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Ep. 16 – A Read Up On Civics During COVID-19

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Do you remember that there’s a census this year? How about a presidential election? (OK, it’s kind of hard to forget that one.) Still, the COVID-19 pandemic has definitely dulled how much attention we’ve all been able to pay to these major pieces of our democracy. These processes aren’t going anywhere, though, and the crisis is showing the need for honest public discourse. That’s why we invited Jessica Bayless, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh’s lead librarian for civic and social information, to discuss these topics and more.
 
Reach out to the library!
412-622-3114
 
And be sure to sign up for the library’s virtual town hall on Pennsylvania’s election changes here: https://www.carnegielibrary.org/event/virtual-town-hall-2020-pa-election-changes/

Ep. 15 – The difference a century makes

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One of the few solaces we can take right now is the knowledge that pandemics are relatively rare. As we’re seeing, however, their impact is wide-reaching in the moment.
 
Look to a century ago, when the 1918 “Spanish flu” — as it was popularly known, but a misnomer — swept the world and killed 675,000 Americans. In Pittsburgh, over 4,500 succumbed.
 
In this episode of the P100 Podcast, we’ll compare the 1918 flu to today’s COVID-19 pandemic, recognizing the positive difference a century makes — and the all-too-similar human tragedy that we’re enduring. Thank you for listening and stay healthy.
 

P100 Podcast: Life and business in the days of COVID-19

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We’re living through an unprecedented time in American history. Businesses are closed, schools are shuttered, and gatherings are canceled, all because of an invisible, infectious agent that our modern world hasn’t been able to match — not yet, anyway.

Marking the unique circumstances, we spent the most recent episode of the P100 Podcast discussing the effects of COVID-19 on daily life (including our own), how people and businesses can help their communities, and how they can communicate during a crisis.

If you’re hitting the download button or streaming from your “office away from the office,” thank you for listening and stay safe.

 

Full Transcript:

Paul:

Welcome back to a special edition of the P100 podcast, the audio companion to the Pittsburgh 100 e-zine. This episode, solely focused on COVID-19, the coronavirus. I'm Paul Furiga, your cohost along with my colleagues, Dan Stefano…

Dan:

Hey Paul.

Paul:

And Logan Armstrong.

Logan:

Hi Paul.

Paul:

And I want you all to know at home we are practicing safe social distancing. In fact, we are so far away from you while you're listening to us right now ... well, that's another story. Seriously though, given the times that we're in, we thought that we would devote this entire episode of the podcast to understanding how we, as a community can deal with this. I've never seen a situation like this in my lifetime and as Dan and Logan frequently remind me, I'm old.

Dan:

I think you got a point there. I mean, I've tried to think of this in context of my own life. I'm 33 and I would say the most impactful thing that has ever occurred in my lifetime was 9/11.

Paul:

Right.

Dan:

And I was in high school whenever that happened. That was a time whenever the stock market cratered. The next day all air traffic was suspended. It was severely drastic. It took a long time for American life to get back to normal then. Whatever the new normal was, I should say. But this seems like it could be something different. There's a lot of uncertainty in the air, which there was at that time in 2001 for sure, but when we're talking about a virus here, we're talking about something that we don't have a vaccine for, it's a little bit scary right now. And I feel like the streets are even ... it's weird to be walking downtown. At the WordWrite offices here, we're getting ready to practice social distancing and work from home.

Paul:

Work from home, yeah.

Dan:

I could say in some ways it feels similar to those days after 9/11 but it's very different too.

Paul:

Absolutely. Logan.

Logan:

Yeah. And I'm a little younger. So I'm only 22.

Dan:

Little.

Logan:

I was a young kid when 9/11 happened. But also especially with what we're seeing in the market right now, very reminiscent of the 2008 era, which of course this has a few different causes than in 2008. But we've seen people are going crazy at supermarkets…

Paul:

That's right.

Logan:

... and really trying to stockpile, which is good because they're themselves trying to self-quarantine but it's going to be interesting to see how the markets react and how local businesses and business owners will wade through the waters during this time. 

Dan:

Absolutely

Paul:

So a couple of things we wanted to do, number one, we wanted to share some helpful resources, which certainly there are probably, if you're listening to this podcast, you're probably a consumer of a lot of things online and you may already have some favorites, but we are at WordWrite in the business of working with reliable news organizations. So we'll share a few of our favorite go-to sources for local information here in western Pennsylvania.

Paul:

And then we're going to shift gears a bit and we're going to talk about our own experience because it's a crazy situation, but a lot of our clients rely on us for our crisis expertise. In any given year, we handle about 12 major crises, 10 of which you never read about because they're effectively handled. And then two of them, sadly, for whatever reason, they're all over the news. So we actually have a lot of experience in this arena and we are currently working with several of our clients on crises related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Paul:

So first let's talk about some go-to sources here in western Pennsylvania. Dan and I, we share this other disease called being former journalists. Dan, some of your favorite go-tos for reliable and accurate information on what's happening.

Dan:

Still trying to get over that. The journalism disease. No, it's no disease. I mean, some of my good friends are journalists. So, I appreciate them.

Paul:

Yes, likewise.

Dan:

As you said, I do respect just journalism and what they put in. So I mean, your two major newspaper news sources in the area would be Post-Gazette and then triblive.com, the former Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. And now just the regular Tribune-Review set in Greensburg. That's a great place to go for it. But I'd recommend, if you're talking locally, the Allegheny County Health Department. That's got pretty consistent and good updates.

Paul:

They have an entire page, Allegheny County-

Dan:

Yes, they do.

Paul:

... .PA.US devoted to COVID-19.

Dan:

Right. Everybody's got their own page on it now. I mean it's incredible. I think everybody has been a victim of getting all these emails now. And I mean fortunately I have an email from the CEO of Banana Republic to tell me that all their stores are safe, but that's also just ... that's best practice right now. And businesses are doing their due diligence to just show everyone that they're trying to do their best.

Dan:

But for right now, I mean, that gets a little bit away from our question and I'm kind of drifting here, but I would follow the PG and TribLIVE. But a lot of them, they're getting their information from the government sources here. But I would really trust the County Health Department and that's some of your most current information.

Paul:

Absolutely.

Dan:

Make sure you're following their Twitter accounts and everything you can.

Paul:

Logan anything you'd add?

Logan:

I'd also say that The Incline, they're usually a little more lighthearted, but they've been doing a really good job of grouping up various articles from multiple local publications.

Paul:

Yes, aggregating content.

Dan:

Yeah.

Logan:

Exactly. Yeah. Aggregating that and that's getting delivered to inboxes at 6:00 a.m. every day. If you need to be up to date on the latest news in the area, I would also say check out The Incline for that.

Paul:

I'm going to add a few more. So in the last few years, pretty much every television station in Pittsburgh has debuted some flavor of an online presence, sometimes up to and including live streaming of events. So one of the things we've been doing at WordWrite is we've been watching live streams of Governor Wolf, the Pennsylvania governor, and his press conferences, Rich Fitzgerald, the Allegheny County executive, the County Health Department. I believe the new director's name is Dr. Bogen, so that's available.

Paul:

I would also add, and this has not really gotten much attention because the debut occurred during this whole crisis, but Channel 2 KDKA, which is owned by a CBS Network, has debuted essentially I believe a local version of on-air all the time local news. So CBSN is the national network and there's some local connection. I'll be honest with our listeners, I haven't had time to fully understand all of that because we've been so busy with other things. Personally, I look at all of those. I also look at WESA-FM. One of the reasons for that is with everything that's happened in newspapers in recent years, the major foundations in Pittsburgh have poured a fairly substantial amount of money into building the newsroom at WESA and they have all of the same kinds of resources in terms of online delivery of news that we've just talked about.

Paul:

So those for me are all good services. Most of us, I'm of a certain age, I'm 61. I hate to say that in a room with somebody in their twenties and thirties but it's the truth, I can't lie, it's on my driver's license, anyway, even somebody like me can make use of the phone and I am getting a lot of alerts. So I rely on the alerts as well to remind me. Before we shift gears here and talk about some advice for our listeners, even in our own planning for WordWrite, as Dan mentioned, on Friday we were ready, Friday the 13th of March, we were ready to implement a phased work from home process where some people would be in the office. And by the time we got to Sunday of the weekend where mandatory, non-essential businesses are asked to close or it is voluntary but strongly encouraged.

Paul:

So things are just moving so fast now it's worthwhile not to scare yourself, and I think that's, Logan, why it's good that you mentioned The Incline. Really good journalists can have the right touch to put an uplifting spirit into their round up of things. Right? But you don't want to be consumed by the news, but you also want to be informed and up to date. You don't want to be headed out to go to an event or something like that when it's not going to happen. And it was just cancelled. I don't know. Anything you guys would add to that?

Dan:

Well I think if you're talking about cancelled events, just try to look up to see what one is actually on now. Pretty much the assumption should be that it's closed. But-

Logan:

Yeah. And one thing I'd add is that it is a little hectic with all of these things happening so fast. But one of the hopeful benefits of that is this quick action now is really going to be the precursor to slowing it down in the long run.

Paul:

Absolutely. And this is something that, for our listeners, that we've been talking about here at the company in terms of working with our clients and that is that we are at this inflection point where the number of people who might be contagious in our community is at its highest point at the same time that we have the least ability to test.

Paul:

So if we self-isolate for the next two weeks, what we'll be able to do is keep those who might be infected from spreading the disease. National news media is saying that the United States might be 11 days behind Italy, meaning that what's happened there could happen roughly two weeks later here in the United States. God forbid, we don't want that. Other folks I've seen on the national news talk about we want to be like South Korea where there was a lot of testing, the self-isolation and they seem to have, as the medical experts call it, flattened the curve, which is to say slow the growth of the virus so that the number of people who are sick doesn't exceed the capacity of the region's healthcare providers to treat those who are sick.

Dan:

One thing, Paul, I'd like to bring up, open the conversation to you and Logan is what's fascinating about this is similar, like we said, I mean I hate to keep making the comparisons to 9/11 because that was a very much different type of crisis, but that was a tragedy that affected almost everyone in the U.S. at some level. Corona possibly even more. Just in terms of even if you aren't getting the disease, I mean it's probably going to disrupt your life, whether how you're working or somebody that you know. Maybe your children are off of school right now. There's quite a bit going on. And Paul, yourself, I know you've had some, personal events that are affecting you, right?

Paul:

Oh absolutely. So I'll give you a few. Number one, one of our two daughters is getting married, we hope, on May 31st. There's been a lot of conversations with the venue and the providers. The baker and the flowers and everything else. And we'll see how things play out. May 31st might be okay, but let's just say that we're a little concerned.

Paul:

Our other daughter is getting her MBA at the University of Chicago and they have extended spring break, which has pushed their, they're on a quarter system, their third quarter deeper into the year. She's supposed to have an internship this summer. It was going to start June 1st. She won't be done with school on June 1st and we don't even know if she'll have the internship.

Dan:

Yeah, certainly, it's amazing how this is just disrupting lives. I mean it's putting almost everything on pause. It's amazing. Myself, my wife and I, we were planning on taking a vacation to Japan, it was going to be the first week of April and we were looking forward to this trip for an entire year. It was just something we'd planned. It's kind of a bucket list type thing and just a week ago we had to cancel it. Right now as we record here, there are no travel restrictions over there, but there's just no guarantee whenever you see the massive lines that are coming for people that are coming back into the country, at least from Europe. But just something we had to be take care of.

Dan:

And we were even planning on maybe having a backup trip to California. And now we're really seriously kind of rethinking that one. It feels selfish to say, well hey, this thing that was just a wonderful little pleasure trip for us here we're disrupting it. How horrible is that? But we don't know when we're going to be able to take that trip again. We planned for specific dates in our lives. We mapped around that. So it's just another area that it does affect things. But Logan, I know you've even had some ...

Logan:

Yes. Yeah. It's a similar situation. I had a trip planned to Italy. I guess I would've left last week. Yeah. But it is unfortunate that this is such a disruptive virus. But thinking on the bigger picture of things, I mean, it's much better to have these disruptions now and really put these policies in place, especially because not only on an individual level, but on a business level, as we touched on earlier, there's really a lot of things that business owners are going to have to prepare for. And there may be some crisis communications that business owners have to take into account and that's something that we've experienced here. Yeah, Paul?

Paul:

Oh absolutely. Absolutely. And we want to dig into that for the remainder of our time here on the podcast, this episode. And before I do that, I just want to give a quick shout out to your point, Logan, the retail and restaurant sectors are going to be particularly hard hit and in the local economy as well as the American economy, the percentage of workers who are hourly who have, let's just say less robust benefits packages, whatever we can do as a community to keep them in mind and help to keep them employed I think is really important.

Paul:

One of the other sources of information that I didn't mention earlier were members of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership, the Partnership has articles in the Pittsburgh 100 frequently. Their weekly… they do a weekly sort of what's going on downtown email. And the one that I received just before we came in to record the podcast is all about this subject. So you can't dine in during the time that businesses are closed but you can still do take out. So there's things that we can do as a community to help our friends and our neighbors through. And I think it's something we should do.

Dan:

Yeah, I think before we take a deeper dive into talking about crises and crises management, what you said there kind of touches on an important point and one thing, one of the huge crises or huge problems that are coming out of this is whenever schools are closed there are a lot of students out there who might be on free or reduced lunch and these are kids who might rely on these school lunches to help themselves eat. It might be their biggest meal of the day.

Dan:

But one thing that you've seen is restaurants are coming out and offering free lunches to some of these kids. I believe some districts have, including I believe Pittsburgh Public, they have programs in place to help these kids to make sure that they have food, that they have resources.

Dan:

And that touches on your point there, Paul, about the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership in that…do something. If you're a business owner and you feel like maybe it's a helpless time right now, maybe you have to put pause on a lot of things, you can think of something to do and that's one way I think if you make yourself a goal and you have a mission, you can help yourself get through this, right?

Paul:

Oh, absolutely. We're going to shift gears now folks and talk about crisis. To Dan's point, this is one of the things when we sat down and we looked at this episode of the podcast, there were other segments and other things that we had planned to do perhaps, but we agreed that one of the ways that we could be helpful was to share with people what we know about this.

Paul:

So I'm going to kick off this portion of the episode here and Dan and Logan will jump in. So historically, one of the things that we've done a lot of at WordWrite is crisis communication. And one of the things we've learned is that there are only really four basic kinds of crises.

Paul:

So there are acts of God, there are acts of man, there are acts of God made worse by man, and there are acts of man made worse by God. That's it. You can think about pretty much anything bad that's ever happened in the history of the world. And there's going to be some element of one of those four categories. So certainly-

Dan:

If you asked my wife I think she would say that there are also acts of God made worse by Dan. But we'll leave it to four right now.

Paul:

Well Dan, the last time I looked, you are a human being, so we'll put you in one of the four categories.

Dan:

Got you.

Paul:

Anyway, certainly the viruses, if you want to call it that, an act of God, it's an act of nature. What we don't know yet is whether what's happened, our acts of man, let's call it, that it made it worse. When you go back to China we're not here to judge. We don't really know exactly where the virus spread began. But certainly there's humankind and there's nature mixed together in this crisis.

Paul:

So one of the things that's interesting in doing so much crisis communications at our firm that is both a positive and a cause for pause, is that most crises are predictable. This is not the first time that the world's been through an epidemic, a pandemic, a virus, and perhaps it's the 21st century technology-driven, I don't know if we've become a little bit lazy or we're just lulled into a sense of complacency, but what this epidemic is demonstrating to us that this can still happen in the 21st century.

Logan:

Yes. Even with all the technological advances, and medical advancements, and medical capabilities, something that moves this fast is very hard to control no matter-

Paul:

Absolutely.

Logan:

... how many technological capabilities we have. And it's something that we're probably not going to have a vaccine for, for a little bit. This vaccine isn't going to be coming in the next week or the next month.

Dan:

Testing's an issue too right now.

Logan:

Exactly.

Paul:

18 to 24 months is what people are saying.

Logan:

Right. So we're really going to have to figure out what the best course of action is. And I think that's going to be something that is going to be on the fly. Because, as you've said, we've seen these kinds of crises before, but there's no real way to account for all the variants in it and it's going to be on people and on the media to portray information in as close to real time as possible and as accurately as possible to try to help mitigate that.

Paul:

So one of the things that I think is true about this, 1918 the Spanish flu epidemic was just a terrible worldwide crisis. So that fits into what I just said about most crises are predictable. So we can learn from that. And to your point, Logan, this is fast moving, but we can learn from what's happened in Italy. We can learn from what's happened in China, within the more restrictive immediate window. So that's critically important.

Paul:

One of the other things that's important, and there are going to be people who are going to be picking over this for years, I'm sure, what we tell our clients is if crises are predictable, then you need to plan for them. So theoretically the world, especially the largest economies and countries in the world should have been planning for this sort of a thing. And there had been some, let's just say missteps, fits and starts.

Dan:

Yeah.

Paul:

Now for our listeners, even though this thing is underway, you can look at history and you can look at recent events to do your own planning for the crisis. So we're already in it. So to your point Logan, there's an element of every day is different and you can't predict for sure, but one of the things we do when we work with clients is scenario planning. What's the worst case scenario? What's the best case scenario, what's the likely scenario? And then you start to develop your communications around each one of those outcomes. And that guides you on a day to day basis in terms of what you need to be doing.

Dan:

Right in this situation, and I would just kind of play interviewer here with you Paul, with so many different businesses it's hard to gauge, exactly what are likely outcomes. Businesses right now we might think of they might have to do some layoffs, they might have to temporarily furlough some employees and whether certain bills pass out of our Congress here they may have wages, they may not. It depends on how large a company is. One thing here though, whenever we've had this discussion is we talk about, you start from a place of truth when you're communicating these outcomes. Can you elaborate a little more on that?

Paul:

Sure. So in a crisis like this, obviously if you're standing in front of the forest and the forest is burning behind you, you can't tell people that that smell in the air is a candle. You have to acknowledge even the hard truths.

Paul:

One of the things that we see time and again is that if you're straightforward with people up front and there's tons of university research on this that validates this point, they're going to give you the benefit of the doubt. If I own a restaurant in Pittsburgh that opened two months ago – I'm in a place that's not the same as a restaurant that's been around for 25 years. Right? And I need to say to people, look guys, we just opened. I can't guarantee you that we're going to ride through this unscathed.

Paul:

And then what you need to do is you need to communicate process. And that's where that scenario planning comes in handy. It's like, look, we don't know where this is going to end, but here's what we're going to do today. Here's what we're going to do next week. Here's our thought process and our plan, and there's a lot of university research on this too, that when you can't communicate content, if you can communicate process it calms people's fears and gets people organized around the common goal of moving forward.

