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Pittsburgh Fringe Festival receives catalytic Sprout Seed Award

Next month, Pittsburgh will kick off its inaugural Fringe Festival, modeled after the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, which is the largest arts festival in the world. The Pittsburgh theater arts festival recently announced it received a Sprout Seed Award  help fund 24 theatrical performances in various Shadyside venues this May.
 
Pittsburgh Fringe Festival, led by its founder and executive director Dan Stiker, supports adventurous and exploratory performing artists by presenting their uncensored artistic expression to equally adventurous audiences. In addition to performances, the Fringe Festival will facilitate continuing education, workshops, discussions and forums. 

“I think Pittsburgh has a great arts community, and the theater community is one aspect of that,” says Stiker. “I think interesting theater is just starting to be supported in Pittsburgh. This is just the right time for the city to have its own Fringe Festival.”

Stiker’s interest in organizing Fringe stems from his theater background in New York City, where he performed in the NYC Fringe Festival and was in a company that did a lot of experimental theater. Stiker also has a background in theater management, and the management strength of the collective Fringe Festival team he's assembled helped attract The Sprout Fund's support. 

“The Seed Award is The Sprout Fund’s catalytic funding program for community innovation projects, and we are pleased to be able to support Pittsburgh's first organized Fringe Festival with a $7,500 grant,” says Mac Howison, Senior Program Officer for Catalytic Funding at The Sprout Fund. “The Sprout Fund has been hearing about the need for a Fringe Festival for years from the Pittsburgh theater community.  We're happy to be able to support Dan Stiker’s project, which highlights community partnerships and supportive collaboration among businesses, city officials and the performing arts companies making it happen, through the launch this spring and then hopefully as an annual event.”
 
The Seed Award Fund for Community Innovation offers grants to support, celebrate and showcase the initiatives of creative people in the greater Pittsburgh region with the cumulative power to create a critical mass of positive change. Seed Award projects are innovative, non-traditional ideas that focus on current issues and challenges faced by the community, and inspire a diverse group of participants to be more active, involved and civically-engaged.
 
Since 2001, Sprout Seed Awards have supported hundreds of dynamic local innovators and exciting community projects making an impact in the Pittsburgh area. Sprout provides critical financial support for projects and programs in the early stages of development—when just a small amount of investment has the potential to yield big results in the community.

"Sprout understands that Pittsburgh Fringe can be a catalyst for enhancing the performing arts community in Pittsburgh and we are grateful for their support," says Stiker.
 
Check out the 2014 Fringe lineup and purchase tickets at pghfringe.org.

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Sources: Dan Stiker and Mac Howison

Luke Skurman takes College Prowler to the next level with Niche, K-12 school rankings

Helping students pick the right colleges for themselves has been College Prowler’s sweet spot for 11 years running. So where does the successful Shadyside startup, one of the largest college content websites in the country, go from here?
 
Founder and CEO Luke Skurman has launched a new company and brand called Niche, a site that provides the same trusted in-depth reviews and analyses that has made College Prowler successful, but with expansive content for public and private schools across the U.S., kindergarten to 12th grade.
 
“It was time to think about a bigger vision and brand,” says Skurman, always the forward-thinking entrepreneur. “We’re very pleased with how far we’ve come. We want people to continue making great life decisions.”
 
Niche has amassed 400,000 user-generated reviews and has graded 80,000 public and private K-12 schools since its launch four months ago. More districts will be added with 120,000 public and private schools as the ultimate goal.
 
Families on the move--or merely interested in how their school district stacks up--will find information on popular high school classes, racial diversity, where students go to college, graduation rates and student-written reviews.
 
Many of the same students and parents who had generated reviews for College Prowler participated in the school district surveys, says Skurman. In addition to user-generated reviews, Niche draws on government databases and school administration surveys. 
 
The K-12 school letter rankings—A, B, C, and D—are calculated by comparing a school’s assessment scores on state assessment tests with other schools in their state. 
 
