Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New Solar Mirror Manufacturing Plant Nearing Completion Near Pittsburgh International Airport

A new plant to manufacture high-precision parabolic mirrors for the solar energy industry is nearing completion in Clinton Commerce Park near Pittsburgh International Airport.

The 209,000-square-foot plant being built by Flabeg GmbH of Germany is scheduled to open in the fall and employ as many as 300 people to make mirrors used to generate electricity at large-scale solar power plants also known as mirror farms or solar farms.

Flabeg Solar MirrorThe plant is scheduled to open and begin deliveries by the end of 2009. It will have a capacity of up to 1 million parabolic curved mirrors annually. Flabeg has said it already has orders for more than 700,000 mirrors.

The plant is Flabeg's first solar mirror facility in the U.S. Its other facility in Brackenridge, Pennsylvania, manufactures mirror glass for automobiles. Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell last year delivered a $9 million grant to help pay for the $30 million project.

Flabeg joins a growing solar power-related industry in Western Pennsylvania. Another company, Solar Power Industries of Rostraver, PA, recently announced plans to expand its production of solar cells in the former Sony plant in Westmoreland County.

The solar energy sector contributes to the Pittsburgh region's status as the U.S. leader in overall energy technology industry rankings with strengths in manufacturing and research functions in the solar, wind, coal, nuclear and other alternative energy industries.

- Thomas Buell, Jr. READ FULL ARTICLE

Monday, July 20, 2009

Pittsburgh Leaders Pledge Accurate Count of Region's Diverse Population in 2010 Census

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl and Allegheny County Executive Dan Onorato today announced the formation of a City-County Complete Count Committee (CCC), consisting of leaders and volunteers from across the region to assist with ensuring an accurate 2010 Census.

The goals of the CCC are to increase the level of participation in the 2010 Census by creating awareness of the importance of counting every single resident and to increase the mail back response rate.

“Our goal for the 2010 Census is 100 percent participation,” Onorato said. “The count determines the funding Allegheny County receives for roads, bridges, and essential human service programs. With the help of Charlie Batch, our co-chairs, and everyone who joins our effort, we know we can educate people about the importance of the Census and returning their surveys by Census Day, April 1, 2010.”

Charlie Batch, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback and president of the Best of the Batch Foundation, will serve as honorary chairman of the Complete Count Committee. Cynthia Baldwin, former Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice and current partner at Duane Morris LLP, and Rev. Dr. J. Van Alfred Winsett, senior pastor for Ebenezer Baptist Church, have been named co-chairs of the CCC, and will help to lead the effort to ensure that everyone residing in Allegheny County is counted during the decennial census.

For the 2000 Census, 71 percent of people living in Allegheny County and 61 percent of City of Pittsburgh residents returned their forms.

“With the statistics from the 2010 Census being used to determine congressional representation and allocate federal funding, it is critical that we ensure that every City of Pittsburgh resident is counted,” Ravenstahl said.

“This Complete Count Committee will play a key role in helping us successfully meet the challenge. The population of our region is become increasingly more diverse, and it is up to us to identify creative strategies for reaching everyone so they are included in the 2010 Census. I thank the volunteers who have agreed to assist us with this important work.”

The following seven Complete Count subcommittees have been formed: Business & Labor; Community-based Human Services Organizations; Diversity; Education; Faith-based; Government & Leadership; and Media.

Each subcommittee will develop and implement strategies that increase the return rate of surveys and reduce the undercount of residents who might be missed due to any number of perceived or real barriers. Information on each subcommittee may be found by visiting the CCC website at

Those interested in volunteering will be able to register on the website to serve on one of the subcommittees. Onorato and Ravenstahl will announce the co-chairs for the respective subcommittees in the coming weeks.

The U.S. Constitution requires a population and housing count every 10 years. The effort employs some of the most sophisticated technical and operational tools available, as well as a workforce of 1.4 million temporary employees to count every man, woman and child.

Census results are the basis for congressional representation, as well as the distribution of federal, state and local funds totaling more than $435 billion annually. Census Day is April 1, 2010. READ FULL ARTICLE

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Western PA Diversity Initiative Names New Director to Grow Workforce Opportunities

The Western Pennsylvania Diversity Initiative, a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing workforce diversity by providing educational, networking and other resources for employers and employees, announced that it has named its first executive director.

