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State of Young Philly has never looked better

If you want to know how young Philly's doing, let me sum it up for you: smart and good looking. From the highest reaches of government right down to our youngest up and comers, there's never been a more attractive bunch of people in charge.

The second annual State of Young Philly, convened by the all-volunteer Young Involved Philadelphia for a two-week run, was a series of six events designed to engage, connect and represent citizens. Targeting community engagement, education, sustainability and the creative economy, State of Young Philly drew close to 1,000 young professionals and representatives from over 50 organizations in the city, according to organizers. From the first packed event at World Cafe Live on Oct. 4 to the standing-room only crowd at the finale at The Gershman Y, the crowd was diverse in age and background and alike in its forward-thinking approach.

Claire Robertson-Kraft, Young Involved Philadelphia Board Chair, says, "When I first moved to Philadelphia just over a decade ago, I was initially struck by the negativity of the city. But the spirit in the discussions over the course of the past few weeks has been very different than that initial perception I got when I first moved here. Rather than focusing solely on what was in need of improvement, each of the discussions was as much about how to build on already existing innovation and assets the city has to offer."

Alain Joinville, Public Affairs Coordinator for the city's Department of Parks and Recreation and a Young Involved Philly board member, adds, "It was easier to get partnering organizations involved. The State of Young Philly series is the biggest and most audacious project our organization has undertaken in its 11-year history, and we did it pretty well last year, so we are seen as a credible organization in the eyes of the City's leaders and leading organizations."

Robertson-Kraft points to several initiatives that launched in the lead-up to this year's State of Young Philly: a local version of the online web portal Change By Us,a partnership with United Way to improve Philadelphia public education, entry into the Open Data Philly challenge, and social media hashtags #WhyILovePhilly and #PhillyArts.

But ultimately, the draw of State of Young Philly is the promise of doing good combined with a commitment to fun. Reports Robertson-Kraft, "Let’s just say that the after-party went into the late hours of the night. At all of our events, we strive to achieve that perfect balance of meaningful conversation and a good time."

It's a whole new take on a thousand points of light.

Source: Claire Robertson-Kraft, Young Involved Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

Open Data Race lets you vote for data sets that are most fit for public consumption

Data collection and dissemination: how much fun is that? If you are participating in Philadelphia's Open Data Race, you might actually squeeze a good time out of otherwise flat statistics. Voting in the Open Data Race is open to the public until Oct. 27, and currently, you can make your opinion known on which of 24 data sets you would like to see made public.

"We hope to generate excitement around open data," says Deborah Boyer, project manager at Philadelphia-based Azavea. Nominations contributed by non-profit organizations were reviewed by OpenDataPhilly partners, namely Azavea, NPower Pennsylvania, The William Penn Foundation, and Technically Philly.

It's probably too early to judge, but right now the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia's request for stats on reported bike thefts is atop the rankings with 55 votes, followed by Demographic Info for Individuals Accessing Shelter Services submitted by Back on My Feet with 50 votes. Other organizations represented in the voting ranks include the Committee of 70, The Urban Tree Connection and The Sustainable Business Network.

Boyer says, "Public participation has been a key feature of OpenDataPhilly and is also crucial to the Open Data Race. We encourage people to submit data sets for inclusion in OpenDataPhilly or nominate data they would like to see made available."

Boyer points to difficulties municipalities might have in identifying which data is most needed. "Through Open Data Race, non-profit organizations have the opportunity to let the city and OpenDataPhilly partners know what information they need to fulfill their missions."

Winners, to be announced on Friday, Oct. 28, will receive cash prizes. First place gets $2,000, second place gets $1,000, and third receives $500. At that point, the fun really begins, when OpenDataPhilly works with the city to unlock the requested sets and then hosts hack-a-thons to create applications that use the data.

Source: Deborah Boyer, Azavea/OpenDataPhilly
Writer: Sue Spolan

ElectNext, like eHarmony for voters, part of DreamIt's Comcast minority entrepreneur accelerator

Want to blow your voting mind? Head over to ElectNext, a new website that matches citizens with candidates. "If you change the context from Republican vs. Democrat, it changes the world," says ElectNext Communications Director Dave Speers, who recently joined founders Keya Dannenbaum and Paul Jungwirth to fundamentally change the way you think about your vote.

