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CIE Impact: By the Numbers

February 4, 2019

Fast Facts:

From 2014-2018, the CIE made 154 business and commercial real estate loans, totaling approximately $62 million in direct investment, leveraging $177 million in total project costs, and creating and/or retaining over 3,500 jobs.

During that same period, the CIE also completed 201 façade renovations in neighborhood business districts, totaling $5 million in direct investment and leveraging $17 million in total project costs.

Whether it be assisting entrepreneurs and small businesses, helping homeowners, or building a new community park, the work and investments of the URA have tremendous impact in improving neighborhoods across the city. Over the course of the year, we’ll be exploring that impact and how it benefits the residents of the City of Pittsburgh, in the newsletter.

Small businesses, startups, and growing businesses are responsible for most new job creation. This dynamic plays out both nationally, regionally and locally. It is critical to support new and growing businesses, and neighborhood business districts, to best ensure a diverse, growing, resilient economy.

What We Do

The URA’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) does this by providing access to capital, technical assistance, and connections to other resources, with a goal of creating jobs, improving the vitality of the city's businesses and neighborhoods, and strengthening the city's tax base.

At the URA, we understand it is often difficult for growing small businesses, and historically disadvantaged businesses – including minority and women-owned businesses—to raise enough private capital to fund their opportunity. Through the CIE, the URA deploys a variety of business lending and façade grant programs to assist with these financing needs.

In 2018, the CIE made 38 loans to entrepreneurs, startups, and small businesses, totaling roughly $4.1 million in URA investment, leveraging $18.7 million in total project costs. Of those loans, 22 were to MWBE businesses. Not only did this investment allow for the creation or expansion of small businesses, it created and/or retained a minimum of 400 jobs.

Investing in Façade Renovations

The URA’s façade improvement programs are designed to help commercial building owners and tenants improve or restore their storefronts. They revitalize the pedestrian environment, attract more customers to the businesses, and encourage neighborhood economic development and investment.

Last year the CIE also invested $476,000 in 40 façade renovations, leveraging $1.6 million in total project costs. Of those 40 renovations, 16 were to MWBE businesses.


“If you’re a retail business in this Internet age, your storefront is your billboard–people are Googling your address, pulling up a picture. If someone has never been there and doesn’t like what they see, they’re not going to go in.” - Quianna Wasler, CIE manager, business & commercial real estate financing

Read this terrific piece on the impact of the URA’s façade programs by NEXTpittsburgh.


Micro-Loans with a Big Impact

In May 2018, the CIE launched the Micro-Enterprise Loan Program to lower the barriers to participation for URA business financing. It is the only program in the city to offer low interest capital for businesses with loan amounts between $5,000 and $20,000. To date, already 18 loans are committed; 15 have closed - 14 of which were to MWBE-lead businesses.


"Since receiving the URA loan, we have gained more peace of mind knowing that we have the funds to purchase the equipment we need and the cushion of working capital that is necessary to open our storefront. We have purchased a cooler that was needed to accommodate the influx of holiday orders. We have also recently decided to hire a group of Food Business Consultants who will be helping us organize the business and streamline our processes.

If not for the URA loan, including the money for working capital, we would not have had the confidence to hire this group that we believe will be a great help to us in moving forward. We now feel more secure as business owners and are excited to grow at a faster pace."
- Janie Crawford, Co-owner, 350° Bakery


In addition to providing direct capital, the URA understands that providing customer engagement services, supporting neighborhood business districts, as well as bolstering a healthy, local entrepreneurial ecosystem are critical elements to a robust small business support strategy.


Our Programs Promote Growth

Programmatic efforts led by CIE include:

  • Business Expansion Customer Engagement: The URA serves point on business expansion and attraction for the City of Pittsburgh. Efforts include site location assistance, customer engagement, providing data, research, and all manners of professional engagement with job-creating expansion and attraction opportunities.
  • Catapult: This is a startup-to-storefront business incubator program the URA developed in concert with a host of community partners to support MWBE businesses in Pittsburgh’s East End. The first cohort of 14 businesses graduated from the program at a ceremony held January 7, 2019 at Gallery on Penn.
  • Business District Planning and Marketing: Tools such as the Next Neighborhood program and direct technical assistance and planning support coordinated and strategic efforts by our neighborhood business districts to proactively engage promotion, planning, and business development.
  • Small Business Resource Fairs: Since 2014, there have been 36 fairs across 20 neighborhoods, reaching more than 600 entrepreneurs. The URA staff engages directly with neighborhoods to ensure their businesses and entrepreneurs are aware of resources available to them to start or grow their businesses.
  • PGH Lab: This is an award-winning, first-customer program that has conducted four cohorts, totaling 23 startups, who have piloted their products and services within local government.
  • This website is a one-stop-shop the URA created for citywide business resources.


Inclusive Innovation is our Driving Force

The CIE also supports Inclusive Innovation efforts citywide through the Inclusive Innovation Meetups and the Inclusive Innovation Summit (coming March 28-30, 2019).

The work the CIE does is intentional and highly staff-intensive. Last year, CIE staff invested 570 hours in outreach – which included 285 events and outreach efforts in 35 neighborhoods, engaging 400 businesses. Some of those businesses include Affirm, Schoolhouse Electric, Astrobotic, HiberSense, Proud Company, and Carmi.

Whether it’s the need for business financing, improving a facade, building a new facility to accommodate expansion, seeking working capital to underwrite growth, purchasing or leasing new equipment, or all of the above, the CIE is here to help.

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