Dan:

I guess that speaks to control. It might be the wrong word to say controlling, but trying to manage people's emotions here. I think we have to understand how everyone is feeling because we're feeling the same way on a lot of these things. I mean we can tell a business, a B2B business, okay, hey, this is how you want to talk when you're talking to your clients or something like that. But we have the same feelings whenever we're trying to listen to the government here. Are they going to tell us the process? Are they going to describe that?

Dan:

So can you talk a little bit about how to be a good effective communicator to work with the community and make sure that you're delivering this information not maybe necessarily in a doom and gloom way and just being an effective storyteller essentially?

Paul:

Right. So one of the things that we're big on obviously at our company is the process of storytelling. We have our own process that we help companies uncover what we call their Capital S story. And I do a lot of speaking around this. In a crisis there's no more important time for you to be thinking about your Capital S story and that story is this, it answers these questions. Why would somebody work for you, buy from you, invest in you, partner with you? If you're a nonprofit, why would they donate or volunteer with your organization? And that is the story above all stories for your company, your organization. That's why we call it the Capital S story.

Paul:

And you think about that in times of stress, a crisis like this, which is an enormous stressor. It doesn't matter so much what you say on a daily basis. It matters what people believe you to be as an organization. And I think Dan, that's kind of what you're getting at there.

Paul:

And in a crisis, what we find is whatever audience you're trying to reach, employees, partners, vendors, customers, that's where they go in their minds in terms of assessing whether or not to believe you when you say don't worry about this, or I need your help to do X, Y and Z so that we can pull through this crisis.

Paul:

Right now, all of us are being flooded with information and this story is like cast in concrete. It's bedrock. It's the granite of who your organization is and they're going back to that hard place that they can knock on, that they can sit on, that they can lean on, and that's the truth that they're looking for. To assess whether or not your organization in this time of crisis is an organization that can be believed.

Dan:

Now, not every business, well whenever we think of Corona individually, I mean I'm just thinking of the restaurant that's across the street from us right now but people aren't looking necessarily for Bruegger's Bagels to answer the crisis or come up with a vaccine or explain people how to feel. But how, if you're a business that isn't necessarily adjacent to the current crisis or if you're just you have nothing to do with it, but your business maybe is closed or something like that, how do you kind of manage these crises that you're not necessarily related to but it does affect you?

Paul:

So I think one of the things that we're seeing, and we started the episode today by talking about the news media and some other resources who are trying to be helpful. So you want to be helpful. And there's also an element of business as usual. A lot of the companies that aren't directly affected by the crisis, and of course I'm sure many of our listeners are saying, well everybody's affected by it, and certainly when we all need to be self-isolating, we all are affected by it, but if you're not directly affected by it in the sense that you don't run a restaurant or you're not a retail store or you're not an event space where hundreds of people would be expected to gather, this is a time to be helpful.

Paul:

One of the reasons why we're doing this specific episode of the podcast, we see many, many institutions in the community, there is an element of what they're doing, to your point, Dan, where it is on some level still business as usual. However they have the opportunity because of things being pulled in to reduce the spread of the virus, to have some time, to have some resources to be helpful in whatever way that they can be.

Dan:

Paul, all that stuff is really helpful here. And so I appreciate you especially sharing your expertise here in crisis communications and we encourage anybody who's listening at home to feel free to check out wordwritepr.com. We've got some really good information. There's some good stuff on crisis communications and certainly even one of our VPs here, Jeremy Church, just wrote a really interesting blog about effective crisis communication during outbreaks.

Paul:

Yeah. And Dan, we'll be putting up in the show notes, I wrote one in July of last year, Storytelling in a Crisis: Why You Need Your Capital S Story. And again, we're going to be sharing a lot more of the resources that we can. This is a time when we all need to pull together as a community. And certainly we have clients whom we work for and we have a lot of experience that we've developed over the years, and we want to be able to share that with the community in the spirit of helping everybody recover from this as quickly as possible. And to your point, Dan, if there's anything that we can do as people who believe in good, strong, authentic communications, we want to do that for the community.

Dan:

Absolutely, 100%. And as we wrap up here just the message from us here is hopefully everybody at home can weather this as well as they can. Every business can as well. It sounds cheery and optimistic to say, but we will get through this and we'll survive.

Paul:

Absolutely.

Dan:

Yeah.

 

Ep. 14 – Partying, shopping and saving lives

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Pittsburghers love a parade and a chance to party. That’s coming in spades (or maybe clovers?) with the annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, one of the nation’s largest. We’ll being discussing the city’s Irish heritage and more in this episode. Also look out for:

• In an illuminating discussion with an executive in the retail industry, we’ll learn why we shouldn’t have the coffin ready just yet for brick-and-mortar stores – especially not at The Waterfront.

• We speak with the minds behind PECA Labs, who are changing the lives of children suffering from congenital heart defects. Now, they’re taking the next step.

This episode is sponsored by WordWrite:

Centuries before cellphones and social media, human connections were made around fires, as we shared the stories that shaped our world. Today, stories are still the most powerful way to move hearts, minds and inspire action.

At WordWrite, Pittsburgh’s largest independent public relations agency, we understand that before you had a brand before you sold any product or service, you had a story.

WordWrite helps clients to uncover their own Capital S Story – the reason someone would want to buy, work, invest or partner with you through our patented StoryCrafting process. Visit wordwritepr.com to uncover your Capital S story.

Ep. 13 – Rescuing food, conducting music and adventures in flushing

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We’ve got an eclectic episode of the P100 Podcast lined up for you, to be sure:

— Mel Cronin, regional expansion manager at 412 Food Rescue, talks about the nonprofit’s mission of preventing perfectly good food from entering the waste stream and the growth into areas beyond the titular area code.

— James Gourlay, the Scottish conductor and musical director of the River City Brass band, shares some musical stories in a special edition of our Pittsburgh Polyphony series.

— We go down the tubes — you’ll have to listen to understand, and be sure to check out this unique website.

 

This episode is sponsored by WordWrite:

Centuries before cellphones and social media, human connections were made around fires, as we shared the stories that shaped our world. Today, stories are still the most powerful way to move hearts, minds and inspire action.

At WordWrite, Pittsburgh’s largest independent public relations agency, we understand that before you had a brand before you sold any product or service, you had a story.

WordWrite helps clients to uncover their own Capital S Story – the reason someone would want to buy, work, invest or partner with you through our patented StoryCrafting process. Visit wordwritepr.com to uncover your Capital S story.

Ep. 12 – What’s bringing people to Pittsburgh?

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This episode, we’re talking about people who are coming to Pittsburgh, whether it’s for work or just visiting.

We’ll break down a report that suggests the city might be a better fit for tech workers than the mecca of the digital economy, Silicon Valley (gotta love our standard of living). We’re also talking about a recent article that probes the need for a new hotel at the convention center. (Hint: The answer isn’t very simple.)

In between, we welcome the Breaking Brews Podcast’s host Jason Cercone for a chat about the business of beer and Pittsburgh’s place in the industry.

This episode is sponsored by WordWrite:

Centuries before cellphones and social media, human connections were made around fires, as we shared the stories that shaped our world. Today, stories are still the most powerful way to move hearts, minds and inspire action.

At WordWrite, Pittsburgh’s largest independent public relations agency, we understand that before you had a brand before you sold any product or service, you had a story.

WordWrite helps clients to uncover their own Capital S Story – the reason someone would want to buy, work, invest or partner with you through our patented StoryCrafting process. Visit wordwritepr.com to uncover your Capital S story.

Logan:

You are listening to the P100 podcast, the bi-weekly companion piece to the Pittsburgh 100, bringing you Pittsburgh news, culture, and more. Because sometimes 100 words just isn't enough for a great story. 

Logan:

Hello, and welcome to a brand new episode of the P100 podcast. You're here with myself, Logan Armstrong, and co-hosts Dan Stefano and Paul Furiga. Guys, how are you doing?

Paul:

Great, Logan.

Dan:

Emphasis on the co-host there. You're the host with the mostest there.

Logan:

I try to be. I do what I can, but-

Paul:

Yes he does and he does it well.

Logan:

I get my mostest from the people I'm surrounded with. On today's episode, we're going to be examining tech jobs in Pittsburgh, and there have been a few recent articles for some vying to leave and some vying to stay that you may have seen. So we're going to be talking about that and seeing how Pittsburgh ranks compared with cities and metros around the country in tech jobs.

Logan:

Then we're going to bring in our good friend Jason Cercone from the Breaking Brews podcast. He takes a drink from breaking, excuse me. He takes a break from drinking beer and talks about the business side of it.

Paul:

Wait a minute, that wasn't in this segment. There was no beer drinking?

Logan:

Unfortunately no.

Logan:

We asked him about it and he said that he'd be happy to rejoin us.

Dan:

Logan, let's remember we're talking to the CEO of our company within the office, so no. There's no-

Paul:

Well that's fine. Let's chat.

Dan:

We don't have a video of this, but if you could see the winking eye. No, there is no-

Logan:

No beer during this segment.

Dan:

Drinking during this segment.

Paul:

Of course not.

Logan:

Okay, and then finally we're going to wrap up with what's missing from downtown.

Paul:

Oh.

Logan:

Indeed, mysterious.

Paul:

Question.

Logan:

That's right. You'll have to stick around to see what we're talking about, but we're in for a great episode so we hope you stick around.

Dan:

I hope it's not my car or anything.

Paul:

Okay guys, time to do one of our favorite things on the podcast. Talk about Pittsburgh getting another great national ranking.

Dan:

Another list, right?

Paul:

We're on another list.

Dan:

Yeah.

Paul:

This one's a good one. Although, if you're in the Silicon Valley area, maybe not so good.

Dan:

Right.

Paul:

A couple of weeks ago, Wallet Hub, which is an online service provider that looks at financial things, very popular with millennials.

Dan:

They make many lists.

Paul:

They make many lists of many different things. Top places to live in the country for tech workers. Pittsburgh, number five. Silicon Valley, not so high, which caused the San Jose Mercury News, which San Jose's a community that's smack in the middle of Silicon Valley, to write sort of a cheeky little article. Pittsburgh is better for tech workers than Silicon Valley? Question mark. Well, yes, if you want to live affordably, apparently it actually is.

Dan:

That's completely accurate. Yeah. The Bay Area, it's got to be one of the highest costs of living-

Paul:

It is actually.

Dan:

In the country.

Paul:

It has the highest cost of living in the country. And Logan, you were looking inside some of the rankings, and Pittsburgh ranked in the top 15 in a number of categories, right?

Logan:

Yes. So the three categories were professional opportunities, STEM friendliness, and quality of life. And Pittsburgh ranked 13th, 14th, and 11th in those, respectively. And some of the reasons that places like San Francisco and the Bay Area didn't rank so highly is that they would rank very high in one or two of these categories. So for example, San Francisco ranked third in both professional opportunities and STEM friendliness but then ranked 63rd in quality of life for reasons we were alluding to earlier. So it's good to see that Pittsburgh ranked in these lists as being as an all around. Maybe it's not top five or the best in STEM friendliness or professional opportunities, but it's well-rounded and our quality of life here is, according to this list, far better than some of our counterparts.

Paul:

And certainly as the community here has continued to transform, and I'm thinking now of Uber, and Apptive, and Apple's got a good presence in the city. Facebook's virtual reality company, Oculus, is wholly sited here in the Pittsburgh region. We're trying to attract more tech workers and we've got these great university programs, CMU and Pitt at the head of the pack, but others as well, where we're building this tech community. And I guess it does still surprise people in the more traditional communities, but it's legit. There's something going on here.

Dan:

Right. For better or worse, Pittsburgh will always kind of bring that blue collar atmosphere, that blue collar mentality, a bit rough around the edges. I talk about it all the time, but my wife's family, who, they grew up in California, they all lived in California for a while. They came to Pittsburgh here and they said, "Wow, I had no idea it was this green." So there's always going to be a bit of a stigma that the city carries around, but I think these lists show that to that the news is catching on here. And Pittsburgh is basically known now for the meds and eds and now tech. The reputation is definitely growing here and starting to overcome that stigma.

Paul:

That perception.

Dan:

Yeah. But there's ... Well, not to be Debbie Downer or play devil's advocate here, there are still the legacies of that history here that carries on, especially in our environment.

Paul:

Yeah. We still have work to do, that's for sure. I can remember when I first moved back to this region from the Washington DC area. I had a job in the south side and what is now South Side Works was still a working steel mill, and as I would drive across the Birmingham Bridge every morning, the smell of burning coke was my appetizer before breakfast.

Logan:

Morning coffee.

Dan:

That'll wake you.

Paul:

And there's been plenty of coverage, and legitimately so, that we still have environmental problems in the region. And certainly one of the reasons why the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, is disadvantaged on a list like this, is because there's such a huge economic disparity there. It's the most expensive metropolitan area in the country. Ours is not. Part of the reason Pittsburgh's so affordable, the collapse of the steel industry and heavy industry. So there's all this housing stock and we didn't have the kind of inflation maybe that a place on the coast like San Francisco has had, but we have economic disparity too, and that's something that we have to work on too.

Dan:

Right. I think that's being recognized now. We talked about a couple episodes ago here, that the city is starting to take a hard look at itself, especially in terms of the racial inequalities that exist here.

Paul:

Yes.

Dan:

Again, the three of us aren't the best people to speak to this. We don't live the same experiences that a lot of people do in this city, but we can play a role by listening and being active and playing a part in recognizing that. And trying to create opportunities, being part of the solutions here. It's going to take a long time for Pittsburgh to completely shrug off some of the legacies that came from the 20th century here, some of the stuff that might be dragging down the city, but we can do it.

Paul:

We absolutely can. And if we can, we'll put in the show notes, there have been a couple of interesting public source articles that have dug into some of these issues, and I was reading-

Dan:

Quite a battle in tech, here.

Paul:

It was a battle in tech, and there's one written by a fellow named Noah Theriault, I believe that's how his name is pronounced, and he's at CMU. And the conclusion of this article, which you found, Dan, I thought was really interesting. He said "Here many of us who come here for opportunities in the city's universities, hospitals, and tech firms, do so in a state of willful ignorance. We take advantage of the low cost of living, we relish the walkability of the neighborhoods. We gentrify. Many of us smugly believe that we are the city's rebirth, the salvation from rust and blight. Too few of us learn about the historical and ongoing realities that make it most livable." And I think that's something that's really at the heart of what we need to remember. It's great to be on lists like this, but really there is no Nirvana -

Dan:

Right?

Paul:

That exists among places to live in this country. We have work to do too.

Dan:

It's hard to put a number on somebody's personal experiences here. I think that's the crux of what you were talking about there.

Paul:

Exactly. Exactly.

Dan:

All right. We're here with Jason Cercone. He's the chief brand officer at Breaking Brews, also the founder there and they're a content network and digital resource platform for people in the beer industry. Not only that, he hosts the Breaking Brews podcast, which takes a pretty unique look at the beer industry. They focus a lot on the business side of things. So Jason, thanks for being here.

Jason:

Thanks for having me guys.

Dan:

Awesome. Okay. As we mentioned, what you like to do with Breaking Brews your podcast and kind of spins off of your business. You look at a pretty different side of things in the spirits industry, in the alcohol industry there, that people don't think of all the time and that's actually selling the stuff and getting it out there, right? Yeah.

Jason:

Yeah. What I discovered was there are a lot of podcasts dedicated to drinking beer and reviewing and having fun and those podcasts are all great, but I wanted to bring something different to the podcast world. And I started looking at the fact that we don't have a ton of podcasts that are dedicated to the business side. Which talks about sales and marketing and distribution, all those different facets that are very important and very critical to the beer world. That was where it really started to ... or where I really started to make it take off. And I talked to a lot of industry professionals that felt the same way. They said when they're cleaning kegs and doing some of the horrible work that goes on in the brew houses that they want to put on a good podcast and listen to something that they can learn from, and that was the resource I wanted to put out there for them.

Dan:

Right, well the industry's really exploded as far as the craft production or the craft beer segment goes. I think ... I'm just looking at some facts here from the Brewer's Association, retail sale dollars of craft beer in 2018, I think the most recent year of stats was $27.6 billion. You said you've seen that since you started the Breaking Brews podcast yourself, you started about four years ago, or is that just your business?

Jason:

Breaking Brews itself started back in 2014. This is actually my third iteration of a podcast. I actually did one, like I was saying before, where we just sat around and drank beer, and that got old after a while.

Dan:

Why aren't we doing that right now?

Jason:

That's a very good question. I know. I was quizzed on that when I walked in the door, why I didn't bring beer and I'm starting to regret that.

Dan:

We'll just have our first kegger podcast, here.

Logan:

Yeah, well that'd make for some good conversation, that's for sure.

Dan:

That's a great idea.

Jason:

I'm always happy to come back for a second round if you guys want me to bring some-

Dan:

Right.

Jason:

Good drinks.

Dan:

Great idea. But yeah, as we were talking about the industry is just enormous right now. We're seeing that too in Pittsburgh, right?

Jason:

Absolutely. Yeah. I mean when I started things in 2014, there was probably maybe a dozen local craft breweries and now you look at the landscape, there's over 50 throughout the region. It's incredible. So many of them are doing great products and getting it out to bars around the area and also creating an awesome taproom experience too.

Dan:

Why do you think that is?

Jason:

Pittsburgh loves its beer, man.

Dan:

Yeah.

Jason:

But overall I think that ... I mean we haven't ... we hear the talk about the bubble a lot and has craft beer reached its saturation point. And I've always been a firm believer that we haven't even come close because we're not even close to the number that we had, or number of breweries we had before prohibition.

Dan:

Yeah.

Jason:

I mean we're creeping up, we're getting close, but the population of all these different cities and states across the country is so much higher. And when I go out to events and I do samplings and I talk to beer drinkers, a lot of folks still really aren't aware of what's going on in the craft beer industry. So there's still a lot of education that we can provide and that was one of the main drivers of Breaking Brews was putting some education out there so people can better understand what's going on in the industry and what's going on with these products.

Logan:

That's an interesting benchmark that you mentioned there that the number of brewers before the prohibition. Is that a common milestone in the craft beer business? And are there things that were happening back then that are happening now? The same way?

Jason:

I think it's, it's obviously changed a lot in regards to how beer is made. Brewers have pushed the envelope to the furthest degree possible and then a little bit more. You see a lot of crazy ingredients going into beers that probably pre-prohibition they weren't putting donuts into stouts and Twinkies-

Logan:

What were they doing?

