Here is O’Connor’s idea for URA support for startups. While Pittsburgh’s economy is flourishing by several indices, there are still many trouble spots that require careful attention, including shortage of capital. Another one is a problem nurturing startups.
City Councilman Corey O’Connor proposed legislation to address both, & it deserves his colleagues’ support. Mr. O’Connor wants Urban Redevelopment Authority to reserve an initial $75,000 to $100,000 for grants or loans that entrepreneurs would use to help getting their big ideas off the ground. The program would be covering some of a fledgling business’ earliest costs, like permits and software, potentially providing help before commercial lenders or investors entering the picture.
Although it may be hard to believe given the amount of research at the local hospitals and the universities, Pittsburgh has an even difficult time generating start-ups than many other metropolitan areas. In May 2017, the “Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation” ranked Pittsburgh 39th, alongwith Milwaukee, Wis., in study of start-up business activity. In a 2016 and 2015 report, Pittsburgh ranked 40th, which is the dead last.
The city ranked 23rd in another Kauffman Foundation study last year measuring how start-ups do grow in revenue & employment over the time. The city has done it better — ranking 1st in 2016 — on yet another Kauffman study that examine start-up survival rates & related factors.
While some may quibble with studies’ findings, it is clear that Pittsburgh needs doing a better job at launching small businesses alongside helping them grow, meaning that businesses across economic sectors, from university spin-offs to the neighborhood cafes.
In 2017 the Post-Gazette reported on entrepreneur Torie Day’s efforts to open fresh-food grocery & cafe in Allentown. Ms. Day, having a catering background but no experience running some store or cafe, did spend thousands of dollars on equipment, promotional materials & capital upgrades to her leased space, only to give up before ever she opened. With other setbacks were unexpectedly high expenses for permits & the need for the more capital.
Mr. O’Connor’s initiative could mean difference between success and failure for other business persons. Even a little help can prompt some prospective business owners to have a chance on their dreams. While bigger developments often grab the headlines, neighborhoods more often are buoyed one small enterpreneur at a time. Ms. Day’s project held out that type of anticipation to Allentown, which possess no establishment like the one she has planned.
To be sure about it, grants should be combined with the other aid, like assistance from neighborhood groups & the city’s two-year-old Advisory Board on Entrepreneurship and Start-ups. The role of board is to make recommendations for improving the city’s entrepreneurship climate, but members of it could help individual start-ups in any number of ways. While businesses face formidable hurdles and opportunity abounds as well as the city should do as much as it can to help the big thinkers bring ideas to the market.