Phil Cynar

I was a late bloomer, so to speak, in picking up a hard copy of Stephen Chbosky’s cult-novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but I did so this June, and I was sorry that I’d waited so long. It was a great read about coming of age and somewhat curious, too, as a great deal of the story is conveyed via letters to the reader from the main character, Charlie.

Poolside on vacation in South Beach, I started Perks, and finished it later on a different trip to Arizona. If I had longings for Pittsburgh during my travels, this novel – set in Pittsburgh and rich in hometown imagery – was a perfect antidote. This comes as no surprise as Chbosky is an Upper St. Clair native. His familiarity with the South Hills (my neck of the woods) shone through his writing and created wonderful mental images of all that’s unique and special about Pittsburgh.

Now, the novel has become a film – hitting theaters everywhere on Sept. 28 – and all of those wonderful images of Pittsburgh come to life on the big screen. Best thing ever:  the scenes are filmed here, not in a pseudo-Pittsburgh created in some Hollywood studio.

Pittsburghers themselves won’t be the only ones amazed by our beloved city on the big screen – especially its classic entrance via the Fort Pitt Tunnel. Perks star Emma Watson, famous for her role as Hermione in the Harry Potter film series, was pretty amazed herself, and she told America about it on ABC daytime TV’s Live! with Kelly & Michael this morning.

In the video below, Watson recounts an unforgettable scene in which she – stands in the back of a pick-up truck being driven through the Fort Pitt Tunnel.  She described a feeling of flight inspired by the grandeur of Pittsburgh’s nighttime skyline enveloping her as the truck emerges from the tunnel.

“You just burst through into this beautiful, beautiful scene of the whole city stretching out,” Watson said. “I haven’t been able to top it; it’s like one of the best moments of my life.”

She also notes that “Steve” — the novelist-turned-film director — “has been dreaming about filming this shot for over a decade.”

Just think, folks, Hollywood didn’t create this. It’s pure Pittsburgh. And it’s ours. Savor the moment on your next night-time trip through the Fort Pitt. You probably won’t be standing in the back of a pick-up truck when it happens, but it can always be an impossible-to-top moment.

And put The Perks of Being a Wallflower on your must-see movie list for this fall.

Watch the video here or below. Thanks to the staff of 96.1 FM’s Morning Freak Show for posting it.


Bill Flanagan
"Our Region's Business" on location at the Woodville Plantation

Pittsburgh’s come a long way from its roots as a “shot and a beer town.” Sure, plenty of people around here still hoist a mug of Iron (or Penn Pilsner or Big Hope IPA or White Lightning Wit). But nowadays they can chase it with a shot of home-made [legal] moonshine… er… whiskey, as well. And, if they’re in the mood for something softer, there’s hard cider from Lawrenceville.

We recently took Our Region’s Business on the road to showcase these stories at the Woodville Plantation, the Neville House in Bridgeville that was a backdrop for the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. There, we got to meet the co-founder of Wigle Whiskey, a Strip District startup that’s carrying on the rebellious tradition at Pennsylvania’s first distillery to provide on-premises sampling and sales. Think of it as a micro-brewery for the hard stuff.

Of course, in Pittsburgh if you’re going to have a shot, you need the beer to go with it. So we caught up with the new owner of Pittsburgh Brewing and found out about his efforts to revitalize Iron City and other venerable brands. Our chaser was Arsenal Cider, created by a husband/wife team in their Lawrenceville home.

Hope you have as much fun watching it as we did shooting it. Our Region’s Business is co-produced by the Allegheny Conference and Cox Broadcasting. The program airs Sundays at 11 a.m. on Pittsburgh’s WPXI Channel 11, at 6 a.m. on WJAC-TV (Johnstown-Altoona) and at 6:30 a.m. on WTOV-TV (Wheeling-Steubenville). It is rebroadcast on PCNC-TV at 3:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Sundays, and at 3:30 p.m. Mondays. You can explore an archive of past segments here.

Cassie Buseck

Working in an industry deemed “unforgiving,” Environmental Service Laboratories (ESL) has succeeded despite the odds over the past 12 years with significant employment growth and geographic expansion. Beginning with two employees in 1988, the company has evolved into a 70-person operation, 30 of whom have been added since the Marcellus Shale boom.

Environmental Service Laboratories has been recognized as an Impact Company, a unique subset of firms that are helping create 60-80 percent of new jobs in the Pittsburgh region. The Impact Company initiative is a project of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, a 10-county coalition that markets the benefits of doing business in southwestern Pennsylvania, and assists companies looking to relocate or expand here.

Environmental Service Laboratories opened locations in Washington  and Lycoming counties in 2007 and 2011, respectively. Beginning as a company within the Indiana County’s Small Business Incubator, Environmental Service Laboratories is as a woman-owned (certified WBE/SERB) lab that provides a comprehensive range of analytical testing, consulting and field sampling services.