Speers describes ElectNext as eHarmony for voters. When you sign up, you answer a series of questions about your political philosophy. The results can shake people up. A lifelong democrat may find that her take on the issues most closely aligns with a moderate republican like presidential candidate Jon Huntsman. "I'm a Republican," says Speers. "What could separate you and me is one issue. In reality, we're 99 percent in agreement."

Speers reports that some voters go ballistic upon seeing their results, which may not align with their perception of the candidates or themselves. "When you walk into a voting booth, like millions of people, you see one or two names you recognize. As far as the rest of the candidates, you might skip the vote, or vote dogmatically down party lines, or it could be arbitrary, like picking someone by the ethnicity of their last name."

Dannenbaum met Jungwirth at a Philly Tech Meetup. Jungwirth, who's working on a PhD in Classics from Penn and has a professional background in computer programming, was looking for an opportunity to use both sides of his brain, and Dannenbaum terms the partnership a perfect fit.

The startup is funded by DreamIt Ventures and is part of the Comcast Minority Entrepreneur Accelerator Program (MEAP) within DreamIt. Dannenbaum, who is on leave from MBA studies at The Wharton School, says that getting the $25,000 DreamIt grant was possible after participating in the Good Company incubator program, which provided office space at University of the Arts.

"The training and the curriculum at Good Company is what prepared us to be able to talk to the DreamIt folks at the end of the summer," says Dannenbaum.

DreamIt also receives a 6 percent equity stake in the for-profit company with five employees. Dannenbaum credits the Wharton Venture Initiation Program as well, which offers ElectNext on-campus meeting space and mentors.

Dannenbaum says her leave from Wharton is open ended, and the team hopes to take ElectNext national in time for the 2012 presidential election.

Source: Keya Dannenbaum, Dave Speers, ElectNext
Writer: Sue Spolan

MilkBoy Recording taking over The Studio above The Electric Factory

First, MilkBoy the cafe took Center City. And now MilkBoy Recording is following suit. While the lease has not yet been signed, Jamie Lokoff reports that MilkBoy Recording has a signed letter of intent and will be moving from Ardmore to Philadelphia, taking over The Studio, Larry Gold's state of the art recording facility above the Electric Factory at 7th and Callowhill.

"It's the best studio north of Atlanta and south of New York," says Lokoff.

With the upcoming expansion, MilkBoy will breathe new life into a recording studio just blocks away from its live music venue at its new location at 11th and Chestnut. The Studio --a  20,000 square foot converted factory space with walls covered in gold and platinum records -- is legendary in the music business, having hosted luminaries like The Roots, Tori Amos, Al Green, Patti LaBelle and many other award-winning acts.

Gold, who is also a virtuoso musician and is still arranging for Jay-Z, John Legend and Jennifer Lopez, will be handing over the reins to MilkBoy, itself an established talent factory, working with Usher, Dave Matthews and the Dixie Hummingbirds. For a brief time last year, The Studio was run by Solomon Silber, who is no longer associated with the organization.

At this point, Lokoff does not have plans for MilkBoy's current multitrack digital and analog Ardmore recording studio, and until the impending move, continues with a full schedule that includes film and TV work as well as album recording.

Source: Jamie Lokoff, MilkBoy
Writer: Sue Spolan

What's all this about LevelUp? Help your mom figure it out

My mom called. "What's this LevelUp? I got an email on my BlackBerry that I have two dollars off at Miel." When a brand new tech company already has the attention of the 70-somethings, it's got to be good.

LevelUp, which has a rapidly growing presence in the Philadelphia area, is a new kind of customer loyalty program for local business. Rather than carry around a walletful of punch cards, says launcher John Valentine, who has just been promoted to VP of LevelUp for the east coast. The company is hiring here in Philly, with two positions open in implementation and sales. Each city is slated to have a total of six employees.

