Phil Cynar

Joining the ever-growing list of national and international publications recognizing the region is Passport, an e-publication billing itself as “America’s No. 1 Gay Travel Magazine.”

Copyright Passport Magazine

In an article in its “Business Class” section, Passport correspondent Lawrence Ferber took to the streets and neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and discovered a plethora of hotels, restaurants, and activities that are perfect for anyone doing business in this forward-thinking city.”

Ferber paints a colorful verbal illustration of the ‘Burgh that should give business travelers – gay or straight – something to anticipate when their boots are next on the ground for business in the Pittsburgh region. Beyond business, the article makes Pittsburgh appealing for leisure travel – for a weekend getaway or something a bit longer (as you’ll read, there’s plenty to do – indoors and outdoors – to keep you intrigued and entertained here). And don’t forget, Pittsburgh was recently named by National Geographic Traveler as part of the magazine’s “Best of the World” list of “must see” destinations for 2012. The only other U.S. candidate was Sonoma, Calif. For its “extreme metropolitan makeover,” Pittsburgh took its place among such cities as Dresden, London, and getaways in Greece and Thailand.

Read the Passport article here.

Phil Cynar
Christoph Niemann/Bloomberg BusinessWeek

Open Innovation is in – especially for companies “open” to an approach to identifying and reviewing the new technologies that can bring new products to market faster and at a lesser cost.

Not entirely a brand-new idea (at least in a more academic sense), Open Innovation requires a different way of thinking about R&D by companies.  Instead of keeping R&D as strictly an internal function – and keeping findings close to the vest – Open Innovation leans on collaboration between companies and the removal of boundaries to increase the flow of information, ideas, capabilities and resources.  At its heart is the notion that the world’s smartest people don’t just work for your company.  Smart people are working everywhere – throughout the supply chain for many industries and at federal labs, national and international universities and elsewhere.  When collaboration between these individuals and companies can be fostered and tapped, product launches and revenue generation can be fast tracked.  That is what Open Innovation aims to do.

Open Innovation was recently featured at a special topics briefing, hosted by the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) at Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business.  The briefing was attended by nearly 50 individuals from the Pittsburgh economic development and business communities, including representatives of businesses that are targeted by the PRA as Pittsburgh Impact companies for their high-growth potential.

Open Innovation was explained via presentations from regional companies that have put Open Innovation to work for them, including Kennametal Inc. and Kopp Glass.

Attendees also heard from 113 Industries, a newer company in the Pittsburgh region that’s making Open Innovation its business.  113 Industries is a service company that helps other companies tap into a vast network to find solutions to their R&D needs.  Razi Imam, CEO of 113 Industries, said, “It’s our mission to use a unique mix of technology, domain expertise and business acumen to discover and recommend truly strategic opportunities to our customers.”

CMU’s Tepper School of Business includes Open Innovation in its coursework, and Art Boni, the John R. Thorne chair of entrepreneurship at the Tepper School and executive director of CMU’s Donald H. Jones Center for Entrepreneurship, also spoke at the briefing.  He noted, “Smart people are everywhere.  When you combine [through Open Innovation] good external and internal ideas, you generate the most wins.”

Watch the video below to hear more from Professor Boni, as well as from Anupam Singh with 113 Industries, a local company providing Open Innovation services. George Coulston, Kennametal, and Grant Wirth, Kopp Glass, also talk about how their companies have been exploring the benefits of Open Innovation.

Bonnie Pfister

Christmas may be over (though Epiphany comes this weekend, as does Eastern Orthodox Christmas for those on the Julian calendar) but the sustainable outings featured in ImaginePittsburghNow.com’s Five Golden Things series continue into January and beyond.

The 2011 Winter Flower Show at Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens continues through Sunday, Jan. 8, but of course Phipps is worth a visit at any time of year — as a place of verdant beauty but also as a world leader in sustainability.

Seasonal decorations remain up through Saturday, Jan. 14 at the Nationality Rooms at the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning, which are a public tribute to the region’s immigrant past — and its future — year round.

And of course, Venture Outdoors offers outings through our region’s singular topography in every season, from cross-country skiing and high-octane hikes to strolls and beer-tastings through historic neighborhoods for people (and sometimes pets and/or children).

Five Golden Things highlights winter holiday outings that underscore the Pittsburgh region’s commitment to sustainability in many forms, including the use of wind power for some of the city’s most traditional and beloved seasonal icons. Read the entire series here. And if you haven’t already done so, please sign up for automatic blog updates via RSS feed to your email account, at Twitter.com/ImaginePgh or Facebook.com/PittsburghRegion.

Here’s to a healthy, sustainable 2012 — for our region and us, every one.

Let’s start the year by debunking one of the greatest myths about Pittsburgh’s regional economy – that manufacturing is dead and has been replaced almost entirely by “eds and meds.”

Wayne Freed is vice president of Impact company Hannon Electric, which employs 10 people at its electric motor testing and maintenance facility in Ambridge.

Back in August 2011, PRA Market Research VP Jim Futrell wrote of the strength of the manufacturing sector in Research Roundup, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance market research team’s take on economic trends. (Sign up here to get the Roundup as part of our monthly PRA Post.) Jim’s analysis shows that manufacturing generated a disproportional amount of gross regional product per worker, about $10,000 more than the national average. That data also showed that the manufacturing industry was ranked as sixth in employment, but third in revenue, underscoring the value the sector brings to the economy.

