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URA Wins Gold and Silver Excellence in Economic Development Awards from the International Economic Development Council

November 1, 2019

The URA and Circles Greater Pittsburgh won a Silver Excellence in Economic Development Award from the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) for the Catapult: Startup to Storefront project in the category of Economic Equity and Inclusion. Pittsburgh Urban Initiatives LLC (PUI), the city’s Community Development Entity (CDE) housed within the URA, won a Gold Award from the IEDC for the New Markets Loan Fund (NMLF) Program in the category of Creative Financing.

Both awards were presented at a ceremony on Tuesday, October 15 during the IEDC Annual Conference, which was held October 13-16, in Indianapolis, IN.

The Economic Equity and Inclusion award recognizes programs dedicated to improving the quality of life within a community through focused, innovative, and inclusive initiatives that incorporate the unique experiences and knowledge of underserved members of the community. These programs promote economic equity and inclusion and/or provide increased access to government and community resources to an underserved populace.

Catapult: Startup to Storefront is a 12-month business incubation program created by the URA, Circles of Greater Pittsburgh, and East Liberty Development, Inc., which aims to support new and growing minority-led businesses in the East End of Pittsburgh. Through educational seminars and one-on-one mentoring consultations, businesses accelerate their growth and achieve sustainable outcomes.

The program completed its first cohort, graduating 12 businesses at the end of 2018. All participants improved their businesses, and several positioned themselves to receive a URA micro enterprise loan. The success of the program led to the opening of a retail incubator storefront, Gallery on Penn, where six of the Catapult businesses are established and selling their goods to customers. Gallery on Penn is celebrating its one-year anniversary with a special event on Friday, November 8, 2019.

The second East Liberty cohort started on September 9, 2019; 67 applications were received for the program. Twenty-six applicants were interviewed and 15 were selected for the cohort.

In addition to receiving an award at the IEDC conference, the URA’s Neighborhood Business District Manager Josette Fitzgibbons, Circles Greater Pittsburgh’s Executive Director Tammy Thompson, and Paramount Co-op President Trish Digliodo presented a session to more than 60 conference attendees that focused on the development, structure, and lessons learned of the Catapult program.

The award for Creative Financing recognizes partnership with non-traditional financing resources and/or use of non-traditional methods of financing for economic and business development projects, activities, and programs. Examples include New Markets Tax Credits and non-traditional revolving loan funds through the USDA, EDA, and HUD CDBG.

The New Markets Loan Fund utilizes New Markets Tax Credits capitalized by PNC Bank and the URA to create a loan pool that provides patient capital to new or expanding businesses. The loans are between $500,000 and $2 million and are only made to businesses that are in qualifying highly distressed census tracts, as defined by the CDFI Fund of the Treasury Department. The Program is designed to stimulate the growth of new and existing businesses in the City of Pittsburgh. In order to promote job creation and increase the City’s tax base, the NMLF targets manufacturing, distribution, and technology and innovation-based high job growth potential companies.

PUI created the NMLF in 2014 and has since deployed $6 million into smaller loans through four projects located throughout the City: The Proud Company in the West End, Schoolhouse Electric in East Liberty, Arsenal Motors with the Beauty Shoppe in Lawrenceville, and The Society for Contemporary Craft in Lawrenceville.

The IEDC's Excellence in Economic Development Awards recognize the world's best economic development programs and partnerships, marketing materials, and the year's most influential leaders. The 34 award categories honor organizations and individuals for their efforts in creating positive change in urban, suburban, and rural communities. Awards are judged by a diverse panel of economic and community developers from around the world, following a nomination process held earlier this year. The IEDC received over 400 submissions from 12 countries.


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