Bill Generett / Urban Innovation 21, CEO

What drives you up the wall? "When people aren't passionate about their work."

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The Hill District has never made the top 10 list of up and coming technology innovation zones.

Bill Generett is changing that.

Mr. Generett was the CEO of the Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone, an organization created to lead the state's Keystone Innovation Zone initiative meant to spur new businesses in central Pittsburgh. The organization has grown to encompass Uptown and the North Side, and has since become Urban Innovation 21.

There is a lot happening in that opportunity zone: Uptown has a tech incubator; the Hill District grocery store is becoming a reality; the old Connelly trade school is becoming an energy innovation center.

Getting it done has required the collaboration of many agencies. Sort of in the way that a farm is a collaboration of seeds, soil, water and the farmer's work, the developments in the Hill District and Uptown are the results of the collaboration of many parts to nurture a bigger change.

Mr. Generett's background is as an attorney in Atlanta, where he worked for a firm that specialized in corporate law and real estate law. He moved back to Pittsburgh in 2004 and started a company Comforcare Services, which provided non-medical home care. He sold that in 2007 to take over as the first CEO of the innovation zone.

His leadership style is to set people on a mission and let them go.

"I like to find really smart and driven people, and give them goals," he said. "I take a hands-off approach and let them reach those goals."

What he has found is that people tend to exceed those goals.

While there have been stumbles along the way, Mr. Generett said he does not regret mistakes because they have always been opportunities to learn how to make things better,

"In 2007 when we started, there were a lot of people in the state and a lot of people in the city who didn't think we were going to be successful," he said.

But the Pittsburgh innovation zone has taken off.

"I am proud of the work we are doing."


-- Ann Belser: or 412-263-1699


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