Currently, says Valentine, there are 129 businesses in the LevelUp community, with 10 new merchants signing up each week. Here's how it works: Customers sign up online with a credit card. Participating businesses have a device, which is really a smartphone on a lucite platform, which reads a QR code on your phone screen (Valentine says the next generation of readers will be smaller and more streamlined). LevelUp then charges your card, bypassing the shop's cash register, and every 24 to 48 hours, says Valentine, LevelUp sends payment to merchants. As the customer, you receive several dollars off each purchase, and LevelUp tracks your activity, rewarding you for repeat business.

LevelUp evolved out of SCVNGR, a DreamIt Ventures funded startup. The location based scavenger hunt game led to a desire to solve the loyalty piece of the puzzle. "How do we get someone to frequent a place?" asks Valentine.

LevelUp is growing concurrently in Philadelphia and Boston, with plans to take over the world. New York is next, then Atlanta, Washington DC and Miami. "There's been enough validation for what we're doing in Boston and Philadelphia that we need to scale up fast." Valentine, who calls it sticky, says those who start using the program come back for more. "Within the next two weeks, 49% use LevelUp again."

Aside from the novelty factor, says Valentine, LevelUp gives businesses several advantages: the loyalty program brings people back more, brings in new customers, and has the added effect of incentivizing people to spend more money. Because shoppers are getting 5 to 15% back, they're actually spending more, according to Valentine. If you'd like to try LevelUp, Valentine is offering $10 in global credit to Flying Kite readers. Just use the code TECH when you sign up.

Source: John Valentine, LevelUp
Writer: Sue Spolan

Crowdsourced education comes to Philly with Skillshare

What do you know? There's a new way to make money based on your particular set of skills and talents. It's called Skillshare. Launched in Philadelphia last month with national headquarters in New York City, Skillshare allows anyone to teach anything and get paid for it. Brendan Lowry has been in charge of launching the program in Philadelphia. "Every city is a university, all the restaurants and cafes are classrooms, and our neighbors are our greatest teachers," says Lowry, whose title is Special Operations.

Here's how it works: Say you are really good at knitting. Sure, you could sell your stuff on Etsy. But with Skillshare, you can also hold knitting class at a location of your choice. Set your own price per student, and get paid through PayPal. Skillshare deducts 15 percent of every ticket sold.

Skillshare, on a mission to democratize and redefine education, launched in New York in May of this year, and is now operating in Philadelphia and San Francisco, with hopes for setting up in cities across the US. Each city needs to be unlocked by popular vote. When the vote count surpasses 500, a team is created to get the word out. "We've targeted the tech community. It's one of the first industries we tapped into, but we don't want to fall exclusively in that category," says Lowry, who says right now there are over a hundred classes on offer in the Philadelphia area, ranging from The Art of the Cold Call to Beer 101. Teachers post credentials and a feedback process is designed to ensure a quality learning experience (full disclosure: I am teaching Communications for Startups on Sept. 20).

"Our marketing budget is literally zero dollars," says Lowry, who has done outreach through social media and word of mouth. There is also a newly created, limited time $1,000 scholarship fund which encourages more people to take classes in Philly and SF. Skillshare is set to launch next in Boston, Washington DC and New Orleans.

Source: Brendan Lowry, Skillshare
Writer: Sue Spolan

Hella Favela: Brazil style set to paint our town

Giant koi swimming up 13th Street? Believe it. The Favela Painters are coming to Philadelphia. In mid-September, Jeroen Koolhaas and Dre Urhahn, better known as the team Haas&Hahn, arrive here for a major public art project that spans three Philadelphia neighborhoods, trains countless new artists and brings a bit of Brazil to the city.

Favela is the term used for the slums of Rio de Janiero, lawless places ruled by criminal syndicates. Over the past five years, Haas&Hahn have transformed the walls and streets of these mountainside neighborhoods that loom over downtown Rio. Outrageous color and imagery, visible from all parts of the city, have transformed trash strewn chaotic areas into internationally renowned public art galleries.

Now the Favela Painters are set to transform Philadelphia, and the location of their work will be in some pretty high profile places: the 13th Street corridor owned by Goldman Properties in Center City; in North Philadelphia at Lehigh and Germantown Avenues, near The Village of Arts and Humanities (where Haas&Hahn will reside during the project); and in Manayunk, on old industrial buildings facing Interstate 76.

Funding, which is budgeted at just under $500,000 for the three-part project, comes from The Knight Foundation, The U.S. Department of Commerce, Goldman Properties and The Manayunk Development Corporation.

