Employment and job creation continue to be a major issue as we enter 2011. In his 2010 State of the Union Address, President Barak Obama stated that one in 10 Americans could not find work. An end of the year report on Good Morning America, an ABC television network morning news and talk show reported that 26 million people are unemployed. Third quarter unemployment statistics in the Pittsburgh Metropolitan region, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry—Center for Workforce Information and Analysis is reported as 101,665.

READY—Cathy Horne of Blossoms of Verona Floral and Gift Shop looks forward to the New Year. (Photos by Diane Daniels)

President Obama in his address cited jobs as his number one focus in 2010. Viewing small businesses as a portion of the solution to the unemployment problem he stated, “We should start where most new jobs do—in small businesses, companies that begin when an entrepreneur takes a chance on a dream.” To help small businesses grow he proposed to utilize $30 billion repaid by Wall Street banks to assist community banks give small businesses credit; a new small business tax credit for small businesses to hire new workers or raise wages; to eliminate all capital gains taxes on small business investment; and to provide a tax incentive for all businesses to invest in new plants and equipment.

Career expert, Tory Johnson, founder and CEO of Women for Hirer and Workplace Contributor on ABC’s Good Morning America, concurs with the President that small business is a key way to stimulate the economy. While he proposes legislation she challenges unemployed, underemployed and discouraged Americans to redefine job safety and security. In a recent Good Morning America segment she suggested adopting a free agent mentality. “Consider some form of entrepreneurship as a potential goldmine for 2011,” she advised pointing out that resources are plentiful to assist with the process.

Pittsburgh labeled as the second best city to launch a small business by Fortune Small Business Magazine is known for its many resources. Toting a strong college and university base, many of them house Small Business Development Centers; the U.S. Small Business Administration has a strong force in the region through its Pittsburgh District Office as well as the African American Chamber of Commerce of Western Pennsylvania and the Western Pennsylvania Minority Supplier Development Council.

Chatham University operates the Center for Women’s Entre­pre­neur­ship and Allegheny County runs the Minority/Women and Disadvantaged Business Enterprise. And there are smaller groups like the Minority Networking Exchange and the Woman’s Small Business Association that focus on the needs of micro businesses.

Vice President of Community Development for Dollar Bank, Mona Generett, Ph.D, considers Pittsburgh’s community development groups as resources that provide tremendous entrepreneurial opportunities. Crediting the Community Reinvestment Act, which requires banks to lend in areas from where their deposits are accepted, she says CRA and the efforts of the Pittsburgh Community Reinvestment Act is the reason many Pittsburgh communities are on the road to recovery. Known around the world for its accomplishments in revitalization, Generett says the city is full of opportunity and resources. Other than the community development corporations, sources she identifies include the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Partnership for Neighborhood Development.

Along with Boston, Philadelphia, D.C., Baltimore, New York and New Jersey, according to Willie C. Taylor, Regional Director of the Philadelphia Regional Office of Economic Development Administration U.S. Department of Commerce, Pittsburgh is at a pivotal point and the backbone of the region in which his office covers. One of five regions in the US, his territory includes the District of Columbia, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, the east coast from Maine to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. In town last May, promoting programs and policy of the EPA, Taylor gained insight on economic progress in the Pittsburgh area, during a round table discussion. From educators, area economic development specialists, small business owners and non-profit representatives he learned that the cleaning up of old brown fields, preparing people to participate in the Marcellus Shale project, provision of technical assistance, certification of minority and women entrepreneurs, access to capital, partnerships among educational institutions, preparing students academically and to be socially conscious, the provision of business opportunities and resources for the immigrant/refugee population of Southwestern Pennsylvania are issues of concern. Glad to have the ear of a representative of President Obama, Howard B. Slaughter, Jr. initiator of the event concurs with Taylor, that this region is a key economic driver. “There are economic development opportunities that haven’t been taken full advantage of,” he pointed out. Slaughter is president and CEO of Christian Management Enterprises, LLC.

A major opportunity of the region is the Marcellus Shale project. Esther Bush, president and CEO of the Urban League of Greater Pittsburgh classified it as “a gold mine to this area.” “It is small businesses’ tomorrow and I am excited and pumped up about it,” she says. Considered the largest unconventional natural gas reserve in the world, Marcellus Shale is said to contain an estimated undiscovered resource of about 1.9 trillion cubic feet of gas. A Penn State economic impact study predicts that Marcellus Shale will bring an $8 billion boon to the state, with about half of that money generated in southwestern Pennsylvania and a projected 88,000 job creation in Pennsylvania. Entrepreneurial opportunities are limitless, but yet the development is generating positive and negative opinions.

In 2010 Pittsburgh for the third time since 1985 was recognized as the “most livable city.” Once known as the Steel City, it has repositioned itself as a technology-based economy. As Johnson advises, “Expand your mind. Just because your industry took a dive, it doesn’t mean your career or business must sink too.”

In this new decade it does not matter if you are a small business owner like Eugene Berry of Steel City Stomp Towel and Cathy Horne of Blossoms of Verona Floral and Gift Shop. Or a major company like Chester Engineers owned by Robert O. Agbede celebrating 100 years of business and the largest African-American-owned environmental and engineering design firm in the United States. What matters is that you are prepared and ready to do business. As Agbede said during his anniversary ceremony, “We are committing to continue to reach out and be an example. New leaders need to be produced. His 2020 vision is to reach out beyond the US and to continue to assist young people through the colleges. “The urgency is now and we are pressing toward the mark.” That is what it is going to take for success in the year and decade ahead.

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