Hill District businesses to compete for grant money

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Urban Innovation21 is making up to $50,000 in grants available exclusively to assist Hill District based entrepreneurs expand and improve their businesses with its first Small Business Grant Competition.

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WILLIAM GENERETT

As part of a public-private partnership, Urban Innovation21 is charged with supporting and investing in technology innovators in Pittsburgh’s underserved communities. Since its creation the organization has awarded more than $300,000 to businesses located within the Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone, which includes the Hill.

The grant competition applies to businesses in the zone as well.

“In part because of technology grants and other PCKIZ incentives, a cluster of technology companies are now located in the Greater Hill District,” said Urban Innovation21 President William Generett. “With this new grant program, we look forward to connecting community-based businesses to the innovation economy ecosystem.”

Eligible grant applicants must live in, or operate their business in, the Hill District. Businesses owned by Hill residents will get stronger consideration. All businesses, with the exception of multi-level marketing entities, may apply.

Supply-chain businesses from manufacturing to distribution, retail entities from restaurants to florists, and even professional service firms such as architects and accountants are eligible.

“This competition is not limited to the technology firms we usually focus on,” said Generett. “One thing we’re excited about is plugging Hill businesses into the exciting tech work going on across the city, so this is pretty broad.”

Applicants will compete for one grant award of $10,000, six grants of $5,000, and up to 20 match awards of $500 toward a no interest micro-loan from Zip Kiva of up to $5,000. Another three technical support awards to raise funds through a crowd funding platform will also be awarded.

“The Kiva partnership is our other big announcement,” said Generett. “The URA referred them to us and we had been looking at the crowd funding idea anyway. The $5,000 no-interest loan is more than they usually do.”

Generett said in order to provide additional assistance in non-traditional, innovative ways, Urban Innovation21 has become a Kiva trustee and will be endorsing entrepreneurs for Kiva Zip zero interest loans.

Kiva, provides microloan entrepreneurial funding by leveraging the Internet and a worldwide network of microfinance institutions. Kiva currently has over one million individual lenders providing small loans to entrepreneurs.

Hill District City Councilman R. Daniel Lavelle was delighted with news of the grant competition.

“It’s a wonderful program,” he said. “We’re very grateful to Bill Generett for providing numerous grants to businesses because that’s the backbone of a community. The dollars they’re putting forward could really help.”

Generett said he expects a total of around 30 applications. He has already received 10.

“It all comes back to seeing that as all this great stuff is happening in the Hill that residents can take advantage of it, that as the community is transformed, so are they,” Generett said.

In Novemeber, Generett said Urban Innovations21 would create a Homewood Innovation Zone fueled by a $100,000 grant fund pool. They will hold another competition for those funds.

The application deadline for the Hill grants is Oct. 10. Business owners can apply online at http://urban­innovation21.org/grants/, and must provide an entrepreneur profile, a business summary and business plan. Free technical assistance is available to complete the requirements. The winners will be announced in January.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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