Ben Kamber

Naturals Gas Powered Vehicles: Do They Make Financial Sense?
EQT’s natural gas fueling station in Pittsburgh’s Strip District is selling a gallon equivalent of natural gas for about $1.76. Given the cost differential, it may seem like a no-brainer to swap out your gas powered vehicle for one that runs on natural gas. But as Ken Zapinski of the Allegheny Conference and EQT’s Lisa Hyland state, there are other considerations — including the lack of natural gas fueling infrastructure and high-initial cost of purchase and/or conversion — that must be accounted for before making the plunge. While natural gas vehicles may not make financial sense for many consumers, commercial operations — particularly ones with “high-mileage, return to base” fleets — may be able to take advantage of the cost savings. You can learn more at alleghenyconference.org/naturalgasvehicles.

NETL: Creating Cleaner, More Efficient Coal Power Plants
Bill caught up with Charles McConnell, assistant secretary at the U.S. Department of Energy, who was in Pittsburgh to brief business leaders on the future of fossil fuel energy. McConnell emphasizes that the U.S. will be a fossil fuel dominant society for the next 50 — 100 years, even as today’s energy debate is often centered on fossil fuel alternatives versus traditional energy sources. In the studio, Bill discusses the future of fossil fuel research with Jared Ciferno, director of coal and power research and development at the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) which is located in the South Hills.

Three Rivers Regatta Returns for Extended July Fourth Weekend
Celebrating its 35th anniversary, the Three Rivers Regatta is the largest inland regatta and the biggest summer event in the tri-state area. ISM USA’s Michael Dongilli previews this year’s festivities which, for the first time, include a free outdoor “ice-less” skating rink open to the public.

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

We’ve taken Our Region’s Business on the road to Pittsburgh’s newest and greenest building — the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at historic Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. The recently opened structure is vying for a Living Building designation, which exceeds LEED Platinum status. Through a number of cutting-edge technologies, the CSL produces all of its own energy and treats all of its water on-site, a remarkable accomplishment designed to make the building net-zero energy and net-zero water. Phipps Executive Director Richard Piacentini takes us on an exclusive tour of the CSL and describes some of the innovations behind this uber-green structure. And Dr. Barbara Schaal, vice president of the National Academy of Sciences and an evolutionary biologist at Washington University in St. Louis sits down to offer her take on the CSL and previews the National Academies’ science ambassador program which is being piloted in Pittsburgh.

National Academies Pilot Science Ambassador Program in Pittsburgh
When the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, two D.C. based research organizations, were scoping out a region to pilot their national science ambassadors program, Pittsburgh rose to the top of the list. This was in large part due to the region’s word-class leadership in energy and science and the top top-tier universities, institutions and talent that has historically defined the region. President of the National Academy of Sciences Dr. Ralph Cicerone and President of the National Academy of Engineering Dr. Charles Vest sit down at Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes to unveil the ambassador program and discuss why Pittsburgh was chosen as its pilot region.

Homegrown Technologies Form the Backbone of the Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes
The story of the Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) is one of a number of regional companies lending their technologies to help create one of the world’s most sustainable structures. Berner International and Epiphany Solar Water Systems, both New Castle-based, are two of these companies which have created unique systems to help the CSL meet the Living Building Challenge. Georgia Berner, president and CEO of Berner International is joined by Tom Joseph, president and CTO of Epiphany Solar Water Systems to discuss their companies’ respective contributions to the CSL.

National and International Journalists Offer Reflections on Pittsburgh
As part of the “Green Pittsburgh Media Study Tour” 16 journalists from as far away as Spain and Germany were in Pittsburgh for the opening of the Phipps’ Center for Sustainable Landscapes. The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and VisitPittsburgh collaborated on the tour which focused on the region’s transformation story and leadership in sustainability and energy. Three of the participating journalists, Daniel Cusick (Environmental and Energy Publishing), Tracey Greenstein (Forbes.com) and Jan Olefkin (German Wire Service) offer their take on Pittsburgh and what they learned about the region’s energy and sustainability assets.

