Phil Cynar

OysterHouse2013The Pittsburgh Business Times “Fish Sandwich Chronicles” may well be on its way to becoming a Lenten tradition for the Pittsburgh business community – not unlike the meatless meal itself is in a city steeped in Catholic tradition.

Served up on Fridays during Lent, the “Chronicles” is a seasonal Business Times feature and is back on the menu for a second year. This “Lenten special” provides insight into where to get some of the area’s most delish fish while serving a satisfying helping of Pittsburgh pride and nostalgia as local executives and entrepreneurs lunch with Business Times Senior Reporter Patty Tascarella and the conversation flows.  “It’s a “slice of life, albeit centered on some sort of white fish.”

Today, Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky is featured – sharing slices of his life with a side of reflections on the people, places and opportunities he’s encountered along the way.

It all went down at Market Square’s The Original Oyster House where a “Famous Jumbo Fish” [sandwich] can be reeled in for $5.75.  It’s Yablonsky’s favorite among Pittsburgh’s fish sandwich fare.

But when it comes to Lenten fish fries as fundraisers, St. Bernard Church and School in Mt. Lebanon had quite a catch in Yablonsky who was one of the founders, back in the early ’90s, of a successful “gourmet fish fry” money-maker.  You might call them the brains behind the batter.

Read all about it here.

Bonnie Pfister

Cindy FernandezThe Latino population in the Pittsburgh region may be small, but it is growing steadily and many of its professionals are making a positive mark here.

A few of them are highlighted in a series of videos as part of the new Latino outreach initiative by Vibrant Pittsburgh, an organization working to grow the regional economy by attracting diverse people to the workforce.

The “¡Hola, Pittsburgh!” (Hello Pittsburgh!) portion of the campaign began last month, introducing the region to four Latinos who have opted to build their careers and lives here. They include:

Roberto Clemente Jr., son of the late, beloved Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder who calls our region his second home, also appears. (All of the videos can be viewed on Vibrant Pittsburgh’s YouTube channel.)

The videos have aired on local TV stations. A second part of the campaign, “¡Pittsburgh Te Invita!” (Pittsburgh Invites You!), will promote the region outward to Latinos in key markets in the northeast and bring key journalists to the city on familiarization tours. That gets underway later in 2013.

The Hispanic population in Allegheny County grew by 71 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to U.S. Census figures. But that still numbers just 20,000 individuals — about 1.6 percent of the county’s total population.

Economic development leaders say more skilled workers and professional talent must be attracted to the Pittsburgh region in order to keep up with a coming labor shortage. That gap will widen as Baby Boomers retire and new jobs emerge that require post-high school training – much of it from technical and community colleges.

The Latino outreach campaign also touts The Pittsburgh Promise, a scholarship program in which graduates of Pittsburgh Public Schools may earn up to $40,000 for college if they maintain at least 90 percent attendance and at least a 2.5 GPA.

You can learn more about this program at Vibrant Pittsburgh, or in this recent episode of Our Region’s Business featuring Victor Diaz, Vibrant Pittsburgh CEO Melanie Harrington and Saleem Ghubril, executive director of The Pittsburgh Promise.

Phil Cynar

Washington County Landscape

Without deserting its “country charm and green space” – as County Commissioner Larry Maggi puts it – Washington County continues to increase its leadership in terms of economic growth and job creation.

At a Feb. 28 breakfast briefing, organized by the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, the Washington County Board of Commissioners were joined by more than 200 county business leaders to recap the robust economic development and tourism activity that occurred in 2012.

“Our business community announced $346,365,000 in new business investment which will account for an additional 2,530 jobs,” said Maggi. “This tremendous growth in business investment and job creation was driven by numerous sectors of our economy – energy, technology, commercial/industrial development, hospitality and manufacturing.” According to Dun & Bradstreet. Washington County has 280 companies involved in manufacturing.

“In an Energy Revolution”

Energy continues to be significant economic driver, with Washington County being ranked first the greater Pittsburgh region and fourth in the state in both natural gas wells drilled and drilling permits issued in 2012. The county’s booming energy sector’s reach extends far beyond drilling rigs, with the Southpointe mixed-use business park in Canonsburg as an example. It has become the epicenter of corporate activity that supports the industry – everything from regional headquarters to law firms.

“We are in an energy revolution, and Southpointe is in the middle of it,” said County Commissioner Harlan Shober. “Coal is anchored here with the world headquarters of CONSOL Energy, and more and more shale gas companies are arriving – nearly every month it seems.”

A sizeable energy-related tenancy at Southpointe has resulted in the Washington County Chamber’s opening of a second office location in Southpointe, a decision announced at the breakfast briefing by Chamber of Commerce Chairman Barron P. McCune, Jr.

“Many of our 1,100 members are located in Southpointe, and we wanted to ensure that they have closer access to our economic development programs, networking events and advocacy initiatives.” McCune said. “This is especially important with our natural gas and energy members as we work together on expanding energy opportunities and partnerships for our entire business community.”

Millions Make Millions [in Tourism Spending]

Tourism is creating energy of its own in Washington County, where that industry supports 5,740 jobs and generates more than $72 million in federal and state tax revenues, according to a Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development report. Tourism’s significant impact is seen in the Meadows Racetrack & Casino, which marked its five-year anniversary in Washington County in 2012. According to Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan, it is one of the county’s largest employers with 1,400 employees hosting 4.1 million guests annually.

“The Meadows parent company, CCR, has invested more than $535 million in property since 2006 and now The Meadows is spending $18 million on goods and services in Washington County,” Irey said.

Improvements to Washington County’s infrastructure, business parks and community development projects are funded by revenue received through the county’s Local Share Account (LSA) Program, officials reported. The LSA is Washington County’s share of gross revenues from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Since 2008, county commissioners have directed more than $52 million in new projects which help to bolster the county’s economic development and tourism prowess.