The point is not to become an advocacy group, but to report impartial data, Skurman says. “We want to keep tackling big life decisions…providing as much transparency, insight and clarity on the educational system as possible.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Luke Skurman, Niche

Shadyside startup is changing the way we assess writing, receives Gates Foundation grant

When it comes to online learning, there are programs galor to assist with math and science. Few, however, address reading comprehension and writing ability.

Shadyside startup LightSide is building tools to delve into this more ambiguous subject area, using machine learning to instantly assess writing for both academic and business settings.

The CMU spinout and Project Olympus startup is well on its way with the help of a grant for $25,000 from the Gates Foundation. LightSide was among only 29 companies chosen as part of the Literacy Courseware Challenge.

CMU graduates Elijah Mayfield, David Adamson and Carolyn Penstein Rosé first began working on the idea while at school as an open source platform to assist academic researchers and social scientists.
 
When it comes to assessing writing, machine learning tools work well for some aspects of the process, but not so well for others, explains Mayfield, CEO, and a recipient of a 2011 Siebel Scholarship and named a “Global Shaper” by the World Economic Forum.

Making sure students have the right concepts, are stylistically correct and follow grammatical rules are areas that computers handle easily. Creativity and spontaneity is not as easily addressed.

“It’s not just a magic wand,” Mayfield says. “Software relies on patterns of training examples.”

While a final product is still a year away, LightSide is consulting with individual clients to help them leverage the beneifts of machine learning. Several are heavy weights in the assessment industry, College Board and CTB McGraw Hill.

“It’s all about empowering the student and making sure they know what the strongest and weakest elements of their writing are,” he says.

LightSide employs seven people and is hiring.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Elijah Mayfield, LightSide

The 2013 Data Award winners included a few surprises and a surreal atmosphere

The Pittsburgh Technology Council’s 5th Annual Design, Art and Technology (DATA) Awards celebrated, as it does each year, the intersection of art and technology design with a lineup of the region’s most creative startups.
 
This year's event gave off a surreal glow, although maybe it was the fog machine and the light filtering through the stained glass windows into The Priory’s Grand Hall on the Northside.
 
“It’s a great event for showcasing innovations with an art twist and sharing it with a wider audience,” said Paul Fireman of Fireman Creative whose firm took away a DATA in the Media Arts category.

“There were a lot of companies this year that I hadn’t heard of and that's a good thing because it means the group of participating companies is growing.” 
 
New this year was an interactive element that allowed the public to vote and determine the winners, along with a jury of experts.
 
The public voting was an important piece, said Audrey Russo, president of PTC, giving the artistic and creative communities a voice in the process.
 
“We are continually pleased with the breadth and number of individuals, and organizations, that actively participated,” said Russo. "I believe this space serves as the preamble to an imminent, seismic change in skill development and education.  Plus, we always have a ton of fun supporting those who build and execute big ideas.” 

The 2013 winners were:
 
i-CON: Apps & Information Architecture Award – Highmark + United Concordia: Chomper Chums

Next Generation: Kids & Creative Technology Award – The Center for Creativity: TransformED

Maker: Design & Art Award – Teletrix: Radiation Training Simulators

Media Arts: Interactive + Multimedia Award – Fireman Creative: Ricky’s Dream Trip
 
Joystick: Gaming Award – Schell Games + Yale University: PlayForward

Student Award – Carnegie Mellon University: Floria

People’s Choice Award – WQED Multimedia + SLB Radio Productions: iQ Kids Radio

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: PTC

CWE's MyBoard, helping women entrepreneurs to grow their companies to $1 million and beyond

While many women in business today are successful, they often struggle when it comes to growing their businesses to greater profitability. 
 
A new program at Chatham University’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurship (CWE) hopes to change that. CWE MyBoard is helping women entrepreneurs to not only succeed in the startup of their business but to sustain and grow it, which is often the hardest part.
 
