The Attractions Of Western Pennsylvania

Friday, July 1, 2011 - 00:00

The Editor interviews Laura E. Ellsworth, Partner-in-Charge of Jones Day's Pittsburgh office.

Editor: As manager of Jones Day's Pittsburgh office you have many responsibilities. What do you consider to be your mandate as head of that office?

Ellsworth: I believe that my mandate is threefold. First, to provide the most effective, efficient and creative customer service that I can for clients. Second, to make sure that the lawyers here are the best they can be, whether that be in substantive legal skills, contribution to the community, or in their professional development and satisfaction. Third, I love the Gandhi quotation that "we must be the change we wish to see in the world." I try to deliver that each day, both personally and professionally.

Editor: You have a new governor, Tom Corbett. What plans does he have to create jobs?

Ellsworth: The governor ran on a platform of making Pennsylvania "open for business" and, since taking office, has made it his very clear mission to increase the business attractiveness of Pennsylvania so as to create jobs in the Commonwealth. In his first budget, he proposed reinstatement of the phase-out of the capital stock and franchise tax, which sends a clear signal that he intends to work toward a more favorable tax climate. He also has taken a strong line against heavy taxation of the oil and gas industry, where the greatest near-term job growth is expected. The Marcellus shale, right under western Pennsylvania, is now recognized as one of the most fertile oil and gas fields in the country, if not the world. In the last year or so, we have witnessed multi-billion-dollar deals in the Marcellus and the influx of major companies, including Shell, Exxon, Chevron and Reliance. Industry service providers are arriving hot on their heels. We are also seeing the flowering of a petrochemical industry, because the Marcellus holds "wet gas" which contains many components that are useful in the chemical manufacturing process. The Marcellus also is expected to spawn a new heavy manufacturing sector, because a proximate source of energy materially reduces the cost of energy by saving transmission costs. Finally, the tremendous abundance of natural gas will drive new technologies, such as natural gas-powered vehicles and water purification systems needed to address the fracking wastewater, creating new jobs in the tech sector.

Another anticipated area of job growth is in transportation and infrastructure. The governor has appointed a Transportation Funding Advisory Commission tasked with identifying up to $2.5 billion in recurring revenue to fund work on roads, bridges, rails and ports. Pittsburgh is located at the confluence of three rivers and is the second busiest inland port in the U.S. It is within 500 miles of more than half the U.S. population. We also have a world-class airport that can provide a gateway for cargo shipments that will only increase in this era of globalization. For obvious reasons, distribution-system growth is also expected to drive jobs in this region.

Editor: Aren't there concerns about fracking in the Marcellus?

Ellsworth: Like any industry, the oil and gas industry needs to operate in an environmentally responsible manner. Fortunately, the economic potential of the Marcellus is so great that it presents tremendous opportunity to devote the resources and attention necessary to implement environmentally sound technologies. So, for us, the issue isn't whether to develop the Marcellus Shale, but how to go about it in the most environmentally responsible way. Fracking involves running large volumes of water through the shale formation to drive out the trapped gas, so wastewater is an important environmental concern. The people of western Pennsylvania know what environmental pollution can do to our water: we spent decades cleaning up our rivers and we now are a model for delegations from around the world to learn how we restored our waterways. Not surprisingly perhaps, this region is home to some of the most sophisticated water technology companies in the world, and those companies create jobs of their own. Forbes magazine recently named Pittsburgh among the "Top 10 Cleanest Cities in the World," and we are committed to developing our valuable oil and gas resources in a way that also protects our precious water resources. We are confident that we can do both.

Editor: Can you tell us more about green tech in the region?

Ellsworth: Pittsburgh is one of the leaders in green tech in the nation. The Energy Alliance gathers all of the major energy companies operating in the region to collaborate where possible on development, policy and legislative initiatives. As a recognized leader in green building, Pittsburgh also is home to the Green Building Alliance; Innovation Works provides seed capital to many alternative energy technology start-ups; and the Pittsburgh Tech Council assists many high-tech companies with business development. Once again, the university community is incredibly focused on innovation and commercialization of new green technologies. The corporate community is likewise attuned to the issue, and we are home to a whole set of office towers using green technologies. Our Jones Day office in Pittsburgh, by the way, is LEED certified.

Editor: Do you foresee the state becoming energy self-sufficient?