Jason:

Breakfast cereal. I know it's like they weren't living their best life at all. However, a lot has changed. It's just the question of people's tastes have changed too and it's what do they want? And that's what these brewers are constantly trying to stay on top of, is what does the beer consumer want to drink today? And that's why I think you see such a variety out there in the market.

Dan:

Is it fair to say that it's easier to start a brewery round now or at least, somebody can be in their basement and actually trying to kickstart their own beer?

Jason:

That's probably the biggest misconception is that it's so easy to start a brewery because it's like any other business.

Dan:

Look, I've seen the Drew Carey show and he had a brewery in his basement. I know how this works .

Jason:

That's one of the big problems when you see some of these breweries that come out and their beer really isn't that great. They're standing around with their friends in a circle and all their friends are drinking their beer saying, "This is the best beer I've ever had. You need to start a brewery." And that's all well and good, but if they don't have a business sense that goes along with making a good product or even a subpar product, if they don't manage it properly, it's just not going to succeed. So it's just like anything else. I think that the barriers to entry are a little bit less because a lot of people have done it, but the smart thing to do would be go into it knowing that it's a business and you have to do all the things that you would normally do to run a business, or partner with somebody that can handle that end of your business for you.

Logan:

Partner with someone like Jason, Jason Cercone.

Jason:

I am for hire. I am here if anybody needs assistance. I'd be happy to help.

Dan:

Have you ever, you yourself, have you ever actually started ... Well maybe not started your own brewery, but have you ever brewed your own drafts?

Jason:

I've partnered and done some collaboration beers with a few different breweries across town. I did an event last year where I partnered with Yellow Bridge Brewing out in Delmont. I just went out and brewed with them for the day and I was able to say that I helped and I call that a collaboration. And I've done that with a couple of other breweries too. And that's fun. I mean that's the brewing side of it for me. I've always been more of a beer drinker and I like to obviously talk about it and promote it and market it. Brewing it just wasn't really something I wanted to do full time. It's a hard job. I think that's where a lot of people look at that like a glamorous thing and brewers will tell you, those are long days. It's very industrial and they work their asses off to put together a good product. End of the day, they are dog tired.

Dan:

Sure.

Jason:

So yeah, important. If you're going to be a brewer, know you'll be working hard.

Dan:

Right. We talk about hard work there. We're talking about having a good business sense. What do you see are some of the secrets to say these successful craft brewers and the people that maybe ... even some of these breweries that say are smaller, let's think about Southern Tier years ago, nobody knew who they were. Now they've got their own brewery on the North shore and what are some of the secrets to some of these businesses that have made it?

Jason:

I think it's understanding how to grow and being very deliberate about it and not trying to just shoot the moon right out of the gate. Obviously you have to establish a loyal fan base and make good product at the same time. But if you try to go too heavy, if you're a small local brewery and you try to make a statewide distribution, your number one priority, chances are you're not going to succeed because you don't have the liquid to supply the markets. So there's a lot of different aspects that you have to look at, but probably the most important is to use a popular phrase of our time, stay in your lane, and understand what it takes to build that brand from the ground up.

Jason:

Don't try to get too far ahead of yourself before you're ready. And then once the time comes where you've established that brand, then you can start looking at ... popular thing now other than distribution is looking at secondary spaces. We're starting to see some breweries in the Pittsburgh area open up secondary spots so they've proven that their brand is good enough to support it and we wish them the best in carrying that out.

Dan:

Who would you point to as some really good success stories in the Pittsburgh area then and what they've done successfully?

Jason:

Oh man, that list is long.

Dan:

Yep.

Jason:

Yeah. One of the breweries that I work with, the Spoonwood brewing in Bethel Park.

Dan:

I was there just this weekend.

Jason:

Awesome. What'd you think?

Dan:

I loved it. It was my second time there. I had a great time.

Jason:

Yeah, they're doing great beer. Great food. It's a great tap room atmosphere. You really can't ask for much more than that. They've been ... they're coming up on five years.

Dan:

Wow.

Jason:

And I've been working with them since pretty much the beginning and we've been building that brand and we don't do a ton of distribution, but a lot of the beer that we put out there ultimately was just to build that brand and give people an opportunity to taste it. To where they might say, "Wow, this is in Bethel Park. I'm going to go down there and see what else they have to offer." Another brewery I work with is Four Points Brewing out of Charleroi. They've ... just under two years old at this point, actually just about a year and a half now and they're killing it. They're doing some great beer and then you've got a lot of the names that people hear of all the time, like your Grist Houses and your Dancing Gnomes and Voodoos and Hitchhikers of the world. Again, we could sit here and do a whole podcast where I just rattle off the list because there's a lot of good beer happening.

Dan:

Well, you're in luck, our next segment, we're going to list breweries for the next 25 minutes. All right.

Jason:

Yeah. Close off with reading the phone book.

Dan:

Exactly.

Jason:

Riveting radio.

Logan:

Now you've learned a lot of these techniques and methods. You have over 20 years’ experience in marketing and sales. Did that start off in beer, or and if not, how did you navigate into the beer industry from that?

Jason:

That was ... I mean that was broken compasses for days, man, that was ... No, it did not start in beer. I've been working in the beer industry – counting what I did with starting Breaking Brews – for going on six years now. I sold cell phones right out of college, landed at Enterprise-Rent-a-Car for several years after that. Ran Hair Club for Men here in Pittsburgh for about four years. And with Breaking Brews, when I started it, it was ultimately just to build something that I felt was a good resource that could teach people how to gravitate to these beers in a very approachable way. Because as I learned, a lot of people just weren't aware of what was happening around them. So I was able to parlay my skillset from all my years in the professional world into a business that now I can help the breweries and help the different businesses that I work with do sales and marketing and create a good customer experience. All those good things, all things that are very important to building a good brand.

Dan:

Bring it back a little bit locally here to ... Pittsburgh I feel like is ... we've got a pretty special relationship to beer here. And it's some pretty big names in terms of, you think of Iron City, Duquesne, there's obviously Rolling Rock used to be around. How do you feel like the city's adopted and adapted to this craft brewing? I don't know if you could call it a Renaissance because it hasn't been around until right now, but this upsurge right now that people are ... they are doing with craft brewing.

Jason:

Yeah I think with the breweries now, I mean obviously as we spoke about earlier, we've got over 50 across the region now. It says a lot for the fact that people are going to go to a good brewery regardless of where they're at. It's become very neighborhood centric where you look like an old neighborhood pub, that's in some respects, being replaced by the local neighborhood brewery. You're seeing them essentially on every corner, quote unquote. And I think that helps with the fact that these guys are able to grow their brands so well because then it expands beyond their neighborhood as well. But yeah, we have a very rich history here in Pittsburgh with beer going back years and years back to ... I mean, Iron City was the beer.

Jason:

And I think now you're starting to see more of a shift towards the craft brands and many of them have been here for ... You look at East End, they've been here for 15 plus years now and they really were setting some good trends for what could happen and how people could gravitate towards a craft brand. Same with Penn Brewery. I believe 1986, was when they hit the scene. So a lot of good things have come along that have really helped push it forward. And now Pittsburgh is becoming one of those hot beds and I shouldn't say becoming it already is. And probably our closest rival in the state, just like everything else, is Philadelphia. And I think both of us have a tremendous beer scene that we can be proud of.

Dan:

Yeah. I think if you ever see a Penguins, Flyers game, it looks like more than a few people have beers.

Jason:

Well now, you see breweries have gotten in with the rivalries, like Grist House, and I'm forgetting the brewery that they partnered with out of Cleveland, they did a Browns, Steelers rivalry beer.

Dan:

Oh did they really?

Jason:

Rivertowne and Sly Fox had partnered up a couple of years ago for the stadium series. And they did a ... Glove Dropper was the name of the beer. And they worked together on that and sold it in both markets and worked out really well.

Dan:

All right Jason, well thanks so much for being here with us, for everybody at home. If you're listening, make sure to visit. If you're interested at all about starting a brewery and perhaps finding ways to market it and get it out to the world, you can go to breakingbrews.com. Look for Jason Cercone and also look for Breaking Brews podcast. You can find that on all the major platforms including Apple podcast, Stitcher, Google play, Spotify, iHeart, all the big ones where you can find us. And Jason, thanks so much for being here.

Jason:

Thanks again guys. Appreciate it.

Logan:

Sure thing.

Dan:

Great.

Logan:

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Paul:

It's now time to talk about the biggest building that is not in the downtown skyline. We are talking about what is known in the travel trade as a headquarters hotel. In other words, if Pittsburgh were to host a very large convention, a large hotel would be designated as the headquarters hotel. In many cities, this is a large hotel that's attached to the convention center.

Dan:

Right.

Paul:

And that typically has somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand rooms.

Dan:

Right.

Paul:

Pittsburgh – yinz don't have one of those n’at.

Dan:

Oh, they do have a hotel connected to the convention center, right?

Paul:

Yes, yes. We do the Weston and actually Dan, I'm glad you mentioned that.

Dan:

Yeah.

Paul:

Because in the original plans for the convention center development, that hotel was supposed to be about twice as big as it is and if it were, it would be the size of a headquarters hotel.

Dan:

Sure. Well, I think that is, it's interesting that you're bringing this up and I think we rewind a little bit. The reason we're bringing this up is, on February 3rd, in the Post-Gazette, Craig Davis, who used to be the CEO of Visit Pittsburgh.

Paul:

Yes.

Dan:

Yeah. Visit Pittsburgh is the local-

Paul:

It's the Convention and Visitor's Bureau in part supported by

Paul:

Our tax funds and they promote the city to businesses like conventions.

Dan:

Right, yeah.

Paul:

But also to leisure travelers.

Dan:

Draw people into the city. Yeah, it's important. Yeah. This article, what it did with, again with Craig Davis here, he had a piece of parting advice for Pittsburgh is how Mark Belko, the writer introduced this and he did a really nice job with this piece. Craig wanted to build a convention center hotel.

Paul:

Right.

Dan:

And that's what we're talking about here. And there's a lot of back and forth about whether it should be done, whether ... what kind of impact it would bring on the city here. And he had some really good information about it, yourself, but a lot of people, they want to see more here. And that's what we're talking about today.

Paul:

Right. So in the tourism and convention industry in Pittsburgh, this is the third rail of politics. Nobody really wants to talk about it. And I look at this article in the Post-Gazette, Visit Pittsburgh, great organization. Craig Davis, very effective leader and he's been hired to run a similar organization in Dallas. Smart person. He's in Dallas now, so he can kind of say, what maybe he couldn't say before when he was in Pittsburgh. And for people in his business, his line of work, you need to have a convention center hotel. The thing is, to build that would cost about, Oh, kind of like the same amount of money to build PNC Park or Heinz Field.

Dan:

Right? Yeah. In this article here, they have an estimate of $350,000 to $400,000 a room to build.

Paul:

Or in other words-

Dan:

That's all.

Paul:

Yeah. $240 million.

Dan:

Right. That's for a 600-room hotel.

Paul:

Exactly.

Dan:

Yeah.

Paul:

It's a lot of money. And it was not easy to get PNC Park and Heinz Field built. There was actually a referendum on the ballot one year that failed. It was called the Regional Renaissance Initiative. I mean we put renaissance in the name of everything, don't we? And it was after that, that a deal was brokered. A lot of critics said behind closed doors and smoke-filled back rooms that wound up producing Heinz Field and PNC Park. There doesn't seem to be a lot of political appetite for spending that kind of money, again.

Dan:

Right.

Paul:

On something like a convention center hotel.

Dan:

Again here, Mark did a great job with this article here and he put it pretty succinctly here. He said, "In recent years, Davis' pitch has landed with all of the enthusiasm of a root canal."

Paul:

Yes.

Dan:

I don't know about you guys, I get too enthusiastic over root canals, but I suppose not many other people do, but the article does bring up a good point. That there's been a recent hotel building boom in the region, in the downtown area, particularly across the river. Some other smaller hotels that have cropped up here and there, the Marriotts and whatnot.

Paul:

Many. You could throw a rock from where we sit right now, we can hit the Monaco.

Dan:

Absolutely, yeah.

Paul:

Throw it across the way, hit the Embassy Suites. We've got the William Penn, which has been here for a long time. The Drury is in the old federal reserve building.

Dan:

Right and that's just a block away from the convention center. But the kind of full service hotel that, again, this is from the article here that Mr. Davis would see here, that would require huge public subsidies. And that's-

Paul:

Yes.

Dan:

I think the sticking point that it comes down to.

Paul:

That is the third rail part.

Dan:

Whether we want this here and I think it's one of those things where you balance. You say, "How much are these conventions going to be worth compared to the costs, the investments that you have to make in a city here." And it could take a while until the scales tip one way.

Paul:

Well, and what's very interesting about this is, there are statistics, there don't seem to be any statistics readily available to say, "Yes, Pittsburgh, you should do this." What we tend to fall back on, are a couple of really great seminal events. First was the Bassmaster Classic several years ago. And still of course people who don't know Pittsburgh want to depict it as a smoky mill town. And we had this freshwater national competition for bass fishing. And it went off really great. And that's led, as Mark Belko's article points out to Visit Pittsburgh getting into seeking sports events. And we've had, I can't believe this, I didn't even realize this number, 22 NCAA championship events have been held in Pittsburgh and we've got more coming.

Dan:

Yeah. Just recently they had the National Women's Volleyball championship out here.

Paul:

Yeah.

Dan:

And I think a big part of that comes down to, they now have a world-class arena to do it in.

Paul:

Yes.

Dan:

Where Civic Arena definitely showed its age after a while.

Paul:

Right.

Dan:

That plays a different part here. But certainly the downtown hotel building boom assists with that.

Paul:

Absolutely. Absolutely.

Dan:

Convention centers is ... that's a little different. And again, I think what, Craig Davis is trying to say here is, having it connected to the convention center, people love that. It's very convenient just to grab an elevator, have a little sky walk over to the convention center. It's not always a feasible immediately though, it's nice to think of these things, but it's hard to find room for it. And whether you're going to supplement what is already there or again, it takes money.

Paul:

Well, my point about Bassmaster, the other thing that happened of course was the G20 in 2009. Those two events put Pittsburgh, reputation-wise, on a world stage. In the article, Mark Belko talks about Milwaukee, which is a nice enough town and they have a baseball team that has a better record over the last decade of a postseason-

Dan:

They spend more than the Buccos, but that's a-

Paul:

They do.

Dan:

That's a whole other podcast.

Paul:

However, in terms of the hotel market, not quite the same size as Pittsburgh and they're getting the Democratic convention this year.

Dan:

Absolutely.

Paul:

Why does Pittsburgh not have that sort of convention? And if we did, aside from the monetary benefits of the convention itself, what would it do for the city in terms of raising the reputation even more and bringing more convention business to Pittsburgh? It's hard to say. It's also hard to argue that it was really cool to have Bassmaster or certainly the President and world leaders for the G20. That was awesome exposure for Pittsburgh. This is kind of a question of how much is the region willing to spend? And apparently it's going to have to spend something, in order to create that kind of environment.

Dan:

I think what's important when you look at these national conventions, particularly in the political arena, that is strategic by the parties too.

Paul:

Oh yes.

Dan:

Wisconsin's very important in this upcoming election to the Democrats. As is Pennsylvania.

Paul:

Right.

Dan:

But they were also in Philadelphia not that long ago, so do they want to spend so much more time in Pennsylvania and look, Wisconsin, the people ... whenever they do the Monday morning quarterbacking of that election, they did not spend all the time there. So it's ... they're showing ... it's a quite a statement that they are spending the time in Milwaukee for this upcoming convention. But it also shows that if Milwaukee can host something like this, then, so can Pittsburgh.

Paul:

Why not Pittsburgh, yeah.

Dan:

I think Pittsburgh actually held the very first Republican convention that was back in the 1860s or so. And we had the hotel rooms for that one, I guess. You know.

Paul:

We did.

Dan:

Yeah.

Paul:

Well, country was a little smaller then.

Dan:

Indeed. Yeah.

Paul:

Might be a difference, but I think this is a topic we're going to come back to again, so we wanted to put it out there for everybody. Again, props to Mark Belko and his article and the truth speaking, shall we say, of Craig Davis. We'll have to watch the skyline and see where this one goes.

Dan:

Well, most importantly, just as a final coda to this, and Mark's article did describe this a bit at the end, for the leaders that want to see this kind of change, that want to see a hotel down here, they have to show their work. It has to be ... You have to come to ... with studies from respected institutions, respected people, who are proving that, "Okay, hey, when Milwaukee hosted this type of thing, if they had a hotel here, this is the impact that they would have got."

Dan:

There are other areas here in Louisville and Columbus that are building hotels. What will those hotels do for their ability to draw conventions? Are they stealing them from Pittsburgh? You have to come up with that information. You have to present it to the leaders, not only in our government, but the community to approve ... like, "Hey, okay, some of tax dollars should go to this."

Paul:

Absolutely.

Dan:

And if you can do that, if you can convince enough people, then maybe it happens. But that stuff takes some time too.

Paul:

Well, and just a final thought on this since Craig Davis left Visit Pittsburgh, they are engaged in a search for a CEO. So I would expect that once a new CEO is named, one of the first things that we should be looking for, is some thinking around this topic.

Dan:

Absolutely.

Logan:

And we are well beyond 100 words today. Thank you for listening to the P100 podcast. This has been Dan Stefano, Logan Armstrong, and Paul Furiga. If you haven't yet, please subscribe at p100podcast.com, or wherever you listen to podcasts and follow us on Twitter at Pittsburgh100_ for all the latest news updates and more from the Pittsburgh 100.

 

Ep. 11 – There’s magic in the Steel City

P100_Logo_3000.jpg 

Pittsburgh’s most famous magician, Lee Terbosic, visited the P100 Podcast for this episode, sharing stories from the road and close to home, the legacy of Harry Houdini and the success of the downtown theater Liberty Magic. 
Elsewhere in the episode:

— A look at why Super Bowl ads aren’t always worth the multimillion-dollar cost incurred by the brands who can afford it.

— We talk about the major investments being made in Oakland and what it means for one of Pittsburgh’s most vibrant neighborhoods.

— Our next Pittsburgh Polyphony features a look at the compilation album "Pittsburgh City Limits," from the production trio One800.

This episode is sponsored by WordWrite:

Centuries before cellphones and social media, human connections were made around fires, as we shared the stories that shaped our world. Today, stories are still the most powerful way to move hearts, minds and inspire action.

