Iron Born's white pie

Since 2015, the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) has invested more than $35 million in small businesses throughout the city, providing support for 250-plus entrepreneurs and creating 786 new jobs.

These were the main takeaways from a new study from the URA’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), shared with the public last week. In addition to sharing data on the success of their programs, the URA’s leaders aim to generate more interest in their wide variety of support programs.

Speaking at the URA’s monthly public meeting on Sept. 12, CIE director Tom Link reported the Center made 38 loans across the city in 2018. They’ve already made 40 loans thus far in 2019 and are on track to exceed 60 before the end of the year — an all-time high.

Link credits the uptick in applications to increased awareness of the URA’s work thanks to the CIE’s online services and in-person networking events. “We want to meet entrepreneurs where they are,” he said, adding that the organization is more than ready to handle even higher levels of demand.

“We’re very busy,” said Link, “but we’re always open to talking to folks.”

A few of their notable local partners include Iron Born Pizza, which successfully purchased purchase furniture, fixtures, and equipment for their new location in the Strip thanks to a $130,500 loan and additional financing through Honeycomb Credit earlier this year (grand opening coming this fall).

On the South Side, the Carson Street-based restaurant Cilantro & Ajo purchased a food truck with $20,000 from the organization’s microloan program, which officially became a permanent program in April.

And throughout the city, the URA’s facade improvement program (another partnership with Honeycomb) has spent millions to beautify businesses like Espresso a Mano and La Gourmandine bakery.

As the URA leadership noted, 30% of their total loans were issued to minority and women-owned businesses over the last five years, and the numbers continue to climb. In 2019 alone, 63% of loans have gone to women and minority entrepreneurs, and the URA expects the number to increase before the end of the year.

“We’re proud to have supported so many entrepreneurs, small businesses and micro-enterprises,” said URA Deputy Director Diamonte Walker. “In addition, these programs do more than provide capital to these entrepreneurs and businesses; they help to build wealth in the communities they serve.”

Bill O'Toole

Bill O'Toole was a full-time reporter for NEXTpittsburgh until October, 2019. He previously reported in Myanmar.