New University of Pittsburgh initiative focuses on Mon Valley

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Success often starts with a simple idea — and it can start anywhere.

“It might be in their garage or at their kitchen table, and they want to see if they can move it ahead, take it to the next step to get a business going,” said Sabina Deitrick, director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Urban and Regional Analysis Program.

She is spearheading a university initiative called Advancing Entrepreneurship in the Mon Valley Region to provide free business consultation services to residents of the once-thriving area along the Monongahela River.

The initiative has received a $300,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration, which was matched by the university for a total of $600,000 in funding.

“Putting the project in the Mon Valley was important to us and to them,” Ms. Deitrick explained. “A lot of these communities are still seeing the effects from the collapse of the steel industry and the loss of tens and tens of thousands of jobs.”

The initiative will launch with a series of introductory workshops for “very, very new businesses or people with an idea,” Ms. Deitrick said. The workshops are scheduled Sept. 3 at the Carnegie Library of Homestead in Munhall; Sept. 10 at CareerLink Mon Valley in Donora; and Sept. 17 at the McKeesport YMCA.

Two more rounds of workshops will take place in October, starting with “The First Step: Mechanics of Starting a Small Business.”

“This will get people more into the marketing aspect and what resources are there to help them,” Ms. Deitrick said.

Following will be “The Second Step: Developing a Business Plan,” which addresses an important component in attracting financial support for startups.

The initiative also focuses on established businesses with its Urban Power to Prosper program, which covers such topics as access to capital, financial management, strategic planning and access to new markets. The next class starts Nov. 4.

Advancing Entrepreneurship in the Mon Valley Region represents a collaboration between Pitt’s University Center for Social and Urban Research, of which Ms. Deitrick’s program is a part, and its Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence. The university’s Small Business Development Center also is a sponsor.

“This initiative is yet another example of the University of Pittsburgh reaching out and lending a helping hand to surrounding communities, being the best neighbor possible,” said Rhonda Carson-Leach, director of the entrepreneurial institute’s Urban Entrepreneurship Program.

For more information about Advancing Entrepreneurship in the Mon Valley Region: entrepreneur.pitt.edu, iee@katz.pitt.edu or 412-648-1544.

Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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