Tech tyros get $1.3 mil in tax credit funding

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While Urban Innovation21 President and CEO Bill Generett was pleased to recently hear of a project that could bring tablet computer manufacturing to Homewood in the future, he was even more pleased to announce that several tech start-up firms he has been working with have been awarded nearly $980,000 in state tax credit funding.

The 16 firms are all–thanks to Urban Innovation21–located in the Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone, which allowed them to apply for the funding from the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development Ben Franklin Development Authority.  The awards range from just over $5,000 to $100,000.

“Our part is getting the companies to locate in the zone and get them registered for the funding,” said Generett. “So it’s very rewarding.

All of these companies are less than eight years old, and only a few are in the Black. So many of the recipients will use this for operating capital.”

While several of the firms listed are women-owned businesses, only one in this funding cycle, Rubitection Inc., is Black-owned. It received $17,250.

“That’s a neat company,” said Generett. “They manufacture a sensor that that detects bedsores before they are visible to the human eye, which is particularly helpful for people of color.”

The central Innovation Zone1 includes parts of Downtown, the North Side, Uptown, The Hill District and South Oakland. Generett said most of the firms are located in Uptown and in the North Side technology park. Urban Innovation21 is working to promote the Hill as a location.

“We had a couple in New Hope Square, but one went under, the other moved out,” he said. “Tech start-ups are tough, but every once in a while there’s a home run like Resumator. It’s the most successful tech firm in Pittsburgh and it’s owned by an. African-American.”

Generett said he expects more African-American participation in tech start-ups once the former Connelley technical school reopens as a Green/Technology Incubator, which should be by this fall.

In the meantime, Urban Innovation21 will continue awarding grants to promising tech firms and to other homegrown businesses in communities like the Hill District, Homewood and the North Side.

“We also have one of the largest an most diverse internship programs in the city, putting students from the Pittsburgh Promise and from CCAC together with businesses and entrepreneurs,” he said. “But we’re not really in the K-12 age group. That’s why there needs to be more funding and support for the people who are. We are just one piece of the puzzle.”

In addition to the companies shepherded by Urban Innovation21, another seven start-ups in the Greater Oakland Keystone Innovation Zone were awarded just under $362,000 in tax credit funds. For a complete list of the awardees visit http://www.urbaninnovation.org.

(Send comments to cmorrow@newpittsburghcourier.com.)

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