Dina Clark, who has been serving on the board of the 4-year-old organization, started her new job this week. She most recently worked for the Anti-Defamation League.

The WPDI's mission is to "promote regional economic growth by providing resources to employers in the Pittsburgh region to attract, hire, and retain employees from a variety of diverse backgrounds and perspectives." It was founded in 2005 as an outgrowth of the Community Outreach Taskforce of the Allegheny County Bar Association.

The stated vision of WPDI is to:
1. Create a vibrant community of organizations and individuals who value diversity.
2. Provide a forum to develop and disseminate resources that communicate the importance of diversity to our region and its employees.
3. Measure and publicize Western Pennsylvania’s successes in attracting, developing, and retaining employees of diverse backgrounds.

Read an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

For more information on the Western Pennsylvania Diversity Initiative, go to READ FULL ARTICLE

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Pittsburgh Architectural Firm Astorino Named to List of Top 100 "Green" Design Companies

The Pittsburgh-based architectural firm Astorino is the only design/engineering company in the region named to Engineering News-Record magazine's recently published annual list of the Top 100 "Green" design and engineering companies.

Astorino’s achievements in Pittsburgh include the new Children’s Hospital, PNC Firstside Center, Heinz History Center and others.

The ENR Top 100 Green Design Firms, which includes Astorino at No. 70, generated $2.85 billion in revenue in 2008 from projects registered with such green design programs as the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, an increase of 63.9% over $1.74 billion in 2007.

Details of Astorino's local projects:

Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
Project Type: New Construction/Renovation
Project Cost: $625 million

The Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, one of the top pediatrics institutions in the country, approached Astorino for a solution to its overcrowded campus.

Key design elements of the resulting 1.4 million s.f. campus include a main “Transformation Corridor,” a 980,000 s.f. Clinical Services Building, a 300,000 s.f. Academic Medical Research Building, a 4,000 s.f. “Healing Garden,” a 6,500 s.f. Data Center, a 1,400-space parking garage, an expanded central plant and an exterior facade that incorporates vibrant colors and unique curved shapes to communicate that Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is a facility that is dynamic and alive.

Heinz History Center
Project Type: New Construction
Project Cost: $11 million

Astorino provided architecture, engineering, landscape architecture, and interior design services for the expansion of the Senator John Heinz Pittsburgh Regional History Center in Pittsburgh. The addition expands the center farther west toward the downtown area and complements the center’s century-old brick, steel and timber construction. The new 5-story space houses the Smithsonian Traveling Exhibit Gallery, Western Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame, an education center with a flexible auditorium (seating 600-700), and study collections and storage space.

The addition was designed with a goal of LEED™ (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification and will include such sustainable features as: Exceeding ASHRAE Standard 90.1 for energy efficiency, recycled as well as local/regional building materials, temperature and humidity control and monitoring, bike racks and shower facilities for employees, easy access to public transportation and increased view corridors to riverfront trail system.

PNC Firstside Center
Project Type: New Construction
Project Cost: $108 Million

PNC Financial Services Group consolidated critical bank activities for the Midwest region in a new facility, located in downtown Pittsburgh. From the outset, sustainable or 'green' architecture was an integral part of the design. The resulting design of PNC Firstside Center is a five-story, 647,000 sf facility that has been praised for its "elegant environmentalism."

Since employee satisfaction is directly tied to productivity and retention, Astorino's design paid special attention to the working environment. Light wells bring natural light into the depths of the interior exposing 90% of floor area to natural light and outside views. Other amenities provided in the facility include onsite child-care, riverfront bike trail, locker and shower facilities, and employee cafeteria with an outdoor terrace.

This mission critical facility has already garnered a number of environmental and design awards around the country. PNC Firstside Center was the first building ever certified as Silver under the USGBC's rating system (LEED 2.0).

Read Astorino's Blog at READ FULL ARTICLE

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Pittsburgh-Area College Student Gets Involved in Program Helping African Orphans

By Samantha Kalnas

As a child growing up in Cranberry Township, just north of Pittsburgh, I never really thought about the international world, and besides Disney’s The Lion King, Africa was barely even on my radar.

