Bill Flanagan
Bill Flanagan (center, holding Best of World proclamation) and VisitPittsburgh’s Craig Davis (right of Bill) surrounded by City Council members on Oct. 16, 2012.

They’re back! Three years after the G-20 summit, leaders from around the world are converging on our region this week — only this time they are emerging leaders in town for the One Young World Summit. The global event is the latest in a year in which we’ve been celebrating Pittsburgh’s designation by National Geographic Traveler as a “Best of the World” destination in 2012. It’s also been a “year for youth” in our region.

Throughout 2012, the Allegheny Conference has joined forces with VisitPittsburgh, Vibrant Pittsburgh and numerous other partners to deliver a message about emerging opportunity to more than 10,000 young people who have convened here for major conferences and conventions. The National Society of Black Engineers led the way in March, followed by the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May. Now One Young World is bringing more than 1,000 delegates to Pittsburgh from almost every country in the world for a four-day summit designed to bring a youthful perspective to important global issues. Kudos to the World Affairs Council of Pittsburgh for organizing the One Young World Pittsburgh Partnership to host the event.

In addition to the enthusiasm of hundred of emerging leaders from around the world — who will have the chance to interact with their local peers at dozens of breakout sessions and community dinners around the region — One Young World is bringing global luminaries to guide their deliberations. Former President Bill Clinton kicks things off Thursday night.  Just yesterday, it was announced that former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan will be here as well. It’s a rare opportunity to showcase our region to truly influential people. And, unlike the G-20, when Downtown Pittsburgh was pretty much on lockdown, this time out all of these visitors will get to experience the region at its best – with the autumn foliage in full vibrancy as well. Hundreds of volunteers are helping out, many of them speaking foreign languages and pulled from local colleges and universities.
Pittsburgh City Council has recognized all the hard work everyone has put into our “Best of the World” effort with an official proclamation. I was very pleased to have the opportunity – alongside with Craig Davis of VisitPittsburgh – to accept the “Best of the World” proclamation from Pittsburgh City Council on Tuesday. Sponsored by Councilman Corey O’Connor, the proclamation recognizes the ongoing efforts of VisitPittsburgh, the Allegheny Conference and others to make the most of the best of the world designation.

The team effort has delivered results, both in terms of visits and media exposure. VisitPittsburgh expects hotels in Allegheny County to log more than 10 million overnight visits before the year is out. In addition to the conferences mentioned above, the region has hosted the three-month Distinctively Dutch festival organized by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, the Warhol Museum’s Factory Direct artists residencies, the National Association of Counties convention and iGEM, the International Genetically Engineered Machines Competition, which this past weekend brought hundreds of undergraduate teams to Duquesne University from throughout the United States and Canada.

We’ve also leveraged the “Best of the World” designation to tell a wider, virtual audience about the ways in which our region has managed to thrive through uncertain times, and even emerge as a thought leader in the area of public-private partnership, R&D and business innovation. Increasingly we’re being called the new center of American energy, with nationally leading strengths in coal, natural gas, nuclear, solar, wind, transmission and distribution, and intelligent building. There’s been coverage in USA Today, Forbes, Bloomberg News, National Public Radio, La Croix and The Washington Post, as well as in multi-page spreads in Architectural Record and Site Selection among many more.

As the One Young World delegates begin arriving for Thursday’s summit kickoff, we look forward to continuing to get the word out. We’ll be posting stories, videos and photos about the gathering and its participants throughout the weekend here at the Allegheny Conference’s blog,, at and, under the hashtag #OYW.

Stay tuned. And thanks as always for your commitment to our region.

Bonnie Pfister
Aquion Energy's sodium-ion batteries can store wind and solar energy, facilitating transmission of those power sources to electricity grids.

Innovative grid-level battery maker Aquion Energy is going from university spinoff to major manufacturer.

