning to double the size of its technology division with the purchase of a new building near the airport. Cathy Mary, the company’s president and Ken Rindt, senior VP of sales and strategic alliances, discuss what’s behind AEC’s growth.

Gateway Rehab: Combating Drug and Alcohol Abuse in Our Region

According to Dr. Neal Capretto, western Pennsylvania is currently experiencing a record number of people addicted to prescription narcotics. And he should know. As medical director at Gateway Rehab, a drug and alcohol treatment center with facilities throughout the region, Dr. Capretto is responsible for treating those with addiction each and every day. He discusses this growing problem in our region and how it needs to be tackled.

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.

Bill Flanagan
Emily Padgett as Alex Owens in “Flashdance – The Musical”
Photo Copyright Broadway.com

Flashdance – The Musical more than echoes the movie set in Pittsburgh in 1983, it brings it back to life on the stage. I caught the premiere.

I’ll leave theater criticism to the pros like Christopher Rawson at the Post-Gazette, although I think his assessment is right on target. It’s a feel-good musical with great dancing, especially by Emily Padgett, who plays Alex. (You can watch our video featuring the show’s three leads — two of them from the Pittsburgh region — here or below.)

It’s been years since I watched the movie, but I remember Flashdance well. I had just moved to Pittsburgh in 1982 and they were shooting the movie around town. It was exciting to be here in the midst of Renaissance Two, with new skyscrapers going up and a genuine subway under construction.

Little did anyone know that a year later, Pittsburgh would hit rock bottom. When Flashdance premiered in theaters in 1983, the metro unemployment rate topped 18 percent and tens of thousands of people were moving away, many of them young.

Just as the young steelworker in the movie (and the show) was trying to reinvent herself as a dancer, Pittsburgh was challenged with reinventing itself, forced to compete as a post-industrial city. (Not to say we don’t still make stuff here. We do – but most manufacturers will tell you they’ve transformed themselves to compete in a technology-intensive world, another exercise in creativity and hard work.)  Thirty years later, Pittsburgh’s been re-imagined and re-made, with a diverse economy driven by manufacturing, finance, energy, health care and IT, and a high quality of life provided by decades of investment in the arts. That includes the Benedum Center and Heinz Hall — where Flashdance – The Musical made its world premiere – and in outdoor recreation, especially our growing network of riverfront trails.

Art and industry have been integral to Pittsburgh’s comeback, but they’ve provided the region’s character for more than a century – ever since Andrew Carnegie built his music hall in Oakland, if not before. The parts of the play that I enjoyed most were those that juxtaposed the creative and hard work of both industry and the arts – the pride in creating, working and excelling that’s also part of Pittsburgh’s character. If I had a word of advice for director Sergio Trujillo as he takes his show on the road to Broadway – admittedly knowing nothing about what it takes to create a theatrical hit – it would be to make a little more of these themes. I’d love to see a scene where the dancers and the steelworkers somehow share the joys – and challenges – of their professions.

Some folks may criticize the indeterminate time period of the play. The movie was set in the ‘80s, the show includes many more modern elements. But I kind of liked the fact that a number of the backdrops featured golden bridges and blue water, the revitalized riverfronts of today in addition to the classic industrial steel mill settings. Pittsburgh’s authenticity and beauty came through.

So, here we are, 30 years after Alex and Pittsburgh began their transformations. Our region’s back in the global game – and Flashdance is back home on stage. Quite a feeling.

Phil Cynar
fDi Senior Reporter and Markets Editor Michal Kaczmarski

It’s a new year for the world and a special anniversary for the Pittsburgh region. 2013 marks 30 years since Pittsburgh’s economy hit bottom. The steel industry’s collapse crippled the region, its economy and its people. Marking the difference made by three decades of vision and collaboration – which resulted in a re-imagined and re-made region – is the retrospective, “Pittsburgh’s Progress:  Rust Belt City Reinvents Itself.” It’s a six-page report in the current (Dec. 2012/Jan. 2013) edition of the Financial Times’ magazine of globalization, fDi (Foreign Direct Investment).

In the fall of 2012, fDi Senior Reporter and Markets Editor Michal Kaczmarski traveled to the region from London to explore the “rethinking” of Pittsburgh, as he characterizes the metamorphosis that’s taken place here.  He writes, “Pittsburgh was all but written off in the 1970s and 1980s … however, the city’s focus on technological and biotech innovation, combined with an environment that encourages entrepreneurship, has turned its fortunes full circle.”

While on the ground, Kaczmarski toured a number of business, academic and quality-of-life assets – the latter including the new “Living Building” Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory, a model of the region’s leadership and innovation in energy and sustainability and one of the greenest buildings on the planet. He also met and talked with a number of regional movers and shakers who provided him with perspective on how Pittsburghers imagined and galvanized a radical transformation from an industry-driven economy of old to one that’s now fueled by knowledge and innovation. Today, this economy, balanced and diversified, has rewarded Pittsburgh with a stability that’s allowed it to outperform benchmark cities and the nation as a whole, even during the Great Recession.

Among the notable leaders Kaczmarski met – and who are quoted in the fDi special report – are Knopp Biosciences’ Tom Petzinger; Henry Thorley of 4moms; Arif Sirinterlikci, director of Robert Morris University’s engineering laboratories (the university and its engineering expertise have been instrumental to the National Additive Manufacturing Innovation Institute for which ground has been broken in the greater region); serial entrepreneur Luis von Ahn; and Nathan Martin of Deeplocal.

He also talked with several 20- and 30-something entrepreneurs and young professionals who have opted to chose Pittsburgh (over places like Philadelphia, Atlanta and D.C.) or who have made the decision to stay in their hometown and give Pittsburgh a chance. None was disappointed, as you’ll read. As one woman told Kaczmarski, “The vibe in Pittsburgh is great. There is something about this city that makes you collaborative and entrepreneurial.”

Nearly 15,000 fDi subscribers will be getting this – and more – fresh perspective on Pittsburgh via the special report, sponsored by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the organization that markets the Pittsburgh region for domestic and international business investment. In addition, the report will have special circulation among the 2,000-plus delegates expected at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 23 – 27. The World Economic Forum is considered the foremost creative force for engaging leaders in collaborative activities focused on shaping the global, regional and industry agendas in an effort to improve the world.

The theme for the 2013 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting is “Resilient Dynamism” … “bold vision and even bolder action.” Pittsburgh has demonstrated these in its own transformation – examined in the fDi special report – making the region a model worth reading about.

See the complete report on Pittsburgh’s progress here. Get to know fDi Senior Markets Editor Michal Kaczmarski better and hear his first impressions of Pittsburgh during his maiden voyage in 2011 in this video clip.