At WordWrite, Pittsburgh’s largest independent public relations agency, we understand that before you had a brand before you sold any product or service, you had a story.

WordWrite helps clients to uncover their own Capital S Story – the reason someone would want to buy, work, invest or partner with you through our patented StoryCrafting process. Visit wordwritepr.com to uncover your Capital S story.

Logan Armstrong:        

You are listening to The P100 Podcast, the biweekly companion piece to The Pittsburgh 100, bringing you Pittsburgh news, culture, and more because sometimes 100 words just isn't enough for a great story.

Paul Furiga:                  

Welcome back to another edition of The P100 Podcast, the audio companion to The Pittsburgh 100 e-zine. I'm Paul Furiga. I'm the Publisher of The Pittsburgh 100, and the CEO of WordWrite Communications, alongside Dan Stefano, our Editor of The Pittsburgh 100 and brand journalist at WordWrite. Hey, there, Dan.

Dan Stefano:                

That's quite an introduction there, Paul. I normally just rush straight through it.

Paul Furiga:                  

I don't think you should, Dan. So Dan, what have we got coming up in this amazing episode?

Dan Stefano:                

I would say it is amazing.

Paul Furiga:                  

It's magical, isn't it, Dan?

Dan Stefano:                

Well, it's an exciting week because we are just ahead of Super Bowl Sunday here, so we're going to open up things with a discussion about Super Bowl ads.

Paul Furiga:                  

Yes.

Dan Stefano:                

Yeah. We're going to talk about how they might not be worth the money. I know few things are worth $5.6 million, although I wouldn't mind having some in my pocket.

Paul Furiga:                  

Sure.

Dan Stefano:                

I probably wouldn't spend it on that, but yeah. After that we're going to have a great conversation. It'll be me and Logan Armstrong who's not here right now, but he'll be joining us for a talk with Lee Terbosic. You could say he's Pittsburgh's most famous magician, and he's got some great stories to talk about, just basically magic in the area, Liberty Magic, new theater. He even gets into a discussion about David Copperfield, the time he got to meet him and really cool stuff.

Paul Furiga:                  

Great.

Dan Stefano:                

Following that, we're going to discuss some big developments in Oakland, and Paul, you're really interested in that, right?

Paul Furiga:                  

I am indeed. Oakland is home to Pitt, and not only where Logan went to school but one of my daughters, and been following Oakland for the better part of 25 years, first when I was editor of The Business Times, and now here at WordWrite. Still a lot going on over there.

Dan Stefano:                

Well, this WVU grad doesn't really hold that against your daughter or Logan.

Paul Furiga:                  

Well, thanks, Dan.

Dan Stefano:                

But Logan, he will also be joining us again with the Pittsburgh Polyphony segment at the end of the show here and we've got another great track for you to listen to, but yeah. I guess we're going to get to it then, right?

Paul Furiga:                  

Let's go.

Dan Stefano:                

Okay.

Paul Furiga:                  

All right, Dan, big weekend coming up, and I don't mean the list of home projects I have. I am talking about the Super Bowl. You going to watch?

Dan Stefano:                

Despite there not being any Steelers in it I supposed I will because that's just what you do as an American on Super Bowl Sunday. Right?

Paul Furiga:                  

It is what you do if you're an American male, now.

Dan Stefano:                

Females too, my wife's watching. We're actually going to host a-

Paul Furiga:                  

I agree. I do not want to be a sexist here at all. However, I do want to add that for those people who aren't as much into what's happening on the field, the Super Bowl has become, what we really want to talk about, the Super Bowl of advertising. Right?

Dan Stefano:                

That's very accurate, yeah. This year for a 30 second spot – $5.6 million, which is a pretty good chunk of change.

Paul Furiga:                  

It is. The game's on Fox, and we've got the San Francisco 49ers, and the Kansas City Chiefs. As you pointed out, two teams that most Pittsburghers don't care anything about.

Dan Stefano:                

We are actually hosting a Chiefs’ fan at our house for the game. She's a former co-worker of my wife, and she has not too many other Chiefs’ fans to watch the game with, so she's going to come over. I guess we'll have some sort of rooting interest.

Paul Furiga:                  

So, like it's a-

Dan Stefano:                

She's not a Patriots or Ravens fan, so we can root for it.

Paul Furiga:                  

Well, that's kind of the test. If the Steelers aren't in, and you just don't want to have anybody rooting for the Ravens, or the Patriots. Right?

Dan Stefano:                

Accurate.

Paul Furiga:                  

Now, Pittsburgh is in the game.

Dan Stefano:                

That's true. They are in the game.

Paul Furiga:                  

Kraft Heinz is going to do one 30-second commercial during the second quarter, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette story by Teresa Lindeman, good friend of mine. It's going to promote Heinz ketchup, and a new experimental variation.

Dan Stefano:                

Right, this is what brings sriracha into the fold here, Ketcharacha, or something along those lines.

Paul Furiga:                  

HoneyRacha, my friend. Let's get the flavor blend correct there.

Dan Stefano:                

They've got too many blends these days, Paul. It's ridiculous.

Paul Furiga:                  

Dan, it's ketchup. The company's done very well for more than 100 some years on this very simple, enjoyable condiment.

Dan Stefano:                

That's right. There's nothing wrong with just plain ketchup.

Paul Furiga:                  

Well, they got pickles too, in the beginning.

Dan Stefano:                

I don't want mayo with it. I don't need all these other things.

Paul Furiga:                  

Dan, there's a Heinz flavor just for you. I am sure.

Dan Stefano:                

Yeah, it's called ketchup.

Paul Furiga:                  

Right, the point here though is, as you know, what about these Super Bowl ads? They cost so much money, and what really is the impact. This is kind of a perennial question in the marketing world, and we're marketing people, so maybe we can offer some insight, right? I must say that I get asked this question all the time this time of year. People want to know whether it's worth the amount of money that these things cost. The favorite answer of any consultant, including in our business, is it depends. Wouldn’t you agree, Dan?

Dan Stefano:                

I'd say that's accurate. The depending is really who you're advertising to, and what type of advertising you're showing here.

Dan Stefano:                

There's a really good study from Stanford. This is about five years ago, but they found that the most effective ads were the ads that could connect their products to the sports viewership, the people who view sports. The idea of watching sports, how many ads are we going to see for beer companies out there today.

Paul Furiga:                  

Only one beer company because for more than 20 years, Budweiser has been the only beer to advertise in the Super Bowl.

Dan Stefano:                

Absolutely, yeah.

Paul Furiga:                  

Which, the study you're referencing, I thought this was a fascinating conclusion of the study. They looked at, like you said, the brands that are associated with viewing sports, duh, beer, soda, snacks-

Dan Stefano:                

Pop, but yeah.

Paul Furiga:                  

Yeah, here in Pittsburgh it's pop, and that, but anyway.

Dan Stefano:                

Just catching you.

Paul Furiga:                  

Thank you very much for correcting my failure to use Pittsburgh-ese.

Dan Stefano:                

Before I interrupt you, yeah.

Paul Furiga:                  

Budweiser, they looked at Budweiser, and they estimated that the sales of Bud went up $96 million, or almost 16% in the weeks following Super Bowl. Now, they also looked at pop, Coke and Pepsi. Now Coke and Pepsi both advertise in the game during the years that the study covered. Guess what? They cancelled each other out.

Dan Stefano:                

Yeah, that's what the interesting part of the study here says is whenever there's competition in the ads that's whenever, as you said, it cancels each other out, and they don't really see a boost from this, and it becomes less worth it to advertise in the Super Bowl. That's fascinating to me. Why do you think that is?

Paul Furiga:                  

What of the other things, there's another study that was done in 2017 by a company called Communicus. Generally speaking people are watching the ads for entertainment value. In my view they're the best short films that you can see at any given time.

Dan Stefano:                

I saw Michael Bay is directing one this year.

Paul Furiga:                  

Yeah.

Dan Stefano:                

Yeah, that's pretty wild.

Paul Furiga:                  

Well, the Heinz, the Kraft Heinz ad, is being directed by Roman Coppola who I believe is the son of the legendary film director. His daughter, his son, maybe a few other family members are actively involved in doing films, and TV, and stuff like that.

Dan Stefano:                

Godfather Part 4 where we only have 30 seconds of plot left.

Paul Furiga:                  

There you go.

Dan Stefano:                

Yeah.

Paul Furiga:                  

Yeah, these things draw talent. The study that I'm referencing from 2017 found that 80% of the people watching the Super Bowl, eh, no impact whatsoever from the ads in terms of buying behavior although they found them entertaining. Really, this is kind of the stereotypical thing where we started this segment. The people who care about the football on the field watch for the football, and those who get dragged to the party where people are watching the football they have something to watch too, and that's the advertising.

Dan Stefano:                

True.

Dan Stefano:                

All right, we're joined by a very special guest. He might be Pittsburgh's most famous magician. He's toured all over the country, across the world. He's appeared in some big acts with big names in his profession, big celebrities, and importantly he's never forgotten his Pittsburgh roots, helping to open Liberty Magic downtown in the cultural district. It's been open for about a year now, opened in February, 2019. He is Lee Terbosic. Thanks for coming.

Lee Terbosic:               

Thanks for having me, man.

Dan Stefano:                

We're really happy to have you. As I just mentioned, Lee, Liberty Magic is a relatively new venue, strictly for magic. It's close quarters. About what, maybe 80 seats or so?

Lee Terbosic:               

We have 70 seats, right at that 70-seat mark.

Dan Stefano:                

70 seats, okay, so really intimate space. If you're seeing some magicians, and they're doing sleight of hand tricks you're right there to see it. It's really cool stuff. They bring in magicians all over the world.

Dan Stefano:                

Can you describe your role in helping get it started, and how it's been doing for a year?

Lee Terbosic:               

Yeah, we've been doing very well. I'm happy to report I did 100, let me see if I got this right. Yeah, I hit 100 shows publicly last year just at Liberty, so I did three runs. I did an eight-week run of my show, In Plain Sleight, which is essentially all my standup comedy magic, illusions, mentalism. It was my touring college show that I took, and reworked, and re-marketed, and flipped, and had fun with, so I brought that to Liberty this year. Then I brought the... We sold out. Every show sold out for that run for eight straight weeks. I was going to come back in the fall with the show as well, this fall. But during that, over the span of this past year, I had a TV series come out on Discovery Channel called Houdini's Last Secrets.

Lee Terbosic:               

When I wrapped on filming that, there was some stuff that I still wanted to work on offstage. As I was working on it I developed this idea of wanting to bring a Houdini show where I would play Harry on stage to life. Now I have this beautiful venue with all this creative freedom to come up with stuff, and so I decided to create a show called The Life and Death of Harry Houdini. We decided to run that performance. I was working on that all last year, all summer writing it, scripting it, scoring it, everything from filming a documentary, all kinds of crazy stuff. But, the idea was to bring it to fruition for two weeks in October, the last two weeks of October because they're always such a big magic month, and it always circulates around because of Harry Houdini's death on October 31st of 1926.

Dan Stefano:                

Oh on Halloween.

Lee Terbosic:               

Halloween, yeah. We originally promoted that show. We put tickets on sale for just the two weeks. The show sold out in one day, all two weeks of the run, so we decided. The trust came back to me, and said, "Hey Lee, there's a pretty big demand for the show." I said, "Okay, well let's do it another two weeks."

Lee Terbosic:               

The thing about that is that in the show I was doing a stunt. I do the upside down straight jacket escape in the show, and so by me agreeing to extend the show two more weeks that's me agreeing to extend me putting my life on the line every single night.

Dan Stefano:                

Right, to remind everybody, back in I think it was 2016 you did this over... Was it over Penn Avenue, or Liberty?

Lee Terbosic:               

No, Houdini 100 took place on November 6th, 2016 at the corner of Liberty and Wood, so just down, right there on the corner.

Dan Stefano:                

You were hung pretty high in the air on that one.

Lee Terbosic:               

I was 100 feet up, upside down in a straight jacket.

Dan Stefano:                

I know Liberty Magic doesn't quite have 100 foot ceilings.

Lee Terbosic:               

We don't have that high of a ceiling, but it's like a 25, 28 foot ceiling height. Then we were able to find this really, really ingenious rig that we installed into the theater. I was able to be about, when my feet were up there I was about a foot from the ceiling with my feet because of the contraption. Then my head was... If you look up in the audience you're three feet away from me. I'm really hanging over top of you doing the straight jacket escape. This is as close as you can get to having it done, and being able to see it, but it didn't start just this year. I've been doing residencies in the city since 2015. That was the time period where I told my agent, and my manager. I was like, "Hey guys, I've been on the road a lot. I want to come home."

Lee Terbosic:               

I came home, and I started doing residencies at Dave & Buster's with a show called Bamboozled. Then I have a residency still to this day, I still have it going. It's called 52 Up Close at Hotel Monaco. That's just for 52 people at a time, and I'm only doing the show 52 times a year now.

Dan Stefano:                

You grew up in one of the southern neighborhoods in the city.

Lee Terbosic:               

I was a city kid actually, so I was born and raised in the City of Pittsburgh, Lincoln Place. Then I went to, when I was in my teenage years I moved to Baldwin. I went to Baldwin High School. Then from Baldwin, I went to Robert Morris University.

Dan Stefano:                

It's nice to see somebody come back, and try to give back to the culture of the city here, and you touched on it. Is there... People don't think of magicians quite as often. Do you feel like the culture still has really an interest in it, the profession?

Lee Terbosic:               

It is more than ever right now. We are in – I call it the magic renaissance period. Every year something's hot, and Hollywood always... You always know it's hot because Hollywood jumps on it, and they explode it. When magic's hot there was a ton of magic movies. It has peaks and valleys, and sometimes standup comedy's the hot thing, but magic has definitely had its due, I guess. That's because of all these amazing shows that are now promoting magic in the right way, like America's Got Talent and these great magic themed shows on television. That's getting the audience's attention out there to see it live, and that's one of the problems. You can't see magic live. You only watch it on your phone, or on television because most people might know about the Magic Castle in Hollywood, but other than that they're like, "Oh, I can see a magician maybe in Las Vegas", but they don't know that we have it right here. It's in New York. It's popping up in every city across the country now.

Lee Terbosic:               

The same way how a comedian tours the country, and goes to comedy clubs, you're starting to see that happen with magic now. Magicians are literally getting the chance to go to the Chicago Magic Lounge, perform there, perform at Liberty Magic in Pittsburgh, hit the Magic Castle in Hollywood. It's like that circuit is starting to come alive.

Logan Armstrong:        

Yeah, and it's nice to have an intimate venue, like Liberty Magic, like you said, where it's more of that up close, sleight of hand kind of things. When you first got into magic was that your passion, those up close, intimate sleight of hand, or did you like doing those bigger stunts, or how did it all start for you?

Lee Terbosic:               

It really, for me, started with sleight of hand. I was drawn to a pack of cards, learning card tricks, and fooling people, my parents, and my sister. Then it slowly kind of morphed because you have to figure out who you are on stage, and that can take time, and especially when you're a young kid because I was just bouncing all over the place. I loved David Copperfield. I loved Lance Burton. I loved Penn & Teller. I loved all these guys, and they all had their own thing. I'm a young kid that's into magic, so I'm absorbing everything. I'm a sponge.

Lee Terbosic:               

Over those few years of coming up, I dabbled in a little bit of everything from making my sister disappear to mind reading stuff, to trying big illusions, and stuff like that. As I grew as an entertainer, and grew as a performer I realized what my strong suits were, and what the stuff I really dug, and so I veered into that type of magic in which, for me, was a pack of cards. I'm obsessed with doing card tricks, but over time I saw avenues like learning escapes, and my infatuation with Harry Houdini, and that comedy magic, and illusions, Amazing Jonathan, all these different personalities that were out there were in one hand or not shaping me as a performer for what to bring to the audience.

Logan Armstrong:        

You mentioned Harry Houdini as a big influence, and you obviously had the huge stunts, Houdini 100 back in 2016. Are there any other upcoming, crazy stunts that we can expect, or anything big for you on the horizon?

Lee Terbosic:               

Yes, I'm always working on something. My infatuation with him began in 2010. Every kid who gets into magic knows who Harry Houdini is, but I read his stuff as a kid, but I wasn't mesmerized by him back then because, like I said, I had so many magicians to look into, and figure out, and try to find out how all this stuff was happening. For me it was when I was in, it was in 2010. I was in New York City with my mentor, and fellow Pittsburgh magician, Paul Gertner, and Paul has had a big influence in my career. When I was helping him produce his show in New York before we left he asked me. He said, "Lee, do you want to see if we can find Harry Houdini?" At that moment I was like, "Wait a minute. We're going to go find Harry Houdini right now? What do you mean? Where's he at?"

Dan Stefano:                

That's quite a trick.

Lee Terbosic:               

That's quite a trick, right, like he's been dead for a long time. But, he goes, "No, he's buried I think in the cemetery right up in Queens." My history, the little history I had of Harry at that moment, I assumed that he had been buried in his hometown, which was Appleton, Wisconsin. I'm thinking, "Why would he be buried in Queens?" That's when Paul was like, "No, New York was a big part of his life, and helped shape him, and duh, daduh, daduh", and so we went and found Harry that day.

Lee Terbosic:               

That was in 2010. We went to his grave, and we stood there. It was kind of cool to be with another magician, and learning with him. When I got back Paul gave me a book. It's called the Taschen Magic Book. It's this giant coffee table book, very pretty. That night when I was going through the pages of that book I stumbled upon the photo of Harry Houdini doing the upside down straight jacket escape in Pittsburgh . And that was the moment that I went, "Wait a minute." It hit home. It came full circle. I was just at his grave in New York. Now I'm standing in my living room in Pittsburgh, and this dude played my city, and did the biggest trick I've ever seen in this city. I'm going, "Well, I have this information now. It's dated." I could figure out where it was in Pittsburgh. I was like, "I have to bring this back to life for this generation." That was when I set out to create Houdini 100. Then since then I've done the show, Houdini's Last Secrets, where I did a whole bunch more of his tricks on television, and then brought it to the stage with The Life and Death of Harry Houdini.

Lee Terbosic:               

We're working on a documentary right now from all the stuff that I was able to shoot over the summer. I shot at the Magic Castle in Hollywood with a guy named John Cox. I filmed at the Houdini Museum in New York City with Roger Dryer. Then I also got a special invitation tour, invite only, from the people that own Harry Houdini's actual home in New York. It's in Harlem. It's called 278 West 113th Street. He bought the house in 1905, and he lived there up until the day he died in 1926, so he lived there about half his life with his family, and his wife.