Aquion has leased  a portion of RIDC Westmoreland, the former Sony Technology Center in East Huntingdon Township near New Stanton, which closed in March 2010.  It will move its 70 employees from its headquarters and low-volume manufacturing space in Lawrenceville to the new facility in 2013, and expects to create more than 400 high-tech manufacturing jobs by the end of 2015. The space is owned by the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania (RIDC).

“After considering all of our options, including aggressive offers from a number of other U.S. states, we concluded that southwestern Pennsylvania is the best location to establish our first high-volume manufacturing operation,” said Aquion CEO Scott Pearson. “We are very excited to be able to significantly increase our presence in Pennsylvania, and we applaud the efforts of the state, regional and local economic development agencies that worked closely with Aquion to make this expansion possible.”

Aquion makes environmentally friendly sodium-ion batteries about the size of a breadbox, weighing about 50 pounds. They can be strung together to create modules of varying sizes to supply power to large electrical grids. They also can store energy, which helps stabilize electrical grids as more non-traditional, renewable sources of power come online.

“This is a great win for the region, particularly for Westmoreland County and RIDC Westmoreland, said Dewitt Peart, president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. “The company, governing agencies, Westmoreland IDC, RIDC and economic development agencies worked together cohesively. It’s these kinds of partnerships that win big deals that create well-paying jobs in our region.”

Said Governor Tom Corbett: “My administration is committed to making Pennsylvania an economic leader by investing in the growth of companies like Aquion that are on the cutting edge of technology development and creating the next generation of jobs.”

Founded in 2008 by Carnegie Mellon University engineering professor Jay Whitacre, Aquion opened a headquarters and low-volume manufacturing space in a former railroad engine foundry in Lawrenceville two years ago. It has been developing grid-scale energy storage without the use of hazardous materials, corrosive acids, or noxious fumes. It received a $5 million Department of Energy grant to begin commercialization of its sodium-ion batteries. In September Aquion announced it has secured $30 million in venture capital, and was seeking high-volume manufacturing space and to grow by several hundred workers.

“We at RIDC, along with our partner in this venture, the Westmoreland County IDC are very pleased That Aquion Energy has chosen the RIDC Westmoreland facility for the expansion of its manufacturing presence,” said Don Smith Jr., president of the Regional Industrial Development Corporation of Southwestern Pennsylvania. “This major investment is a key step in expanding high quality manufacturing jobs in our region, and is the first in what we hope will be a steady stream of announcements of new tenants in the facility.”

U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson visited the facility earlier this month. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette video of the visit offers insight into Aquion’s work.

Ben Kamber

November 2011’s TEDx conference in Pittsburgh brought together a dynamic mix of highly accomplished academics, researchers, musicians, filmmakers, social entrepreneurs and civic leaders all under the theme of Power – in its many manifestations. Power, often associated with sheer human or organizational strength, took on a broader meaning at the conference, as the region’s preeminent thought leaders presented ideas and innovations that intend to bring about or inspire positive, powerful change.

One of the presenters, Daniel Schnitzer, a Carnegie Mellon Ph.D. candidate, spoke about his work to eradicate energy poverty. Throughout the world, more than two billion people lack access to modern energy sources, Schnitzer remarked.  As a result, these people rely on expensive, inefficient and environmentally detrimental fuels such as charcoal and kerosene to cook their meals and heat their homes.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Modern, cleaner-burning energy technologies exist right now that are – in the long term – cheaper. What’s at issue then? Access. The supply chains needed to deliver these energy technologies to the people who need them most simply aren’t in place in many areas around the globe.

To combat this, Schnitzer founded Earth Spark International an organization that works to develop the supply chains needed to bring clean, energy efficient technologies to the people who can most benefit from them. Watch his TEDx Pittsburgh presentation below to learn more.

In his talk, Pitt’s Political Science Department Chair Barry Ames citied the once oft-heard quip, “Brazil is the country of the future and always will be.”  How times have changed for the world’s fifth largest country.

Today, Brazil is viewed by many as a modern day success story, a country developing rapidly in a world defined by vast uncertainty. Across a number of measures – from educational opportunity to poverty numbers to energy exports – Brazil is operating at unprecedented levels. The country’s economy is now the world’s seventh largest, and it weathered the recession better than most nations.

