URA supports startups
I read with great interest Abby W. Schachter’s Dec. 20 column, “A Jew runs for city council.” I share Dan Gilman’s desire to retain and attract youth and diversity to our city through economic development. In fact, Pittsburgh is one of the leaders in the country in attracting and retaining a young, educated workforce, second only to Washington, D.C. Since President Obama hosted the G-20 in Pittsburgh in 2009, we have made more than 100 top lists nationally and internationally.
However, I must question if Mr. Gilman has overlooked something when he complains, “There’s just about no support for such small startups coming from city government.”
As Dan knows, the city’s economic development initiatives are housed at the organization I lead — the Urban Redevelopment Authority. Over the past six years, we have invested directly in 390 small businesses and neighborhood commercial real estate developments. Our investment of more than $70 million has created and retained more than 4,100 jobs and leveraged total investment in Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods of $400 million. Nearly $5 million of URA’s investment has taken place in District 8, which Mr. Gilman hopes to represent, and has supported notable early stage tech companies such as Showclix and Bossa Nova Concepts.
At the direction of Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, the URA restructured its business assistance department into the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. In addition to the small business financing described previously, the Center has been actively engaged with numerous partners, including the Pittsburgh Technology Council, the Idea Foundry, Catalyst Connection, Urban Innovations 21, Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University and many others.
Recent activities of note include: the upcoming, sold out, Steel City Codefest (whose partnerships include Google, Maya Design, Showclix, Walnut Capital, the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County and Pitt’s University Center for Social and Urban Research), where programmers will compete over a 24-hour period to develop apps directly for, or to better engage with government; sponsorship of the Pittsburgh Technology Council’s Venture In/Venture Out series which reached more than 450 entrepreneurs last fall; and sponsorship of the Thrill Mill’s Business Bout business plan competition, which has attracted 150 entries and led to the soon-to-be permanent small business incubator opening on East Liberty’s Broad Street.
In short, there is a plethora of resources and technical assistance available to Pittsburgh’s small businesses and entrepreneurs. Strategic investment of these public resources not only creates new businesses and jobs, but significantly contributes to Pittsburgh’s tax base growth and quality of life.
(The author is acting executive director of the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh.)
On behalf of the board of directors and staff, we’d like to thank The Jewish Chronicle for the comprehensive coverage of our 75th anniversary.
Since our founding in 1937, Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Pittsburgh has made a positive impact in our communities and changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of individuals and families.
JF&CS holds a unique place among community organizations for the vast array of services designed to help people through every aspect of their lives. For the past 75 years, JF&CS has continuously grown and evolved to meet our community’s ever-changing needs, committed to helping everyone who walks through our door, without regard to race, religion, ancestry, national origin, place of birth, sex, sexual orientation, familial status, age, handicap or disability.
As our milestone celebration of 75 years comes to a close, it is crucial to note that much of our work throughout the years would not have been possible without the incredible partners who have collaborated with our agency and invested in our work in a multitude of ways.
Our heartfelt thanks to the United Way of Allegheny County, Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh and the Jewish Healthcare Foundation, the many foundations and government agencies, corporate and community partners, donors and supporters who have championed the work of JF&CS over the years. With deepest gratitude, we ask them to join us in continued service to the Greater Pittsburgh community for the next 75 years and beyond.
(The author is president & CEO of the Jewish Family & Children’s Service.)