Lee Terbosic:               

I was all these things. I was so fascinated with his home, and so that's when I, when I was figuring all these things about his house I decided to make my live show a performance in his living room, so when you come to see The Life and Death of Harry Houdini at Liberty Magic you literally saw me on stage portraying Harry Houdini, but in his home at 278 in Harlem.

Dan Stefano:                

Did you recreate?

Lee Terbosic:               

Yeah, we did because it was all, the whole performance was centered around the bookcase. Now, if you remember in 2016 I recreated the photo of Houdini 100. That was one of the big things. I took the photo from 1916, and I got the exact same image of me doing it in 2016. It's the exact same spot Harry was hanging in the city.

Lee Terbosic:               

When I was doing my research about Harry Houdini's house I found this photo, which is an iconic photo, of Harry standing against a bookcase with all these books. If you Google it, it's one of the first photos that pop up. Well, I found out that photo was taken in his home at 278. That bookcase was very special to Harry Houdini. It housed all of his collection of secrets. It literally was the jewels of magic right there in that photo.

Lee Terbosic:               

Well, when he died all of his magic got broken up all around the world, and that house was obviously sold, but that bookcase in that home remained to this very day. But, in 2016, or 2017 when that house went on sale that bookcase disappeared out of the living room. And if you look at the photo it's a gigantic, beautiful bookcase, and you're going, "How did this disappear out of this photo?" Well, the one person that made it disappear was David Copperfield. He is now the biggest collector of magic in the world.

Lee Terbosic:               

Over the years, over the past 30 years, his collection, he has bought up everything Harry Houdini, and he's taken it all to a secret warehouse in Las Vegas, and that's where his collection lives. In the magic world we refer to it as the Smithsonian of magic because it is unbelievable, but yet it's still a secret. It's the secret where it's at. It's in the secret warehouse, and it's his museum. The only way to see this stuff is by David Copperfield. He's the only one that will allow people in and out to see it.

Lee Terbosic:               

Once I had figured out all these things about Harry's house, and this bookcase, and I was like, "Well, the only thing I got to do is I got to get into this. I got to go see David. I got to get into this museum." That's what I did. I hit up my... Going back, on the Discovery show I did that show with a guy named George Hardeen, and George Hardeen's claim to fame is that he is the great grand-nephew of Harry Houdini, so I'm friends with the family now. I'm in the family, so I know that if I took George Hardeen, a Houdini, and I put him in front of David Copperfield, the biggest Houdini collector out there, and lover of magic, and Harry Houdini, I knew that I would see something special something happen, so that's what I did.

Lee Terbosic:               

I hit up George. I said, "George." He lives in Arizona. I said, "Hey man, do you want to meet me in Las Vegas? I want to take you to something." He was like, "Sure." So, we all-

Dan Stefano:                

That's all you said, "I just want to take you somewhere."

Lee Terbosic:               

He's like, "Oh dude, Vegas, I'm in." He's such a fun guy. George met me in Las Vegas. My friends from England came over, and we all went and saw David Copperfield that night. We got front row tickets. Then I arranged for a meet-and-greet back stage. Then we went back backstage, and I introduced. It was really cool. I got to introduce George Hardeen, a Houdini, to David Copperfield. It was in that moment that David Copperfield was meeting George where I can see David literally becoming a kid. He's like, "Wow." You could see the resemblance, and so that night he took us to see the museum, a private tour by David Copperfield of his museum, and he let us see, and touch all the Houdini stuff, but that bookcase that was in the home. That bookcase is in his collection. What David Copperfield did is he took me to the exact same location on that bookcase, and he posed me, and he took a photo on my phone. He took the photo, and I recreated that photo from the bookcase from Harry Houdini.

Dan Stefano:                

Wow, that's pretty amazing.

Logan Armstrong:        

Wow, that's incredible.

Lee Terbosic:               

It's been a wild ride the last couple years, but obviously still working on more to answer your question. I still have some more stuff I'm working on.

Logan Armstrong:        

Well, once you visited that I'm sure you have a ton of secrets-

Lee Terbosic:               

Oh my God, man.

Lee Terbosic:               

It opened up a can of worms because getting to sit down, and talk to David Copperfield about Harry Houdini, and just his infatuation with him, and the stuff that he was able to uncover. These things are just implanting in me. I'm just going, "Oh boy, where's this going to take me next?"`

Dan Stefano:                

That's amazing the impact. Yeah, the impact he still has on that profession.

Lee Terbosic:               

Absolutely.

Dan Stefano:                

There's a lot of different types of magic. There are these big escapes. There's also the smaller sleight of hand. What do you think is the unifying theme of all of that, and why people are still into magic, and why people are going down to Liberty Magic, and selling out?

Lee Terbosic:               

You know what? That's a great question. I think it's the you have to see it with your own eyes because I think in this day and age people have become so skeptical of stuff. Everything, fake news, and deep state, and now there's videos where it's like Obama talking, but it was obviously made by some other algorithm. It's that type of skepticism that has come full circle where people are just going, "Screw it. I'll go see it live. I got to see it from my own two eyes."

Dan Stefano:                

Lee, can you tell us how people can follow you online, so your social accounts, and any way they can get online to see shows at Liberty Magic too?

Lee Terbosic:               

Absolutely, follow me at leeterbosic, L-E-E-T-E-R-B-O-S-I-C, on Instagram, Facebook. You can visit www.leeterbosic.com, 52upclose.com, and then for everything for Liberty, that's all run through the trust, so it's trustarts.org. Then /libertymagic. So, you can find all the upcoming shows, and other magicians that are coming to play that city, and when I'll be back as well.

Dan Stefano:                

That's great, well, Lee, thank you so much for coming, and everybody just try to get down to Liberty Magic. It's absolutely worth the trip. I've been myself.

Lee Terbosic:               

Come see me.

Dan Stefano:                

Thanks, Lee.

Logan Armstrong:        

Centuries before cell phones and social media human connections were made around fires as we shared the stories that shaped our world. Today stories are still the most powerful way to move hearts, and minds, and inspire action. At WordWrite, Pittsburgh's largest independent public relations agency we understand that before you had a brand, before you sold any product or service, you had a story. WordWrite helps clients to uncover their own Capital S Story, the reason someone would want to buy, work, invest, or partner with you through our patented story crafting process. Visit wordwritepr.com to uncover your Capital S Story.

Paul Furiga:                  

All right everybody, in this segment we want to talk about economic development. No, don't turn off the podcast just yet because we want to talk about sports, and we want to talk about medicine.

Dan Stefano:                

Sports, now you've got my attention.

Paul Furiga:                  

See, there you go, Dan.

Dan Stefano:                

And I've taken medicine before.

Paul Furiga:                  

I think you guys both have some perspective. You've taken medicine before?

Dan Stefano:                

Yeah.

Paul Furiga:                  

Dan, you're married to a doctor. You have a little bit more insight than that. Give yourself some credit, dude.

Paul Furiga:                  

All right, so recently in the news two fairly major announcements related to Oakland, University of Pittsburgh, UPMC. University of Pittsburgh has announced a $250 million campaign to upgrade its sports facilities dubbed by the athlete director, Heather Lyke, as Victory Heights, very cool thing. We're going to dig into that a little bit.

Paul Furiga:                  

The other thing we want to do is just offer a little perspective here. Most people don't know this, but where the universities are in Oakland, and where most of the region's major medical centers are is like the fourth largest employment center in the entire state of Pennsylvania. People from outside the region, they look at Pittsburgh, and they're like, "Oh steel, blah, blah, blah, blah." Some people are into the, "Oh, it's eds and meds", but they really don't understand, I don't think, what's happening in Oakland. It's now become a place where you've got these great universities, but you've also got a lot of economic activity.

Paul Furiga:                  

For instance, Victory Heights gets announced, and the same day UPMC Enterprises, which is the venture capital arm of UPMC, who knew a hospital system had that, announces one billion dollars in life sciences investments over the next four, five years.

Dan Stefano:               

That's enormous.

Paul Furiga:                  

It's incredible, right? Now, the thing about that is we don't see that as much as what we're probably going to see with Victory Heights. If you're listening to this podcast, and you don't even like sports I got to tell you. It's really bad up there, and Dan is a former sports journalist, and-

Dan Stefano:                

Currently, yes.

Paul Furiga:                  

... Logan is a Pitt grad. I'm sure you guys have some perspective on that. Dan, what do you think?

Dan Stefano:                

Yeah, that area where Victory Heights is going to be, and I guess that's the upper campus. Logan, you're the grad. You know exactly, a little bit better than I do, but I don't want to say it's a depressed area, or anything, and they've definitely improved some aspects I believe in terms of their soccer stadiums, and their baseball, softball, but you've got the Fitzgerald Field House up there, which is decades old now. I think it pre-dates, maybe it goes beyond the '50s. I don't have the exact age on it, but I don't think there's any air conditioning there. I know teams are kind of, whenever they try to practice there, it's really crowded. I think what we saw on some of the reporting on this that the wrestling team – half of their team can practice at one time because they're worried about what if they get the entire team out there, the other weight classes, they're going to bump into each other.

Dan Stefano:                

This is needed to replace certain facilities, replace the Fitzgerald Field House with a 3,500 seat arena, where the wrestling team, the volleyball team, the other teams can compete, new arena there, a performance center, an indoor track. This will bring Pitt up to the level that other ACC schools are, and just other universities that are of the same level in terms of these public universities that have giant athlete departments.

Dan Stefano:               

These types of investments are needed from time to time at universities. A lot of people think, "Well, okay, it's just athletics", and you think volleyball, and wrestling, and gymnastics, and all of that. They aren't the revenue producing sports, but it helps enrich the university. I think a lot of this is going to be done with donor money. There's going to be some financing that's going to be involved in it. As any of these projects go it's probably going to go over budget a little bit. You hope not, but it probably will. You have to have this happen from time to time, and Heather Lyke, who's the AD there, kudos to her for actually bringing something like this to fruition. It's been talked about, maybe not in this exact structure for a while, for Pitt Athletics here. The Victory Heights label, I don't know how long that label has been on it, but she made this happen pretty quick in what has been a relatively short tenure right now with Pitt.

Dan Stefano:                

Logan, I know you've probably got be excited to see something like this happen as a recent Pitt grad.

Logan Armstrong:        

There's mixed emotion about it. There's a lot of things, and there's a lot of pros and cons in having a campus in a city environment, and one of the things that's going to happen is this new 3,500 seat arena that they're building on the lawn next to the Pete, that takes up a big area of green space that you don't really have much anywhere else on Pitt's campus.

Logan Armstrong:        

But, like you said, it's definitely needed that there's going to be some facility updates, and renovations because, yeah. The Fitzgerald Field House is old, and there's definitely some renovations that could be of great benefit to other sports teams even if they're not the most revenue generating, but they're also planning on replacing the student recreation center, the gym, and the Pete, and outsourcing that somewhere else. But, I'm hoping that the Fitzgerald Field House becomes a student, not a student athlete, but a student recreational athletic center where they're going to be able to replace some of the facilities that aren't needed to be quite up to standard for say the basketball team, or the football team, but for other gyms, and recreationally athletic facilities that are coming.

Logan Armstrong:        

Definitely excited for the investment in the athletic teams. I just hope that it's done with care.

Paul Furiga:                  

With students in mind.

Logan Armstrong:        

Yes, exactly.

Paul Furiga:                  

That's the perspective you have. Just a couple of statistics to give people some perspective. This billion dollar UPMC Enterprises investment and life sciences companies that's going to occur. It's going to be largely invisible compared to Victory Heights, and what you were just talking about, Logan. Here's where Pitt ranks nationally. It is number five in the country for academic research grants, primarily from the National Institutes of Health. We all love Pitt sports except for those of us, Dan, who went to WVU, or some other school. No Pitt team ranks there, and that's a big part of what Victory Heights is about.

Dan Stefano:                

Women's volleyball team was very good this year though.

Paul Furiga:                  

The women's volleyball team is fantastic. As you pointed out, the wrestling team is great. Heather Lyke, she's dynamic. I met her. I've seen her speak. She makes a great case for why this kind of investment is really relevant to the overall health of a university because you used this term, Dan, non-revenue producing sports, and however you feel about college athletics, a lot of the negative attention towards college athletics goes towards those revenue-producing sports, basketball, men's football. These non-revenue producing sports at Pitt, the Fitz. It's 68 years old. There's no air conditioning, and that's where just about every team does its training, and practicing except for basketball, and for football.

Paul Furiga:                  

To put some things in perspective, Craig Meyer from the Post Gazette did a really excellent story last August. In 2017 Pitt spent nearly $81 million on athletics. That's a heck of a lot of money, right?

Dan Stefano:            

Right.

Paul Furiga:                  

Ranked ninth of the 15 ACC schools, and while they increased spending 36% over a five-year span dating back to 2012, the third sharpest increase of any ACC school, they only ranked ninth. They are just way, way, way behind.

Paul Furiga:                  

There is an award that is given every year in collegiate athletics. It's called The Learfield IMG Director's Cup, and basically the top 150 largest division one universities in the country can compete for this cup. Pitt usually ranks around 135 or something.

Dan Stefano:                

Right, I think this kind of collates the success of all the athlete programs together.

Paul Furiga:                  

Yes, everything. It's how they recruit, how the students perform academically, how they rank, the win/loss record. I'm sure that's everybody's thinking about, "Oh, it's just win/loss record." It's a lot more than that. It's a point system, and it also is tied to how each sport performs in the NCAA championships. Again, just for perspective Pitt ranked behind Vermont, Middle Tennessee State, Montana State, Illinois State, and New Hampshire. If you're a Pitt fan, a fan of anything Pitt, that's probably not the competition set that you want to have yourself ranked-

Dan Stefano:                

That's not to knock those universities, but Pitt being a-

Logan Armstrong:        

Middle Tennessee State was the one that knocked off Michigan State in the first round of that March Madness a few years ago, remember.

Dan Stefano:                

That is true.

Logan Armstrong:        

Never forget.

Dan Stefano:                

We're not impugning these teams that are in the say 1AA ranks, but Pitt, if it's going to call itself a top tier school, and it's going to rank as one of the higher public universities in the U.S., as it typically does, probably your athletics should be up there too at a certain level. But, as you mentioned, in terms of development in Oakland we're not stopping at athletics here in the city. There's quite a bit going on, and the university's pretty deeply enmeshed in that.

Paul Furiga:                  

That's really the point that I think merits the segment on the podcast today is we're going to see stuff happen with Victory Heights. It's long overdue. Hail to Pitt for those of you who are Pitt grads, or care about Pitt.

Logan Armstrong:        

Yes.

Dan Stefano:                

Some people, Health Pitt maybe.

Paul Furiga:                 

I paid to put a daughter through Pitt, so HTP. For everybody else, remember this is part, like you said Dan, of a bigger picture where the universities, in this case Pitt, and affiliated institutions like UPMC, continue to be huge economic drivers.

Dan Stefano:                

Yeah, sure. Then we can clean up South Oakland next where Logan used to live.

Logan Armstrong:        

It has its charms.

Paul Furiga:                  

Sure it does. I do like the Mad Mex.

Logan Armstrong:        

The OG Mad Mex.

Paul Furiga:                  

Right.

Logan Armstrong:        

Okay, for this episode's Pittsburgh Polyphony where taking a step back from just looking at a single artists, and we're actually going to look at local production group that all went to California University of Pennsylvania together called One800. They've been doing some crazy work. They used to work solely with a Pittsburgh artist, My Favorite Color, who I believe I'm mentioned on here before, but they've just recently put out an album with a slew of Pittsburgh artists that range from hip-hop, to R&B, to pop, and they're doing some really cool things.

Dan Stefano:             

Is the album called Toll Free?

Logan Armstrong:       

  The album is not called Toll Free, but I think we need to get in touch with them for the next tape they do.

Dan Stefano:                

There's many marketing opportunities here to be had, Logan come on

Logan Armstrong:        

Yeah, so the album is actually called Pittsburgh City Limits, which fairs well with the talent roster that they have on it, but it has artists from Clara Kent, to Mars Jackson, Pick Patek, Young Guy Burkett, some of these names that I've mentioned before, but, as I've said, they're all out of California University of Pennsylvania. Cody Maimone, Jeremy Rosinger, and Don Pomposelli, they're the three that have been working hard, and they've been doing some really cools things. A lot of times artists will tell you that the Pittsburgh music scene is supportive, and other times it's not so much, so it's nice to see these guys coming together, and really spreading some light onto Pittsburgh artists.

Logan Armstrong:        

It's the first thing, the first type of project I've seen like this coming out of the city.

Dan Stefano:                

Yeah, it sounds really great. As you said, people want to be supportive of each other in this community because it's hard to make it out from a city of this size, and really anywhere in the music industry, even if you're somewhere in Los Angeles, or something where there's a million people trying to make it the same way, or New York City, so it's something kind of special too that it comes from a small town, like California where I suppose, did these people meet in a university down there?

Logan Armstrong:        

Yeah, they met at university. They all went to Cal U together. I'm not sure if that's where they met My Favorite Color, but yeah. These three guys have been at it for a few years. And so how this album came about is they dubbed it the Pittsburgh Sessions. They would get these artists in there, in their home studio, and just vibe with no real preconceived notions of what kind of stuff they wanted to make. They just bring the artists in, and go with the flow with whatever happened. It came out with a really great project. There's some real nice songs on there.

Dan Stefano:                

What are we going to hear from Pittsburgh City Limits today then?

Logan Armstrong:        

We got a great one for you. It features the Pittsburgh artist Walkney, who I think I failed to mention earlier, but Walkney. The song's called Bad Reputation, so it's a nice upbeat tune, maybe a little reprieve from this horrible Pittsburgh weather we got here, so we hope you enjoy it.

Dan Stefano:                

You got a great reputation by my books there, Logan.

 

Ep. 10 – Pittsburghers aren’t rude… even if some are Jagoffs

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There was some Pittsburgh podcast synergy in the newest episode of the P100 Podcast, as we welcomed John Chamberlin and Rachael Rennebeck of the YaJagoff! Podcast. In a lively discussion, we talked about why Pittsburghers aren’t really rude, the many meanings of the term jagoff, and a special they group they support.

In our other segments:

  • We discuss the pain of seeing storefronts close — and why it’s not such a bad thing.
  • Executive coach Dick Singer joins us to talk about leadership in 2020.
  • We thank our winners of The Pittsburgh 100’s gift issue contest.

This episode is sponsored by WordWrite:

Centuries before cellphones and social media, human connections were made around fires, as we shared the stories that shaped our world. Today, stories are still the most powerful way to move hearts, minds and inspire action.

