In Brief Featured

10:09am EDT July 22, 2002
Pittsburgh may lag in some areas economically, but there's one thing the region can brag about: It's safe.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the 1996 rate of lost-time accidents was 4.5 per 100 full-time workers, local building contracts maintained a low 1.5 accidents per 100 workers-a 300 percent improvement over the national average.

As a result, the Master Builders Association of Western Pennsylvania Inc. was honored recently for its safe job sites by the Associated General Contractors of America, coming in third nationally in the standings.

"We've enjoyed a long history of cooperation between the building trades, MBA contractors and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration," says Bob McCall, safety director of the MBA. "We all have the same goal-saving lives and preserving the quality of life for our employees."

And winning the occasional award.

On the offensive

A player from the Chicago Bears comes to Pittsburgh without the rest of the football team. Must not be too bright, right?

Wrong. Jim Flanigan is in fact a very intelligent young man. Flanigan, a Notre Dame MIS grad as well as a defensive tackle for the Bears, rushed into Pittsburgh in May to give awards to two reading educators at the Weil Technology Institute, an elementary school in Pittsburgh's Hill District that has been reorganized and refurbished with an emphasis on technology tools and literacy improvement.

Teachers Susan Sauer and Rebecca Hamilton received awards from the foundation, and students participated in a book exchange with peers in Detroit and Charleston, W.Va.

Weil was one of six stops nationally on the Great American Book Drive, an effort by the James Flanigan Foundation and the UPS Foundation to raise awareness of child literacy issues and to stimulate interest in reading and learning.

While the audience was almost entirely children, Flanigan's message was clearly one that adults need to hear, too. He pointed out that 40 million American adults lack adequate literacy skills, shutting them out of opportunities for employment as well as personal development.

Talking like a coach might to his players, Flanigan slipped important messages about the value of reading and literacy into his presentation to an auditorium packed with elementary students. Without adequate literacy skills, he explained, finding a meaningful place in the job market would be difficult.

"Just like skills in sports..." Flanigan explained to the youngsters, "reading is a skill that must be practiced every day."

One too many arrows in the back, perhaps?

When our May 1998 cover subject, Gregory Coticchia, told SBN about Mallett Technology's effort to raise money via a direct public offering, he described the process aptly-perhaps too aptly: "We're the pioneers," he said. "We're the ones taking the arrows in the back. Some will be successful, some won't."

Evidently, Coticchia and company took one too many arrows. By early May, company founder Robert Mallett abruptly cancelled the DP, having raised only about $125,000, scrapped his aggressive plans to grow by acquisition, and laid off eight senior employees-including CEO Coticchia and Chief Financial Officer Robert Delach. Both now are serving as consultants in the region as they look for new employment opportunities.

Doug Goodall, president and CEO of Vision Systems and our other May cover subject, meanwhile, reportedly continues to forge ahead with commercialization plans and is ready to raise another round of capital, as planned.

The moral of this story: Don't expose yourself to shooting arrows. And if you do, don't just cut and run. The premature retreat always results in an arrow in the back.


"When you're an entrepreneur and someone is waving a bag of money in front of you, it's usually a compelling reason to go into that market."

William Hulley, Adams Capital Management, at a recent M.I.T. Enterprise Forum presentation, commenting on a local entrepreneur's dilemma in determining which of many potential markets he should pursue for his company in the early stages.