Technology in the Steel City

Stefani Pashman, CEO of Partner4Work, has a unique view on Pittsburgh’s labor market. The biggest opportunity she sees won’t come as a surprise to many: technology.

Across every occupation

But that doesn’t mean we all need to become software developers or coders — although technology jobs are still one of the area’s fastest growing occupations. She says over the past few years, there also has been an overwhelming need for technology skills embedded in many occupations that aren’t even technology related.

“It’s across every occupation. So, having some comfort with technology and having a little bit of experience in that domain is really important for all of the jobs available,” Pashman says.

Partner4Work, featured in Building Stronger Communities, launched its TechHire Pittsburgh initiative to create more pathways and on ramps to technology careers. In addition to technology boot camps, TechHire developed a fun, free mobile video game in collaboration with Simcoach Games. Booeys: A Ghost’s Code is designed to gauge five aptitudes critical to technical careers.

This is just one way that Parter4Work is using its knowledge and connections to improve the Pittsburgh region’s workforce development. Other initiatives it plans to launch this year include helping people coming out of jail get better jobs and a college completion program for those who have a lot of college credits but no degree yet.

Not just for kids

Another interesting way that technology is being used in the Pittsburgh region is at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History.

The museum launched a new streaming series that broadcasts museum scientists to schools across the country using Facebook Live. Scientists Live has already reached an average of 50,000 students per episode.

These episodes, which certainly aren’t just for students, will feature experts sharing specialized knowledge and showing off pieces of the museum’s hidden collection. Find out more at bit.ly/Carnegie_ScientistsLive and in the Uniquely feature.

Behind the deal, culture lies at the heart

When the sale of FirstMerit to Huntington Bank was announced last year, it was big news in Ohio. As the largest acquisition in the bank’s history, it was especially relevant for Northeast Ohio, FirstMerit’s headquarters, as well as Columbus.

More than a year later, I was able to check in with Chairman, President and CEO Steve Steinour about how the integration has gone, which is this month’s cover story.

Just like many other CEOs I’ve spoken with about mergers and acquisitions, Steinour emphasized how culture is a key component. (President and CEO Rick Miley of BroadStreet Partners, a guest columnist who knows a thing or two about mergers, mentioned the same point.)

When you talk about deal making, dollars and cents — the hard stuff — can be the first thing that comes to mind. Did you get a good price? Is your company worth as much as you think it is? Is it a seller’s market? What are buyers doing these days?

If that’s the case, though, why do business leaders always speak about culture at length? That’s the “real” hard stuff, because it’s intangible, flexible and contingent on people who can’t be defined on a P&L or pro forma statement.

The Huntington executive team’s biggest challenge after the sale’s announcement was winning over the hearts and minds of the FirstMerit employees. The due diligence may have taken six weeks (and involved 500 people), but winning over employees and customers is an ongoing process.

It’s not something that has stopped at Huntington, even here in Columbus. The bank’s planned Gateway Center will be geared toward winning over the younger workforce.

Steinour says it will have a health club, outdoor dinning and meeting areas, yoga, Pilates, a basketball court, onsite medical and a Starbucks.

“It’s a cool facility, and we think the millennials and the next gen people who will be coming into the company to become colleagues some day will really enjoy this environment,” he says. “It’s got a lot of natural lighting. It’s got energy; I love it.”

Insights for more than just manufacturers

Smart Business put a special focus on manufacturing this month, but like so much in business this issue also has common themes that relate to all industries — from workforce development to emerging risks and leadership.

Unlike other areas of the state, Columbus doesn’t really have the self-image of being a manufacturing hub. But it’s still an important sector for the Central Ohio region.

All together, more than 1,700 manufacturers employ more than 85,000 people, according to Columbus 2020. Other reasons why manufacturing is thriving, include the fact that the region:

  • Is a global trade hub with excellent rail and highway connections to major ports and cargo flights. Manufacturers can reach more of the U.S. and Canada within a day’s drive from the Columbus region than from any other major metro.
  • Has one of the lowest private sector unionization rates in the country, at 3.1 percent.
  • Features over 100 manufacturing-related educational and training programs.

