Phil Cynar

On August 1, 1982, Dover, Del. native Bill Flanagan came to town.  As a young broadcast journalist, he arrived just in time to witness one of the most far-reaching regional economic collapses ever.  Bleak news, but Bill Flanagan was on the job – as a general assignments reporter at KDKA-TV at the time – covering the shuttering of steel mills, massive layoffs and the ripple effect on other regional businesses and industries – all of which resulted in a sinking economy. It was certainly not the best of times for Pittsburgh, and perhaps not for a young broadcast journalist bombarded with more bad news than one should ever have to report.

Like Pittsburgh, Bill toughed it out and had the opportunity to report on the economic, environmental and quality of life transformation of Pittsburgh.  In fact, his 30th anniversary of living and working in Pittsburgh maps perfectly to the three decades it took for the region to transform.  Few broadcast journalists are in one place long enough to report on the polar extremes of stories. Bill’s had the unique opportunity to report on the fall – and remarkable rise – of the Pittsburgh region.

Bill began his Pittsburgh career at KDKA-TV, where he eventually became Money Editor and Pittsburgh’s only broadcast reporter devoted exclusively to business and personal finance. Bill’s been a pioneer in the field of regional business reporting beginning with The Sunday Business Page on KDKA and continuing today to Our Region’s Business on WPXI-TV, two of the only regional business affairs programs broadcast anywhere in the US.

Many Pittsburghers have spent their Sunday mornings with Bill, hearing about the latest developments and innovations having an impact on our economy, businesses and workers.

In 2001, Bill launched a new phase of his career, joining the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and its Affiliates as executive vice president for corporate affairs. At the same time, he launched a new model for broadcasting regional business news with an innovative co-producing partnership between a major media outlet and a civic leadership organization – Our Region’s Business. Thanks to Bill’s professional commitment to broadcasting, his passion for Pittsburgh and the partnership with WPXI-TV, the region’s comeback story hasn’t been relegated to a moment in history.  Our Region’s Business is a regular communications medium for presenting the personalities, events and places that are routinely putting Pittsburgh in not only the regional, but the national and international news.

Congratulations, Bill Flanagan, on 30 years as a Pittsburgher and Our Region’s Broadcaster.   Here’s to many more stories that end on good notes for you and the region.

Catch Bill in broadcast mode – then and now – via the two video clips below.

Author’s note:  Allegheny Conference colleagues Catherine DeLoughry and Ben Kamber also contributed to this post.

Bill Flanagan
One Young World flags flutter in Zurch, 2011 / Photo by Amanda Sennert

One Young World is looking for a few good men and women to volunteer to welcome delegates from around the world to our region from October 16-20. As we did during the G-20 Summit three years ago, we’re hoping to help OYW identify volunteers who speak languages other than English as well as hospitable Pittsburghers who don’t. If you’re interested in signing on, please contact VisitPittsburgh, which is helping to organize this effort.

OYW is expected to attract well over 1,000 young people for a sort of “Junior Davos,” a conversation about issues important to the future of people around the world.  They will be fanning out across the city and nearby suburbs for breakout sessions and meals.  OYW needs volunteers to help make it all go as smoothly as possible. Pittsburgh is the third city to host the summit, after London and Zurich.  Not bad company to be in.

Speaking of good company, our region has made yet another important list, ranked by Global Trade magazine among the Top 50 cities for global trade. The magazine notes that “Pittsburgh is truly one of the recent feel-good American export stories, having increased merchandise exports by 46 percent between 2009 and 2010. This is all the more impressive considering the Steel City no longer deals in steel. In fact, there is not a single steel mill in the city itself. Its redirection and recovery are due to a wide-ranging economic sector that spans from mining to technology, and finds major trade partners in Asia, Europe, South America and Canada.”

All true, although it’s worth noting that we still make steel around here, just no longer within Pittsburgh city limits.  In fact, Pittsburgh is the No. 2 center of metals industry production and employment in the United States.  It’s just that nowadays we do lots of other things well, too.

FoxNews.com has also weighed in.  Correspondent Shira Levine attended the Green Pittsburgh Media Study Tour in May, organized by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and VisitPittsburgh, and cites Pittsburgh as “one of the top revival cities.”

It’s great to be getting such national and global recognition. It’s also important to remember that it’s the result of a lot of hard work by a lot of people over a couple of generations, going all the way back to Renaissance One.