The teams that will work on the project will be trained by the Haas&Hahn guild. "People who don't have a lot of opportunities will be able to work with international artists," says Golden, who describes the artists' philosophy as a model for passing knowledge on. "What's the test of a good project? The shifting perspectives of people who made the art and people who live with it."

This will be the first permanent U.S. project for Haas&Hahn, who also created an installation for Art Basel Miami in 2010. Jane Golden, Executive Director of the Mural Arts Program in Philadelphia, met the Favela painters through hip hop art consultant Todd Bressi, who brought Haas&Hahn to Miami. Bressi is a lecturer at The University of Pennsylvania and also worked on the Philadelphia Airport Gateway Project.

Golden says Haas&Hahn are on MAP's dream list of artists. "We're philosophically aligned. They're colorists with a background in architecture," says Golden. Kickoff is September 27 with a welcome reception. The entire project is set to last 18 months, including training and pop-up studios throughout the city. At its conclusion, a major exhibition is planned, which will also span Philadelphia and is slated for late 2013 to early 2014.

Source: Jane Golden, Philadelphia Mural Arts Program
Writer: Sue Spolan

All geeked up: Inaugural Philadelphia Geek Awards gets nuts

The thing that surprised Eric Smith the most about the first annual Philadelphia Geek Awards wasn't the guy who accepted his honor in a fox head costume. It wasn't the sold out crowd of over 400 who packed the Academy of Natural Sciences auditorium last Friday night. It was the negative feedback from folks who were upset by who was left out. "It shows that people were invested and care about what we're doing," Smith reflected after a good night's sleep. "It was supposed to be something mostly for fun, but it got a lot more serious." In the two weeks leading up to the Awards, Smith says press coverage blew up, and tickets disappeared.

The Geek Awards, the brainchild of Smith, Tim Quirino and Michelangelo Ilagan, who make up the staff of Geekadelphia ("A Guide to Everything Geek in the City of Brotherly Love"), were by all measures a total success. Sponsored by a host of local organizations including The Academy of Natural Sciences, who provided the venue free of charge, along with Drink Philly and National Mechanics who donated food and beverages, the event celebrated dozens of the city's technological finest, with just under twenty categories, from Best New Blog (a tie between DrinkPhilly and Naked Philly; the latter wore the fox head) to Outstanding Achievement in Fashion & Lifestyle, which is not the first attribute that comes to mind in the geek world, but Philly happens to have some very hip and good looking techies. Cadence Wrist Watch Company, home of the 4-bit, 4:20 and Wrist Rocket models, won that title.

"It was always something Tim and I wanted to do," says Smith of the awards. "We have all these great awards in Philly, but nothing for geeks." Let's just say that PriceWaterhouseCoopers did not oversee the process. Smith and cohorts at Geekadelphia designed the ceremony and chose categories, nominees and winners (with a little help from friends like Alex Hillman of Indy Hall). Next year the Geek Awards will be even more inclusive and probably a lot more serious, with spots for scientists, web developers and programmers.

Following his moment in the spotlight and cheering crowds, Smith returns to his day job at the Philadelphia based Quirk Books, which turns out bestsellers including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, as well as the aptly titled Geeky Dreamboats.

Source: Eric Smith, Philadelphia Geek Awards
Writer: Sue Spolan

Hiring: Kimmel Center strategy job could be a springboard

Attention recent grads: One of city's premier venues for arts and culture has just posted a job in its Strategy and Planning Office. It's a temporary position that is destined to place the right person in front of some of Philadelphia's movers and shakers, according to Beryl Byles, an executive coach who is fielding and screening resumes as a favor to her colleagues at the Kimmel Center for Performing Arts.

This job has a long title and a short life," explains Byles of the posting for Strategy Specialist and Assistant to the Senior Vice President of Strategy and Planning. With just a five-month term, the open position will be filled ideally by "a real self starter who is quantitatively strong, creative and alert," says Byles, who adds that the ideal candidate will have strong computer and people skills but doesn't know quite how to navigate the job market. "It's a perfect transition from school to a real career."