To learn more about Central Ohio’s manufacturing sector, check out this month’s cover story where four manufacturers discuss how they handle their workforce, and others talk about the emerging risks manufacturers face.

Workforce development isn’t just a challenge for manufacturers, though. Alvis’ Denise M. Robinson shares how her organization helps individuals who have spent time in the criminal justice system become productive employees in the Building Stronger Communities feature.

Robinson wasn’t the only strong leader featured this month. Right after Dan Creekmur, president of Columbus Gas of Ohio, stepped onto the stage at a January Columbus Chamber of Commerce event, he lost a bet — a bet that his young age wouldn’t be mentioned in the first few minutes.

While being in his 30s and leading more than 1,100 employees is unique, it also gives him a different perspective. Find out more about his views on leadership and service in this issue.

What a corporate boardroom and artist studio have in common

This month’s Smart Business focuses on women in business. We have some great stories and good advice from female executives at all stages of their careers — as well as one professional artist.

When I first got the idea to interview Lenka Clayton for Uniquely Pittsburgh, I wondered if featuring an artist in a business management magazine was too much of a stretch. I even mentioned that fear to Clayton when I was talking to her.

As our conversation progressed, though, her perspectives on work-life balance, as well as being a mother and a professional, echoed a lot of what I’ve heard from female business executives.

Clayton also mentioned that there’s so much advice out there about how to balance your home and professional lives — and so much of it is contradictory and not helpful — that she hesitates to add to that cacophony.

Who knew that the corporate boardroom and an artist studio would be so similar? Clayton pointed out that every artist who is surviving in the profession is an entrepreneur. Also, because you’re self-employed, like many entrepreneurs who are starting out, she says there’s no structure for insurance or retirement and when you’re not able to work it can be very stressful.

The issue of being both a parent and a professional, which led to Clayton’s Artist Residency in Motherhood, is one I often hear about from women in business — and strikingly don’t hear much about from male executives. (Although to be fair, I wouldn’t think to bring the subject up with a male executive.)

“There’s a whole misnomer in business of doing everything — being an incredible business woman or powerful business man and also an incredible mother (or father), and trying to do those things at once,” Clayton says.

Today, Clayton has been surprised at the robust response. Her open-source residency is even being utilized in countries that have a strong support for new mothers, like Germany, France, the Netherlands and Australia. Clearly, she found an unmet need.

Letting go of the past is the first step to a bright future

Businesses reinvent themselves all the time. The reasons for such upheavals vary, but it might be because the original market became irrelevant, competition became too fierce or technology turned a once profitable product into a commodity. No matter the cause, business leaders facing tough times either adapt their business to the new conditions or they go out of business.

History serves up quite a few examples of successful makeovers: Berkshire Hathaway was a textile company that Warren Buffett invested in back in the 1960s. Buffett gained a controlling interest in the firm and turned it into a holding company for his billions in global investments after the U.S.-based textile industry declined in the 1980s. Royal Dutch Shell traces its routes to an antiques store in the 1830s that imported and exported items from the Far East, including seashells. As the combustion engine became more common, those imports expanded to include oil, and the company built the first bulk oil tanker. The antiques are long gone, but the company’s name is visible on thousands of gas stations around the globe.

Think where these companies would be if they had tried to hang on to their original business. American-made textiles declined precipitously as cheap Asian goods flooded the market. If Buffett had tried to keep Berkshire Hathaway operating as a textile company, you probably wouldn’t know his name today. And imagine if Shell was still dealing in exotic shells, silks and spices in addition to the oil business. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it, especially when the profit in the latter would dwarf the former? Why keep selling things that aren’t related to your core business anymore?

Those are questions you should constantly ask yourself. If you are moving toward a new market, are you still holding on to the equivalent of the antiques business? Before you can truly move your business forward into a new market, you have to let go of the past.

This can be hard to do, especially if you’ve spent years profiting from a particular market. You’ve seen ups and downs before, so why walk away when things might rebound?

The answer is simple: You can’t serve multiple masters. You need to focus your business on the market with the highest growth potential and not divide resources among different priorities. Just like Cortez, you have to burn your ships, eliminating the option of retreat so everyone is focused only on the advance.

