Phil Cynar

Pittsburgh’s tallest skyscraper, the U.S. Steel Tower, 64 stories above downtown, has a one-acre rooftop that’s actually the largest, highest space atop any building on the planet.  And while this destination is one that most people – natives or visitors – won’t likely get to visit in person, technology has now made it virtually accessible.

Recently, High Point Pittsburgh premiered a fully interactive, virtual destination, Virtually There,  which allows anyone with a computer and Internet access the opportunity to explore an imaginative facility proposed for this unique destination.  The interactive technology making this possible is the most recent phase of the Hight Point Pittsburgh Investigation, a multi-year project on the campus of Carnegie Mellon University.   Virtually There was developed by a multi-national team of students from the university’s Entertainment Technology Center (ETC).  At the ETC, students can earn a two-year Masters of Entertainment Technology degree, jointly conferred by Carnegie Mellon University’s College of Fine Arts and School of Computer Science.  The brainchild of Don Marinelli and the late Randy Pausch, the ETC and its programs uniquely blend left- and right-brain thinking, with stellar innovations and creative outcomes as the result.  Virtually There is one example.

At the premier of Virtually There, we caught up with Sean McChesney from the ETC team that created the virtual destination.  Watch the video below to learn more about the team’s collaboration to create this experience.  In the same video you’ll also hear from former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Travel Editor David Bear.  Bear is now a fellow in CMU’s STUDIO for Creative Inquiry and is the overseer of the High Point Pittsburgh project.

Both Bear and McChesney recently presented the Virtually There project to a group of nine national and international media – all focused on technology – in town for Carnegie Mellon University’s annual Information Technology Media Fellowship, June 17 – 19, 2012.  Among the media outlets represented were USA Today, Thomson Reuters, Computerworld, The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Globe and Mail of Canada.

Click here to learn more about Virtually There or to access the simulation for yourself.

Phil Cynar

It’s almost (officially) summer, and with this season often comes travel, but not necessarily travel away from the Pittsburgh region. In fact, many residents may find themselves welcoming family and friends to southwestern Pennsylvania over the coming months. Similarly, some residents may be taking advantage of lower cost “staycations” and will explore the region on day or weekend jaunts.

In either case, there’s more to do here than you might suspect. Even city neighborhoods, which may seem especially familiar on the surface, often have hidden gems of attractions that are well worth a few hours of time on a lazy day off work or on a weekend. Both residents and their out-of-town visitors might find themselves delighted to discover these “mysteries of Pittsburgh.”

While it was published a few years ago, the “To Do List … Pittsburgh” from the Fall 2009 Pittsburgh Quarterly is a useful resource for filling those lazy days of summer 2012 with excursions to and explorations of things homegrown and distinctively Pittsburgh.

Bonnie Pfister

It’s now just 16 days and counting to the nominating deadline for the 2012 ATHENA awards. There are new tools on the website to help you recognize women in our region who demonstrate excellence in their work and help other women to succeed.

For 22 years, the Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA Award has recognized a woman who mentors other women and supports their leadership. Since 2011, the local ATHENA committee has also recognized — with the ATHENA Young Professional Award — an emerging leader age 35 or younger who serves as a role model to others in her work and her life.

New on is a video (which you can watch below) from last month’s call for 2012 nominations. Speakers include committee chair Maris Bondi, 2011 ATHENA Award recipient MJ Tocci and ATHENA Young Professional recipient Jennifer Cairns. In addition, Pittsburgh Magazine’s Betsy Benson shared nomination writing tips, which you can download in print form from the site. There’s also a link to three years of Greater Pittsburgh ATHENA videos here.

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 at by 5 p.m. on Friday, June 29, 2012. (Nominations will only be accepted online.) Please also mark your calendar for the awards luncheon on Monday, Sept. 24, 2012 at the Westin Convention Center Pittsburgh. will continue to blog about the ATHENA awards, Tweet about them via @ImaginePgh under the hashtag #PghAthena and spread the word via our Facebook page, Pittsburgh Region. Please link to our pages and push the word out via your own social media or other networks. There are many women in the Pittsburgh region doing important work to foster women’s leadership and empowerment. Please help us recognize them.

Read all of our ATHENA-related blog posts here. is the blog of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which organizes the annual ATHENA awards ceremony. Sponsors of the 2012 ATHENA Awards include ESB Bank, FedEx Ground, UPMC Health Plan, Bank of America/Merrill Lynch, Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, KMPG LLP, Pittsburgh Business Times, Pittsburgh Magazine, PopCity, WTAE-TV, Athena® Bottled Water, Best of the Batch Foundation, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC, Fox Rothschild, LLP, Mascaro Construction Company, L.P.,  Sisterson & Co., LLP and TiER1 Performance Solutions.

Phil Cynar

Carnegie Mellon University professor and Aquion Energy, Inc. Founder and Chief Technology Officer Jay Whitacre describes the creation of a new aqueous hybrid ion battery at his Pittsburgh-based company as “the most exciting work [he's] ever done.” (You can watch our interview with Whitacre here or below.) With the potential to be a game-changer for storing energy from renewable and off-grid sources, Aquion’s new battery has earned every bit of bragging rights. This safe, reliable and affordable unit may just be one of the critical components needed to realize a true portfolio approach to energy. That could advance energy independence – not only for the U.S., but for other countries that depend on foreign oil or gas as their energy mainstays. It’s exciting that this innovation is happening right here in Pittsburgh, and it underscores exactly why the region really is the new center of American energy.