Statistics show that while 50% of privately held companies in the U.S. are owned by women, only three-fourths of those women grow beyond $50,000 in gross revenues. MyBoard strives to make a difference by helping women gain the confidence they need to take on greater risk, hire more personnel and raise the necessary financing to push their businesses toward the $1 million mark, says Rebecca Harris, director of CWE.
 
MyBoard, an extension of the programming already offered by CWE, has paired 10 mentees with successful professionals who are serving as mentors, both women and men. The virtual platform offers the flexibility to meet at convenient times for everyone.  
 
“Being an entrepreneur myself, I wanted to make sure I had the time (to be a mentor),” says Gloria Blint, president and CEO of Redhouse Communication. “It’s a very cool way of maximizing people’s time. When professionals get involved, you want to be both effective and productive.”
 
Beth Slagle, an attorney with Meyer, Unkovic & Scott, serves as a mentor to Chef Kate Romane’s of the popular Highland Park restaurant E2. The program is helping Romane tackle the many business issues involved that will elevate her business to the next level, Slagle says.
 
The program is assisted through funding from the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation with additional support from both the Alcoa Foundation and Bridgeway Capital.
 
Writer: Deb Smit

Image: MyBoard mentors and CWE Staff members meeting with mentee Kate Romane of E2 restaurant.

Looking good Pittsburgh. PittsburghTODAY report highlights the state of the region

PittsburghTODAY released its 2013 Today & Tomorrow report and the news across many sectors is enlightening.
 
With the economic recovery still underway in much of the country, Pittsburgh is the only benchmark region out of 15 that has experienced job growth and housing price appreciation. In addition, the labor force is at an all-time high and young people are returning and staying in the region.
 
Southwestern Pennsylvania continues to be one of the most affordable places for moderate-income families to live. A Brookings Institution study says so too, listing Pittsburgh as one of three cities in the U.S. to have recovered from the deep recession that began in 2007.
 
The region, however, has work to do in several areas, including transportation, the environment and issues pertaining to diversity, particularly in helping African Americans in the region to achieve the same quality of life as whites.
 
Among the highlights:
 
Population: It has been official but bares repeating: the region is attaining and attracting young talent. The region’s population of 20- to 34- year-olds grew by 7% over the last five years and is expected to grow another 8% in 2020. Three decades earlier the region was losing more than 50,000 people than it was attracting, mostly young adults.
 
Jobs: Jobs grew by a non-seasonably adjusted 1.7 percent in the seven-county Pittsburgh Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) from November 2007 to November 2012. Certainly not robust, but it was better than any of the Pittsburgh TODAY benchmark regions. Pittsburgh was the only region to post job growth over that period.
 
Tourism: Visitors to Southwestern Pennsylvania pumped $8.1 billion into the local economy in lodging, recreation, retail, food and beverage, transportation and other spending during 2011,the latest year the full data was reported. This is a 9.6% increase over 2010.

Housing: Pittsburgh was the only region in which the 5-year housing prices rose from 2007-2012.
 
Environment: While fine particle pollution is slowly decreasing, and met federal air quality standards for the first time in 2011 since the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, smog and sewage spills and the health of our rivers remains an issue.
 
Fracking: Across the region, a survey shows that far more residents are convinced of the economic potential of the Marcellus Shale gas industry than are against drilling for it. More than 70% of those surveyed believe that gas drilling is boosting the local economy.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: PittsburghTODAY

Creative Nonfiction magazine, born in Pittsburgh, celebrates 20 years of literary non-fiction

Creative Nonfiction, the Shadyside journal born in Pittsburgh and devoted to great works of literary non-fiction, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. 

Founded by former University of Pittsburgh professor Lee Gutkind, the quarterly journal is esteemed by many as the first magazine to establish the genre by publishing high-quality, non-fiction prose. 