I’ve been thinking about this a little more of late. August 1 marked my 30th anniversary in Pittsburgh.  I came here to work for KDKA-TV at a time when there was every reason to doubt whether Pittsburgh could recover from the worst economic setback suffered by any region in the country in the second half of the 20th century.  People responded to the crisis and engineered a remarkable comeback.  There’s every reason to be proud of what’s been accomplished, but there’s also the risk of complacency, that we’ve closed the chapter on transformation and reinvention.

Fortunately, plenty of our friends and neighbors remain focused on reimagining our region.   A few weeks ago I spoke at the groundbreaking for the Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, an ambitious project to remake a strip mining site near Settler’s Cabin Park in western Allegheny County into the largest outdoor botanic garden in the United States.  The first trails are expected to open this fall, but proponents of the project acknowledge it could take three decades to compete.  To provide some encouragement, I noted that it took 30 years from the time civic leaders first began talking about building Point State Park until their successors turned the fountain on, and that the long road back from the bust of the ‘80s took a generation, too.

As the famous American architect and city planner, Daniel Burnham, once said, “Make no little plans; they have no magic to stir men’s blood … Make big plans, aim high in hope and work.” It could be a motto, of sorts, for the power of Pittsburgh to come together to overcome challenges and capture opportunities.

Make big plans a reality and, indeed, the world will beat a path to your door.

Bill Flanagan

I’ve been in Pittsburgh long enough – 30 years this month, in fact – to remember when a term like “Pittsburgh Entrepreneur” was thought to be something of an oxymoron. It was a reflection of how strongly our region had become attached to the industrial, corporate economy that Pittsburgh exemplified for a century. There was a sense we’d become great managers but we’d lost some of our capacity to create. And there was concern that we’d never be able to recapture the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship that had built Pittsburgh in the first place, when a bunch of young entrepreneurs with names like Heinz, Hunt and Westinghouse were reinventing the way the world worked, and Andrew Carnegie was combing the world for innovative technologies like the Bessemer Convertor to revolutionize the steel industry.

Over the past generation we have come a long way, and there was no better example than the recent Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Awards at the Wyndham Grand Hotel in Downtown Pittsburgh. Twenty-three finalists from western Pennsylvania and West Virginia were competing. (A couple of the judges told me after a preliminary round that they were cutting entrepreneurs that should be winners, not just finalists.)

You can see who won by clicking here and watch videos of the winners on our YouTube page or below.

E&Y brought the award to our region 26 years ago and I’ve had the honor of serving as master of ceremonies for many of those events. This year, E&Y honored Rich Lunak, president of Innovation Works (IW), as Supporter of Entrepreneurship. Rich made a really good point along the lines of Sir Isaac Newton’s famous quote, “If I have seen farther than most it is because I stand on the shoulder of giants.”  Rich talked about the visionaries of the 1980s (some were thought of as crazies) who said we should put the infrastructure in place to create a knowledge-driven, entrepreneurial economy. They included people like former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy, who as a state lawmaker helped to create the Ben Franklin Partnerships that became IW here in our region and the late Ron Morris, founder of The American Entrepreneur. Rich mentioned Tom Canfield and Frank Demmler of the old Enterprise Corporation, now folded into IW as well. Civic leaders such as Bill Newlin, Bob Kampmeinert, Marlee Meyers and Tim Parks created the Pittsburgh Technology Council, celebrating its 30th anniversary next year. A few years later, Dennis Yablonsky brought to life the Life Sciences and Digital Greenhouses. And, of course, you can’t say enough about the contributions of the leadership of Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh, UPMC and the West Penn Allegheny Health System all along the way.

Today there are hundreds of companies in health care, life sciences, and information & communications technology employing hundreds of thousands of people in the region, many of them companies that didn’t exist three decades ago. You can add to that the impact innovation and technology commercialization have had on our foundational industries in advanced manufacturing, financial and business services and energy. The seeds that were planted then have borne fruit – and it’s a big reason our region’s economy has been outperforming the national average for several years running.

Now, if we could only find the financial resources we need to capitalize on all the good ideas and would-be entrepreneurs teaching and studying at our colleges and universities and working inside companies throughout the region. Oh, well, we’ve got to have something for the next generation to work on…

Meantime, congratulations to this year’s crop of Entrepreneurs of the Year. They’ll be representing our region at E&Y’s national Strategic Growth Conference in California in November.

Check out Rich Lunak’s interview here.

And see all the interviews here.

