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Economics / Education / Entrepreneurs / Municipal government / Partnerships

Power Moves: Pittsburgh Regional Alliance’s president stepped down to lead Greater Baltimore Committee

Plus, the Office of Financial Empowerment has its first manager, Gecko Robotics has a new partnership, and the ARM Institute and Deeplocal brought on new execs.

Mark Anthony Thomas. (Courtesy photo)

Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, gig or promotion? Email us:

By the end of November, Mark Anthony Thomas will no longer be the president of the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA).

After three years with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development’s economic development arm, Thomas is moving on to Baltimore to take the CEO position at the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), an economic growth org that represents over 500 businesses, nonprofits, foundations and civic institutions. Thomas was selected from a national search after the GBC was impressed by his two decades of experience in leading economic development strategies and public-private partnerships in cities across the country, including New York City and Los Angeles.

The change follows GBC merger with the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore this past spring.

“We merged two organizations to work together intentionally, strengthening our communities and the region’s economy,” GBC Board Chair Calvin Butler said in a release. “Our next milestone was to secure a dynamic leader to define a new vision for inclusive economic development and growth. Mark’s proven experience, leadership and collaboration with stakeholders across business, government, nonprofit organizations, academia and the broader community will be critical to advancing the initiatives building the region’s assets.”

During Thomas’s three-year tenure at the PRA, he was responsible for initiatives such designing strategies to pursue opportunities for business investment, and securing business victories that led to over 8,000 jobs and $2 billion in capital investments for the southwestern Pennsylvania region, according to the org. He’s also credited with helping businesses reopen safety as COVID-related restrictions eased after 2020. Thomas said he’s grateful for his time at the PRA and says he’s grown from the time he’s spent in the Commonwealth.

“My travels within the counties of southwestern Pennsylvania and globally on the Pittsburgh region’s behalf have made it clear that this community holds a special place for so many people,” the prez said in the announcement. “Serving this community has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life and it fundamentally changed my understanding of our country and economic development.”

Don’t be too surprised if you see Thomas’ name in stories in the future — albeit over at our Baltimore site.

Office of Financial Empowerment has its first manager

As one leader in the Steel City’s civic community prepares to leave, another person prepares to take on a new position courtesy of the Mayor’s Office. Appointed by Mayor Ed Gainey, Sharon Watkins will be launching the City of Pittsburgh’s Office of Financial Empowerment as its new financial  empowerment manager.

You’re probably wondering, what’s a financial empowerment manager?

When Gainey was elected, he promised to make equitable growth a priority in the city. For his administration, that means pursuing anti-poverty efforts by expanding access to “safe and affordable credit and banking products,” as well as financial counseling services and “community wealth building strategies,” per a statement on the new role.

As the financial empowerment manager, Watkins will oversee it all. She’s bringing 20 years of experience working in strategic financial leadership and operations consulting to the table. If her name sounds familiar you might remember her from her time as engagement and diversity manager for Partner4Work, a nonprofit that connects job seekers with training and employers — or possibly from the youth-centered Pittsburgh Project, where she worked as the finance and development manager for three years.

“I know that our city will benefit greatly from her leadership,” Gainey said in a press release. “To truly become a Pittsburgh for all, we must lead with a focus on equity and improve resident economic security and mobility through proven programs and policies. The Office of Financial Empowerment is a significant step forward in achieving these goals.”

Gecko Robotics named a new partnership

Gecko Robotics, a North Side-based advanced robotics and enterprise software startup, has announced it is entering into a three-year partnership with Siemens Energy’s European Field Service organization.

The Pittsburgh company was founded in 2013 and specializes in the development of robotics and industrial asset management software including its signature wall-climbing robots. The two entities plan to work together to improve infrastructure in Europe by using Gecko robots for inspection and maintenance. This partnership will be building upon the previous work Gecko’s done working in pulp and paper industries in foreign countries, a press release said.

In March 2022, Gecko announced a $73 million Series C — still one of Pittsburgh’s biggest deals of 2022 so far. In May, the company also moved to a new 70,000-square-foot HQ that includes testing and development facilities, and said it planned to grow headcount to 400 within the year.

Cofounders Troy Demmer and Jake Loosararian at the grand opening of Gecko Robotics’ new offices in Nova Place. (Courtesy photo)

ARM Institute promoted two to its C-suite

Hazelwood’s Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute has promoted two employees to senior positions. As of September, Charles Brandt has gone from being the VP of technical initiatives to the manufacturing institute’s CTO. Meanwhile, Suzzane Teele, the one-time VP of strategic initiatives and outreach, joins him in being promoted by having been named the new chief strategy officer.

According to CEO Ira Moskowitz, the moves within the org reflect the “increasing diversity” in the institute’s activities.

“Chuck and Suzy have been instrumental in the ARM Institute’s success and in expanding our capabilities,” Moskowitz said in an announcement. “The ARM Institute team congratulates Chuck and Suzy on their promotions and thanks them for their continued commitment to the ARM Institute mission.”

Since it was founded in 2017, Pittsburgh’s ARM Institute has been on a mission to improve manufacturing through robotics. In September, it received $14.2 million in federal Build Back Better Regional Challenge funding to elevate that goal by launching its Robotics Manufacturing Hub.

Deeplocal brought on execs

Deeplocal, a Sharpsburg-based creative technology and experience design company, hired three executives from Fake Love, an NYC concepts and designs company that was purchased by The New York Times in 2016. Now Josh Horowitz, Fake Love’s former CEO, will become Deeplocal’s chief creative officer. Horowitz’s fellow former Fake Love employees Blair Neal and Miranda Martell will become VP of creative technology and as head of partnerships strategy and growth, respectively. Previously Neal and Martell served as Fake Love’s chief creative technologist and VP of client partnerships.

CEO Nathan Martin said the trio joining Deeplocal’s ranks adds to the company’s talent and is a sign of the influence the Deeplocal has cultivated, counting clients such as Google, Meta and Netflix.

“The most important thing we’ve done as a company is bring together interesting people — artists, inventors, misfits, makers,” Martin said in a release. “There’s no other company in the world that brings this range of talent and perspectives to the table. Josh, Blair, and Miranda joining Deeplocal from Fake Love is a testament to our influence; we’re attracting award-winning talent from a company that we’ve respected and admired for a long time.”

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: Deeplocal / Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing Institute / City of Pittsburgh / Pittsburgh Regional Alliance / Gecko Robotics / Greater Baltimore Committee
Series: Power Moves

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