Feb. 18 marks the premiere of the Distinctively Dutch Festival, a three-month, city-wide showcase of Dutch culture and arts. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, a non-profit promoting the arts and serving as one of the catalysts to downtown Pittsburgh’s resurgence, is presenting the festival. Dance, theatre, music, visual art, film, literature and architecture of The Netherlands will be featured, capturing and displaying the creative spirit of the 75 talented artists. The festival is comprised of more than 25 events, which will be held throughout the Cultural District downtown and select locations in the city through May 20.

“Dutch artists are renowned for their innovation and creativity,” said J. Kevin McMahon, Cultural Trust President and CEO said. “The  artists whom The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust has invited showcase the outstanding caliber of craft, technique, expression, collaboration and bold spirit of  exploration we identify as ‘distinctively Dutch’.”

Renée Jones-Bos, Dutch Ambassador to the United States, called Pittsburgh “one of the most creative cities in the United States.” The initiative “reflects the forward-looking mentality, entrepreneurial spirit and innovative nature that the Netherlands shares with the United States and with Pittsburgh in particular.”

There may be no need to “go Dutch,” as they say, as several of the festival events occurring in the Cultural District are free. Click here for more information and the schedule of events.

See Bill Flanagan’s interview with Dutch Consul Arthur Kibbelaar and Paul Organisak of the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust to learn more about how and why Pittsburgh is reinforcing its ties with the Netherlands.


Bill Flanagan

A key economic benefit of western Pennsylvania’s shale gas boom is the growth it is spurring for companies that supply equipment and services to the industry. Among the 750 energy companies in our region is Elliott Group, a century-old manufacturer in Jeannette, Westmoreland County.  A unit of Ebara Corporation of Japan, Elliott supplies and services turbo-machinery for the full spectrum of oil and gas, refining, LNG, petrochemical and other process and power applications. And it’s growing.  Elliott has doubled in size over the past five years, with hopes to do the same in the next five years.

Last year the company broke ground on a new, $16 million administration building adjacent to its factory. Currently, Elliott accommodates about 420 office workers in several older buildings, one dating all the way back to 1914. When it’s completed later this year, the new Centennial Building will accommodate 500 people in an open office environment designed by Kingsland Scott Bauer Associates of Pittsburgh.

After the groundbreaking, Tony Casillo, then the chief operating officer, talked with me about Elliott’s bright future in our region and its need for skilled workers to keep up with global demand for its products and services. Check out the video below.

Bill Flanagan

Pittsburgh’s got big shoes to fill if we want to realize our potential as the new center of American energy – and not just the boots of roustabouts in the shale gas industry. Our region’s writing the book on energy – from coal, natural gas and nuclear, to renewables, smart grid, and green building. We’ve also got the financial and legal expertise to support new and growing energy businesses, along with the environmental expertise to do it better than anybody else.

And, we’ve got a great workforce, the true “power of Pittsburgh.”  But we’re going to need more skilled workers to meet the demand in the not-too-distant future.  You see, there’s already a skills gap.  Check out the job search engine at www.PowerofPittsburgh.com and at any given time you might find a couple of thousand openings. And that’s not including the thousands of open jobs in other industries you can find at www.ImaginePittsburgh.com.

We’re not just talking engineers and other college graduates (although we need them, too).  We need people who like to work with their hands as well as their heads, and who want to find a well-paying job with a bright future; the skilled trades that really make the energy industries and their suppliers work.

We’ve gotten a start with ShaleNET, a workforce development initiative that trains people from around here to fill the jobs that have been springing up in the shale gas industry. More than 1,000 of them have jobs in the industry. ShaleNET, co-founded by Westmoreland County Community College and Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport and their partners, is now building certificate and 2-year degree programs with a new focus on midstream (and even downstream) occupations. It’s a classic example of the ingenuity and collaboration that is making our region a national model when it comes to meeting future energy needs, another example of the Power of Pittsburgh.

Now we’ve just got to get out the word.

So, on behalf of the Energy Alliance of Greater Pittsburgh and its “Energy to the Power of Pittsburgh” campaign, we decided to do it in a big way – by running an ad on WPXI-TV during the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl broadcast on NBC-TV.  We want people to know that there is opportunity in our region.  It’s about more than jobs, it’s really an opportunity to help reinvent the way the world produces, distributes and uses energy.  And there’s no place better-positioned than Pittsburgh  to make it happen.

If you’d like to stay current on opportunities in our region, subscribe to ImaginePittsburghNow.com, the blog about the people, places and events that are moving the region forward.  Get updates directly to your email address via RSS,  ”like” us on Facebook (facebook.com/PittsburghRegion) and follow us on Twitter (@ImaginePgh).

