Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Positively Pittsburgh Live 2012 Business Forecast

2012 Pittsburgh Business Forecast

Lee Drozak: Owner of My Office Assistant and Author of “Small Business Practical Times” blog
J. André Weisbrod, ChFC: Mutual Fund Manager, Investment Advisor, Financial Planner, Author, Lecturer
Bill Flanagan: Executive Vice President of Corporate Relations for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development and Host of “Our Region’s Business”

Let’s start things off with Lee Drozak.

Lee Drozak
 Lee is the 2010 winner of the Women’s Small Business Association, WSBA, Business Woman of the Year and named by her peers as Virtual Assistant of the Month. Her mission is to empower business owners to succeed in growing their business through resources that are readily available in today’s marketplace. Her energy, organization and enthusiasm are evident in her role as business consultant and mentor.

Lee was born and raised in Pittsburgh, PA, with a no nonsense approach to achieving success through hard work. With over 20 years of experience, she has a long list of accomplishments, awards and accolades to her credit.

After her son was born she made the decision to stay home and it was there she discovered telecommuting. She crafted a solid plan to work with a start-up national service center which would allow her to apply her business knowledge and still afford the luxury of being at home. During her tenure, she worked with the owner and principals to move the company from a staff of a few to over 200 employees. Lee also worked with IT to create a proprietary software program that streamlined many processes. She used her knowledge to apply processes and procedures that integrated advancing technology with everyday tasks thereby saving the company both time and money. Lee has continued to expand her knowledge and is now certified as an Internet Marketing, Social Media Management, Product Launch Support and Virtual Events.

Lee's forecast:
Pittsburgh is doing an amazing job at revitalization. Areas that we should continue to focus on are Access, Information, and Partnerships (FYI - that is the BBB tagline) – Specifically:

• Access to Capital
• Information Exchange
• Affordable Places to Set Up a Business
• Support for Entrepreneurship and Innovation
• Increased Sales and Partnerships

Providing capital, space, support, information and access for the City’s entrepreneurship sector will further brand Pittsburgh as a place for global innovation, attracting experienced entrepreneurs and talent to the city. The mission of Building Brides for Pittsburgh (BBFB) is to help entrepreneurs find the resources necessary for success. Our goal right now is to listen. We want to know what people need, what are they looking for?

We are hosting an event in April 2012 focusing on access to capital. Small Business Works will again be hosted by BBFB in conjunction with Allegheny County and The City of Pittsburgh. Attendees will receive a business checklist in March of what they will need to bring to the meeting. Workstations will be set up where business owners can apply for a business loan and a new Small Business Loan program will be introduced in Pittsburgh at that time. Additional work stations will be on hand for business owners to improve credit scores or debt balances, further refine their revenue streams or grow their business plans.

The City may want to grow their early stage investment funds. For example, in New York the early stage fund was created with $3 million in NYCEDC funds, matched by up to $4.5 million of private sector funds provided by Firstmark Capital. Firstmark Capital has also reserved an additional $15 million for follow-on investments.

BBFB will continue to provide FREE business resources. We are hosting TWEETCHATS - the first in the city. These events are held monthly. Influential entrepreneur and author, Melinda Emerson (@smallbizlady) will answer questions from local entrepreneurs via Twitter on January 17, 2012 between 7 pm and 8 pm in the third installment of Pittsburgh's first small business Twitterchat presented by BBFP. (@bridges4biz).

The virtual event, which is aimed at providing valuable, free resources for small business owners and leaders in Allegheny County, will feature Emerson, who will answer a set of questions from BBFB and other questions posed by entrepreneurs from the region and can be followed live using hashtag #smallbizpgh on either twebevent.com or tweetchat.com.

The Twitterchat will be presented by BBFB, as well as its partners, including Allegheny County, the City of Pittsburgh Mayor's Office, Duquesne University Small Business Development Center and the Center for Women's Entrepreneurship at Chatham University. The #smallbizpgh Twitterchat is free, allowing interested users to engage and participate using smart phones, tablets and computers.

