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.

Bill Flanagan

I was really struck by a statement I heard Monday as the Three Rivers Workforce Investment Board (TRWIB) kicked off its annual Imagine! Career Week series of events. The goal of the annual breakfast is to encourage employers to get involved in career education. I was moderating a panel at the Carnegie Science Center featuring Joe Belechak, chief operating officer, dck worldwide and chair of the TRWIB board; Mark Latterner, executive vice president and regional senior credit officer, Citizens Bank; and Bruce Niemeyer, vice president of Appalachian/Michigan Strategic Business Unit, Chevron North America.

The statement that struck me was Belechak’s. He told the audience that, “something like 150,000 to 160,000 people in our workforce [are members of the Baby Boom generation – 50+] and there are only half that many people in the pipeline behind them.”

At a time when some have expressed concern that our region’s employment growth is slowing relative to the national average, Belechak’s point underscores the degree to which opportunity may be under-estimated and underappreciated in our region. As a result of the economic bust of the ‘80s many employers, especially in our traditional industries were cutting jobs, not hiring young people. Roll that clock forward 15-20 years and the lack of hiring a generation ago translates into a leaner resident pipeline when it comes to mid-career professionals of all types: the 30-somethings and 40-somethings whom employers need to develop to fill the gap that will be left when the Baby Boomer generation retires.

Both Latterner and Niemeyer talked about the steps Citizens and Chevron have taken to build their pipelines, not just by reaching out to people who are already in the workforce and might be considering a career move, but by reaching down into the schools and inviting young people inside their organizations to shadow, intern or be mentored.

The good news is our Baby Boomer-heavy workforce still has a few good years left (more than a few, I hope). Demographics are also beginning to tilt in our region’s favor. Today both employment and labor force are at or near record highs and, according to, the population of “greater” Pittsburgh topped 2,360,733 last year. For the fourth year in a row more people moved into the region than moved out. Business Insider recently provided one recent transplant’s perspective about moving into the region from California.

These trends are encouraging, but they need to accelerate to keep up with the demand for skilled workers and to replace the Boomers who are beginning to retire. The job search engine at indicates that more than 29,000 open jobs are going begging in the region because too many available workers within the region lack the skills employers need.

The solution may not be obvious but it is pretty simple. No matter what happens with new job formation in the region, to capture the opportunity ahead we’re going to have to educate, train and attract a lot more people to meet the demand for skilled workers and to transfer knowledge from the Baby Boomers before they retire. We’ve got to act now to make sure we can maintain our recent momentum.

Fortunately the many public and private sector partners behind Imagine Career Week understand the issue and they’re on the case. All of us need to help spread the word about ongoing opportunity in the region, especially as the rest of the national economy heats up.

Also as part of Imagine Career Week, TRWIB released their summer jobs report which includes some important findings about youth employment in our region. You can read the report here.

Phil Cynar

The Kauffman Foundation has released a new series of videos profiling entrepreneurial ecosystems outside of Silicon Valley, featuring Pittsburgh as the first location. The series is part of the foundation’s ID8Nation, a new channel about cities and the people who start businesses in them.

ID8 Nation

ID8Nation suggests that entrepreneurship has become the elixir of economic recovery.  In Pittsburgh it’s not the entiresecret sauce for economic success, but it’s an important ingredient.  Pittsburgh has always been big on innovation, but especially so over the past 30 years given that knowledge is a big influence on our economy.  And innovation pairs so well with entrepreneurship.

ID8 Nation is exploring cities’ entrepreneurial ecosystems to determine what grows in them and why. It’s telling the stories in a variety of mediums and voices, but primarily through the entrepreneurs who bring things to life in the ecosystem.

The project leaders say they chose Pittsburgh as the first issue because it has a good story to tell. It’s a city that clawed its way out of the collapse of the steel industry and rebuilt a diversified economy. Its entrepreneurial scene, powered by Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh, is vibrant, but the city is bumping up against problems, including a shortage of capital and management as well as the struggle every Midwestern city has to keep its best and brightest at home.

It’s flattering for Pittsburgh to be chosen as the premier city for this new series.  We’ve got exceptional entrepreneurs with vision and the requisite grit for creating success in a place that might not necessarily top many people’s short list of entrepreneurial hubs.  What it lacks in size, Pittsburgh more than makes up for in accessibility – rarely more than two degrees of separation from the people you need to know in order to grow a good idea.

Check out the introduction video below and the full series here to to meet these entrepreneurs and explore their good ideas.

Phil Cynar

A feature article, “Manufacturing in Armstrong County on Upswing,” published in the April 16 edition of the Leader Times, takes a closer look at the economic development deals or “wins” of 2012 as recently announced by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) . The PRA is the 10-county Pittsburgh region’s economic development marketing organization and an affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. On April 2, the organization presented its annual economic development scorecard for the previous year to the media and regional leaders and business executives. Scorecard marks were high.

10county3DThe scorecard for activity – investments by businesses in new facilities or expansions of existing ones, along with job creation and retention – showed that the region, including Armstrong County, benefited from a diverse economy that’s held up by five key industry sectors. Economic development activity was steady and stable in the county and region, not only in 2012, but during the past five years, including the recession. The region’s diverse economy was a key factor in helping the region weather the recession so well and to be recognized as one of only three U.S. metros to be “fully recovered” from recession by the D.C.-based Brookings Institution.

Manufacturing – one of the region’s key sectors – was a top performer, as far as deals or “wins” were concerned in 2012, around the region. Manufacturing positively impacted Armstrong County last year.

Read the complete Leader Times article to learn about county-based manufacturing wins such as Flir Systems, Inc., Belle Flex Technologies and Sloan Brothers Lubrication Systems. All are growing in the region, including adding jobs. Michael Coonley, Armstrong County Department of Economic Development Council director – and others – describe how and why.