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

A weekend of drama and intrigue returns to Pittsburgh when rising young hockey stars from around the world learn where they’ll be playing professionally. The National Hockey League draft comes to the CONSOL Energy Center Friday and Saturday, and while tickets have already been distributed, Pittsburgh fans can take in a variety of festive public events outside of the arena and around the region.

Pittsburgh last hosted the draft in 1997, and hockey has only grown more popular. Between the 140 players, 2,000+ family members and supporters, executives from the 30 NHL clubs and thousands of fans, this nationally televised event is expected to bring in $9.1 million in direct spending to the Pittsburgh region.

On Wednesday, several leading NHL prospects faced off on the Roberto Clemente Bridge against members of Pittsburgh ICE – a program that teaches hockey to economically disadvantaged students throughout the region. More community activities are planned for Thursday, including a special batting practice during the Pirates-Twins game.

The draft begins Friday night, but the whole day is packed with activities. From noon until 5:30 p.m., free skating is available on a synthetic ice rink near CONSOL’s  American Eagle Gate at Fifth Avenue and Washington Place. The first 200 guests can rent skates for free. (Regular ice skates can’t be used.) To learn more about the innovative material that allows year-round “ice” skating, check out this Our Region’s Business interview with Bob Gierl, the distributer of UltraSkate.

From 4 p.m. to 10:30 p.m., you can watch the nationally televised draft alongside other fans on the big screen at the public outdoor draft party at the South Parking Lot (across Centre Avenue from CONSOL). There will be live music from Lovebettie, barbecue and beer, interactive games and more. And if you’re able to make it over to the Trib Total Media Gate, you can catch a glimpse of the top prospects as they walk the red carpet at 6:15 p.m. before the first-round draft begins at 7 p.m.

Rounds 2-7 will be held Saturday, starting at 10 a.m. The outdoor “ice” rink will be open again, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

For more information on all of the draft-related events taking place this week, click here.

Bill Flanagan

If you see lots of very young people around Pittsburgh this week wearing Intel ISEF name badges, be sure to give them a warm welcome. They’re competitors in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. Pittsburgh is one of three cities selected by the Society for Science & the Public to host the prestigious event over the course of this decade. Los Angeles and Phoenix are the other two. Yep, that’s right: Pittsburgh’s the only place east of the Mississippi to host this event.

Intel ISEF 2012 is the world’s largest high school science research competition. More than 1,500 students have been selected from 446 affiliate fairs in approximately 70 countries, regions and territories to share ideas, showcase cutting-edge research and inventions, and compete for more than $3 million in awards.

In addition to welcoming our guests, we also have a “home team” to cheer for; seven Pittsburgh area students are competing with projects such as an improved cancer treatment, a model car that runs on pavement heat and new iPhone-based sensing technology to assist those with sight limitations.

"Best of the World" images are greeting visitors on billboards and PG-TV screens around town.

Working with our partners at VisitPittsburgh and thanks to the generosity of Lamar and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, we’ve been able to post welcoming messages on digital billboards on the Parkway West and on PG-TV screens in convenience stores and coffee shops throughout the region. We’re emphasizing our region as a center for higher education, R&D and innovation, and hoping the hundreds of students visiting this week might consider applying to one of our region’s 35 colleges and universities. Something like 25 percent of the science fair contestants already holds patents for their inventions.

Hundreds of Pittsburghers have stepped up to help stage the fair – more than 900 local scientists, engineers and medical professionals have volunteered to serve as judges, and hundreds more people are helping with the hospitality and serving as interpreters. Recently we focused on the effort on Our Region’s Business.