Other major economic development investments highlighted during the briefing included Starpointe Business Park, Southpointe II, Alta Vista Business Park and the Washington County Airport.

“The successes we are experiencing in Washington County are not accidental,” said Washington County Chamber President Jeff M. Kotula. “While we did not foresee the tremendous positive economic impacts of the energy industry 15 years ago, the decisions made then to develop ready-to-go sites made our county uniquely positioned to take advantage of these economic opportunities.”

Phil Cynar

B_1 copyA twice-baked opportunity for Pittsburgh’s resurgent East Liberty neighborhood is being readied for the oven with the recent groundbreaking for Bakery Square 2.0 – a “world-class development … offer[ing] amazing office and housing opportunities that will attract new businesses and residents,” according Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl – and complementing the original Bakery Square across Penn Ave.  Ground was broken for the new development on February 14.

Bakery Square 2.0 is a continuation of the public-private partnership started at Bakery Square, and both are made possible by strong support from the Ravenstahl administration, including a $2 million federal grant secured by the mayor and the city’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which will help prepare infrastructure for the site.  Bakery Square 2.0 will play off the success of Bakery Square – a $100 million development which has met critical needs for quality office and retail space near the East End’s bustling “eds and meds” corridor.  Located on the site of a former Nabisco Bakery plant, Bakery Square has attracted more than $50 million in private investment, expanded Pittsburgh’s tech-driven economy by providing office space for new and growing tenants such as Google, UPMC Technology Development, the Veterans Administration Human Engineering Research Laboratory, Pitt’s Department of Rehabilitation Sciences and the Software Engineering Institute.  It created (or will create when fully occupied) 2,213 full-time jobs and generates approximately $5.4 million in new state and local taxes each year.

BS_2 copy

Bakery Square 2.0, which will include apartments, townhomes and office buildings – to be built on the site of the former and behemoth, 1970s-era Reizenstein School – is expected to create 2,391 full-time jobs and will generate approximately $7.0 million in annual tax revenues.

Local developer Walnut Capital will oversee the Bakery Square 2.0 construction, which is expected to exceed best practices in architecture, landscape architecture and urban design, and will emphasize green and sustainable design and construction standards.  Internal streets will be designed to privilege pedestrians over motorists, and pathways for pedestrians and cyclists will integrate the development into the surrounding network of urban neighborhoods.

Bakery Square 2.0 is expected to provide top-rate living options for professionals employed in medical and tech jobs at Bakery Square and nearby who want to live and play close to their work.  Construction, including 175 new apartments, should begin in March.

Learn more about the development here.

Ben Kamber

Fostering Entrepreneurship in Pittsburgh’s Underserved Neighborhoods

Urban Innovation21 recently announced the first 20 companies to receive seed grants and business support services to help drive growth in Pittsburgh’s underserved communities. The top grant awardee is Artistry Greenscapes, a 20-year strong, full-service landscape company that has provided landscaping for such locations at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and Market Square. Artistry’s president and CEO Ken Ross is joined by William Generett, Jr., president and CEO of Urban Innovation21 to discuss the program and how it aims to connect companies to Pittsburgh’s vibrant ecosystem.

Hola Pittsburgh: Growing Pittsburgh’s Hispanic Population

A century ago, Pittsburgh’s population was one of the most diverse in the nation as European immigrants flocked to the region in search of opportunity. Yet today, Pittsburgh is one of America’s least diverse regions – especially among Hispanics. A new partnership called “Hola Pittsburgh” is working to change this by marketing the opportunities available in the region to Hispanics. Victor Diaz, a board member with the Pittsburgh Metropolitan Area Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is joined by Vibrant Pittsburgh’s Melanie Harrington and the Pittsburgh Promise’s Saleem Ghubril to discuss what’s in store for the initiative.

Sherlock: The Next Big Thing in the Big Data World

The Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center’s latest supercomputer – the 14th in its 26-year history – is truly cutting edge. Called Sherlock, this mega machine is able to crunch huge amounts of data and can have beneficial applications for businesses throughout the Pittsburgh region. Dr. Nick Nystrom, director of strategic applications at the Pittsburgh Supercomputing Center discusses what makes Sherlock unique and how businesses can take advantage of its computing prowess.

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.

Meredith Fahey

The success of ShaleNET – linking more than 2,000 people with Marcellus Shale industry-related jobs – was recently profiled in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in a front page “Sunday Business” story.  As P-G Energy and Business Reporter Erich Schwartzel notes in the article, there is not one unique “student profile.” People come to these trainings from all walks of life and parts of the country hoping to get trained and find potentially high earning employment in the oil and gas sector. The common attribute of those who succeed is that they are hard-working folks, willing to put in long hours in outdoor conditions. Training classes now are available throughout Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, New York and shortly, Texas.

ShaleNET will soon be expanding its reach, both in terms of geography and skills training. Started in 2010 as an entry-level jobs training program supported by a $5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor, last fall ShaleNET was awarded an additional $14.9 million follow on grant. With the maturing of the industry and with the additional money, participants will be able to continue their education and training by earning certificates and two-year degrees that will help them find jobs in the midstream and downstream part of the industry – that is, beyond the drill rigs and in the processing of oil and natural gas.

The original founders of ShaleNET – the Allegheny Conference, Pennsylvania College of Technology and Westmoreland County Community College – partnered with Stark State College in Canton, Ohio, and Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas, for this second round funding, with the hope of scaling ShaleNET to become a national job training and education model.

To learn more, visit and view the video below to learn more about how partnerships are expanding workforce training opportunities in the U.S. under the ShaleNET banner.