Phil Cynar
Canadian Ambassador Gary Doer (gesturing) is seated to the right of Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky

This week, business leaders from nine Great Lakes states, including Pennsylvania, joined forces in Washington, D.C., to advance the multi-state region’s economy and position it as a powerful economic engine for the nation.

More than 30 members of the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition met with U.S. and Canadian leaders to discuss a newly honed plan for growth and continued job creation within America’s most formidable economic region.  They emphasized the need to grow America’s valuable manufacturing base – a key point in President Obama’s Jan. 26 State of the Union address.  The Great Lakes region of the U.S. offers the abundant and affordable sources of base load energy that manufacturing requires and – at the same time – possesses the high-tech expertise necessary to manufacture world-class products.

Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Dennis Yablonsky was among the leaders representing the Pittsburgh region in D.C.  He said, “We strongly urge the federal government to take steps favored by the coalition that will result in even more domestic economic strength and more jobs. The Coalition includes some of the best business minds in America.  We stand ready to work with federal leaders and our Canadian partners to help our [Great Lakes] region grow and create even more good jobs for Americans.”

Read the complete release here.

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.

As renewable energy industries such as solar and wind continue to grow nationally, it’s important to evaluate the already existing occupational and industrial infrastructure within the region to determine our true renewable energy potential. The Pittsburgh region is already poised to provide the equipment, technology and skills to be a supply chain leader, especially when compared to its benchmark communities and the nation as a whole.

Many of the industries along this supply chain – including metals, plating and electronics – are already established (and highly concentrated) in the region. While not all of these industries are necessarily involved in the wind energy market, there is great potential for many of our region’s companies to get involved and register real economic gains.

The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance conducted an analysis of the potential wind has for the region. You can read the full report here. The findings are based on a methodology developed by the U.S. Department of Energy-funded Renewable Energy Policy Project (REPP). The REPP process breaks down renewable energy industries into their individual supply chain industries and then tracks these industries based on employment numbers.

These findings speak to the potential wind supply chain. Pittsburgh already has more than 70 companies directly involved in the wind supply chain including ABB, Alstom Grid, Brad Foote Gear Works, Converteam (recently acquired by GE), Kennametal, PPG Industries, and many others. Wind firms such as Gamesa, GE Wind and Iberdrola are also located in Pennsylvania.

The PRA Post, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance’s monthly economic development e-newsletter, highlights development news from throughout the 10-county region of southwestern Pennsylvania to a regional, national and international audience. Each edition of the Post includes “Research Roundup” – an analysis of regional economic trends and opportunities compiled by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance’s market research team.    

Sign up to receive the PRA Post and “Research Roundup” each month by clicking here.

Barbara McNees

As you’ve no doubt heard by now, on Jan. 18 the Port Authority of Allegheny County announced a possible 35 percent cut to transit services to close a $64 million budget deficit. On behalf of the business and civic leadership community, we are extremely concerned about the impact this cut could have on our region’s people, communities and economy.

The Port Authority has already taken important steps to reduce operating costs, boost productivity and contain legacy costs. The funding gap the agency faces is  in fact part of a much larger transportation funding crisis confronting our Commonwealth.

We believe that there is a solution that we can move forward on today.

Last year, Governor Corbett’s Transportation Funding Advisory Commission (TFAC) outlined a realistic and achievable framework for meeting the state’s transportation and transit funding needs, which the Allegheny Conference, the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and other business groups across the state have endorsed.

We are asking everyone to contact Governor Corbett and the General Assembly and ask them to tackle transportation and transit funding now.

We’re working together with the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership (PDP) and others on this issue. You can find more information on the PDP’s site (  and on the Allegheny Conference website ( including a sample survey for employers to use to determine the impact of the proposed transit cuts on their employees.

The Allegheny Conference and its affiliates are committed to working with partners across the region and the state to enact the TFAC recommendations and put an end to this funding crisis. Please join us.

Ben Kamber
(L to R) Razi Imam, 113 Industries; Sylvie Tran, Shell Appalachia; Rosie Rios, Treasurer of the U.S.; Michele McGough, solutions4networks; Randy Cheetham, CSX; Lou Camerlengo, Five Star Development

Members of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, an affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, met in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 18 with senior Obama Administration officials to discuss strategies to spur the economy and create job growth.

As participants in a day-long White House Business Council forum on jobs and the economy, Pittsburgh area business leaders joined representatives from several northeastern states to help identify ways to strengthen ties between the Administration and the region’s private-sector community. White House officials said they are seeking feedback on economic policy while ensuring that business leaders are aware of federal programs and resources that may help them create jobs.

“My goal in attending is to help gather our administration’s support to provide funds for our local manufacturing companies. These companies need to be able to innovate by adopting new technologies coming out of U.S.-based universities,” said Razi Imam, CEO and founder of 113 industries, an Open Innovation services firm in the region. Imam is part of the six-member regional delegation.

Other representatives from Chamber-member companies included Shell Appalachia; Pfizer, Inc.; Five Star Development, Inc.; CSX Transportation; and solutions4networks. Each provided feedback to Administration officials from a southwestern Pennsylvanian perspective – a region that has consistently outperformed the national economy and its benchmark regions during the recessionary period.

“Ever since Pittsburgh hosted the G-20 Summit in 2009, the White House has increasingly looked to the Pittsburgh region for insights on how to improve the national economy,” said Barbara McNees, president of the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. “This is not surprising in light of the region’s relative economic stability during the recession as well as its economic, environmental and quality of life transformation, which can be a model for other cities and regions.”

Click here to learn more about the White House Business Council and here to read more about the Council’s recent roundtable held in Pittsburgh.

Bonnie Pfister
Allegheny County Airport Authority

The Allegheny Conference’s Ken Zapinksi, who is the staff director for the Regional Air Service Partnership, underscored the “use it or lose it” element of nonstop flights from Pittsburgh International Airport in a Jan. 13 Pittsburgh Business Times column:

“…But every time someone chooses a connecting fight over a nonstop, it sends the airline a signal that the convenience of the nonstop just isn’t valuable enough to justify purchasing a ticket. That’s the language that airlines understand better than any sales pitch that airport executives or community leaders might make about Pittsburgh wanting more nonstop service…”

You can read Zapinski’s column here, or at the Pittsburgh Business Times.