Letting go is never easy, but if you hope to be the next Berkshire Hathaway or Royal Dutch Shell, the market you started in may not be the best one for future growth.

Fred Koury is president and CEO of Smart Business Network Inc., the publisher of Smart Business Magazine and operates SBN Interactive, a content marketing firm.

Pittsburgh manufacturers sound off on the risks

Business can be tough, but manufacturing can be really tough. That was my immediate takeaway from talking to manufacturers of all sizes for this month’s special focus on Pittsburgh manufacturing’s emerging risks.

U.S. manufacturers must develop a flexible workforce in order to respond to external factors.

They also need to use technology to compete on a global level, but it’s hard to know where to invest with confidence. While additive manufacturing has caught the attention of many, it’s not widely used by those who need to do more than small or customized batches. (Don’t miss the advice on this from Albensi Laboratories, which is light-years ahead of most with its implementation of new technologies.)

Bill Starn, CEO of Starn Tool & Manufacturing Co. gave the best overview of the industry.

Historically, in manufacturing, every five years, there would be some sort of a recession, Starn says. Then, after an 18-month period of problems, a company could make it up.

“That’s just not been the case in the last 16, 17 years,” he says. “Starting with 2001, we’ve had two major recessions and a lot of instability in between.”

While Starn feels Pittsburgh has done a fantastic job of changing from the steel industry to the high-tech industry, it’s still not seeing the type of expansion that others, such as North and South Carolina, are.

But as exciting as digitalization, 3-D printing or the internet of things are, Starn emphasized that the biggest weaknesses come back to not understanding every nuance of your business.

“I’ve been a software provider to manufacturing for over 25 years, in another business, that is specifically designed to help them run their business,” he says. “And I see even today with the great technologies that we have available and the softwares we have available, people still don’t know diddly about their business.”

It’s often just that simple, whether you’re in manufacturing or another sector. Know your numbers. Know your risks. Plan accordingly.

The secret is to never stop

The theme of this month’s magazine is leadership. While you could argue that every month we focus on leadership, I wanted to highlight different sectors that are leading change. From health care, technology and education to sports, economic development and business, it’s a good mix.

As Nationwide Children’s Hospital pushes the frontiers of genomics, Air Force One makes the bold move to do away with sales commissions and Capital University ponders how the next generation can be trained to collaborate. I hope you are inspired.
Always searching

I talk to CEOs every month about how they lead their companies. While some general principles stay the same, I hear something different from everyone I talk to. For some, it’s all about the relationships. For others, it’s about having the vision and not being afraid to act on it.

But the best business leaders are always trying to learn, improve, grow and find new ways of doing things. I don’t think you ever find all the answers; it’s more important to keep looking.

Girls definitely allowed

Women in business is something I enjoy advocating for, and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission, featured in this month’s magazine, has gained a reputation for hosting women’s events. Part of that has to do with having a female executive director, Linda Shetina Logan, which is unusual in her industry.

Logan, a passionate Cleveland Indians fan who didn’t have Title IX in high school, believes she has the best job in the world — one where she gets paid to go to a baseball game.

Columbus also has a focus on women and girls that translates over to sports.

“If you think about our community, our chief of police is a woman, the head of our airport is a woman. We have all these women that naturally are in leadership roles here. It’s not just in name only, but we feel like we walk the talk,” Logan says.

The Sports Commission even started an event, the Women’s Sports Report. The breakfast, which was held in February, honors the athletic successes and achievements — both on the playing field and off — of women and girls in Central Ohio.

Dynamic organizations shape this month’s issue

At the National Aviary, where growth is influencing some interesting and new things, an emotional connection is paramount.

Executive Director Cheryl Tracy told me that when visitors can get close to the birds, it helps with the Aviary’s mission of inspiring people to have a respect for nature through an appreciation of birds.

Experiences like participating in a lorikeet feeding, where participants have a cup of nectar, go into the exhibit and the lorikeets will fly down and eat out of their hand help set the organization apart.