Recently, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, in cooperation with VisitPittsburgh, hosted 15 top national and international journalists – all interested in energy, green building and sustainability – for a three-day study tour focused on Pittsburgh’s assets in these areas, as well as the region’s innovative energy leadership. Aquion in Lawrenceville was just one of the featured locales. Minneapolis-based tour participant Daniel Cusick from Environment & Energy Publishing wrote a feature about Aquion, “ ‘Steel City’ Gets Recharge from the Energy Tech Sector,” published on June 7 on ClimateWire. It’s just the latest of the earned media already garnered from the study tour. Check out links to other such stories here on our blog,

Bill Flanagan

We’re almost halfway through our “Best of the World” year (as so designated by National Geographic Traveler), and the Allegheny Conference, Allegheny County, the city of Pittsburgh and VisitPittsburgh are celebrating worldwide with a special section on our region in the June edition of Delta Air Lines’ Sky Magazine. The series of articles is entitled “Comeback City: The reinvented steel town has jobs, a healthy real estate market, lots of public and private innovation – and billions of dollars of natural gas.” In addition to appearing in seatback pockets on Delta flights worldwide throughout June — reaching a readership of about 5 million — a digital version of the supplement will be available on the Sky website for the next 12 months.

The partnership with Sky is a centerpiece of our strategy to reach visitors to the region while they’re here and en route. Working with VisitPittsburgh, VibrantPittsburgh and numerous partners, and thanks to support from Lamar, Pittsburgh Magazine, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette and WQED-TV, we targeted delegates to the National Society of Black Engineers convention in March and competitors here for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May. Next up is the National Association of Counties (NACo) conference in July and the One Young World Summit in October. Our objective is not just to show these visitors a good time but to send them home as ambassadors who can plant the seeds about our region as a dynamic place to invest, work, go to school, visit or play.

You may be interested in two upcoming opportunities to roll up your sleeves and welcome the nation and the world to our region. First, the local host committee for NACo, led by Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald, is looking for several hundred volunteers to help with that event from July 13-17. NACo will bring thousands of county officials to our region from across the country, and will feature such speakers as retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and humorist Dave Barry. If you’re interested in helping, please email Paulette Zanotti (pzpz1 AT comcast DOT net), whom you may have met during the G-20 when she volunteered in our media welcome center.

After NACo we’ll be gearing up to welcome the world again – a somewhat younger version of it – for the One Young World Summit in October. I’m told there are still opportunities to send delegates. The One Young World Pittsburgh Partnership, co-chaired by Greg Babe of Bayer Corp. and Sy Holzer of PNC Bank, is asking local companies with national and global operations to consider sponsoring delegates, using the summit to introduce high potential employees to Pittsburgh as well as to fellow emerging leaders. Talk about a way to build a global network of contacts!

You can find details about how to sponsor delegates and how to register at

In the meantime, pick up a copy of Sky next time you board the Delta trip to Paris. You are, of course, using this nonstop flight as your gateway to Europe and the world beyond, aren’t you? Delta has resumed five-day-a-week service through the busy summer travel months. Since there’s no longer any public or private sector guarantee supporting the flight, it’s up to the market to make it work. If we want continued and enhanced nonstop transatlantic air service, it’s critically important that business and leisure travelers support this flight when it makes sense for them. You can learn more at

Ben Kamber

Pittsburgh Region: A Green Tourism Destination

If you think tourism in Pittsburgh is stagnant at best, then you haven’t been paying attention to recent trends. Just in Allegheny County, tourism and travel represents a $4.8 billion economic impact and in the broader region this number grows to $7.8 billion. Hotel occupancy is up (69 percent in Pittsburgh compared to the 60 percent national average) even after the number of available rooms grew by 50 percent over the past decade. This growth has been supported by the region becoming a premier destination for green and sustainable experiences. The region’s newest green asset, the Center for Sustainable Landscapes at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, is expected to be one of the greenest building in the world. Phipps Executive Director Richard Piacentini is joined by VisitPittsburgh CEO Craig Davis to discuss Pittsburgh’s standing as a green tourism destination and the overall growth of tourism and travel in the region.

Millionaires Row Mansion Converted Into Boutique Hotel

Located in a striking example of turn-of-the-century architecture, the Mansions on Fifth Hotel in Pittsburgh’s Shadyside neighborhood promises its occupants a truly unique and unforgettable experience. Built in 1906 by Willis McCook, one of the nation’s first corporate attorneys, the nearly 25,000 square foot mansion was recently renovated by husband and wife team Mary Del Brady and Richard Pearson to provide Pittsburgh visitors with a one-of-a-kind hotel option. Del Brady and Pearson are joined by Michael Kuhn of Jendoco Construction Corporation to take you on an exclusive tour of the hotel and discuss some of the challenges in renovating this 100 year old building.

Travel Ready MD: Protecting Your Health While Abroad

Who would have known that at this summer’s London Olympics, preparations are now underway to control a huge measles outbreak? If you’re planning an upcoming international excursion to London or elsewhere, you may want to check out Travel Ready MD — a company that provides advance consultation and medical services for anyone traveling abroad. Founder of Travel Ready MD, Dr. Sarah Kohl, discusses why she started the company and what people should be asking themselves before heading off on their next global destination.

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.