Among the milestones, the journal boasts an international circulation; 3,180 subscribers from 28 countries and 9800 newsletter subscribers. It also receives 30 unsolicited submissions per week, on average. 

More important, it has launched the careers of many of the genre’s most successful writers and established creative non-fiction as a respected literary genre and academic field of study. 
 
Gutkind lives in Pittsburgh and remains active with the journal. He currently teaches at Arizona State University, where he is a Distinguished Writer in Residence, and is a professor at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.
 
Ask him to reflect on the magazine’s influence over the past 20 years and he responds, not surprisingly, with a true story, well-told. Says Gutkind:
 
"Years ago, when I started writing what we now call ‘creative nonfiction,’ it was lonely out there: there were no MFA programs, no conferences, and few classes. No one even really knew what to call this kind of writing. But I believed in the simple idea that you could write nonfiction using the literary techniques of the fiction writer. And that such writing would be the best way to make a lasting impact on readers.” 
 
There were few receptive markets for serious nonfiction writers outside of newspapers or “slick national magazines” that published “straight journalism,” he continues.
 
“The genre was not only nameless, but homeless. That's why I started Creative Nonfiction. The first issue was slipped into envelopes and addressed, by hand, to our subscribers--135 of them--at my dining room table.”
 
Today the homeless and once nameless genre stands tall with an international audience and writers from all over the world.
 
With the success of Creative Nonfiction has come requests for digital access, says Alicia Barnes, who handles publicity and marketing for the small Shadyside operation. The website was designed by Pittsburgh firm Little Kelpie and offers digital subscriptions and submissions and searchable access to many previously published stories and back issues, some of which are available for purchase.
 
In addition to digital access, Creative Nonfiction plans to celebrate with its regular workshops and online courses, offered through the Creative Nonfiction Foundation, and a possible festival. A Sustainability Best Essay contest (with a $10,000 prize) is also underway.
 
The March issue, “Female Form,” is a collection of essays by women writers. It features an interview with American memoirist and novelist Cheryl Strayed, author of the popular “Dear Sugar” column.
 
Creative Nonfiction has become the fastest-growing genre in the publishing industry and within creative writing programs,” says Barnes. “With our 20th anniversary, we hope these changes will cement us as the leading destination for news, educational resources, and the best writing in the genre.”  
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Sources: Lee Gutkind and Alicia Barnes, Creative Nonfiction
 

An app for those nasty potholes; Deeplocal sells transit app RouteShout

Just in time for the spring thaw comes a new weapon against  Pittsburgh potholes, a smartphone app that tracks their location and subtly takes the city to task for leaving them unattended over time.

Carnegie Mellon University's RODAS Project--that's Road Damage Assessment System--gives GPS-linked smartphone users the tools to snap pictures of potholes and upload them on Facebook. The photos are then automatically tagged on an online map, marked by bright red dots, creating a virtual overview of potholes to alert officials (and drivers) where the potholes are.

The project, started last summer, was the original idea of Chilean Heinz grad Veronica Acha-Alvarez and inspired by a similar successful project in Chile. The Chilean app offers contests, (subtly timed with local elections) to identify the largest potholes.

"We are creating a secure, independent source of information about potholes that can be used to alert government agencies and to monitor their response," says Robert Strauss, professor of economics and public policy in the H. John Heinz III College.

Widespread publicity this week drove more than 800 hits to the site in one day, he adds.

Involving the community in identifying and monitoring the pothole problem is the primary goal of the project. The team also is considering other ways citizens may assist, including an adopt-a-pothole program that gets the community more involved with repairs.

"Kind of like a  pet rock," says Stauss.

"PennDOT found it interesting," he adds. "This new public database is a new tool people can use to monitor what road crews are doing and to judge the efficiency of government."

In other app news, Deeplocal's award-winning transit technology, RouteShout, was acquired by Atlanta-based RouteMatch Software Inc., developers of traveler information systems. Financial terms were not disclosed.