In addition, the Allegheny Conference has organized a Pittsburgh ISEF Symposium – “Energy to the Power of Pittsburgh: Young Leaders and Energy Solutions” — on Tuesday, May 15. In what may be the only Pittsburgh-specific symposium of the fair, Catherine DeLoughry, our senior VP of communication and public affairs, pulled together a crew of local people not much older than ISEF participants to talk about the impact they’re having in the Pittsburgh region, especially in the energy sector. We’ll touch on our region’s energy expertise and then highlight two projects where we can see science and engineering talent at work – the about-to-open Phipps’ “Living Building” (one of the first in the world) and the on-its-way Tower at PNC that’s going to take green building to a new global scale.

One really cool element of all of this is “Pittsburgh Day” on Thursday, May 17, when local companies, organizations schools and teachers bring 4,000 students from more than 50 schools across our region to see the fair, meet the entrants and participate in hands-on science activities. Talk about a great way to set the bar for excellence in achievement in the “STEM” fields of science, technology, engineering and math!

Intel ISEF is one of the “big three” national and international conferences featuring thousands of young people that we’ve been targeting this year in partnership with VisitPittsburgh as part of our “Best of the World” initiative. The National Society of Black Engineers held their national conference here in March (check out our blog coverage of it here) and the One Young World summit will provide the grand finale in October. Not only is there signage inside and outside the convention center speaking to opportunity in the region, but in partnership with the Allegheny County Airport Authority, this month we’ve produced an in-flight video about Pittsburgh that’s running system-wide on Delta Air Lines. We’re literally trying to catch these young people coming and going to encourage them to imagine what they can do here.

(It’s worth noting that both Intel ISEF and One Young World trace their decisions to choose Pittsburgh in part to the attention received around the G-20 Summit in 2009. The success of that event demonstrated our region’s ability to host major, international events.)

Please help us spread the word about Pittsburgh as a “Best of the World” magnet for young people in 2012.

Ben Kamber

Optimism is taking hold of small business owners throughout the nation, as PNC’s latest survey indicates that hiring, capital investment, and demand and approval of credit is up. This is especially true in western Pennsylvania, according to PNC Business Banking’s Pete Vaccaro — who says the region weathered the recession better than most of the country. He’s joined by one of these small business owners, Bruce Mallinson of Pittsburgh Power, Inc. — a growing diesel engine efficiency company based in Saxonburg, Pa.

Why don’t some entrepreneurs seek the advice they need? Entrepreneur Raul Valdes-Perez, executive chairman of Vivisimo, sought answers to this question in his forthcoming book, “Advice is for Winners.” He previews the book here and will discuss what he learned during his keynote address at the Entrepreneur’s Growth Conference on May 9, 2012 at Duquesne University.

While our region is well-known for public-private partnerships, less recognition is given to business-labor partnerships — many of which lead to job creation and economic growth. One of these, the 25 year-old ERECT funds, has invested more than $300 million dollars in 75 construction projects. The funds, which were created in 1987 by the union construction trades, are now providing investment for the second phase of the Cork Factory Lofts in Pittsburgh’s Strip District. Tad Imbrie of PennTrust discusses the funds’ history and development and the rationale behind them.

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

When you apply for a job online, where does your resume go? Bill sits down with Don Charlton, founder and CEO of The Resumator, which provides small business owners with an efficient recruiting platform. It guides recruiters through the process, and helps ensure that the right person has been employed for the right job. A Pittsburgh-based startup, The Resumator is growing rapidly, with an average of 100 new clients each month.

A student organized and driven event, the CMU Summit on U.S.-China Innovation and Entrepreneurship is bringing in students from across the country to help promote partnerships and investment opportunities between Pittsburgh and China. Rui Ma, founder and chair of the summit and Cora Wang, president of the Chinese Student and Scholar Association, discuss how this event came about and how common challenges can unite regions in China with Pittsburgh.

Based in Pittsburgh’s Strip District, CombineNET is experiencing tremendous growth by providing supply-chain solutions to companies throughout the nation and world. The 10 year old software company, which now employees 60 people, has expanded its customer base by 70 percent and grew it revenues by one third in 2011. CEO Rich Wilson explains why CombineNET’s innovative expressive bidding platform is leading to this explosive growth.

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.