Affordable Places to Start a Business
Pittsburgh may want to provide affordable places for people to own and operate a business. Incentive programs are available in other cities. We know that Pittsburgh is one of the "older" cities in the country. There are many vacant buildings and homes in the city. A possibility is to set up a program for recent grads from our amazing universities to STAY in the BURGH. We don't want them to leave. Put the two together vacant homes and buildings and the cities best and brightest at CMU, Chatham, Carlow, Duquesne, Point Park, and the University. Develop a program to keep the new grads here with possible tax incentives on new business development for a two year period. Of course, they should be incented to stay well past the two year period.

Innovation Support
Pittsburgh should also continue to offer support for innovation and business development. BBFB will continue its mission - Access, Information, and Partnership throughout 2012 in conjunction with the amazing programs provided by the County and City. Visit us at www.BuildingBridgesforBusiness.org for resources to start, grow, manage, and promote your business.

You can contact Lee at http://www.myofficeassist.com/ 

Next up is J. André Weisbrod, ChFC of Staar Financial
Mutual Fund Manager, Investment Advisor, Financial Planner, Author, Lecturer

J. André Weisbrod
J. André Weisbrod is President of Weisbrod Financial Services, Inc. and STAAR Financial Advisors, Inc. a Registered Investment Advisor and advisor to the STAAR Investment Trust family of mutual funds. He is a Pittsburgh-based financial advisor providing individuals, businesses and organizations with comprehensive investment services. He has been in the financial services business since 1981 and has managed the highly rated STAAR AltCat Fund since 1996.

An accomplished speaker and writer, Mr. Weisbrod is the author of The Creative Personal Finance Workbook (PP&C, 1984, 1986), Becoming One Financially (Journey Books, 1989), The STAAR SYSTEM Investment Management Manual (1991) and How to Invest Wisely (1994). He has had articles published in a variety of newspapers, magazines and newsletters, has been interviewed by publications such as the Wall Street Journal, Investors Business Daily and Mutual Funds Magazine, quoted by commentators such as Paul Harvey and has appeared on numerous radio and TV shows, including on KDKA, TheStreet.com, Reuters TV and Business News Network.

Actively involved in church and community affairs, Mr. Weisbrod is committed to the well being of individuals, families and businesses. He served on the Vestry of St. Stephen's Church, Sewickley, PA, and was also chairman of the Endowment Committee from 1990-1997. He has also been involved with numerous non-profit organizations and has been a speaker before business, church and civic groups.

Combining backgrounds in non-profit service, business management and financial services, Mr. Weisbrod is uniquely qualified to advise people and organizations regarding financial matters. After receiving his bachelor's degree from Ohio University, he attended seminary and spent six years in ministry, directing work with teenagers and their families. He then took executive positions with Sea Breeze Laboratories and Clairol in marketing and product management. His grandfather was a co-founder of Sea Breeze Laboratories, the original company that manufactured Sea Breeze skin astringent.

Avocations include competitive masters swimming, scuba diving, painting and photography, acting and music. He was a 2000 National YMCA Swimming Champion and finished eighth in the 2000 Masters World Championships in Munich, Germany and seventh in the 2004 Masters World Championships in Riccione, Italy. He also finished 3rd in the Alcatraz Sharkfest Swim in July of 2005 and plans to challenge Alcatraz again in August of 2009.

J. André's Forecast:
I believe the outlook for Pittsburgh in 2012 is good. The City has been more stable than many areas and I see that continuing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows us that Pittsburgh is doing better than the national average when it comes to unemployment and we are also holding up better in the areas of real estate and business development. Established businesses like Heinz and PPG are hanging in there and some are doing quite well.