How did South America’s largest nation get to this point?

Ames argues that the answer cannot be found simply in Brazil’s successful economic policies or its strong political institutions. Rather, the answer lies in the way institutions, society and history have interacted over time. These complex interactions allowed positive change to take effect in a country that, among many other successes, is now a world leader in renewable energy.

Keep a lookout for more TEDx Pittsburgh talks in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, check out our post from Allegheny Conference CEO Dennis Yablonsky and Bayer Corporation’s CEO and President Greg Babe for their thoughts on innovation and transformation as they relate to the region and the nation.

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’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 or

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

Kristen Freiss

FIVE GOLDEN THINGS: Second of five posts on holiday outings that underscore the Pittsburgh region’s commitment to sustainability in many forms.

Sphere tree in Market Square’s Season of Lights, Downtown Pittsburgh Photo by Kristen Friess, Allegheny Conference

Downtown Pittsburgh is not only decked and dazzling, it’s greener than ever.

Known for holding its holiday traditions near and dear, Pittsburgh this year is literally casting a new light on a couple of favorites – making them better, brighter and cleaner.

In 2011, generous support from Highmark and the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership has made possible the use of renewable energy credits to light up the Highmark Unity Tree, as well as the Market Square Season of Lights display, sponsored by Eat’N Park.  Keeping it all aglow is wind energy generated entirely in Pennsylvania, made possible via the ChoosePAWind initiative.

For more than 50 years, the iconic evergreen has been a fixture on the former Horne’s Department Store building – now the Penn Avenue Place property where Highmark leases space.  An emblem of Pittsburgh’s ardent holiday spirit, the Highmark Unity Tree is more than 100 feet tall with 2,100+ lights and some 2,000 ornaments. Imagine being the person(s) who get to decorate that tree every year!

In addition to this well-beloved icon, there are other new and sustainable offerings to delight. Market Square’s Season of Lights debuted during last year’s 50th anniversary of Light Up Night with support from the Colcom Foundation. It includes a 33-foot, 1-ton “tree” of red-and-white spheres shimmering with 150,000 LED lights that dance to synchronized holiday music nightly.

Jim Spencer, CEO of EverPower Wind Holdings, Inc. reflects on how both of these old and new holiday decorations are powered by fresh-off-the-turbine Pennsylvania wind energy this year.  “This transition [from traditional to wind power] is a great way to welcome the holidays.” In addition to leading EverPower’s local office, in Lawrenceville, Spencer helped found the ChoosePAWind program to encourage consumer support for new Pennsylvania wind farms. Check out the video below to hear more from Spencer, as well as from Highmark Sustainability Coordinator Phyllis Barber.

Renewable energy credits represent the environmental attributes associated with clean power such as wind, solar and landfill gas. For every credit produced, an equivalent amount of renewable electricity is placed onto the power grid. One wind power credit offsets approximately 1,350 pounds of carbon dioxide.

So as you show off downtown Pittsburgh holiday decorations to family and friends, don’t be shy about dazzling them with how “bright” your city is in its commitment to sustainability – not only during this season, but all year long.

(Scroll below video for more photos.)

More photos by Kristen Freiss of Downtown Pittsburgh’s winter holiday displays.

More than 2,000 jobs – most with good pay and benefits — are available now at energy-related companies across the 10-county Pittsburgh region. Some workplaces are in comfortable offices and labs far from drilling fields and mines. But for lots of people, nothing beats working with your hands and being in the middle of the action. Jobs like those are abundant in energy extraction.

Two Pittsburgh-area natives in the know spoke about such jobs and wages at a recent forum. Click here to listen to the comments of Mount Washington native Nick DeIuliis, president of natural gas/coal CONSOL Energy Inc., and AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, formerly a Greene County coal miner.

That’s the webpage of, where you can search a database of careers, or check out the campaign’s cheeky new TV commercials airing during local Penguins hockey broadcasts and at Pitt home football games.