The job would be an entree into the world of the arts as well as the world of business. The Strategy Specialist will go out into the business community, accompanying the SVP of Strategy and Planning as well as the President, serving as a poised and professional representative of the Kimmel among the city's movers and shakers.

Byles also frames the position as fulfilling a gap year for someone who is seeking a new type of employment. The five month post pays a total of $14,000 and while it is a limited engagement, Byles says the amount of built-in networking will provide plenty of opportunity for advancement, either within the Kimmel administration or through newly forged connections. By the way, this job is not being advertised on the usual help wanted sites. It's strictly word of mouth, according to Byles. To apply for the position or get further info, email your resume or questions.

Source: Beryl Byles, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: SEPTA's TransitView, MAC founder raises $75M, and Phila. Printworks strikes chord

Flying Bytes is a recurring roundup of innovation and quick updates on the people and companies we're covering:

SEPTA launches TransitView

Back in January, we reported that SEPTA was weeks away from launching a real-time, system wide tracking program. The future is finally here. Like SEPTA's TrainView for regional rail, the new TransitView provides live updates on the whereabouts of buses and trolleys throughout the city. Also launched: SMS Transit Schedule Information, allowing customers to receive a text with the next four scheduled trips, and Schedules to Go, a mobile website function that provides information on the next ten scheduled trips.

Shah closes $72 million IPO with Universal Business Payment Solutions

Following a hot tip, we learned that Bipin Shah, creator of the MAC, was seeking $72 million for payments startup Universal Business Payment Solutions. On May 13, UPBS (NASDAQ: UBPSU) got its money. According to Shah's partner Peter Davidson, "we closed on 12 million shares at $6.00 per share. The underwriters have a 45 day option to cover any over-allotments, which they have not exercised to date." Investors include hedge fund magnate J. Kyle Bass, who purchased about 800,000 shares.

Philadelphia Printworks up, running, finding its market

The lovely ladies at the helm of Philadelphia Printworks are going full speed with their new T-shirt business. Co-founder April Pugh reports that most of PPW's customer base has come from custom work, particularly from local indie rock artists. PPW loves its rockers right back and offers a band discount. Pugh says she and partner Ruth Paloma Rivera-Perez are now seeking partnerships with retail outlets and will be selling at upcoming summer festivals.

Specticast expands with EuroArts partnership
Digital entertainment distribution company Specticast continues to widen its reach. The company, which we originally profiled back in April, announced an exclusive partnership with EuroArts, bringing live and pre-recorded events from Berlin's Philharmonie, The Sheldonian Theater at Oxford University, and Madrid's Teatro Real, according to Mark Rupp, SpectiCast president.

Source: Andrew Busch, SEPTA; Peter Davidson, UBPS; April Pugh, PPW; Mark Rupp, Specticast
Writer: Sue Spolan

Success is the main dish at Philly Side Arts

Some creative types are great with ideas, but not so great with promotion. That's where Philly Side Arts steps in to offer career building marketing and promotional services for individuals and businesses in the world of art. It's run by C. Todd Hestand, who is also a part time instructor at The Corzo Center for the Creative Economy at The University of The Arts.

"About five years ago, a group of friends and I would get together to talk about our artwork. None of us had a website or representation," says Hestand.

Hestand put up the starting capital to build a site in which every artist had his or her own page with images and contact information. "We found opportunities at a better pace as a network than being frustrated individually," reports Hestand, who has just relaunched the Philly Side Arts site with tiered membership levels. Basic membership is still free. For individuals, the initial entry level allows you to upload five images, contribute to the blog, write your own profile and identify yourself as a Philly Side Artist. Businesses, such as galleries and collectives, can post basic information and a logo. A Premium level upgrade, which is just $5 a month for artists and $10 for businesses, greatly increases the amount of information on member pages.

Growth since the tiered launch surprises even Hestand, who reported that during our short interview, two new premium members signed up.

"Membership doubled in April 2011," says Hestand, who counted at the time of the interview 500 artists and 100 businesses on the roster, with about 25 percent at the premium tier. "The point is that the economy is changing. We have to accept what the new economy is going to look like, and where the growth potential really is," says Hestand. "The easiest thing for people to approach as a new source of revenue or employment is to be creative and just make something. It's a huge emerging section of our economy."

