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Group to pitch Pittsburgh region in Oman

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By Bill Zlatos
Thursday, April 8, 2010

A 16-member delegation from the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute will leave Friday on its first mission abroad -- a meeting with high-ranking officials in Oman.

"Our goal is to connect our region to the countries of the Middle East in business, education and culture," said Simin Yazdgerdi Curtis, president and founder of the Downtown institute. "It's a sensational opportunity to realize this goal."

Oman is a sultanate of 3.4 million people on the Arabian Sea.

The nonprofit institute, founded about two years ago, tries to promote a better understanding between the United States and the Middle East and to brand Pittsburgh as a top 10 "city of the future."

The institute sponsored Sayyid Badr Al Busaidi, secretary general of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Oman, at its second annual conference last fall. He will meet with the Pittsburgh delegation, along with five other ministers, government officials and corporate leaders.

"One of the things we're focusing on is the Omanis don't have as much oil as other gulf states, and they're looking at renewable energy," Curtis said.

Besides Curtis and institute Vice President Paul Overby, the delegation includes representatives of local energy and environmental companies. They include Ron Pettengill, CEO of Epiphany Solar Water Systems; Vikrant Sarin and Devesh Sharma, executives with Aquatech; and Robert Stoehr, manager of photovoltaic systems, and John Wu, CEO of Solar Power Industries.

Delegates in health care or education are Esther Barazzone, president of Chatham University; Bryan Tamburro, senior director for strategic initiatives for Carnegie Mellon University's School of Public Policy and Management and the School of Information Systems; Bryan S. Zerbe, director of admissions for CMU's Qatar campus; Michael Costelloe, senior vice president-international for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center; and David K. Miles, CEO of The Children's Institute.

"Our objective is to learn about the Omani health care system," said UPMC spokeswoman Wendy Zellner. "We have no current plans to expand into Oman."

Other delegates are Mateen Aini, chief operating officer of Songwhale LLC; Shadi S. Arnita, chairman of A&Z Pharmaceutical LLC; and Neal Brendel, managing partner of K&L Gates' Dubai office; and Phalgun Trivedi, regional operations manager for H. J. Heinz Co. in Africa and Middle East.

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