Rochelle "Missy" Johnson, has been welding since the age of 14, and was the first female minority to enroll at her vocational school graduating at the top of her class.
Back in March of 2021, she ran a small local firm and was signed only as a Millwrights Union company. Through discussions with PJ Dick, she was encouraged to talk to other unions and to utilize the log of the non-minority companies that was developed through bidding for the FNB Financial Center, for her own outreach and development of relationships
Throughout the balance of 2021, Missy signed on with six (6) other unions and joined the NMAPC, which allows her to work anywhere in the country, pulling in union workers in the trades she needs. She has been afforded opportunities locally and in Philadelphia and has even turned down some work (in cases that builders or larger contractors wanted to just use her company as a Broker and not let her firm self perform work).
DiVerse Industrial Solutions has secured a contract commitment in the field of Miscellaneous Metals as part of the final buyout for FNB Financial Center and her story is truly amazing. This brief glimpse into her past highlights her path to where she is now, 36 years later.
How does your background in construction tie into what you're currently doing with the project?
During my 25 years in Mobile Maintenance, I had the ability to work in many different fashions from boiler work to structural steel and many things in between. I can remember building platforms, setting grading, doing handrail and kickplate. All of these things now tie into the package that my company has received at the Lower Hill.
How has your role evolved working on the Lower Hill Redevelopment project?
There are 2 development projects for me at the Lower Hill. The first project is developing DiVerse Industrial Solutions as a competitive company for the future. The second project is to obtain work at the FNB. I found them both at the Lower Hill. In working with the people on that project, it opened up avenues and suggestions to be able to do both. They not only gave me an opportunity for work, they gave me pathways to build my company outside of this project for the future.
What do you like most about what you do?
The people. All the people come from different walks of life to participate in the end goal of finishing whatever project they are encountering. They bring their highs and lows, strengths and weaknesses. You find encouragement from them and give back encouragement. When it is all finished, you and a bunch of strangers are no longer strangers having achieved a common goal of a job well done.
Do you have a mentor or advisor that has helped you along the way? (Personally, or professionally) Alternatively, do you do any kind of mentoring, coaching or teaching? I have had many mentors along the way both personally and professionally. One that stands out specifically, was a man of little words but his actions spoke volumes to me. He was always proud of who he was in every job he laid his hands on. He did not care if he fit in. He only cared about the pride he carried home at the end of the day by doing the best that he could with what he had. I try to use what I learned in life to mentor and guide people. Life is hard. If it wasn’t for the people who helped me, I would not have the will or determination to do what I do today. I give back in the same way it was given to me. Somebody gave me a job; I want to give a job. Someone gave me encouragement; I want to give encouragement.
Do you have any words of encouragement for other women currently in or considering entering the construction field? Welding field? Whatever you do, don’t quit. Fight until you get it right. Every step you take in life, God is preparing you for another level.
Find out more about DiVerse Industrial Solutions here
To learn about contracting opportunities with the Lower Hill Redevelopment visit the First Source Center
Hosting community members in the Lower Hill Suite at PPG Arena has been a fantastic affair, led primarily by Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis, Buccini/Pollin Group’s Director of Community, Arts and Culture.
“It’s such a pleasure to give people the opportunity to be spoiled and catered to while in the suite,” Dr. Ellis said, “They really feel special and appreciated.”
Her journey began by being treated, herself, in the Mario Lemieux suite, for her birthday in October and for which she is still grateful to Kevin Acklin, especially. She then began activating the Lower Hill Suite for ticket giveaway winners on social media and experiencing her first, ever, hockey game.
“I’ve lived in the Hill my whole life and have never been to a hockey game,” she said, shaking her head, “and it’s been the same for my brother, Paul, who is now a major hockey fan.”
Next, were the Harlem Globetrotters, more hockey games, Simone Biles, Disney on Ice, more hockey and Justin Bieber! We have had a full “Making Black History” program (noted earlier), small business owners, our partners such as Tammy Thompson, head of Catapult, decorator and business owner, Montia Robinson, head of DEI at Master Builder’s Association, Lance Harrell, owners of the Cameron Group, Francine and Kevin Cameron, and our own street team manager, consultant and business owner, Naomi Ritter, and her street team; and ticket winners for the various games and events!