Ben Kamber

For the second year in a row, the Pennsylvania state budget passed on time and saw no tax increases. At $27.66 billion, the 2012-13 fiscal year budget also keeps higher education spending at previous levels and preserves CURE (Commonwealth Universal Research Enhancement) spending, which is an important funding program for university biomedical research. State Senator Jay Costa and President of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce Barbara McNees discuss the provisions passed that will improve government efficiency and encourage business investment.

Natural Gas Creating Opportunity for Environmental Services Laboratories
The region’s natural gas boom is driving business to companies large and small. One of these small businesses, Indiana, Pa. based Environmental Services Laboratories (ESL), got its start in 1988 and has been growing quickly since landing their first Marcellus Shale deal in 2007. Now the company has 70 employees and is on pace to continue growing. CEO and President Elizabeth Gregg and COO Michael Moyer discuss how ESL was able to take advantage of the shale opportunity and provide advice for other small business owners looking to follow suit.

Gordon & Rees Establishes Pittsburgh Office
Based in San Francisco, Gordon & Rees is a national law firm with 26 offices across the county and employs 500 attorneys. Their newest office opened in Pittsburgh earlier this year in the city’s iconic Gulf Tower. Manoj Jegasothy, managing partner of the Pittsburgh office was the driving force in bringing Gordon & Rees to the region. He and Dion Cominos, firmwide managing partner, discuss why Pittsburgh makes sense for this entrepreneurially-oriented law practice.

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.

Ben Kamber

Realizing the Pittsburgh Promise
If you attend a Pittsburgh Public School and live in the City of Pittsburgh, the Pittsburgh Promise scholarship program provides up to $40,000 in the pursuit of higher education in Pennsylvania. This extraordinary program, which began in 2008, graduated its first four-year class in 2012. Sarah Walsh, a business marketing major at Robert Morris University, sits down with Promise Executive Director Saleem Ghubril to discuss what the Pittsburgh Promise meant for her educational goals.

STREAM Academy: A Unique Approach to Cyber Education
With the addition of “Research” and “the Arts,” STREAM Academy is expanding on the traditional STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) disciplines with an unusual approach to education. The cyber K-12 charter school, which is welcoming its inaugural class in the fall, will prepare workforce ready students through a STREAM focused curriculum and a blended approach to learning. Ann Bisignani, a consultant with STREAM Academy and Dr. Linda Hippert, executive director of the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, discuss the genesis of the school and what differentiates it from other cyber schools.

Urban Pathway Charter Schools Sends 100 Percent of Students to College
For the third year in a row, downtown Pittsburgh-based Urban Pathways Charter Schools has sent all of its graduating seniors to college. This remarkable development is a testament to the educational philosophy championed by the school, which promotes rigorous and strict standards for all students. Linda Clautti, CEO of Urban Pathways Charter Schools discusses how the public charter school’s private school approach to education is bringing opportunity to underserved communities in our region.

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.

Ben Kamber

PNC’s Mid-Year Economic Outlook
“Not too bad, yet not too good” pretty much sums up PNC Senior Economist Gus Faucher’s mid-year national economic forecast.  Faucher says that while the U.S. economy has slowed from the end of 2011 and beginning of 2012, the housing market is starting to turn around, jobs are being added and business profits are near an all-time high. Even so, Faucher predicts the national economy will be soft for the next six to nine months, due in part to economic uncertainty in Europe. The silver lining? Employment in the Pittsburgh region is back to pre-recession levels – one of just a handful of regions in the U.S. where this is the case.

Tube City IMS: A Global Leader in Steel Supply Chain Management
No, they don’t make tubes. But Tube City IMS, does ship a whole lot of steel globally — about a million tons a month. The company, which was started as a mom and pop scrap metal business in McKeesport in 1926, now operates as a full service steel supply chain provider on 82 sites internationally in 11 countries and employs 4,400. Why the name Tube City? The company is headquartered in Glassport Pa, which was once known as the “Tube City.” Joseph Curtin, chairman president and CEO of Tube City IMS discusses the company’s past, present and future as one of Pittsburgh’s leading industrial corporations.

ALMONO: New Riverfront Brownfield Redevelopment to Break Ground
The Pittsburgh Region is held up as national model for successful brownfield redevelopment and riverfront reclamation projects. The newest of these developments will be on the site of the former Jones and Laughlin coke works in Hazelwood. The project, called ALMONO, is expected to break ground later this year and when finished will include office, entertainment, residential and industrial assets on a multi-district site. Don Smith, Jr. of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation (RIDC) sits down to discuss the project in addition to another RIDC project in Westmoreland County which will be the new site of Aquion Energy.

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.