At WordWrite, Pittsburgh’s largest independent public relations agency, we understand that before you had a brand before you sold any product or service, you had a story.

WordWrite helps clients to uncover their own Capital S Story – the reason someone would want to buy, work, invest or partner with you through our patented StoryCrafting process. Visit wordwritepr.com to uncover your Capital S story.

Ep. 9 - Looking Back Before We Look Ahead

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For the first P100 Podcast of 2020 (or the last of 2019, depending on when you listen), we’re taking a broad look at Pittsburgh over the past 20 years – then glimpsing at the future.

We’ll talk about the ups and downs, the positive trends and the disappointments that need to be fixed to make Pittsburgh more livable for us all. Then we dive into a discussion on how the region might look very different by 2029.

And don’t miss our latest Pittsburgh Polyphony with Steve Soboslai of Punchline, the great punk band from Belle Vernon performing an anniversary show this week.

This episode is sponsored by WordWrite:

Centuries before cellphones and social media, human connections were made around fires, as we shared the stories that shaped our world. Today, stories are still the most powerful way to move hearts, minds and inspire action.

At WordWrite, Pittsburgh’s largest independent public relations agency, we understand that before you had a brand before you sold any product or service, you had a story.

WordWrite helps clients to uncover their own Capital S Story – the reason someone would want to buy, work, invest or partner with you through our patented StoryCrafting process. Visit wordwritepr.com to uncover your Capital S story.


Full Transcript

 

Logan:             

You are listening to the P100 podcast, the biweekly companion piece to the Pittsburgh 100, bringing you Pittsburgh news, culture and more, because sometimes 100 words just isn't enough for a great story.

Dan:     

Hey everybody, welcome back to the P100 podcast. I'm Dan Stefano, I'm here with Paul Furiga.

Paul:                

Hey, hey.

Dan:                

And Logan Armstrong.

Logan:             

How you doing, Dan?

Dan:                

Okay. Depending to whenever you're listening to this, it could either be the last day of the 2010s, or it could be really early in the 2020s here. It's an interesting time, we're splitting decades finally.

Logan:             

Or it could be 2027 when you're listening to this, we don't know.

Paul:                

Could be, we have a really good archiving service, don't we?

Dan:                

Could be an alien listening to this as a history and saying like, "What was wrong with them?" No, it is an interesting time and Paul, before we get started here, you brought up a fun fact about changing decades.

Paul:                 

Yes, I am sure that many of our listeners will doubt this until I explain it, but I can speak with authority as the oldest host on this podcast because I've lived in parts of eight decades, but I'm only 61 years old.

Dan:                

That's really impressive though, eight decades.

Paul:                

Eight decades. But see, I was born-

Dan:                

Two days into the new one, but-

Paul:                

That's right. I was born in 1958, and I got the ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, the aughts, the teens, and now I'm into the twenties.

Dan:                

Pretty amazing. And myself I've lived in five. Well again, you know we're recording this I think before the 2020s begin, but I think I got a good chance of making it there. And Logan Armstrong, you as our youngest host, you still have lived in quite a few decades, so you're pretty long-

Logan:             

Yep. Repping four decades. Snuck into the 90s there for a few years. Yeah, I'm only 22 now, so it's kind of weird to think about.

Dan:                

That's impressive, a Clinton baby over there. All right, yeah it's fun to look at the calendar and think about these things. But the one thing we are going to do on today's episode is take a look back at where Pittsburgh has been, how it has changed within the 2010s and even the aughts that we talked about, and then we're going to talk about going forward here. What the 2020s might hold for Pittsburgh. Through it all there are ups and downs, and the city obviously has been on probably more ups than downs since we've gotten to 2000s. But there have been some really, some sad moments and there are a lot of important cultural things that I think are holding us back from being a more perfect Pittsburgh right now.

Dan:                

So we're going to get into all of that and then we're going to wrap it up, we're going to make a little bit of a hard right turn there, but we have a really exciting Pittsburgh polyphony segment. Logan, do you want to talk about that?

Logan:             

Yeah, sure. We're going to be sitting down with Steve Soboslai of Punchline, a band that's from around the Pittsburgh region out of Belle Vernon specifically, that's done some great things over the 20 plus years that they've been around, traveled the world. So it was great to sit down with Steve and kind of talk about what's coming up for them.

Dan:                

Yeah, that might be a band that's like four decade too.

Paul:                

There you go.

Dan:                

Yeah, they've been around for quite a while. Okay. We're going to stop having fun with the calendar, but we're going to get to it, and thanks for being with us today.

Dan:                

All right guys, to start today's episode we are going to talk about the Pittsburgh of the past. Pittsburgh of the recent past here. Mostly it's a look back at the 2010s and we can include the aughts in there as well because it's been a really interesting 20 years for Pittsburgh. I think if you go back to the year 2000, for myself, I was 13 years old and it just seemed like this crazy future thing-

Paul:                

I wasn't 13.

Dan:                

You were not 13?

Paul:                

No, I was not.

Dan:                

Okay, 15, 16? Okay. Pushing that?

Paul:                

No, I was not.

Dan:                

Logan, I think you were about three.

Logan:             

I was about three years old, yeah.

Dan:                

All right. So for myself, whenever that was coming around, it seemed like this crazy future time. And there were a lot of cool things that were on the horizon at that time, we knew that the North Shore was going to be redeveloped. It was basically just a gravel lot and back then it was only called the North Side, but some new baseball and football stadiums were going up. And now 20 years later, there are a ton of restaurants, there are office buildings, and was kind of the start I think of taking back our rivers in Pittsburgh, and changing it around there. And Paul, I know you were around for that as well, right?

Paul:                

I was actually at the groundbreaking for PNC Park.

Dan:              

Were you really?

Paul:                

Yes. And it was my job to be the personal handler for Vince Lascheid, who was for decades, the organist for the Pittsburgh Pirates, who most people don't know lives on, digitally only. God bless Mr. Lascheid, he left us several years ago. The Pirates however recorded, I think pretty much everything he ever played. And somebody pushes a button somewhere in PNC Park when they want Vince Lascheid and out comes some organ music.

Dan:                

Right. Well, you know, it's not just baseball and football stadiums that helped turn around this city here. Really it was the medical and the tech boom. And those hospitals are still around.

Paul:                

And also energy.

Dan:                

Energy as well, that's right. That's correct. Yeah, that's one thing we'd be remiss to say, in the 2010s it was really the shale industry as it exploded here in this region. You know, we're sitting on top of some valuable resources, especially in the rural parts, that's valuable land out there.

Paul:                

We got gas, Dan. And we have the okay kind.

Dan:                

Right, the okay kind.

Paul:                

At least in terms of economic activity.

Dan:                

Yeah. It's better, let's put it that way. It's better, it might not be perfect, probably another 30 years from now we're going to be seeing a different type of energy. But for right now, it's I guess let the good times roll on that. But as we mentioned as well, the tech industry was a big part of what helped turned around the city in terms of how I think the rest of the country views it. And just in terms of the type of people that are attracted to it right now, it's a younger place. Logan, I think you'd agree with that. Slightly younger.

Logan:             

Yeah, yeah, no, definitely. And we've been able to kind of make Pittsburgh a healthcare hub, a cluster where we kind of finally have a face to a name as a sector or an industry. We have a lot of major healthcare players here. But as you noted, have a lot of tech companies coming in, especially to the Strip District. I mean, we have Uber here.

Dan:                

We have Apple.

Logan:             

Yeah, Apple.

Paul:                

We have the Facebook Oculus unit, the VR unit is based here.

Logan:             

Oh, I see. I didn't even know that. We have ARGO-

Paul:                

Stick with me Logan, you'll learn something.

Logan:             

Yeah, so we have a lot of tech companies coming in and-

Paul:                

Let's not forget, Duolingo.

Logan:             

Yeah, no, can't forget Duolingo.

Paul:                

Recently acknowledged as the first unicorn in Pittsburgh.

Dan:                

That's correct, and that's fantastic for them. That's so exciting to see. I've used their app before and it's a very fun way to try to learn a language. And it's useful, and so we're thrilled to see that for a company from here that really got its start here as well.

Paul:                

I'm waiting for the Yinzer language translation.

Dan:                

Exactly.

Paul:                

They have many languages on there and they roll out new languages quite frequently.

Dan:               

"Oh, it's slippy outside," you know?

Paul:               

That's right.

Dan:                

Try to pronounce that. What does that mean? But yeah, again, I suppose whenever I said earlier that we are a younger place, it might seem that way, but we really haven't made the population gains just yet. We've got a census coming up that'll probably explain a little more in detail of where we're at. But you know, I think there's a foundation that's being built here that they can use going forward. And basically it's going to be, as always in Pittsburgh, how these public/private partnerships work together to help foster new people coming to the city and just keeping those brains that come out of universities like Pitt and CMU, keeping them in town to build companies like Duolingo.

Paul:                

Yeah. And Duolingo for instance, has had a very well recognized campaign in San Francisco, a billboard campaign essentially saying if you lived in Pittsburgh you could afford this kind of a house, and you could do this and you could do that, in order to recruit talent. And that's been somewhat successful over the years. But if you think about Pittsburgh for a moment, kind of like a forest, get that picture in your mind, what you're saying Dan, is a lot of the older trees obviously they're dying. And as they come down in the forest, the forest is still smaller.

Paul:                

The population though, makes sense, it's the young trees. And so what we're seeing now is while the population of the city of Pittsburgh continues to shrink sadly, the population overall is younger. And one of the reasons is people who grew up in the region, but also people who have moved to the region just like you said, for the hipster vibe. We probably don't have enough man buns and pickle shops. But hey, we got charcuterie and we got all kinds of great restaurants and the club scene is okay. Right, Logan? I mean it's not New York, okay.

Logan:             

No, it's not New York, it's not LA, but you can have fun on weekends.

Dan:                

It's a cool place to be.

Paul:                

Yeah. So there's potential there, right, Dan?

Dan:                

Absolutely.

Paul:                

But there's still a lot of work that needs to be done if this is going to be sustainable and if we're going to grow.

Dan:               

That's right. And while it's exciting to see neighborhoods like Lawrenceville and the Strip District grow and become certainly different places from the way they were even at the beginning of the 2010s, or going back to the year 2000 itself. We'd be remiss to say, to leave out that this has also had an adverse effect on a lot of our population here. The housing in some of these neighborhoods is just untenable anymore. If you build these beautiful looking new apartment complexes, they are affordable only to a certain segment, and these are the challenges that are going to be facing Pittsburgh going forward here.

Dan:                

And just recently even, we had a really interesting and a really sobering development within the city government here where the city council voted to declare racism a public health crisis in Pittsburgh. And that sounds a little shocking, it sounds to some people like it might be extreme, but the stats here are, they came from a-

Paul:                

They're hard to argue with.

Dan:                

Exactly. Came from a report from Pitt earlier this year and again it's, they're hard to argue with. This is from a Post-Gazette article here, really helpful to kind of pull this out. I believe it's from the December 5th issue here, "African Americans compared to whites are living shorter lives, more due to conditions like heart disease rather than violence. They're suffering higher rates of infant mortality and extreme low birth weight. They're five times as likely to grow up in poverty."

Paul:                

You know, I came to Pittsburgh in '94, returned back here after living elsewhere, and I have to say that a lot of the statistics in that most recent report sadly build on earlier reports, some done by the same department at Pitt. And in some ways some things have gotten worse, and people from Pittsburgh are proud generally speaking of their hometown. As you pointed out though, Dan, we've got enormous pockets of, I would say embarrassing lack of economic attainment, that aligns with race and ethnicity. And that is just not the kind of place that I think any of us would want this region to be.

Paul:                

And it relates to some of the other things we talked about a few minutes ago, such as building a workforce of the future. If you're going to leave a significant percentage of the population that already lives in the region behind in terms of educational and economic attainment, how are you going to build the best region you can build for the future?

Dan:                

That's correct. And I think maybe the line that really describes this the best, this comes from Councilman Ricky Burgess, who is also a reverend within the city here. He was one of the authors of the bill that declared racism a public health crisis, and he said, "America's most livable city is also the least livable city for African Americans," and that's a hard thing to hear. And look, we three are three white men. We frankly we were born with a lot of privilege here. And I think an important... bills like this are important to try to set up structures that will help lift up all Pittsburghers, that will try to create an equal playing ground here for whenever people are born and whatnot.

Dan:                

And an important thing for people who are like ourselves here who, we've got certain just built in advantages. You got to listen, and have to understand some of these issues that are affecting segments of our society. And so whenever you see a great new apartment building going up in the Strip or another great new tech startup that's doing great but maybe only employees 40 to 50 people, need to understand that we're not... And need to try to make efforts to not leave behind everyone. People who are in poverty, people who are in these neighborhoods that are being a little left behind.

Paul:                

This is probably the most important issue the region needs to grapple with in the views of many leaders in the region. And really today in the podcast episode as we talk about Pittsburgh of the future, I believe personally this will be the most important measure of whether the next decade is successful, whether or not we've been able to address this problem.

Dan:                

That's correct. And we're going to be jumping into our next segment here pretty soon about Pittsburgh in the 2020s, but let's make sure that we don't forget these points as we discuss the exciting things that are coming. And hopefully again, measures like this that were just passed by city council, that they can help assist all Pittsburghers and again, make us a more perfect city going forward.

Dan:                

All right, Paul, Logan, we're going to talk about Pittsburgh in the 2020s now here. Again, an exciting time because Pittsburgh has come a long way in the past 20 years here, and this next decade, by the time we reach 2029 this place could look very different right now. And a lot of the stuff has already been kickstarted here, and within the next couple of years we're going to see this city is just going to look very, very different. And that's with a lot of big developments coming to the city, right?

Paul:                

Yeah. You know, we sat down and we did a preliminary list and we have half a dozen major regional developments that are coming up. Starting with the airport, which is a multibillion dollar renovation. When people enter the airport, it's going to be something they see immediately, because a lot of what's there now is coming down, going to be replaced with something very different.

Paul:                

You got the cracker plant, which if you travel the Southern beltway from the turnpike from the West down towards the airport, you are going to cross the river and you're going to see the cracker plant. It explodes on you in terms of its stature on the landscape, and you see this $5 billion infrastructure, and we really don't know how that's going to change things. Personally, in the last segment we talked about my eight decades of perspective, so I can remember when, to give the listeners a sense of how things have changed around here, because I think far too often we think things haven't changed in Pittsburgh. In an earlier job I was working around the closing of what was the cracker plant at the time, the Nabisco Bakery, which is now Bakery Square, and is the center and hub of most of the tech investment in Pittsburgh.

Dan:                

Which is where I used to live.

Paul:                

And people were gnashing their teeth at the time, understandably so. People in the Nabisco plant lost their jobs, but it was hard for people to see what that could possibly become. And now Google's there and a lot of other companies, it's been an amazing transformation. So we really don't know with this other cracker plant, which is not really baking cookies.

Dan:                

For natural gas, correct?

Paul:                

It's cracking the natural gas stream to create the basic ingredients to create plastics and a wide variety of other chemicals. We really don't know what's going to happen. I do think it's kind of interesting though, kind of the dichotomy, if the region's experience with what happened in Bakery Square is a good predictor that could be a really, really major difference.

Dan:                

Right. Well, I mean the cracker plant as you mentioned, I mean that's a significantly different industry. And this is adjacent to manufacturing, these are going to be more blue collar jobs, which is something that's been missing in American society here for quite a while since the 2000s here, and especially in our region since the collapse of the steel industry in the 80s. A lot of these big plants that require maybe skilled workers, people that aren't going to be sitting around coding all day, but they are very worthwhile jobs. They're jobs that are hopefully going to pay well.

Dan:                

This is going to be a massive plant. If anybody has not been up there, the size of this thing is just gigantic. So you have to assume that some people in our region are going to benefit from this. So that's an exciting thing to see, whether you agree with the environmental consequences or not, but this is going to be something hopefully positive for the region. As is the airport, as you just mentioned. People don't quite realize what it will be like to have a first-class landside terminal out here, and the improvements won't just be on that terminal, it will also be throughout the rest of the airport.

Dan:                

And hopefully we bring in more direct routes, and that has a great economic boost on the region here. More companies will be interested if they can get out here quicker from where their headquarters are, or perhaps they'll set a headquarters here knowing that they can get to other parts of the country easier. And that's going to be another, it's an expensive project but I think a lot of it is being paid for by say the airlines, and other non-public sources, and it's going to be useful for whenever it comes around, and it's going to be a huge part of Pittsburgh's future.

Paul:                

An important aspect of the major projects that are going to start to come online in the next year or so is how many are actually within the city limits. And when we talked about six or so major projects, we've talked about two, four are actually within the city.

Dan:                

That's right, yeah. Some huge stuff coming up here. One that was in the news story just recently is the big redevelopment that is happening at the Civic Arena, the former Civic Arena site I should say. But First National Bank is going to build an office tower out there, about 24 stories, so it might peek over the top and we might get another little part of our skyline here in Pittsburgh. But that's an exciting thing to see, it's good to know that big Pittsburgh company is going to be staying here, and a building like that will help anchor what they hope to be another great development, another great place for entertainment, retail, even residential areas, here in the city. And so that's exciting to see that that's starting up.

Dan:                

Some other big developments that we should see over 2020, the Hazelwood site that has been talked about for a long time. You know, we figure by 2029 there has going to be something there. It will no longer be a rusted frame of what was once a steel mill. The Strip District, they are well on the way to building up what was the produce terminal, and that development is only going to go straight down to the river. It's beyond just that, so hopefully within a couple of years, less than that, we're going to have a really exciting place in the Strip District to go. It's already a fun neighborhood, so I hope it retains some of that great personality that it has. I know Logan, you feel the same way.

Logan:             

Yeah, definitely. Specifically on the strip that's a great area to go. It has such a rich and varied history, and now culturally, retail and just kind of going there on the weekends. But yeah, as you said, there's a lot of great developments coming there. And you know, it's nice to see these apartments maybe bringing in a more polished clientele to some areas of Pittsburgh. And as we talked about, we kind of have to strike a balance with that. But definitely it'll be interesting to see, and I definitely want to see it keep that personality that you mentioned.

Dan:                

The other development that I wanted to bring up that is within the city limits here, and could be the most visually arresting of them all, would be in the Chateau neighborhood on the North Side just up from the casino a little bit, we've got a developer who wants to build a beach, a lagoon, and a Ferris Wheel on the North Shore. Which would be kind of nuts, but it would actually be pretty cool if it gets done, I'm still a little dubious about it, but-

Paul:                

In PR, we call it unique, not nuts.