Side Arts allows people to spend time creating, not looking for opportunities. As for the name, Hestand drew inspiration from Tony Hawk's skateboarding video game series. One of the skate parks in the game is based on Philadelphia's JFK Park, but for legal reasons, was renamed Phillyside Park. Hestand separated the word because he envisions a future where there will be a multitude of cities in the Side Arts franchise. Watch out, Chicago Side.

Source: C. Todd Hestand, Philly Side Arts
Writer: Sue Spolan

Viridity teams with Jefferson on smart grid, big battery

Thomas Jefferson University takes up a pretty big footprint in Center City, with a 13 acre campus just west of Washington Square. This week, Viridity Energy announced that it's partnering with Jefferson to provide an innovative energy storage program to optimize the University power grid.

On the heels of a smart grid project for SEPTA, Conshohocken-based Viridity approached Jefferson to gauge interest in a two-part program aimed at achieving optimal value from the school's wind power purchase. Audrey Zibelman, President and CEO of Viridity, notes that Jefferson is very forward looking in terms of how to manage energy, citing the university's recent acquisition of one-third of the electricity supply from Iberdrola Renewables' 102 megawatt Locust Ridge II wind power project located in Schuylkill County.

"Hospital demand is pretty flat. It doesn't peak. It's round the clock," explains Zibelman. But wind power is intermittent, and tends to be strongest at night. Sometimes the transmission system between the wind farm and the hospital is unavailable due to congestion. The environmentally-friendly solution is a giant battery to be installed on-site, which will store wind power when it's cheapest and most abundant, coupled with Viridity's dynamic load control optimization system. Viridity's proprietary VPower smart grid platform combines software with hardware to balance system loads, so that Jefferson can get the most cost efficient combination of wind power and traditional electric. When there is a surplus, VPower is set up to sell the energy back to the grid for a profit.

Zibelman says right now the project is in the planning stages. The company is in the market for a 1 to 1.5 megawatt battery, ranging in price from $750,000 to $3 million depending on vendor, chemistry, capacity and peripherals.

 "The battery will not always be providing physical reliability," says Zibelman, "but it will always provide economic reliability. It's a revenue source that pays for itself." Jefferson's combination of Viridity's VPower technology coupled with the giant battery will create a micro energy community in the heart of Center City.

Source: Audrey Zibelman, Viridity Energy
Writer: Sue Spolan

Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts kicks off this week with giant squid

Dan Schimmel's head might be in augmented reality, but the picture is pretty clear to him.

"Right now there's a giant, 100 foot squid hovering over the falls at Boat House Row," says the director of Breadboard, the art and technology program at Science Center that oversees the Esther Klein Gallery. Breadboard is participating in the Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts (PIFA) with the free citywide [email protected], the Virtual Public Art Project. Granted, explains Schimmel, you need a smartphone or other mobile device to see the Augmented Reality squid. "That's somewhat foreign to people, but this is where society's headed."

PIFA is about to overtake the city like a giant encornet (that's French for squid) with over 135 events, running from April 7 to May 1. If bright lights in the big city get you going, check out the 81 foot Eiffel Tower replica at the Kimmel Center, which serves as festival headquarters, with a light show daily at 7 and 10 p.m. The theme of PIFA is Paris 1911, tying in with the recent French-flavored Philadelphia International Flower Show. All over the city, you can catch performances, lectures, dance parties, installations, readings, a fashion show and eleven French chefs in residence at area restaurants.

The $10 million extravaganza showcases local and international talent. Visit a day-long free Parisian street fair April 30 on Broad Street where you can ride a giant Ferris Wheel and enjoy a multitude of acts including Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. PIFA is also sponsoring daily wine tastings, crepe samples, free concerts, and French lessons.

Philly-Paris Lockdown, on April 17 at 8 PM at the Kimmel, features Philly's own ?uestlove of The Roots along with singer-songwriter Keren Ann, followed by an underground afterparty. Fourth Wall Arts hosts a special Salon on April 23 at the newly opened National Museum of American Jewish History on Independence Mall, featuring Ursula Rucker, Mimi Stillman and muralist David Guinn.