Another emotional connection comes from the novelty of a baby sloth surrounded by hundreds of birds. Or, live birds flying through the atrium of the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC.

The Aviary also does a number of programs with underprivileged schools, like One Northside, which aims to bring its environmental education to every Northside second grader.

“We’re beginning to embark on another program with some of the city schools as well. It’s a way to bridge the surrounding neighborhoods with the cultural assets that exist in the city,” Tracy says.

You can learn more about this and other fascinating stories in this month’s Uniquely Pittsburgh.

While the National Aviary isn’t officially part of our Who to Watch list, the centerpiece of this issue, it’s certainly one of the many dynamic organizations that make Pittsburgh such an exciting place to live.

The list is also just a sampling of the people or projects that are driving positive momentum in Pittsburgh’s growth and development. In fact, when I reached out to some of my contacts to ask for suggestions, I was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming response — and how little repetition there was.

You may have been sad to flip the calendar, and say goodbye to the Penguins Stanley Cup year, but our Who to Watch list spotlights some of the great things that are in store for 2017.

Collaboration highlighted in Who to Watch list

Columbus continues to outdo itself, from winning the Smart City Challenge to the Columbus Blue Jackets’ 16-game win streak that ignited even the hearts of causal hockey fans.

With new development and public/private partnerships the hallmark of many community initiatives, it’s an exciting time to be living and working in Central Ohio.

In this month’s issue, we share our thoughts on the leaders we expect to play a pivotal role in shaping the new year with our Who to Watch list. This sampling of the people or projects that are driving positive momentum in Columbus’ growth and development are an exciting group.

At the same time, I got to know Lynnette Cook, executive director of Community Research Partners for our Building Stronger Communities feature. If you’ve never heard of the nonprofit, you’re not alone. But you will have heard of their work.

Just like many of the people and organizations on our Who to Watch list, CRP was formed from a partnership. The United Way of Central Ohio, the City of Columbus, Franklin County and The Ohio State University all appoint members to CRP’s board.

Because so much of the work that they do is jointly funded across the community, they wanted to create an entity that could speak to those needs, and Cook says that’s how CRP was formed.

“It is a great thing in my experience because it means I have all four of them at the table at least at some point to talk about their common interests,” she says. “And they at least once a year, and often more than that, will talk among themselves, even without staff in the room, around the issues they are facing and the upcoming projects, in terms of research they think they need to have done.

“I think that’s a real benefit to the community that they try to coordinate like that.”

When you read over the Who to Watch list, don’t forget to look for all of the joint partnerships that are mentioned, just like CRP’s. This strength of Columbus is something that I see again and again — and it certainly helps drive the region’s economic development.

Pull back and see the big picture of your life

Leaving a legacy is something a lot of business owners starting thinking about as they mature in their careers — and discussing — when I talk to them about management challenges.

It’s actually good to hear that building wealth may not be the first consideration. Yes, it’s nice, but building something that will stand long after you’ve moved on is a much more permanent legacy.

Building business legacy

In this month’s issue, we’ve highlighted western Pennsylvania companies that have stood the test of time. I know this isn’t a comprehensive list, but it is a good snapshot.

Some common themes that emerged from these businesses, which have been around for 50 or more years, are an ability to adapt and listen. Many of these companies make completely different products and provide completely different services than when they first started. Some have diversified, and others have move into entirely new lines of business.

And at this point, part of their culture is pride in that longevity. After everything that has changed, they, and their employees, can proudly say, “We are still here.”

Our Uniquely Pittsburgh, which highlights Lawrenceville, examines another kind of legacy. This revitalized neighborhood has built on its roots and blossomed into a place where people want to live, work and play.

See the big picture

All this legacy talk makes me wonder about what legacy I’ll leave with my own life, which is a particularly potent thought around New Year’s resolution time.

You don’t have to found a company or business dynasty to leave a legacy. But it is good to sometimes think about the bigger picture, and what kind of permanent impression you can leave on the world.

We all want to make our mark, and we can certainly do that in different ways. So, as we kick off a new year, take a little time and consider: What are you building that will stand long after you’ve moved on?