Urban Innovation21 reaches out to Black neighborhoods

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The Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone, which has been tasked to spur entrepreneurship, new technology start-ups and economic development in commercial corridors in the Hill District, North Side, Uptown and Downtown, has changed its name to Urban Innovation21 and is expanding its reach to other underserved neighborhoods.

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BILL GENERETT

President and CEO Bill Generett said the name change reflects the partnership’s forward vision.

“We selected Urban Innovation21 because this century calls for a new economy in our region,” he said. “We are working toward an economy in which all communities are connected to wealth generators.”

The name change further helps distinguish Urban Innovation21’s public-partnership, which includes the Alcoa Foundation, Allegheny County Department of Economic Development, the Heinz Endowments, Carlow University, Duquesne University, Community College of Allegheny County, the Idea Foundry, Innovation Works, the Hill House Economic Development Corporation, Institute for Transfusion Medicine, Point Park University, PNC Bank, the Richard King Mellon Foundation and UPMC Health Plan, from the Keystone Opportunity Zone program created by the state government to attract development in specified regions via tax incentives.

Despite the change, all the functions of PCKIZ will remain in place as a program within Urban Innovation21 and all its current activities with start-ups will continue. Among these is its partnership with the Hill House and the University of Pittsburgh which earned a $1.95 million federal award in September to stimulate employment opportunities for residents in the technology and medical fields.

“We support entrepreneurship and innovation and work to ensure that our region’s talented minds have the tools and the environment to succeed here,” Generett said. “Then we work to ensure that the benefits of this new economy reach people and communities who are disenfranchised from this success.”

The partnership’s geographical expansion had been in the works for some time, Generett said, and though Urban Innovation21 is looking to spur innovation and start-up businesses in Black communities throughout western Pennsylvania, its initial expansion will involve Pittsburgh’s East End, Garfield, Homewood, East Liberty, Lincoln and Larimer.

“When you look at African-American neighborhoods in western Pennsylvania, like in the Mon Valley or Aliquippa, you see they aren’t connected to these new technology start-ups. They haven’t been included in the innovation economy,” he said. “We are currently working with a ‘green’ manufacturing firm looking to locate here. I may have more to say about that in a few weeks.”

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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