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Economics / Entrepreneurs / Funding / Incubators / Municipal government

With the new Gallery on Centre, URA and Pittsburgh gov offer local founders more direct support

In addition to the investment program launched by the Urban Redevelopment Authority in March, the new hub signals a trend in civic efforts to better support early-stage entrepreneurship.

Mayor Ed Gainey and other local officials and community representatives cut the ribbon for the new Gallery on Centre. (Courtesy photo)
Pittsburgh’s local government is gearing up to provide more resources to underrepresented local entrepreneurs.

Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA), in collaboration with Mayor Ed Gainey, Catapult Greater Pittsburgh, PNC Foundation and others, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week for a new entrepreneurship center and retail incubation space in the Hill District. Located at 1840 Center Ave., the new Gallery on Centre is part of the Avenues of Hope initiative from the URA, as well as the Catapult: Startup to Storefront program. The space is funded by $450,00 of an investment from the PNC Foundation, which was awarded to the URA in August 2020.

Startup to Storefront, a 12-month business incubation program launched in 2018, has so far graduated four cohorts of businesses in Pittsburgh. Right now, it has one cohort in session with a total of 17 participants. The goal of the program is to support nearly 100 businesses through all Catapult entrepreneurship programs by August 2022, ensuring that 100% of participating entrepreneurs are Black or Latinx and 85% are women.

The new space will encompass 1,422 square feet and include resources for local entrepreneurs, like a conference room and two individual meeting rooms. That space will accommodate the needs of six businesses from the Catapult Minority Business Incubator in the Hill District, along with extra room for future cohorts of the program, a press release said. The entrepreneurs who will be featured at the center following its openings all have residences or close ties to the Hill District, and all businesses involved with the center are minority-owned, with a majority of those also being women-owned.

“The Gallery on Centre is something we should all be proud of and will serve as a model for equitable development in every neighborhood,” Gainey said in a statement. “The Avenues of Hope initiative showcases the City of Pittsburgh’s commitment to investing in Black communities. By focusing on the intersection of affordable housing, workforce development, and mixed-use transit-oriented environments we are able to create a lasting, positive impact for Black residents in Pittsburgh.”

Increased entrepreneurship across all Pittsburgh neighborhoods and residents was a key tenet of Gainey’s campaign platform in his successful bid for mayor last year. This effort in the Hill District aligns with ongoing projects in areas like Hazelwood Green or even outside city limits with recent economic revitalization efforts from organizations like the Digital Foundry at New Kensington.

This latest project from the URA also dovetails with a new investment program that the organization launched earlier this month to fund minority entrepreneurs in Pittsburgh. It’s also a sign that the city is preparing to become more directly involved with the success of local entrepreneurs. While the city-run accelerator PGH Lab is best known for that right now, these recent efforts from the URA indicate that public officials are readying for more direct investments into founders and business innovators in all communities and industries here.

While not directly tied to tech, this new incubator in the Hill District will set up a chance for residents there to benefit from the economic success yielded by the local tech industry. As more investments, public offerings and other exits continue to come out of tech, that money has a chance to go right back into the community and fund entrepreneurs of all skill levels and backgrounds.

“The Gallery on Centre is a prime example of how creative partnerships can lift, empower, and enable entrepreneurs,” URA Deputy Executive Director Diamonte Walker said. “It is the kind of project we envisioned when creating the Avenues of Hope initiative. It demonstrates how place-based strategies can serve as wealth-building tools, providing opportunities and bringing much-needed investment to the neighborhood. The Gallery on Centre will be a core component of the continued revitalization of Centre Avenue, and we look forward to watching these new businesses grow.”

Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 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: City of Pittsburgh

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