More recently, a Jan. 2 Observer-Reporter article, “We Still Make Things Here,” highlighted a number of Washington County’s growing manufacturing firms. Among these was Aquatech, a Pittsburgh Impact company that has achieved success in water treatment. However, Aquatech is not the only Impact company in the manufacturing industry – 43 of the 150 companies are manufacturers.

Despite this strength, there is still a belief that manufacturing in the region is dead. While it can easily be conceded that manufacturing does not look like it did in the steel heyday – with the Homestead Steel Works running for miles along the Monongahela River – the industry has evolved to operate in a smaller footprint making more specialized products.

There is no guarantee that the world economy will improve this year, but the growth in local manufacturers is a good indicator that our region is holding its own. More importantly, the growth isn’t just related to the Marcellus Shale; the Observer-Reporter mentioned consumer goods manufacturers All-Clad Metalcrafters and World Kitchen, among others.

Pittsburgh has a lot to brag about, and its leadership in life sciences and information communication and technology is certainly part of it. But at the same time, manufacturing – both a part of our region’s rich history and its promising future – has bragging rights, too.   Manufacturing is strong, growing stronger, and continues to bring value to our regional economy.

In order to best focus the goals of the Impact initiative, we regularly meet with executives from growing companies to better understand their needs and challenges. Recently, we had the chance to sit down with executives from two of these companies: Janice McGee, president of The Empyrean Group; and Ted Ford, CEO of Knepper Press. Ted might already be familiar to ImaginePittsburghOnline.com readers, as we profiled him in a Five Questions segment last summer.

Both executives discussed the challenges they face. As a staffing agency, The Empyrean Group is concerned about maintaining cash flow and access to working capital. For Knepper Press, access to capital is more of an issue for its customers, such as small publishers who might struggle to pay for the product they’ve ordered. In addition, both Janice and Ted provided policy suggestions for our government officials, including tax incentives for small businesses and loss carry-forward tax credits. Finally, Ted cited the need for the federal government to address entitlement spending, which will give small businesses more confidence that the long-term deficit is more under control.

To hear directly from Janice and Ted, check out this brief (3:26) video.

Suzi Pegg

FIVE GOLDEN THINGS: This is fifth and final of our posts on holiday outings that underscore the Pittsburgh region’s commitment to sustainability in many forms.

As someone in the business of bringing people from far and wide to Pittsburgh, I find The Nationality Rooms in the University of Pittsburgh’s Cathedral of Learning to be among the region’s truly unique places to share with visitors. At Christmastime they are especially beautiful, festooned with the colorful trappings of winter holidays that are observed by cultures and religions around the globe. (More about that – and special holiday tours — below).

To me, the Nationality Rooms underscore the ultimate sustainable resource: people. Pittsburgh was built into an industrial powerhouse because of the hard work and innovative thinking of native-born men and women, and those who came from afar to make a better life here. European immigrants – particularly from Eastern Europe – were among those powered the steel boom beginning in the mid-19th century, while African-Americans who moved north during the Great Migration of the 20th century helped keep steel and other regional industries humming.

Immigration to the United States still comes from Europe, but we are increasingly seeing newcomers from such places as China, India and Latin America, with some of the highest skilled immigrants choosing Pittsburgh. “Old Europe” is still important when it comes to seeking new trade and investment for our region. I will be part of a delegation led by Governor Tom Corbett to France and Germany in 2012, which together are the top source of foreign direct investment in Pennsylvania. (My research colleagues here at the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance calculate that German-based firms are the largest foreign employer in our 10-county region, with 84 firm providing jobs to an estimated 10,585 people. Thirty-one French-based companies employ an estimated 3,475 people.)

But you don’t have to go to France or Germany – or anywhere – to take in the visual flavor of dozens and countries and cultures. The Nationality Rooms here in Oakland are actual working classrooms furnished in the style of their respective countries – down to switch plates, door handles, hinges and even wastebaskets.

The concept was developed by Pitt Chancellor John Bowman in the late 1920s as a way to emotionally and financially invest the community in the cathedral’s construction amid what would soon become quite trying economic times. The region’s ethnic communities were invited to design the rooms in styles popular in their home countries around 1787, the year the university was founded. Each group was responsible for its own fundraising, acquisition of materials, and labor costs, with Pitt providing upkeep upon completion.

Eastern European cultures are especially well-represented among the rooms, as are those of China, Japan, Syria-Lebanon and Armenia. The African heritage room reflects an Asante temple courtyard from Ghana, and Yoruban carvings depict such ancient kingdoms as Egypt, Ethiopia, Congo and Zimbabwe. Nine additional nationality room committees have made requests, with Swiss and Turkish rooms planned to open in 2012.

Around Christmastime, the 27 rooms are decked in seasonal finery, and ethnic dance performances are featured early in December. The decorations remain up through Jan. 14 (although the building is closed Dec. 24-26, and on Jan. 1). From Dec. 27-31, 90-minute guided tours are offered every half-hour from 9 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. (tickets cost $3 for adults; $1 for kids). If you can’t make it during the holiday, narrated-tape tours are available on weekends throughout the years. For more information – or to take a virtual online tour of the rooms – check out  the website of the Nationality Rooms.