wind turbines
WindStax makes wind turbines from marine-grade plywood at their workshop in the Strip District.

Mayor Bill Peduto hosted the second of four roundtables on Thursday highlighting innovative organizations in Pittsburgh; this one focused on ways to grow a thriving clean technology industry in the city.

It marked the first time the city has pulled key clean technology leaders together, said Debra Lam, who facilitated the discussion as chief of Innovation and Performance.

The conversation focused on ways to create a successful hub of clean tech companies that would boost the economy and create jobs.

“We have an opportunity in Pittsburgh to change the way we think about energy,” Mayor Bill Peduto told the gathering at his office. “We have opportunities to tap into resources that are here in a city large enough to get world wide recognition and small enough to do it.”

The roundtable, which was private due to space constrictions but was televised on City Cable Channel 13 and live-tweeted, addressed several areas. Among them:

  • Phipps Conservatory Executive Director Richard Piancentini applauded Sustainable Pittsburgh’s drive to promote corporate responsibility though its Champions of Sustainability challenge, a competition that encourages companies to reduce their energy footprint. Building certification programs like the Living Buildings Challenge with its “Red List” of toxic building materials to be avoided also sets the stage for corporate responsibility in development.  “Clearly the world is moving towards these kinds of standards,” said Piancentini. “Pittsburgh can be the center for green healthy products manufacturing and research in the U.S.”
  • GTECH Strategies’ Andrew Butcher and Renewable Manufacturing Gateway’s Walter Burlack pointed out that entrepreneurs and startups need access to venture capital funding to move new technologies forward.   “There’s a real opportunity using the resources in the room and region to generate the kind of fund that attracts small businesses and allows entrepreneurs to create small businesses,” said Butcher who was recently in Amsterdam through the German Marshall Fund where such funding mechanisms are in place.
  • WindStax CEO Ronald Gdovic said his Strip District-based company can barely keep up with the demand for vertical wind towers. The firm has a huge growth potential and projects it will quadruple size. “The trend now is away from centralized power to distributed power,” he said. “Pittsburgh has a core set of skills and skill sets. We can train people here and keep growing.”
  • On the issue of investment capital, Mayor Peduto agreed that a better use of TIF money exists. “When we spend tens of millions of dollars to bring big box retail into a neighborhood, something is absolutely wrong,” he said. “It has to be completely revamped.”

On August 6, a roundtable will be held on co-working and accelerator spaces. Startups will be addressed on Aug. 13. In June, the first roundtable addressed the Maker movement in Pittsburgh.

Deb Smit

Deb is an award-winning journalist who loves ancient places and cool technologies. A former daily newspaper reporter and Time-Life Books editor, she writes mostly about Pittsburgh. Her stories have appeared in Fast Company, Ozy and Pittsburgh Magazine.