Samantha KalnasWhen I graduated from Seneca Valley in 2006 and decided to pursue a degree in journalism, I knew my knowledge of world affairs would widen, but my mind was focused elsewhere. To me, tiny villages in Africa were in no way newsworthy.

So, you can imagine my surprise when an Introduction to Cultural Anthropology class my sophomore year at Ohio University turned out to be the most influential.

From the minute I walked into the class, I knew it would be different. My professor, Andria Sherrow, practically blended in with the students, and her laid-back teaching style immediately caught my attention. She focused on her personal experiences, showing us pictures of her family and travels, and when she began to talk about her life’s work in Uganda, I was hooked.

While performing her graduate work in Kabale National Park in Uganda, Andria saw first hand the gravity of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. During her daily walk to the primary school where she worked, Andria encountered a number of children, most dressed in blue school uniforms, but one particular group of boys caught her attention.

Unlike the other children, these boys were not dressed in school uniforms, but instead in ripped and tattered shorts and bare feet. They approached Andria and tried to speak to her in broken English, writing their names on notebooks and trying to make a connection, but they would never accompany the group to school.

One morning, Andria was running late, and was far behind the gaggle of children that usually accompanied her. As she hurried along the dirt path, she saw one of the boys walking down the hill from a mud hut to meet her. He was extremely dirty and his old shorts were especially torn and frayed.

"Help me, I have no parents," the boy said in his broken English, and as a mother looking into the eyes of an orphan, Andria knew she had to find a way to help. She took the boy by the hand and brought him to school where she began to ask questions.

She learned that his name was Muhebwa Richard and that his parents had died three years prior, when Richard was nine years old, as a result of HIV/AIDS. She also learned that Richard was not the only child in need of help. By 2010, 25 million children will be orphaned; virtually an entire generation of parents will be wiped out by the disease.

After a great deal of research, Andria decided the best way to help these children was to provide them with an education. She teamed up with a women’s cooperative that made handmade jewelry and crafts and bought the goods to be sold in the United States.

The goods are purchased at fair trade prices, meaning the crafts are sold for no less than the minimum price of production, a way to promote social justice and sustainability in developing countries. All of the proceeds from the sale of the African crafts go towards providing orphans and vulnerable children with the materials needed to attend school. She called her non-profit organization The Empower Campaign.

In 2006, Andria moved the Empower Campaign to Ohio University and quickly found a dedicated group of students interested in helping her cause. The student organization plans and holds fundraising events and jewelry sales in the area and in members’ hometowns. In 2008, Empower expanded to three more campuses in Ohio and students raised over $50,000 during the 2008-09 school year.

As an officer in the student group, I was given the opportunity to bring Empower to Pittsburgh over my breaks from school, and had fun hosting at home jewelry parties in Cranberry Township. During my six-week holiday break, I was fortunate enough to raise over $1,500 for the Empower Campaign, and look forward to doing even more in the future.

For more information on The Empower Campaign, visit To plan an at-home jewelry sale or benefit event, contact Samantha Kalnas at READ FULL ARTICLE

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Brazilian Government Officials Visiting Pittsburgh to Explore Region's Energy Expertise

High-ranking government energy officials from Brazil will visit Pittsburgh this week to take a closer look at the region and its ability to supply solutions for 21st-Century energy needs.

Itaipú Dam on Brazil's Paraná RiverDeputy Minister of Mines and Energy Márcio Zimmerman arrives Wednesday, July 8 following energy-related meetings in Washington, D.C. His visit closely follows several agreements between the U.S. Department of Energy and the Brazilian Ministry of Mines and Energy for bilateral business development around energy diversity and efficiency.

The Pittsburgh region is home to organizations and companies recognized for their development and distribution of traditional energy resources—coal, natural gas and nuclear—as well as manufacturing and supply chain expertise for alternative sources such as wind and solar power.

Minister Zimmerman and his delegation will visit Westinghouse Electric Co.'s Energy Center in Monroeville, and the National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) and CONSOL Energy Research and Development facility—both located in South Park.

These regional energy innovators will be discussing their respective strengths in nuclear energy, clean coal, carbon capture and sequestration, smart grid technology and engineered coal fuels with biomass.

Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Deputy Secretary for Mineral Resources Management J. Scott Roberts will participate in the meeting at CONSOL, as will a representative of Alter NRG Corporation, discussing the plasma gasification technology it acquired from Westinghouse Plasma Corporation.