Ellsworth: I do. In fact, I think we will not only become self-sufficient, but we will be a national leader in alternate energy. For example, people are envisioning the Pennsylvania Turnpike as the first to provide gasoline, natural gas and electricity at every stop. In addition, we are talking about converting our bus and other municipal fleets to run on natural gas or electricity.

One of the things we do best is coming together as a community to move our agenda forward, and we have a long tradition of doing just that. We don't wait for government to do it for us. The idea that private industry can work with government is very much alive and well here. I think that you will see a host of public-private partnerships in this region focused on making this state the best it can be for all of its people.

Editor: Please tell us about Pennsylvania's other core industries.

Ellsworth: In western Pennsylvania, there are five key industry sectors. The first is energy, and not just Marcellus shale. We have coal, wind power, green tech, solar, nanotech and nuclear. We also have companies here that focus on energy management and distribution, and innovative companies that build technical solutions for the environmental issues attendant to the energy industry.

The second key sector here is health care and life sciences. The health care here is world class. UPMC is an international leader in the delivery of cutting-edge medical technologies. West Penn Allegheny Health System and Temple University recently announced the opening of a new medical school campus in Pittsburgh. Greater Pittsburgh is one of the top regions in the country for NIH funding. There is amazing artificial intelligence research being conducted here, and Carnegie Mellon University has one of the top robotics programs in the country. We are also home to Magee Women's Research Institute, one of the few research institutes in the world devoted specifically to women's health research.

Third, we have a vibrant advanced manufacturing sector, with everything from steel, to chemicals, to specialty plastics and coatings, to electrical systems, to trains, planes and automobiles. The fourth sector is information and communications technology. Our universities and spinoffs are doing groundbreaking work in computer sciences and information technology. Finally, we have financial and business services. Some of the largest banks and financial institutions in the country are based or have significant operations here.

Editor: It is amazing what a spirit Pittsburgh has in trying to attract new industries.

Ellsworth: The common dedication to the community and to one another is what, in my judgment, makes this region a place like no other. Last year, I spoke to MCC about the Allegheny Conference, which is an association of Pittsburgh CEOs and executives who come together to address the civic issues in this region in very concrete and meaningful ways. I serve on the Conference Executive Committee, and I have never seen anything like this elsewhere in the country. The Energy Alliance that we discussed earlier is one of the Conference initiatives, but we don't just focus on present-day issues. In June, for example, the Conference convened almost 500 people who had been identified by their companies as the next generation of leaders, and I was privileged to lead a brainstorming session with them. I can't tell you how impressive it was to watch them focusing on the region in a thoughtful, intelligent and creative way. It was an incredibly inspiring discussion on many different levels, and I can assure you that the next generation of civic leaders is revved up and engaged and full of their own ideas about how to make this region shine even brighter in the future.

Editor: You've mentioned the role of area universities in developing technology. Do they contribute in other ways as well?

Ellsworth: The university community is a vital part of this region in many different respects.

We have 36 colleges and universities in the region, plus 90 career and apprenticeship programs. Together they produce a tremendously educated and skilled workforce. They also serve to attract a diverse group of students from around the world, and we are working hard to keep them here in our region after they graduate. As a result, the Pittsburgh region has the highest-educated immigrant population in the U.S. It also has a very long and strong history of embracing immigrant populations, and our educational sector provides a wonderful doorway to continue that tradition. Finally, I think the universities remind us to step back and think more deeply about ourselves as a society. The liberal arts tradition plays a critical role in the fabric of our society as our lives become increasingly submerged in the digital overload and hectic pace of life in the 21st century. They don't call them the "humanities" for nothing!

Editor: What would you say to a client considering locating or expanding his or her business in Pittsburgh or western Pennsylvania?

Ellsworth: I would throw out this challenge. I don't think he or she could find any other community in the U.S. that can provide the complete package that western Pennsylvania can in terms of quality of life for employees, affordability and a business-friendly model. You can be a master of your own destiny, make a good living in an interesting field, and have a real and meaningful impact on your community. This region is blessed with unbelievable energy resources and even greater human energy. We have bountiful natural beauty and a will to protect it while fostering economic growth. According to national statistics, Pennsylvania - particularly Pittsburgh - weathered the recession far better than many other areas in the country, and we now have robust growth in our highly diversified core industry sectors. Although there may still be difficult times to come for our country, this region has demonstrated significant stability and resilience and is well positioned for even greater things going forward.

At presstime, Laura Ellsworth was confirmed by the Pennsylvania Senate as a Member of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts.

Please email the interviewee at leellsworth@jonesday.com with questions about this interview.