OOH WHAT A SESSION—In Osun State, Nigeria, Paulo Nzambi, executive vice president/COO, Manchester Bidwell Corporation/National Center for Arts and Technology and Rufus Idris, executive director of CEED take part and enjoy one of the many business sessions of the trip.

OOH WHAT A SESSION—In Osun State, Nigeria, Paulo Nzambi, executive vice president/COO, Manchester Bidwell Corporation/National Center for Arts and Technology and Rufus Idris, executive director of CEED take part and enjoy one of the many business sessions of the trip.

Concurring, Rufus Idris of CEED, Danielle Davis of the MBI and William Generett of Urban Innovation21 point out that they look forward to client growth and development and collaborating with one another to assist in the economic growth of the region.

Still reaping results from the groups’ August trade mission to Osun State, Nigeria Idris defines the trip as a commanding success. From the non-profit groups and businesses that participated in the excursion he reports that over 110 appointments took place, four Memorandums of Understanding were signed and 20 potential private projects and about six government projects are in the works.

Along with CEED, area organizations and businesses involved in the trip included the Manchester Bidwell Training Center, the Kingsley Association, the Braddock Pot Shop; a ceramic-water filter factory, Carnegie Mellon and Point Park Universities, the International Fashion House, M.O.K.A. Gallery, Africa Yetu and DID and Associates.

Other projects initiated from the trade mission include: establishment of a workforce training facility modeled after the world acclaimed U.S. based Manchester Bidwell Corporation, a ceramic water filter production facility using sawdust and clay, partnership with the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University to establish a regional hub for ICT/software developer certification and public policy/leadership training center, and an energy saving and LED lighting investment to use 98 percent local workforce in the production, assembly, installation and distribution of LED products.

A relationship between Africa Yetu, a local cultural hub, building bridges between the African Nations and American communities working to unite people through the arts, education, tourism and social networks as well as the International Fashion House; a business cooperative of underserved and disadvantaged sewers using quality and authentic world fabrics for custom-made, stylish and wearable apparel, fashion accessories, bedding, tablecloths, napkins, curtains, uniforms and medical scrubs that meet local, national, and international demand with Nigerian native Jemiriye Adeniji. Adeniji, an artist and entrepreneur for several months has been working with Africa Yetu and the IFA providing entertainment and conducting artistic workshops.

Business development trainings, forums dealing with topics related to environmental issues, energy, and economic wealth, and collaborative community events is the 2014 focus of the MBI.  Designed to augment business ownership for underserved disadvantaged entrepreneur-type clients the group, according to Davis, is dedicated to fostering the development of sustainable micro-businesses which will stimulate economic development, self-sufficiency, and job creation in poverty-stricken neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. Enhancing its services from previous years, Davis outlined that Tuesday morning business trainings will consist of the “Entrepreneur Development Model.” Using a holistic approach to assisting participants in their self-employment pursuits the curriculum is combined with the “Core Four: Business Planning Course” for its training.

Tuesday afternoons, the MBI sponsors Green Talk Tuesday Forums which are designed to create an atmosphere for learning and networking, where community members discuss economic wealth and sustainability. January 14 an open house will take place at the Environment and Energy Community Outreach Center at the intersection of East Liberty Boulevard and Larimer Avenue.  March 26 in collaboration with the Urban Green Growth Collaborative, held at The Kingsley Association the MBI will sponsor a workshop titled “Meet Your Local Businesses.”

After a successful couple of years of sponsoring grant competitions, first in the Hill District and then Homewood, Urban Innovation21 in 2014 has plans to host a second round in both communities.  Generett described the Hill District Small Business Grant Competition as an initiative aimed at promoting business development in the Hill District by providing business guidance and capital and outlined the goals for the Homewood business grant competition as a way to increase the number of new start-up businesses in Homewood; to provide small grants to successful existing businesses to help them grow; to connect Homewood businesses to existing sources of financing; to recruit other organizations to provide resources and services that will create successful businesses owned by Homewood residents; to increase awareness of and get more Homewood based businesses to use the services of existing business service providers and assist the Homewood community to become connected to the city’s successful new economy.

Considered a public-private partnership that boosts regional economic development through 21st century innovation-driven entrepreneurship, Urban Innovation21 for the year also has plans to continue strengthening the businesses they have relationships with and to work with those willing to spur entrepreneurship in our region.

Focused on developing women entrepreneurs, Williams describes one of WEEEs’ goals as to boost the economic status and development of women who have been ignored or underserved by traditional business development organizations and banking institutions by providing business incubation during the start-up phase when businesses are most vulnerable.

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