"The Pittsburgh region is uniquely positioned to create solutions that address global energy needs," said Allegheny Conference on Community Development CEO Dennis Yablonsky.

"Providing sources of cleaner coal and carbon capture technology; tapping abundant, domestic, clean-burning natural gas; manufacturing renewable energy components; and creating systems to efficiently deliver power and conserve resources set our region apart as a leader and a provider of choice," he said. "When coupled with our ample natural resources base, these achievements distinguish the region as America‘s energy capital and a strategic partner for other countries looking to maximize their energy efficiency and sustainability."

Brazil is looking to further strengthen its energy matrix, which is primarily reliant on hydropower, with other clean, reliable, affordable energy sources, said PRA President Dewitt Peart.

"Pittsburgh is uniquely positioned to lend its expertise to Brazil and to explore bilateral business and investment opportunities around energy," he said. "The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) will be participating in Deputy Minister Zimmerman‘s visit because this is a perfect prospect for the region. With the pending G-20 summit and the global attention it will place on Pittsburgh and its 'new economy' strengths, the timing is right to market the region‘s energy expertise to Brazil and to the world."

The PRA is the marketing affiliate of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Union of African Communities in Pittsburgh Marks First Year With Officer Election, Diversity Events

The Union of African Communities in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County has marked its one year anniversary with the formal election of officers and plans for a major event in August to celebrate and highlight the region’s diverse international communities in the days leading up to the G-20 Economic Summit.

Members of the group, which represents African-born individuals and representatives of 20-plus African organizations in the region, elected Benedict Killang (Sudan) –President; Ahmed Sheriff (Sierra Leone) - Vice President; Rufus Idris (Nigeria) – Secretary; Dr. Annamore Matambanadzo (Zimbabwe) – Treasurer; John Kwateng (Ghana) and Ibrahim Muya (Somalia) – Public Relations Officers.

Elected as Advisers were Samuel Duah (Ghana), Malu Mutombo (Congo) and Zedueh Doerue (Liberia).

One of the group’s co-founders, Rufus Idris, 27, has lived in Pittsburgh for two years and works as executive director of Christian Evangelistic Economic Development (CEED) in Highland Park.

“We came together because we felt that many of the African groups in Pittsburgh were not able to make their voices heard,” he said. “With this election, we believe that we can speak with a united voice for our members.”

The Union of African Communities comprises leaders of over 20 African countries and communities living in the Pittsburgh region, African student organizations and numerous other groups and companies.

The group’s goals are “to foster unity, empowerment, linkages and improve the quality of life of Africans in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, through acting upon the needs, concerns, challenges and opportunities,” and “to have well-informed, empowered and united African Communities in Allegheny County, the entire United States and the African continent.”

Rufus IdrisOne of the group’s first major undertakings was to complete a Needs Assessment of the African Refugee and Immigrant Communities in the region. The document already has been used to begin the process of improving efficiency and reducing overlapping of local social services programs, Idris (right) said.

Member communities and organizations include: Ghana, D.R Congo, Sudan, Liberia, Zambia, Nigeria (Ibo & Yoruba), Cameroon, Somalia, Zimbabwe, Sierra Leone, Cote d'Ivoire, Kenya, Angola, Guinea Conakry, Togo, Benin, Tanzania, Burundi, Eritrea, Rwanda, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Africa Quest, African Christian Fellowship, Pittsburgh Area African Professionals Organization, African Women's Club, African Student Organizations (University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, LaRoche College and Indiana University of Pennsylvania), African Synergistic Think-Tank, African churches, African Islamic community, Balafon West African Dance Ensemble and Tropic Groove.

Idris said that an event planned to bring together the African communities has been expanded to include the Hispanic, Indian and other communities in the region. The free event is planned for Aug. 29 at the Union Project in Highland Park from 5-9 p.m.

He also is developing a “Diversity Ambassadors” program to enable young people in the Pittsburgh area to welcome newcomers from diverse international backgrounds and help them find their way in the community, in addition to other programs to encourage diversity and welcome immigrants and internationals.

For more information about the Union of African Communities, send email to or call 412-759-4565. READ FULL ARTICLE