RouteShout, which marks the first sale of a Deeplocal asset, allows riders to access up-to-the-second transit arrival times from their mobile phones. It will provide the "missing link" of real-time arrival data needed for intelligent transit systems, says Tim Quinn of RouteMatch.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Robert Strauss, CMU; Deeplocal



Sprout Fund supports 20 new biodiversity projects with $190,000; PLSG on the move

Good news for the region's biodiversity and life sciences industry.

PLSG received $500,000 in funding that will help to establish a life sciences campus on the South Side at the River Park Commons Business Center.

The funding comes from a Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) grant from the state. The new campus will provide space for four to six wet-labs in addition to the existing 9,000 square feet of life sciences labs. PLSG will also move its office to the campus.

"The demand for this campus is significant as an increasing number of new biotechnology companies are being launched throughout the nation, and geographic clusters to house these new, start-up companies are highly competitive," said John W. Manzetti, President and CEO.

In other news, 20 biodiversity projects received $190,000 this week as part of a new initiative to support the stewardship of Southwestern Pennsylvania's natural resources.

The Sprout Fund and The Pittsburgh Foundation hope to jumpstart community-based biodiversity projects in the region through the Spring Program. The funded projects were selected from among 75 applications, says Dustin Stiver of The Sprout Fund.

"These projects offer an exciting array of innovative solutions to the many environmental challenges we face," says Stiver. "With diverse objectives and creative approaches, they give promise that the biodiversity of our resource-rich region can be preserved and enhanced for generations to come."

Six biodiversity projects received $20,000 awards including:

BioShelter and Food Systems Center at the Garfield Community Farm, where a permanent bioshelter will extend the farm's growing season and offer educational opportunities to the nearby elementary school;

Green Roofs for Bus Shelters in East Liberty, introducing flora and fauna into the urban environment through a living green roof on Penn Avenue;

Heritage Seed Bank and Nursery for seed banks and educational opportunities in the preservation of native heritage or heirloom edible plants;

Native Appalachian Garden, part of Pittsburgh Botanical Garden, cultivating woodland species of the region;

And Take a Hike: Backyard Biodiversity for a traveling presentation that will lead elementary school children on an exploration of the Earth's biomes at the Carnegie Science Center.

The other 14 recipients receiving $5,000 awards are include outdoor classrooms for children, ecological gardens, artificial chimney habitats for neotropical migrant birds, rain gardens in schoolyards with the help of Nine Mile Run Watershed Assoc. and native plant restoration projects.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: PLSG, Dustin Stiver, The Sprout Fund


Pittsburgh aspires to be the most tech-savvy city in the country

The e-democracy race is on and if Councilman Bill Peduto has his way, Pittsburgh will blow the door of city government wide open and leave cities like Boston in the dust.

Peduto invited several Pittsburgh-based tech companies to City Hall this month to discuss using a mix of homegrown technologies to promote a unique blend of tools that would help constituents to better track goings on.

Among those who came to the table were online social political network MyGov365, searchable video data company Panopto Inc, web-based broadcaster Vivo and the Carnegie Mellon developer of YinzCam technology, which allows mobile phone users to watch replays of Penguins action inside the arena.

This is just the beginning, says Peduto. The discussion won’t be limited to these companies.

“Pittsburgh can be a model of e-democracy for the world. We want Pittsburgh (government) to not only be on the forefront, but to offer leverage to our own Pittsburgh-based companies to use the city as a test market to sell their products worldwide.”

Pittsburgh has $52,000 to webcast council meetings, which should be enough to cover the webcast and more, Peduto says. The city plans to award a contract to begin providing webcasts and searchable video by the end of this month.

Other proposed initiatives include an iPhone application for city government, a searchable database of all council votes and records offered by MyGov365 and offering online access to community meetings.

Writer: Debra Diamond Smit
Source: Councilman Bill Peduto, City of Pittsburgh

Image courtesy Councilman Bill Peduto

Getting ready for the G-20 Summit--weigh in now!