JJ Tiziou's How Philly Moves, which just raised $26,000 in a Kickstarter Campaign, will be projecting massive images of Philadelphia's dancers on the side of the Kimmel throughout the festival. Hope: An Oratorio, is a work PIFA commissioned by composer Jonathan Leshnoff, to be performed April 24, performed by The Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, along with four soloists, the Pennsylvania Girlchoir and the Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia.

The Painted Bride, The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Slought Foundation, the African-American Museum in Philadelphia, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, WXPN, Philadelphia's Magic Garden, and the Independence Seaport Museum are just a few of the many PIFA sponsors and event hosts. Get detailed program information, tickets, and download a festival brochure at the PIFA website. PIFA, along with the GPTMC, is also offering hotel and ticket packages for the festival.

Source: Dan Schimmel, Breadboard; PIFA; GPTMC
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: Philly Helps Japan, East Fairmoun Park

Flying Bytes is nuggets of innovation from across Greater Philadelphia:


Following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, there's been a swell of support from local companies and groups. Comcast is offering free calls to Japan for Xfinity Voice and Business Class Voice customers. Call Japan now until April 10, 2011 and get an automatic refund on your Comcast bill. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Red Cross is accepting both online and text message contributions for Japan relief efforts and reports that it has received generous donations from Westchester's QVC and Philadelphia Insurance. The Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia has instituted a Disaster Relief Fund, and is also taking donations at the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival.

Urban Blazers, a Philadelphia program that organizes outdoor activities for under-resourced youth, is co-sponsoring an East Fairmount Park Spring Clean-Up. The event, to be held Saturday, April 2 from 9 to 1, will start at Mander Playground, 33rd and Diamond, for a seasonal overhaul of nearby recreational spots, as well as the Woodford Mansion Orchard. It's part of the citywide Philly Spring Cleanup. Participating civic groups include the East Park Revitalization Alliance, Arthur Ashe Youth Tennis and Education, the Philadelphia Department of Parks and Recreation and the Strawberry Mansion Athletic Association. RSVP on Facebook or email [email protected].


Speaking of blazing, on April 16, grab a flashlight and head over to the eternal flame at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Washington Square Park for a warm spring evening of fun. Get Out Philly is hosting a game of Flashlight Tag beginning at 8. Put on your post-tax return attitude and casual clothes. Food and drink to follow at a nearby casual spot. Suggested donation is $1. You can RSVP on Facebook.

Source: Comcast, Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia, Southeastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Red Cross, Urban Blazers, Get Out Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

Voila, it's Veolia: Philly's steam loop provider changes name, maintains efficient heat processes

Philadelphia is a steamy city, and the proof is issuing out of all those vents. This week, Veolia Energy North America announced the completion of the transition that renames Philly's steam loop provider from Trigen to Veolia. The Center City steam loop is a green idea from way back in the late 1800s, when the Edison Electric Light Company (now PECO) realized it could repurpose exhaust steam from its plant at 9th and Sansom Streets to heat the nearby Irving House on Walnut Street. The system grew to a total of 26 miles of underground pipes.

The synergy was such a success that cities around the country adopted the steam loop concept. Currently, 300 Philly buildings utilize Veolia's steam heat. The highest profile building, literally, is the Comcast Center. According to Mike Smedley, Vice President of the Mid-Atlantic Region for Veolia Energy North America, the tower's "utilization of district energy was one factor that contributed to its status as the tallest LEED-certified building in the US."

Why the name change? Smedley says that the Trigen brand name is only known for district energy, while the Veolia name is synonymous with creative environmental solutions. Not only does Veolia supply steam heat, but it's also pretty chill: the company also "built, owns and operates a 7,000-ton chilled water facility for Thomas Jefferson University and Hospital."

Traditionally, says Smedley, the production of heat and power are separate processes that are energy inefficient because a large portion of fuel burned is lost as waste heat. In contrast, Veolia's combined heat and power (CHP) plant recycles waste heat, and converts it into useful thermal energy. By combining the processes using CHP, says Smedley, Veolia can produce thermal and electrical energy using up to 40 percent less fuel than if the two forms of energy were produced separately.

Source: Mike Smedley, Veolia Energy North America
Writer: Sue Spolan
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