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Pittsburgh has a proud tradition of small, independently owned businesses. Our business districts are lined with start-ups and small businesses providing critical services to our neighborhoods. However, Pittsburgh lags behind the national average in the number of small business start-ups – the businesses that tend to create the most local jobs and economic opportunity. We should find ways to make it easier to start a business in Pittsburgh by providing a centralized information clearinghouse where anyone who is interested in starting a business can find all of the resources they need.

1. Taking the Guesswork Out of Starting a Business

The new Pittsburgh Office of Small Business Services will make it easier for anyone who is interested to start a new business. The Office will be a partnership between the City of Pittsburgh and the Urban Redevelopment Authority and will offer free services to any resident with a viable business plan. The Office will provide assistance with strengthening business plans, finding financing and start-up capital, selecting a location, obtaining licensing and permits, and marketing.

It is in the city’s best interest to facilitate the creation of new businesses that will bring jobs and economic development to our neighborhoods. The more successful businesses we have opening each year the more property taxes we collect, the more jobs are available to our residents, and the more vibrant our neighborhoods will be.

2. Coupling Business Development With Neighborhood Improvement

One of the core functions of the Pittsburgh Office of Small Business Services should be locating, acquiring, and providing real estate for potential business owners. Working with the URA, and the proposed Pittsburgh Community Land Bank, the Office could match prospective business owners with vacant or abandoned properties held by the URA and Land Bank and work collaboratively to bring them back into a productive and useful state. Not only would we be bringing new businesses to the neighborhoods that need them, we would be improving property values and quality of life through blight reduction.

Through this collaboration with land-holding entities, the Office could create small-business incubators – low-cost rental spaces where businesses can be housed collectively until they reach a phase where they are ready to expand into their own spaces. These incubators have been incredibly successful in other cities and often spur new partnerships between businesses and innovative new thinking.