When leaders of the world’s most important emerging-market countries come to Pittsburgh this fall, what will they need, see and experience?

Suggestions poured in this past week during three public brainstorming sessions. Not able to attend?  Share your ideas and sign up for potential volunteer opportunities at the Pittsburgh G-20 Partnership Web site by clicking here.

“We’ve gotten some really great ideas, things we hadn’t thought of,” reports Kevin Evanto of Allegheny County. “Many say they want the city to gleam, a display of flags of all the nations, to welcome people in their native language.”

One gentleman suggested inviting illusionists to walk the streets because no one needs a translator to understand the language of magic.

Other thoughts? Pittsburgh must live up to its green image with sustainable opportunities and recycling offered everywhere, at hotels, on the streets, in parks. Stage a special light-up or festival of lights, get the ethnic communities involved, improve signage and enlist university and high school students to volunteer.

“We’re still waiting to hear from the White House on many issues, but we want to be as prepared as possible so when we get direction, we can act,” Evanto adds. “We want to be in a position to respond to the White House right away.”

The county plans to create an online media center so when 3,000 reporters descend, they will find a Web site filled with story ideas and local opportunities.

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Writer: Debra Diamond Smit
Source: Kevin Evanto, Allegheny County

Marcellus Shale: drillers move in, environmentalists rally for tax and habitat relief

The largest gas deposit in North America, a reservoir lodged in rock 6,000 feet under the ground, is luring big gas drillers from around the world to our region.

It’s also causing concern among environmental groups across the state.

Houston-based Cabot Oil & Gas recently opened a regional office in Pittsburgh to better position the company for Marcellus Shale business, a deposit that spans four states and may contain 50 trillion cubic feet in natural gas estimated at $1 trillion. 

Pittsburgh is the firm's new North Region office; the company’s offices in Charleston, W.Va. and Denver, Colo. will close by the end of the summer and more than half of the impacted staff will move to Pittsburgh, according to the company.

Environmental concerns about the drilling have prompted local groups to rally for a state severance tax on the drillers, money they believe should go to restore and preserve local habitats and urban streams, such as the restored Nine Mile Run Watershed in the East End.

In addition to the tax, PennFuture and others want to place a portion of the funds in the state's Environmental Stewardship Fund, which would reinvest in parks, habitats, waterways and open spaces.

The Marcellus Shale gas deposit runs from upstate New York, across most of Pennsylvania and into West Virginia and eastern Ohio. Most states charge drillers a small tax in exchange for extraction rights.  Pennsylvania should do the same, say tax supporters.

If approved, the tax could generate more than $100 million next year and $600 million by 2013, says Joylette Portlock, Western Pennsylvania outreach coordinator for PennFuture.

PA Republican senate leaders are against the tax. Now is the time to contact legislators before the drilling is well established, Portlock told an assembled group at East Liberty Presbyterian Church last week.

“There are tremendous environmental impacts of drilling on the local economy,” added Hannah Hardy of the Pennsylvania Environmental Council. “This is the best way to ensure that there will be benefits to our community.”

To join PennFuture in support of the severance tax, click here.

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Writer: Debra Diamond Smit
Source: Joylette Portlock, PennFuture

Image courtesy flickr.com



Internships galore, find them and get 'em here

Looking for that perfect intern or internship? The Regional Internship Center of Southwestern Pennsylvania is an indispensable resource.

RIC is an online, local clearinghouse for internships in the region, connecting talented and eager college students with businesses, explains Regina Anderson, director of RIC.

This month the center launched a new streamlined Web site with a complete listing of available jobs-in-training, including resume help and networking suggestions. The site serves as a one-click location where students can connect with opportunities and businesses can recruit talent.

RIC also plans to expand its reach in the next several months to include other parts of the state.