Bill Flanagan

First National Geographic Traveler named Pittsburgh one of the 20 “Best of the World” places to visit in 2012. Then last week a university study of most-literate U.S. cities found Pittsburgh to be in the Top 10.

Now U.S. News & World Report has ranked Pittsburgh as the Number One place for cheap, last-minute getaways. The newspaper says the region is an “up-and-coming” tourism hot-spot that boasts a thriving arts scene. Citing information from discount travel site Hotwire.com, those who planned a spontaneous Pittsburgh getaway saved “a whopping 59 percent” on hotel rates, finding rooms for as low as $90 a night. The magazine notes that clothing and food are exempt from sales and use tax, too.

The timing couldn’t be better. More than a few of the old G-20 Partnership partners are getting together this year to make the most of the “Best of the World” designation. We’ll be focusing attention on such upcoming conferences as the National Society of Black Engineers in March, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May, and the One Young World Summit in October. We’re also working with Delta Airlines’ Sky magazine as we did in 2009 to produce a special supplement focused on our region, especially the growing international recognition we’re getting for thought leadership when it comes to sustainability and quality of life. Meantime, if you’re flying Delta in May, watch for the in-flight video we’re producing in partnership with the Allegheny County Airport Authority and VisitPittsburgh.

By the way, the science fair’s organizers are looking for 1,000 judges with a minimum of six years of professional experience in science, engineering and the like, or hold a Ph.D., M.D. or similar degree. Please RSVP to ISEF at pitt DOT edu if you will commit to recruit science fair judge volunteers within your organization.

Pittsburgh is one of just three places in the United States that will be hosting this event over a 10-year period. Los Angeles and Phoenix are the other two. The science fair will bring close to 2,000 high school students to our region from 65 countries. Something like one-fifth of them already have patents!

More information about ISEF 2012 is available here, including this video and registration links for those interested in serving as general volunteers and foreign language interpreters (Mandarin, Spanish and Russian especially are needed).

Please do what you can to help.

Ben Kamber

From orange juice to motor oil to steel, Esmark Inc. is back. This one-time Chicago conglomerate now focuses on steel services and oil-and-gas production from its headquarters in Sewickley, employing 400 people as one of the region’s largest private firms. Jim Bouchard, founder and CEO of the new Esmark talks about the lessons learned from Pittsburgh’s storied steel industry.

The Power of 32  has been described as one of the most geographically ambitious regional “visioning” projects ever attempted. Over the past few years thousands of people from 32 counties across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Maryland and West Virginia have gathered to develop priorities across themes of economy, education, environment and transportation. Chesapeake Energy’s Scott Roetruck — a West Virginia native and a Power of 32 steering committee member — discusses a proposed regional “fund of funds” as well as site development fund.

CONSOL Energy is on a hiring roll, adding 1,000 new workers each year for the past six, with 1,400 more expected to join the payroll in 2012. While the Marcellus Shale natural gas boom is part of that, so is the retirement of Baby Boomers from the region’s still-strong coal industry. Men and women with little experience – but a willingness to show up on time ready to learn and work — can earn total compensation of more than $100,000. Nick DeIuliis, a member of the Power of 32 education committee and president of CONSOL Energy explains why working with K-12 educators is key to connecting Pittsburgh-area workers with those jobs.

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

The Pittsburgh region and the nation gradually emerged from the recession’s tight grip in 2011, and according to PNC’s Chief Economist Stuart Hoffman, 2012 is not looking too bad either. Hoffman predicts this modest recovery will continue in the new year with a predicted 2.5% national GDP growth and the creation of an additional 1.5-1.75 million private sector jobs. But will the ongoing European economic crisis play wildcard in this outlook? Hoffman laid out his predictions on a recent edition of Our Region’s Business.

A collaboration between two of the region’s cutting-edge tech start-ups, Mechatar toy robots were one of the hottest toys of the holiday season. If you didn’t receive one as a gift (but did receive some gift cards), there may be no better time than post-holidays to pick one of these innovative toys up. Bossa Nova Robotics‘ Sarjoun Skaff and Jake Witherell of Schell Games demonstrate the Mechatars and speak about the collaboration that brought the toys to market.

Metis Secure Solutions, a start-up based in Oakmont PA, has created a breakthrough emergency notification system with a broad range of applications – from university campuses to high-rise office building to military bases and beyond. As president and CEO of the company, Mark Jay Kurtzrock, remarked, the Metis Secure system “communicates the right information to the right people at the right time.” He sat down recently to explain why universities such as Carnegie Mellon, Slippery Rock and Point Park have decided to install the system on their campuses.

“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.