On April 2, one day before Justin Bieber performed at the Grammy Awards, the First Source Center team took the chance to enjoy his fabulous band in concert. Jaden Smith opened for him and performed a variety of songs, including his smash hit, “Icon.” We were delighted to be able to treat Daniel Anderson, our iconic First Source Center hire, who now works at Rycon Construction, as well as Janise Zenmon, who works at PPG Paints Arena and was stationed at Burgatory before coming up to the Lower Hill Suite to enjoy the rest of the concert with her street team. Justin Bieber sang fan favorites such as “Lonely,” and four-time Grammy nominated, “Peaches.”
It was a fun night for all! “I really look forward to continuing to activate the Lower Hill Suite and bring together members of the community. It’s also my job, a pleasure and an honor to do so,” says Dr. Ellis. Would you like to have the Lower Hill Suite experience?
Stay tuned for more ticket winners from the First Source Center Job Fair and Open House and follow us on our social media, so you can be the next winner!
March 31, 2022 - Catapult’s “Gallery on Centre” had its ribbon cutting ceremony at the new location 1840 Centre Avenue in the Hill District neighborhood. The opening was made possible with a collaboration between the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and a 10 million dollar contribution by PNC Bank. The 1,422 square-foot space will house six businesses from the Catapult Hill District cohort, with shelf space available for future Hill cohort participants and graduates.
“This is an amazing opportunity for new entrepreneurs from the Hill District or those wanting to start a business in the Hill District," said Catapult Executive Director Tammy Thompson in the official press release. "Participants will get access to retail space to sell their products, technical assistance, and opportunities to participate in collaborative events. The URA was instrumental in helping us launch our Catapult: Startup to Storefront and Gallery on Penn programming in East Liberty, so now the opening of our second location in the Hill District is just very exciting. We hope that the residents of the Hill District will be proud to have our programming and these new businesses operating in their community.”
The beautiful event was introduced by the soon-departing URA Deputy Director, Dr. Diamonte Walker, who was followed by the host, newly appointed Executive Communications Strategist, Tanika Harris. The entrepreneur graduates of the program were all in attendance, with a speech by both Nikki’s Magic Wand creator, Nicole Narvaez Manns and Aquene Wise-Watkins of Royally Fit; and they were all present in celebration of their Director, Ms. Tammy Thompson, who has gone through an organizational name change, from “Circles” to “Catapult Greater Pittsburgh” and sought to honor Maelene Myers -Executive Director of East Liberty Development, Inc., who gave her the space to work on her “crazy” ideas, in East Liberty.
Catapult Greater Pittsburgh engages in emergency resource distribution, peer-to-peer support, wealth building, trauma-informed financial counseling, and policy advocacy to ensure systematically disenfranchised communities can meaningfully achieve economic justice and lead dignified and equitable lives.
Also in attendance for this festive event were elected officials State Senator Wayne Fontana, Mayor Ed Gainey, Chief of Staff, Jake Wheatley and City Councilman, Daniel Lavelle.
To support these entrepreneurs go online or stop in their store location!
To learn more about Catapult's programs, email: email@example.com
March 9, 2022 - Chef Cheyanne Bronzell of Phat Girlz a Cookin’, who is a current participant in the Catapult business accelerator program, “Startup to Storefront”, catered lunch for PJ Dick and other members of the Lower Hill Team. This was the first time Chef Cheyanne catered for the group and she came to impress. The menu was shrimp toast for appetizers, honey salmon, her award-winning greens (which we paired with vinegar and hot sauce), mac and cheese, cornbread and peach cobbler for dessert. It was delicious and we are sure Chef Cheyanne will be spreading her soul food around the Lower Hill, as she has done in the Middle, Upper Hill and all around the city.
Book Phat Girlz a Cookin here
Find more information about Catapult's programs here
On March 25, 2022 the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) announced that Deputy Executive Director Dr. Diamonte Walker will depart the organization in Spring 2022 for an opportunity in the private sector. We say thank you to Dr. Walker and celebrate her tireless contributions to the redevelopment of the Lower Hill District and vibrancy across the entire City.