Originally focused on conventional oil and gas drilling, the company has diversified into numerous emerging industries. ESL’s customers now include industrial facilities, government entities and engineering firms. Changes in regulations around hydrofracturing in the Marcellus Shale has also driven growth. In addition, ESL is accredited to test drinking water, wastewater, soil, solid materials, natural gas, frozen dairy products, meat, children’s products and lead in paint.

In addition, Environmental Service Laboratories was recognized at the annual SBA Awards Luncheon, receiving the inaugural Chairman’s Award for Pittsburgh Impact Companies.  (You can read more about that here). CEO  Elizabeth Gregg and COO Michael Moyer  recently appeared on the Sunday morning news show Our Region’s Business. View the video below to hear directly from Gregg and Moyer.

And check out Gregg’s video from the SBA awards here. To learn more about the Impact Company initiative, go to

Bonnie Pfister

The Sept. 24 Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards luncheon has once again sold out. One of the season’s most popular networking events will recognize eight women chosen as finalists for the ATHENA Award and Young Professional Award.

These women will be recognized for their professional excellence, contributions to the community and mentorship of other women at the at the Westin Convention Center Hotel. At the event, one finalist each will become the 2012 ATHENA Award recipient, while another will be chosen for the Young Professional award, which recognizes a woman age 35 or younger who acts as a role model to other women.

The finalists, selected among dozens of impressive nominees, compose a varied and distinguished group – each woman using her leadership to create professional excellence and positive regional impact.

Find out who the finalists are at, and check out photos from the Aug. 23 nominees reception on our Imagine Pittsburgh Flickr page, or below.

Presented by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, the Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Awards Program is made possible by support from the ESB Bank; FedEx Ground; UPMC Health Plan; Bank of America/Merrill Lynch; Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania; Pittsburgh Business Times; Pittsburgh Magazine; Pop City; WTAE-TV; Athena Bottled Water; Best of the Batch Foundation; Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC; Fox Rothschild, LLP; Mascaro Construction Company, LP;  Sisterson & Co. LLP; and TiER1 Performance Solutions.

Ben Kamber

PNC’s Lantern Building at 600 Liberty Ave is shining a light on Pittsburgh’s formidable past and illustrious future. Part of the bank’s nationwide Legacy Project, the recently opened 800 square foot building provides an exhibit that interactively illuminates the region’s renaissances through multimedia experiences that are free and open to the public. PNC’s Brian Goerke and David O’Neill, a consultant on PNC’s Legacy Project, discuss the exhibit’s many illuminating features.

Allegheny County Airport Marks Midfield Terminal’s 20th Anniversary
Allegheny County Airport’s Midfield Terminal turns 20 in October and  it’s been a bit of a rocky ride over the years for this once major hub for U.S. Airways. While the bankruptcy of U.S. Airways a decade ago greatly diminished the number of flight offerings — an issue that continues — flights cost less on average today than at comparable airports. Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and Brad Penrod, CEO of the Airport Authority discuss what plans are in store to increase air service moving forward.

Allegheny Conference Recognized Nationally for Sustained Regional Stewardship
The Allegheny Conference on Community Development was awarded the “Ten Award” for Distinguished Achievement in Sustained Stewardship by the Alliance for Regional Stewardship. The “Ten Award” recognizes the Allegheny Conference’s contributions to the principles and practice of sustainable regional development over the past decade. Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky explains how a shared strategic vision supported by engaged business and civic leaders led to this national recognition for our region.

Bill Flanagan Reflects on 30 Years in Pittsburgh
Few broadcast journalists are in one place long enough to report on the polar extremes of stories. Bill Flanagan, who is celebrating 30 years in Pittsburgh this month, has had the unique opportunity to report on the fall and remarkable rise of the Pittsburgh region. Bill reflects on his 30 years covering the Pittsburgh region’s economy and what the many highs and lows along the way have taught him about our region’s capacity to persevere and thrive.

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
SAUL LOEB / AFP / Getty Images

You hear it again and again, the people of the Pittsburgh region really set the place apart – and our myriad neighborhoods and communities provide a sense of place whether you live in the heart of the city, a suburb or a distinctive small town.  The Economist recently ranked Pittsburgh as the most livable place in the continental United States (edged out by Honolulu for the top spot for the nation as a whole – but still not bad company).  We’ve made one global “most-livable” list or another for the past five years running.  And of course, we’re still celebrating our “Best of the World” year in 2012, as rated by National Geographic Traveler.

Now has weighed in with a new feature called “re-discover: the soul of your favorite cities.”  One of them is Pittsburgh.  It’s not a ranking – there are profiles of plenty of other places, too.  But it’s really worth taking a few minutes to view the ‘burgh and its neighborhoods through the videos on the site, stories told through the eyes of four people who live here. Check it out here.

The timing of all of this couldn’t be any better as we prepare to welcome the world back to our region in October during the One Young World Summit.  Although not on the scale of the G-20 in 2009, the event will bring well over one thousand young people from around the planet to Pittsburgh.  With dozens of breakout sessions and community dinners planned, these delegates will get a much better sense of the place than the world leaders ever did.