Dan:                

I like nuts. I think we can be the agency of nutso. We can kind of go crazy.

Paul:                

No, you know, there's reasons to do what they're doing. And certainly, one of the things we've talked about in today's episode is the perceptions of Pittsburgh over time. And you certainly wouldn't think about there being a beach in Pittsburgh. And the jury's still out. Let's see how it gets built and take a look at the lagoon. Certainly though, a Ferris wheel. Ferris wheels have a lot of history in Pittsburgh.

Dan:                

That's right. The first Ferris wheel, I don't know if it was ... but George Ferris was from Pittsburgh.

Paul:                

Yes, he was from Pittsburgh. So technically invented here, so there is some unity of theme and thought there. With the Civic Arena site and also with the Chateau development, what we're really seeing, akin to what I mentioned earlier about the Nabisco cracker plant, is the fulfillment of a long term promise. The Civic Arena site belongs in terms of development to the Penguins, and it's been a long time coming to get that site redeveloped. A big part of the goal for the community is to reconnect the Hill District back to Downtown. So there's a lot of hope for that and I think that's really a very exciting development to see take shape as we begin the 2020s.

Dan:                

One more development that has been in the news lately that would be ... this would take us almost into like a Star Trek type of future here, except that we-

Paul:                

It will take us into another time zone, Dan.

Dan:                

Yeah, you're right. It would take us into the Midwest.

Paul:               

Chicago.

Dan:                

The proposed Hyperloop transportation system. This is basically high-speed rail on steroids. It would be a somewhat like a train, but it goes inside of a tube type of situation. That's a low pressure tube. Take you up to 500 miles an hour, which as you put, would get you to Youngstown very quickly. But this would actually take-

Paul:                

Yes, you would sneeze and you'd be in Youngstown.

Dan:                

Right, yeah. This would take you between Chicago to Cleveland to Pittsburgh in less than an hour, actually. Pittsburgh to Chicago in less than an hour is impressive.

Paul:                

And it would only cost $47 billion.

Dan:                

Right, yeah. Which is a little bit of scratch, but with inflation I think everybody will be making a little more by 2029. But obviously this is something that's a long way away. You know, it would have to get government approval. Basically what we have had lately are just feasibility studies. But at a certain point, infrastructure will have to change in this country here. And high-speed rail is something that's been thought about in other parts of the country, obviously California has had its ups and downs with it for sure. But it's something, if anybody's had a chance to go overseas, I've been on some high speed rail in Italy, I'll be taking a trip to Japan later this year with my wife and we're going to be, we've already get some tickets to take some of the high-speed rail between some of our destinations. And it's a really, it is an efficient way to get around, and it's a lower cost alternative to air travel.

Paul:                

It can be.

Dan:                

It can be.

Paul:                

And there's also environmental benefits potentially.

Dan:                

Sure.

Paul:                

I was talking to somebody the other day, a friend, and my wife and I, we have a daughter who lives in Chicago and my wife was lamenting that if there are ever grandchildren, that it would be difficult to be there for the grandchildren.

Dan:                

Right, you've got a daughter in Chicago, right?

Paul:                

Somebody was talking about the Hyperloop and said, "What's the big problem? Grandma can jump on the train in the morning and be there in time to take care of the kids."

Dan:                

Right. Well I think-

Paul:                

That sounds weird, but that might be possible.

Dan:                

That would be pretty cool, yeah. Just take a day trip over to Chicago, come home, be snug in your bed later in the day. I think the earliest they would begin building sections of this would be in the late 2020s here. And I believe even Chicago to Cleveland would be the first stage of putting this together. It's fun to think of, this Jetsons-like future. Obviously not flying cars, but the idea of a Hyperloop is definitely something you'd think of in mostly science fiction, but eventually these things will come to pass. And it would be really neat if Pittsburgh were at the forefront of something like this, and it would only again, provide a big boost to the city.

Paul:                

Yeah. And just again, as I said earlier in the episode, as the person with eight decades in perspective here, let's just remember when the Nabisco cracker plant closed down, it was extremely difficult for us to see what the future was going to be like. And now Bakery Square is a technology industry magnet. So these things that we've talked about in today's episode, we can't predict the future, but if we look at the past and how things have changed, we can be pretty darn hopeful.

Dan:                

Right. So I guess the only prediction is we don't know what's going to happen by the time 2029 rolls around, but we're excited for that.

Logan:             

Centuries before cell phones and social media, human connections were made around fires as we shared the stories that shaped our world. Today, stories are still the most powerful way to move hearts and minds and inspire action. At WordWrite, Pittsburgh's largest independent public relations agency, we understand that before you had a brand, before you sold any product or service, you had a story. WordWrite helps clients to uncover their own Capital S story, the reason someone would want to buy, work, invest or partner with you, through our patented Storycrafting process. Visit wordwritepr.com to uncover your Capital S story.

Logan:             

Hey everybody, we're here with Steve Soboslai, lead singer and guitarist of Punchline out of Belle Vernon, a band that's done some crazy things over the past 20 years that they've been playing. Steve, thanks for being here.

Steve:              

Thanks for having me, Logan.

Logan:             

Yeah, happy to have you. We also have my colleague Robin, who's been a longtime fan of Punchline, here to give her insights as a fan.

Robin:             

Yeah, I'm pretty excited. My favorite band Punchline, I met them back in 2006 when they had opened up for Taking Back Sunday. So I've been a huge supporter of the band for since 2006.

Steve:              

Thank you for your support, your constant support.

Robin:             

Yeah.

Logan:             

So as I said, you guys have been around for quite some time. Could you just give us a brief background of how you guys initially formed and what the story's been since then?

Steve:              

Right. So, we have been around a long time, 20 plus years and that's because this is virtually the first band that we started. We had two other bands that we started and kind of fizzled out, but Punchline was the first band that we ever played more than one show with. And I feel like a lot of bands as they got more serious would have changed their name, but we just kind of always stuck with our name. And we've put out, I think our next full length album will be our 10th record, aside from there's a bunch of EPs and singles and all that kind of stuff too.

Steve:              

But our story is that we formed in high school, and then we got more serious when we went to college and developed a fan base in Pittsburgh, which we've been super thankful to have. Thank you, Pittsburgh, if you're listening. And after the following in Pittsburgh developed, then we moved on to playing outside of Pittsburgh, which kind of grew into getting a booking agent, getting a record deal. Started touring the U.S., we made a couple of trips to Japan, we've been to Japan four times, and we've toured the UK twice.

Steve:              

So I lived in Nashville for about five years, and when I moved back, that was about two and a half years ago, and at that point we said, "You know what? Let's kind of revamp this Punchline thing and do it like we haven't done it in years," and we put out a record called Lion that was self-produced. And in the last two years we've done more touring than we have in the last probably eight years.

Logan:             

Wow, that's great.

Steve:              

Went out and we toured with the Gin Blossoms, we toured with Less Than Jake, we toured with The Spill Canvas. And it was really great to get back out there and see what can we do in the year 2019 and in the year 2020, to really make an impact like we never have before.

Logan:             

Yeah, that's great. And so how was that experience coming back after that break and touring LION? Did you see that it was a lot of your fans that kind of grew up with your music coming back? Or did you see an influx of younger fans in the crowd too?

Steve:              

So what I'll say about that is this: the band Gin Blossoms that we toured with, I'm sure that people listening have heard of them. They have five mega hit songs including Hey, Jealousy, Follow You Down and Found Out About You, which is a song that we covered on an EP that we put out last year called Songs From '94, which covers of all songs from 1994. I remember maybe a decade ago we became friends with the Gin Blossoms through an old manager that we had. I remember talking with the singer and he was telling us how they took a really long break from playing music, maybe they took 10 years off. They had these two huge albums, and then they took all this time off.

Steve:              

And when they stepped back into the touring circuit and into making new music, you would think, well yeah I mean they can just step back in and they'll be at the top of the charts and people will be coming to their shows because everyone loves those hit songs, and it's not really the case. They really had to like rebuild things for themselves. And I saw it over the course of the last 10 years. When they came back to it, they were playing like Rib fests and playing these more like you know, county fairs. And then a couple years later they were doing more prominent festivals. And I think it was last summer, we played a show with them. I looked at Robin, she confirmed it was last summer.

Robin:             

It was last summer, yep.

Steve:              

And last summer they had 3000 people there at Stage AE. And I talked with the singer after and he said, "Steve, we could have not have done this 10 years ago," and it's been just stepping back into the ring and kind of building back up. And over the last couple of years, that's been really inspiring for me. We're a much smaller band, but kind of in the same way stepping back into it. You can pick up kind of where you feel like you might have left off, and start building back up. So we've been doing just that and I think it's been a very fruitful for us. And that is the answer to that question.

Logan:             

I'm sure it's cool kind of stepping back into that circuit. Like you said, working your way up, getting through those bigger venues, more prominent venues. And I'm sure, Robin, I'm sure you're dying to hear some new music from Punchline.

Robin:             

Oh yeah. I listen to them almost every day, so yeah. What can we expect in the new year? I saw that you had traveled this summer, I think you went to a campsite or a cabin, right? To record new music?

Steve:              

Yeah. We rented an Airbnb in Amish country in central PA, Woodward, PA, and we had a long weekend of just being creative and coming up with new songs. Kind of just jamming, as they say, which it's hard to find the time to do that. Just getting together and being creative is such a beautiful thing, as opposed to like, "Okay, we're together now. We have to do this thing. We have to go play this show," but just having time to be like, "Let's see what we can come up with." So that was a great trip, and since then we went to Chicago and we recorded three new songs that we're going to be releasing in the new year.

Robin:             

Are we going to hear them in the January show?

Steve:              

We talked about playing one of them. One of the songs, the first one that's done, it's kind of a sequel to Friend From The Future from our last album, and I'm really excited about that. I'm not going to call it a full on sequel because I don't think song sequels necessarily exist, and that makes it sound like ... it's just, it's inspired by that song, kind of picked up where that one left off and kept going with it. It's pretty neat. I don't know if we're going to play it in the new year, but I think that it's going to come out shortly into 2020.

Robin:             

I have so many memories from, I've been to almost, I can't say all of them, but I've been to almost every single Punchline show since I've met you guys in 2006. And one of my favorite memories is when you played one of your anniversary shows and you played 37 songs and it was incredible. So I'm really excited for this anniversary CD, especially I mentioned before that one of my favorite lyrics is on this record. So I'm excited about the show.

Steve:              

Nice. Well we've been putting in a lot of work to refamiliarize ourselves with, she's talking about this album Delightfully Pleased that came out in 2010, so 2020 is the 10 year anniversary of that. And on January 3rd we're going to do a show at the Rex where we play the whole album front to back plus a couple of other songs. So we've been kind of getting back into Delightfully Pleased mode, getting familiar with the songs and we've been practicing a lot and we're really excited. I feel like we're going to do the album justice, and not just go up there and play the songs. We're trying to be really thoughtful about how to do it. I think you'll like it.

Robin:             

I'll love it.

Logan:             

Okay, Steve. Well we can obviously tell that Robin is very excited about the January show as she should be. It should be a great time at the Rex Theater, again on January 3rd. And we know that you have a song you want to play us out with today. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Steve:              

Yeah, so the song is called Darkest Dark, and I think it was last year we released a music video for it that was shot in Pittsburgh.

Robin:             

At Kennywood.

Steve:              

Yeah, it was shot at Kennywood and all over the city. It's our tribute to Pittsburgh. We had this director capture Pittsburgh in a really beautiful way, so I would urge you to also check out the music video, the song is called Darkest Dark.

Logan:             

That sounds great. Once again, Steve, thanks so much for being here. We really appreciate you coming in.

Robin:             

Thank you, Steve.

 

Ep 8 – Small Talk and Big Ideas

P100-twitter-20191210.png

When we go on about pizza and the weather, you might think it’s going to be a quiet episode of the P100 Podcast, but our guests this week have anything but small talk to offer.

• Nick Bogacz, founder of the award-winning Caliente Pizza & Draft House, has put Pittsburgh pizza on the global map, and he shares his story with us.

• Tom Baker, an Allegheny councilman whose work with nonprofits in the region is an inspiration, talks about setting goals.

• We examine whether the winter weather forecast’s a foregone conclusion.

• We’ve got a preview of The Pittsburgh 100’s exciting gift issue.

 

This episode is sponsored by WordWritePR:

Centuries before cellphones and social media, human connections were made around fires, as we shared the stories that shaped our world. Today, stories are still the most powerful way to move hearts, minds and inspire action.

At WordWrite, Pittsburgh’s largest independent public relations agency, we understand that before you had a brand before you sold any product or service, you had a story.

WordWrite helps clients to uncover their own Capital S Story – the reason someone would want to buy, work, invest or partner with you through our patented StoryCrafting process. Visit wordwritepr.com to uncover your Capital S story.

Transcript:

 

Logan:             

You're listening to the P100 Podcast, the biweekly companion piece to The Pittsburgh 100. Bringing you Pittsburgh news, culture, and more, because sometimes 100 words just isn't enough for a great story.

Dan:                

Hey everybody welcome back to the P100 Podcast. I am your host, Dan Stefano. I'm here with Paul Furiga.

Paul:                

Hey there, Dan.

Dan:                

And Logan Armstrong.

Logan:             

Let’s get it started Dan.

Dan:                

Let’s get it started. Okay, well we got a fun episode for everybody today. For starters, we're going to talk a little bit about a special gift giveaway…

Paul:                

Yes.

Dan:                

... that we're going to be providing through…

Paul:                

Stay tuned for the special four letter word I have for you.

Dan:                

...through the P100 Podcast, and The Pittsburgh 100. Something special we're doing for the holidays here and we're really excited about. Following up after that we're going to be talking with Nick Bogacz of Caliente Pizza & Draft House, who is far more than just a pizza business owner, but they are definitely successful at that. So we'll be interested to learn more about the pizza business.

Paul:                

Yes. He wrote the book on that.

Dan:                

Absolutely, he did actually.

Logan:             

Literally.

Dan:                

Yeah, quite literally. Following that we're going to be talking with Tom Baker, who's an Allegheny County Councilman, but he does a lot more in the community.

Paul:                

So much more.

Dan:                

And we're going to be talking about goal setting, which is popular this time of year. A lot of people are thinking of new year's resolutions, but he goes a lot deeper into it. He's really got a lot of great insight into leadership.

Paul:                

Leadership, yeah.

Dan:                

And after that we're just going to chat about the weather.

Paul:                

I mean, because why not? We always chat about the weather.

Logan:             

We are in Pittsburgh.

Paul:                

We're in Pittsburgh.

Dan:                

Yeah and we're going to talk about the weather and that, but. We go a little bit deeper into that, and then somehow it devolves into a conversation about baseball. But yeah, everybody…

Paul:                

Stay with us, it makes sense.

Dan:                

Yeah. As Logan would say, buckle in, let's get it started, and thanks for being with us.

Paul:                

All right, listen up podcast fans. I have a four letter word for you.

Dan:                

Be careful.

Paul:                

It starts with F, but it ends with E. The word is, free.

Dan:             

Okay.

Logan:             

Now you're speaking my language.

Paul:                

There you go.

Dan:                

My language is the other four letter word, but we'll, yeah.

Paul:                

We're not going to have that. That's been edited out, Dan. So Pittsburgh 100 fans, P100 Podcast fans, we are giving away, thanks to our very generous sponsors, a wide array of fantastic gifts. All you have to do, we're all about 100 here, tell us in 100 words or so ... we got Dan here, Dan's a great editor, he'll make sure every one of our Pittsburgh 100 stories is exactly 100 words, we're not going to hold you to that. But what we want to know from you is, why is Pittsburgh such a great place and why should people want to come visit Pittsburgh? We'll explain this in our next issue. You send an email with your 100 or so words of why you love Pittsburgh to [email protected] Correct, Dan?

Dan:                

That's correct.

Paul:                

We've got some great prizes. Dan, tell us about those prizes.

Dan:                

Yeah, it's a great list here. Lots of, pretty varied, I'd say. Runs the gamut from gift cards and some actual real tangible gifts. But really popular, well-known institutions around the area like Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, passes to Kennywood, gift certificates to restaurants, like Caliente Pizza, which we'll talk about them a little bit more in this episode.

Paul:                

That's right. More in this episode.

Dan:                

Restaurants at the Waterfront, tickets to Arcade Comedy, tickets to River City Brass, which that's a little bit of a shameless plug because our man Paul here has something to do with that, right?

Paul:                

I'm on the board and I am actually a recovering tuba player.

Dan:                

Wait, okay. Not recovering. Come on. Yeah.

Paul:                

Well, I get it out every now and then but it..

Dan:                

Retired.

Paul:                

... it does scare the cat and the dog at home, so.

Dan:                

One of these days I'm going to hear you on the tuba. It's going to be great.

Paul:                

Yes. We'll put that on the podcast.

Dan:                

But also our top gift will be a stay at a Pittsburgh hotel and that's from our friends at VisitPittsburgh.

Paul:                

Unbelievable that folks, if nothing else, enjoy the opportunity for a great meal and a stay in this wonderful place we call home.

Logan:             

Yeah, and we'll have all the details and more, as Paul said, in our upcoming issue of The Pittsburgh 100. Tell you how to enter, some of the prizes we’re giving away, and what you need to do to find yourself with a few extra gifts this holiday season.

Dan:                

Right yeah. The contest will be running through December 19th. After that our panel of judges will take a look and that will..

Paul:                

Our esteemed panel of judges.

Dan:                

Esteemed, right. I don't think I've ever been called esteemed before, but.

Paul:                

You could be called many things.

Dan:                

And again, you will send your award entry, your little story or 100 word story to [email protected] So again, we'll tell you more about it in our next issue on December 12th, but we're excited about it. Start thinking folks, start writing.

Logan:             

Hi everybody. We're back with a special guest on this segment of the podcast. You may know him from winning Best Pizza in America this year at The World Pizza championships in Parma, Italy, Nick Bogacz, owner of Caliente Pizza & Draft House here in Pittsburgh. How you doing Nick?

Nick:                

Great. Thanks for having me today.

Logan:             

Yeah, sure thing. Thanks for being here. So for those unfamiliar with Caliente, you have five locations in the greater Pittsburgh region.

Nick:                

Yup.

Logan:             

How long ago did that start and can you give us a brief background of how that got started and what you're doing now with Caliente?

Nick:                

Sure. So September 2012, I took the plunge and opened up my own business. I always wanted to have my own pizzeria. I worked in the business for about 16 years before then and we opened up in Bloomfield. Over the last almost, I guess seven years, we've opened up five locations.