We are saddened by her departure as we have enjoyed working with her and meeting the mutual goals of the city government and administration. Prior to her exit, she was interviewed by Dr. Kimberly C. Ellis, Director of Community, Arts and Culture for Buccini/Pollin Group.
How do you feel about the work you accomplished during your tenure as Deputy Director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority? I'm extremely proud of what we have achieved at the URA during my tenure. It's been such an honor to work on behalf of the City, and in partnership with the broader Pittsburgh community, to shift the organization's focus more toward inclusive and equitable economic development.
Where are you going next and what can we expect? I'm thrilled about the next chapter and to share that I am going to serve as the inaugural CEO of a new economic mobility platform designed to support income eligible adult learners with children achieve post-secondary degree attainment. My new focus will be working within higher education to address income stagnation issues as a part of a broader, inclusive prosperity strategy, as it relates to economic development here in the city. An official announcement will be released in a few weeks with more information.
What do you hope to see from the Lower Hill Redevelopment? I hope to see the Lower Hill emerge as a model of equitable community revitalization based on how much restorative benefit it returns to the greater Hill District. I often said no one project can solve all of what ails a neighborhood. However, it is also important to acknowledge that no other project is as significant to the Historic Hill District's history, or its destiny as the Lower Hill's redevelopment, and it must be regarded as such. There are economic, institutional, and human-centered implications which present a transformative opportunity to chart a new course for the neighborhood, while honoring and incorporating the people and practitioners who already present.
As a resident and stakeholder, I wholeheartedly believe a development of which we can all be proud is achievable, if all parties material to the Lower Hill's redevelopment uphold the CCIP Community Benefits Agreement, as a sacred social contract with the interests of Historic Hill District residents at its center.
Read more here
The Lower Hill Redevelopment's First Source Center hosted a remarkably successful Job Fair and Open House on Wednesday, March 30, 2022, at the Historic Hill House Association, 1835 Centre Ave., Pittsburgh PA. With over 25 stellar companies participating, 200 registrants, signups for career-creating trainings and some on the spot hires from Prestige Cleaning and Salem’s Market and Grill. With over 200 registrants in attendance there was a solid flow of job seekers and employers eager to participate in the event.
The energy was palpable, as WAMO broadcast live from the front of the Hill House Association with interviews and ads broadcast weeks in advance and during the day. Offering free, professional headshots from Rick on The Run Media was the hit of the day. Over 50 people took their free headshots.
Hill-based Finesse Group Communications (led by Naomi Ritter) helped build awareness and momentum by canvassing businesses, faith-based organizations, and even door-to-door flyer drop-offs to local residences. As the day heated up, employers were given a chance to speak about their companies, positions offered and a range of salaries. With goals of signing up 50 persons for various jobs, at least 10 trainings and 10 hires, the First Source Center Job Fair and Open House superseded expectations.
First Source Center operator, Hill-based Cameron Group, instituted the organization of the five hour event with refreshments provided by Salem’s Market Grill and only made possible by the generous sponsorship by First National Bank Corporation (FNB), who also participated in the fair.
Opening its doors in June 2021, The First Source Center (FSC) is a project of the Lower Hill Development in collaboration with the Hill District Community Collaboration and Implementation Plan (CCIP) and intended to serve existing and former Hill District residents. The purpose of the Job Fair and Open House was to build awareness about the First Source Center's support services and give exposure to job and training opportunities available through organizational partners. The phone line has been ringing off the hook before and afterwards and the FSC looks forward to hosting another event again in the Fall.
Learn more about the First Source Center here.
See all the photos from the job fair here.
Thank you to all of our partners for helping make this event a success:
First National Bank
A. Philip Randolph Institute
Builders Guild Intro to the Trades
Cameron Professional Services Group
Catapult Greater Pittsburgh
Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC)
Duquesne Light Company
EAT Initiative/ Eminent Hospitality
International Union of Painters & Allied trades District Council 57 Liken Home Care
New Century Careers
PPG Paints Arena
Salem's Market & Grill
Transportation Security Administration (TSA) of Pittsburgh University of Pittsburgh Workforce Development
UPMC Pathways to Work
Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)
WAMO Radio Station