The businesses in the energy sector are doing excellent in our region, due in part to the Marcellus Shale and entrepreneurship is also alive and well. The region is healthy, not contracting; there is a lot of vitality. I think people are so used to seeing the bad news surrounding us; they need to take a moment to look at all the good news coming out of this area. This is a good place to be right now.

Pittsburgh will be affected by the overall economy, which is showing more positive signs. The risks are the geopolitical negative events and the inability to fund infrastructure rehab.

All-in-all I have increasing optimism that we will at least muddle through the financial crisis and see a positive 2012. We need to use good working principles. I’d rather be short-tem stupid and long-term right.

You can contact J. André at 412-367-9076 and visit http://www.sfamoney.com/  

Next up is Bill Flanagan.

Bill Flanagan
Bill Flanagan is the Executive Vice President of Corporate Relations for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, an economic development organization that works to improve the economy and quality of life throughout ten counties of southwestern Pennsylvania. Bill’s in charge of overall communication and investor relations for the Conference and its three affiliates, the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce, the Pennsylvania Economy League of Southwestern Pennsylvania and the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance. Bill is also the host of “Our Region’s Business,” Sunday mornings on WPXI-TV, a program the Conference produces jointly with the TV station. As a broadcast journalist, Bill’s been covering the transformation in our region’s economy for almost 30 years. He came to the region in 1982 to work for KDKA-TV.

Bill's Forecast:
The Allegheny Conference was actually formed over 70 years ago. We were heavily involved with the 2009 G-20 Summit and even President Obama said it was the most peaceful, major summit in world history. That is due to the incredible planning efforts of all the individuals involved. It also gave Pittsburgh a lot of global publicity. There were thousands of news stories on the Summit and it has given our City the opportunity to host many more international events.

2012 is shaping up to be an exciting year for the region. National Geographic Traveler has named the region one of the top 20 “Best of the World” to visit this year. We’ll host the national Black Engineers convention, the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in May, and the One Young World Summit in October. All of these events being held here is a direct correlation to the success of the Summit.

The region’s population has turned the corner. According to the latest census data, metro population has growth in each of the past two years, being led by Butler and Washington counties. Butler growth is due to the expansion of Cranberry Township and the housing of Westinghouse headquarters, and Washington because of the growth in the energy industry. The shift is gradual but over the next ten years we will slowly become larger and younger in terms of demographics. Our 25-35 something worker in this area is actually the 5th most educated in the United States. We have very knowledgeable young adults that will be stepping up to be the future leaders of this region and that is exciting.

www.imaginepittsburgh.com  is a great resource for job seekers with over 10,000 jobs posted right now. Half of these include a salary of over $40,000 a year. Many of the positions being vacated by baby boomers need to be filled, so the opportunities are out there.

Businesses are also finding out about the improved business climate, affordability and high quality of life here. For the past three years, the region has ranked in the top ten nationally in terms of business expansions and relocations, a strong showing for a region that ranks 24th in population. Eds and Meds are important, as is financial services, where employment has grown, bucking national trends. But energy may be the biggest reason why the region’s economy has held up so well during the recent recession and its aftermath. Marcellus Shale is a big part of it, but the region has strengths across seven different energy-related industries, plus significant R&D assets that are turning it into the new center of American energy.

A new blog that we recently launched is http://www.imaginepittsburghonline.com/ Every day we post good news stories from around the region, many that aren’t featured in the traditional publications. We also have http://www.powerofpittsburgh.com/  which lists all the energy-related jobs in the area. Last time I checked there were thousands of job openings. You can catch me on “Our Region’s Business” every Sunday.


This was reported as a reproduction of PositvelyPittsburghLive news done by Joanne Quinn-Smith. Listen to the show here. (c) Joanne Quinn-Smith and PositivelyPittsburghLive(TM) 2012 All rights reserved.

Tara Darazio is a Positively Pittsburgh Live reporter, an independent copywriter, blogger, article writer, and social media strategist. If you are in need of writing assistance, or need help with your social media efforts connect with Tara on LinkedIn here.

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