Logan:             

So five locations over the past seven years. That's a pretty spectacular growth rate. What are some of the things that you did that you thought were unique to Caliente's building a brand that you utilized to grow that fast?

Nick:                

I think a lot of it was we weren't locked into anything in particular. We pivoted a lot while we were branding, and marketing, and opening up Caliente. A lot of times I think entrepreneurs have a set way of how they want to do things and they think, "This is how it has to be done." But then once you're in the grind of it every day, there are certain things you're like, "Hey, wait a second, I want to be this pizzeria and get known for my pizza." But the reality is we're a bar and craft beer is such a big, big presence here in western Pennsylvania, especially at that time seven years ago, that we latched on to craft beer and became one of the top destinations for craft beer in Pittsburgh. So we let that kind of be our brand for probably the first three or four years. Then when we started winning competitions, we got to be known for our pizza, so our brand kind of switched to being really known for the pizza. Now in the last year or so, we've been trying to really blend those both together to get known for both.

Logan:             

Mh-hmm, right. Yeah, well, you're still doing a lot of great things with craft beer. Just a recently released collaboration with Hoppin' Frog Brewery, out of Ohio, came out just a few weeks ago. Is that correct?

Nick:                

Yeah, that's correct. That was probably our 11th collaboration we've done over the last seven years. We're really working behind the scenes to have our own brewery as well. That's on the horizon for 2020. So I think there's a lot of different things that we're trying to do with the beer still, we never forget that that's what helped build the brand in the beginning. I think we're just happy that the pizza's been doing so well too. From the very beginning, people would come in, they'd get the craft beer, and then they'd eat the pizza, say, "Boy, I thought it was going to be bar food, but this pizza's fantastic." Now it's not just Pittsburgh's secret, we're internationally known as well.

Dan:                

Yeah talking about international, you guys obviously went out and done a lot of great stuff at The World Pizza Championships. What has been happening lately then in terms of the international travels of the Caliente crew there?

Nick:                

Sure. So we just got back about four days ago from London and there was an international competition over there. It was a great learning experience. A lot of times we go to these different competitions you're using ovens that you never used before, judges that don't speak English. You would think in London they'd have English speaking judges but they were Italian judges. So you know a great learning experience over there. We traveled with The World Pizza team, which is about 35 representatives from across the country. So guys that have been in the business a long time or guys who have a lot of different kind of locations. They may have slice shops or they may have shops in the stadiums across the country, you pick up different people's expertise when you're traveling with that team. I just think we've really done a good job of representing Pittsburgh, especially when we were back in Parma, in Italy, back in April. I thought we did a great job over there, come back with Best Pizza in America. So I think it's just been, the international part, it's been a lot of travel this year. Before this, I had never left the country, so three times in one year. I'm definitely getting the frequent flyer miles in.

Dan:                

Fantastic.

Logan:             

Yeah, you're not doing bad. You've had a lot of success outside of the World Pizza Championships as well. But back to growing Caliente. I know you talk a lot about building a team and kind of some unique things that you've done as the leader and owner of Caliente that you believe have really propelled your business and brand further than others. Whether it's with how you treat your employees or how you're running operations, and you're talking about a lot of these things in your new podcast, The Business Equation.

Nick:                

Yes. I wrote a book called The Pizza Equation. It's on Amazon, it released in February. After I released it, I had a very successful book tour out in Las Vegas signing books and I've got another signing coming up here in about two weeks in Chicago. So that went really well and I said, "You know what, if I'm selling the pizza book in my industry, what if I took my small business tips and started to share them with the world?" That's why I wanted to go ahead and start The Business Equation Podcast.

Nick:                

Each week is a different tip or tactic. It's a 15 to 25 minute podcast that's just me talking about, "Hey, this is how we handle staffing and our issue," or, "This is how we handle staffing in our store, in our company." They're not quite pizza specific. We talk a lot about different topics. Another one that we talked about was cashflow. I think it's important for a small business. A lot of times you don't understand how cashflow works. It's just a big term or maybe there's a college book that you read about it. But in the real world there's a lot of different tactics you can use for cashflow. I get into that real in depth. I think what The Business Equation Podcast has done is, it's that real world I'm out there living it. It's not what you learn in college, it's not what's in a book. It's a lot of, "Hey, this is what I tried and it worked."

Dan:                

That sounds like some pretty awesome stuff there on The Business Equation Podcast then. So we definitely recommend anybody who's a budding business owner listening here today to subscribe to that and listen. We'd also recommend that they get out to the Caliente shops, especially for this time of year because it's the holidays and you guys have some fun stuff going on, right?

Nick:                

Yeah. This is our second annual food drive. Last year, I don't know quite how many pounds of food we collected, but we had a full suburban full of canned goods. So from now till Christmas we have where you can bring in three canned goods, give them to any Caliente employee and they'll give you a free cheesy bread for your next order, and it all goes to the Pittsburgh public food bank.

Logan:             

That's excellent. Speaking of contributing things to the community, you also have been generous enough to contribute a $50 gift card to any of your Caliente locations for our gift issue this year. We're giving away gifts, thanks to our generous friends and sponsors.

Dan:                

Yeah. As we talked about in the opening segment here, basically all people have to do is send an email to [email protected] telling us about why Pittsburgh, why you love it so much or why it's home for the holidays in 100 words or less. You can get that Caliente gift card that will be one of the gifts that you could possibly get out of that. Nick, we appreciate you playing a part in our gift giving issue here.

Nick:                

Yeah, absolutely. Happy to do it.

Logan:             

Yeah. So Nick, to finish up your work, can everybody find Caliente on socials and where can they learn more about The Business Equation Podcast?

Nick:                

Sure. So The Business Equation Podcast is on all forms, Spotify, Apple, Google Play. Then nickbogaczofficial on Instagram, and then pizzadrafthouse.com, and then calienteandpizzadrafthouse on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. And then like I said, The Pizza Equation is available on Amazon.

Logan:             

Great. And Nick Bogacz here, owner of Caliente Pizza and Draft House. Nick, we appreciate you being here with us.

Nick:                

Thanks for having me.

Dan:                

Thanks man.

Logan:             

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Dan:                

Hey everybody out next guest is Tom Baker. He's an Allegheny County Councilman for District 1, which covers a lot of the western and northern suburbs. But Tom, you're involved in a whole lot more. Lots of nonprofits in the region working with young leaders in the area, and in particular, one of the reasons we want to talk with you today is you're the founder and chief program officer of Get Involved!. That's a nonprofit that educates and empowers young leaders. Tom, thanks for joining us.

Tom:               

Yeah, thanks Dan, thanks Paul. Thanks for having me here. I'm glad to be here with you.

Paul:                

It's great to have you here. Dan, a lesson to be learned, elected officials are people too. They have interests outside of the county council room, right?

Tom:               

We do. Many interests, absolutely. That is true.

Dan:                

This is all new to me. Wow, it's remarkable. I thought they just had letters next to their name and they sat around on boards on all the time. Okay that's…

Paul:                

No.

Dan:                

No, Tom, yeah we do appreciate you being here. Can you tell us a little bit more about Get Involved!?

Tom:               

Sure. So Get Involved!, actually it started as a book in 2008. “Get Involved! Making the Most of Your 20s and 30s” came out and it was a really fun experience. Got the tour of the state, got the tour of the country a little bit talking on college campuses. Your colleague here, Robin Rectenwald, actually worked with us in the early days on getting the word out about Get Involved!. In the end we found that really the mission of the book was a much better fit as a nonprofit organization. We gave it a 501(c)(3) back in 2011.

Tom:               

We've been running the Pittsburgh Service Summit now for 10 years. We just had that event in September, September 12. It was great. We've had a few hundred people at the event every year. It's all about bringing people together. Our hope as Get Involved! is for people to say that they aren't bored in Pittsburgh, but they're on a board of directors in Pittsburgh. That can be a board of directors of a nonprofit that they care about, a young professional board, whatever it is, we want people to get off of their couches and into the community helping other people.

Dan:                

Right. You touched on it, there's a lot of regular events that you guys hold. There's one upcoming really soon, and that's the annual Goal Setting Event that you do. Everybody thinks about this time of year - new year's resolutions. But on January 6th you got a pretty cool one, can you tell us a little bit more about?

Tom:               

Yeah. I will say a few years back I did it for two years on January 1st itself. That was a little aggressive. People were like, "I like your momentum with the goal setting, but let's have it maybe not on New Year's day."

Dan:                

There you go.

Tom:               

So we're doing it on January 6.

Paul:                

They might have been out the night before.

Tom:               

They might’ve been.

Dan:                

The goal setting is get over this hangover. Yeah.

Paul:                

That's right.

Tom:               

So January 6th. A little bit they'll gotten back to work at that point. So the goal really is for people to come that night, and when they come every year, to think about their careers, to think about their civic lives. We talked a little bit about fitness as well and things that they might be doing outside of work and outside of their civic lives. We'll talk about family and making sure that they have good friendships too. We'll have different tables set up again this year with different pockets of their lives and they'll set goals at each little table to figure out what they want to do in 2020. So that night they will leave with hopefully a good sheet of goals in these different parts of their lives and also at least a few dozen accountability partners, people that can keep them accountable to these goals. It's fine to say you want to do things or achieve things, but unless you actually share it with somebody that cares about you it doesn't matter. So we're making sure that they share it with other people in that room that night and that we then become accountability partners for each other through the rest of 2020 together.

Paul:                

Wow. So how has that worked in the past few years that you've been doing this? What sort of results are you seeing?

Tom:               

We see a lot more people getting onto either young professional boards or boards of directors. Being in my professional and civic life with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, we've seen a lot of people step up to become Bigs through the Get Involved! community, which we're very appreciative of. My Littles are now getting pretty old. They're 28, 21, 17, and 14. I don't want to get married again, I've been married happily for 15 years, but if I did, all four of them would be in the wedding. They're all four of the best friends of my life. So it's been an incredible experience through Big Brothers, Big Sisters. Actually my 28 year old Little, that got matched with when he was 10, he is the godfather to our toddler, Lila June. Preston is still one of my best friends. This year he flew back from San Francisco to be the MC of my 40th birthday roast actually, which is really fun. So the friendships that have been…

Paul:                

He had a lot of ammunition there, didn't he Tom?

Tom:               

He did. He has like 18 years’ worth of things to share about me. But it's been wonderful. So if it is serving in an organization like Big Brothers, Big Sisters or some of the other ones that we've been involved with over the years, certainly the goal really is to find their passion. We always say within Get Involved!, if you hit the lottery and you can do whatever you want for the rest of your life to do good, to help other people, something that inspires you, motivates you, just find a way to volunteer and help others.

Tom:               

So I'll just say at the last Power Hour that we had ... so this Goal Setting Party is also known as Power Hour number 72. I will say each Power Hour has fun connotations, but it really is a leadership series, it is a leadership panel, where we bring in different guest speakers. So the goal of each Power Hour really is for people to learn from a couple of different community leaders, get to know each other, and then work together in some fashion. So we've had good success over the years with people getting jobs through the Get Involved! Network, with getting put onto boards, getting appointed to different leadership roles. It's been really wonderful.

Paul:                

Do you think Tom, the timing of the book and the growth of the organization, there's, let’s just say, well it's open to, to everyone, you are really targeting a particular demographic, which is say people of your age group, millennials. Do you see any trends with regard to leadership that are generational?

Tom:               

It's interesting. Starting, we talked about county council, it will be a much younger council come January. I've been the youngest one for the last six years, but there will be one person exactly my age and then two younger. So we are seeing more young people running for office. Even where my wife and I live, all of our elected officials, the two state reps and the Senator where we live, are all younger than me, younger than 40. So we do see more people running for office. But just in general to the school district where we live, when I was on I was the youngest by I think 20 or 30 years. Now there's five people that are all within the same age range in their '30s and even '20s. So you do see more young people running for office.

Tom:               

But in nonprofit boards, I mean nonprofit boards want young people to get involved. That's the fast track leadership program that we do within Get Involved!. That Robin Rectenwald, your colleague and your staff member, Paul, she was actually one of the first graduates of that program years ago. The program, it's always been geared towards just making sure that young people know that nonprofits, community organizations want them. They desperately want them to get involved in their work. I think sometimes a 25-year-old thinks, "I could never be on a nonprofit board. I can't write a $5,000 check or a $1,000 check." But there's so many skill sets, and strategies, and things you can bring to the table that nonprofits desperately want and need for their organizations.

Dan:                

That's fantastic. For a lack of a better way to say this, how does one get involved in Get Involved!?

Tom:               

How do you get involved in Get Involved!? Yes. So we have an active Facebook page. Our website is just getinvolvedinc.org. We do have the event coming up on January 6th. In the course of any given year we'll have another cohort of fast track community leaders next year. In 2020 we'll have four to six Power Hours as well. So by the end of 2020 we'll be up to almost 80 Power Hours that we've done as an organization. Then next year we'll have our 11th annual Pittsburgh Service Summit. So that's a great way to come together and really get to know people here in the community. I will say, anyone that would want to collaborate on events, we love working with other community organizations. We're happy to collaborate and partner with other community groups to do good and to get each other involved in the city.

Dan:                

Right.

Paul:                

That's great. And once again, that website is getinvolvedinc.org.

Tom:               

.org. You got it, yup, yup.

Paul:                

Okay, great.

Dan:                

Right, yeah. Tom, thanks so much for being here, we really appreciate it. Hey everybody, get involved.

Tom:               

Get involved in Get Involved!, yeah.

Dan:                

All right everybody for the last segment today we're going to chat about the weather.

Paul:                

Wither the weather Dan.

Dan:                

Wither the weather. Wow, you've such a way with words.

Paul:                

I'm telling you man. I've withered outside in the weather.

Dan:                

Right, yeah. This is the subject that everybody talks about. You know, you're alone in an elevator with somebody, you got nothing to talk about, you chat about the weather. "Oh, it's a nice day," whatever, but.

Paul:                

That's right.

Dan:                

No, right now we're finally starting to see snowflakes. It's getting cold enough, particularly in the Pittsburgh Metro region we're seeing them. If you're out west or up north you probably…

Paul:                

Out east. East Highlands.

Dan:                

All right, Westmoreland County should not be called Westmoreland County because I always want to call it west.

Paul:                

That's true.

Dan:                

That drives me nuts, but yeah. okay. If you say you're out in Westmoreland, or up north where it's just colder, or you got more hills, you've probably seen a lot more snow so far this year, but.

Paul:                

A little.

Dan:                

I finally had to actually wipe some snow off my windshield over in Mount Lebanon about a week ago and that was something, but. So I got a little curious about the weather. I said, "Okay, what kind of a snowy year are we going to have?" Apparently the Farmer's Almanac, that font of wisdom, said that it's going to be a frigid freezing snowy winter. So I got a little deeper into it and I took a look at the long range weather forecast. So you could check into January, 2020, which obviously isn't that long from now. But they're predicting rain to snow from January 11th to the 14th, it's going to be cold, more snow the week after that, more snow toward the end of January. I've always found this pretty amazing that they can predict this stuff and they claim that it's pretty accurate, it's like 80% accuracy, until I took a deeper dive here. I checked out a little more into, yes. It turns out a study from the University of Illinois, the great meteorologists over there, they say that the Farmer's Almanac's only, say, 50% accurate. The secret formula that these Farmer's Almanacs, which there's a couple of competing ones. I guess there's the Farmer's Almanac…

Logan:             

…competitive landscape, I didn't know that.

Dan:                

... In the old Farmer's Almanac, the old one, yes.

Paul:                

The old Farmer's alm?

Dan:                

Right, yeah.

Paul:                

Is it an old farmer or an old almanac?

Dan:                

I don't. What was it, plural farmers, apostrophe…

Logan:             

Or both.

Dan:                

Farmers apostrophe or is it just one farmer apostrophe S. I guess we have to learn about that. But I always just find this stuff kind of fun and neat to talk about. Regardless, we've got some snow coming up this winter.

Paul:                

Yeah, but apparently there's fake news even in the weather, huh Dan?

Dan:                

Accurate, accurate, yeah.

Logan:             

So it sounds like the Farmer's Almanac is a 50% and they're just flipping a coin and going, "Eh, eh snow."

Dan:                

They call it 80% after that, it's great.

Paul:                

This reminds me of The Wall Street Journal article several years ago where they get all these esteemed prognosticators together about how the stock market will do.

Dan:                

Okay.

Paul:                

And then they gave a monkey darts to throw at a board and the monkey did better in picking stocks apparently than some of the prognosticators. It's the whole field of weather. In Pittsburgh we have some great weather forecasters, personalities, right?

Dan:               

 Absolutely, yeah.

Paul:                

But think of this, what other business could you be in and be wrong 50% of the time and people love you?

Dan:                

You've seen my pitching…

Logan:             

Marketing.

Paul:                

Marketing, not at our firm Logan.

Dan:                

You've seen me pitching to clients, they're pitching to clients stories and stuff. Sometimes you're batting below 500 on that one, but.

Paul:                

Speaking of batting, I mean if we want to be honest about this and maybe something like the Farmer's Almanac is more entertainment than anything else. But when you talk about a very difficult line of work, think about somebody like Ted Williams, the long deceased, but best hitter ever in the history of baseball.

Logan:             

Sure.

Paul:                

I mean the guy had a .400 average. What that means is out of every 10 times he went to the plate, he made an out six times.

Paul:                

So to put things in perspective.

Dan:                

I'd maybe put Pete Rose on that pedestal, but he's not in the Hall of Fame so I guess you can't say anything about it.

Paul:                

I was actually there the night that he broke Ty Cobb's record. But that's another story.

Dan:            

Really? That's impressive. But somehow we got into baseball from a weather conversation here.

Paul:                

What we're talking about is, what the difference is, I mean, I can watch Ted Williams while, I can't watch him, but I can watch a hitter and they're either going to make an out or they're going to get a hit. But what I want to know whether I need to go outside in that and I need to know what to wear, I want a little bit more predictability. Don't I?

Dan:               

Sure. Yeah, well, I would say try to stick with the experts then and maybe you only pay attention, say, a few days in advance because even a seven-day forecast can change pretty quickly.

Paul:                

Yeah, I'm with that.

Logan:             

And we are well beyond 100 words today. Thank you for listening to the P100 Podcast. This has been Dan Stefano, Logan Armstrong, and Paul Furiga. If you haven't yet, please subscribe at p100podcast.com, or wherever you listen to podcasts, and follow us on Twitter @pittsburgh100_ for all the latest news, updates, and more from The Pittsburgh 100.