“We’re very unique in terms of the kind of support we provide,” she says. “We directly address the brain drain by helping to attract and retain talent in the region.”

It’s not too late to find work for the summer, notes Anderson. While RIC currently lists internships for the fall, openings are posted on a year-round basis.

More than 400 students participate in the RIC summer program each year. In today’s job market, a student can’t have too many internships, she adds. Those who take advantage of multiple opportunities have an advantage over student job-seekers who’ve only done one internship during their college career.

The cost to participate is $50, but many companies agree to cover the fee.
The RIC is supported by 70 educational institutions in the region and is a program of Coro Pittsburgh. The program is sponsored by the Alcoa and Benedum foundations as well as The Heinz Endowments.

To receive Pop City free each week, click here.

Writer: Debra Diamond Smit
Source: Regina Anderson, RIC


Image courtesy Coro Pittsburgh



Fill ‘er up—Howard Hanna jumps on board the Delta non-stop to Paris

The Howard Hanna Company has stepped up support for the non-stop Delta flight from Pittsburgh to Paris with the purchase of more than 100 reservations for company employees.

For the past 20 years, the real estate Hannas and Hanna Travel have rewarded their sales agents with incentives, three levels of trips they can earn based on their annual production. Top sellers will receive a trip to Paris aboard the Delta non-stop, five nights and six days during March of 2010.

“I feel it is imperative we all support our new service from Delta to make sure we retain a valuable airport here to encourage local businesses to grow within the region,” says Helen Hanna Casey, president of Howard Hanna Real Estate Services.  “We want to make it easy for people from everywhere to be able to get here easily!”

The Allegheny Conference has pledged more than $4 million to Delta through the year 2012 in support of the direct flight, should revenue fall short.

“Nonstop air service sends a clear message to the world: The Pittsburgh region is open for bilateral business and foreign direct investment,” says Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

“Regional businesses can now efficiently connect with their global clients, and it’s equally efficient for those abroad looking to do business or invest here to connect with us. Using the service is the only way to ensure that our region doesn’t lose a critical business advantage.”

To receive Pop City free each week, click here.

Writer: Debra Diamond Smit
Source: Helen Casey Hanna, Howard Hanna; Dennis Yablonsky, Allegheny Conference

Image courtesy flickr.com

Call us Green County, Car Free Fridays and other sustainable news

Allegheny County will use $8.1 million in federal stimulus funding to conduct energy audits of county municipal buildings and offer energy-saving upgrades to County-owned municipal facilities.

Duquesne Light will partner with the county on the audits, which will include a review of lighting systems, heating and air conditioning, computer systems and the overall thermal envelope. About $2 million will be spent on the upgrades; eligibility will be based on the percentage of low and moderate income population in each municipality.

Another $5.8 million will be spent on conservation projects at the Courthouse, County Office Building, Jail, Shuman Center and Kane Regional Centers. The reduced energy consumption should save taxpayers an estimated $500,000 annually, the county says.

Allegheny County has also hired Jeaneen Zappa as the region’s first sustainability manager. Zappa will work with County departments and the Green Action Team to identify ways to improve the region’s ecological footprint.

The greening of the county “will result in significant energy conservation projects in local government facilities throughout Allegheny County, which will translate into savings for taxpayers and jobs for local workers,” says County Executive Dan Onorato.

In other green news, BikePGH hopes to clean the local air this summer by expanding its Bike to Work Day to an every week event. Car Free Fridays will start on June 12, a city-wide initiative to encourage commuters to leave their cars at home once a week and walk, bike or take public transportation. The event is sponsored by Port Authority and Mullen.

And Pittsburgh’s first green concert series is back, bigger and better than ever. The free, outdoor Solar Concert Series will feature 13 shows powered by a solar-energy sound system. For concert information, click here.

To receive Pop City free each week, click here.

Writer: Debra Diamond Smit
Source: Dan Onorato, Kevin Lane, Allegheny County; Bike Pittsburgh

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