Pitt Initiative Spurs Entrepreneurship in Monongahela River Valley

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University matches federal funding for project to help residents start businesses

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PITTSBURGH—With a grant of federal funding, the University of Pittsburgh has embarked on an initiative aimed at boosting entrepreneurial activity in Southwestern Pennsylvania’s Monongahela River Valley.

Through the initiative “Advancing Entrepreneurship in the Mon Valley Region,” Pitt faculty and staff members have begun providing business consultation services to residents in the region interested in starting or expanding their own businesses. The project has received a two-year grant of $300,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration; Pitt has matched that funding, providing the initiative with a total amount of $600,000. Raymond L. Vargo, director of Pitt’s Small Business Development Center within the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, leads a consulting session at an Advancing Entrepreneurship in the Mon Valley Region workshop.

The Mon Valley—a string of communities bordering the Monongahela River in Allegheny, Fayette, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties—has endured widespread economic distress since the decline of Southwestern Pennsylvania’s steel industry in the 1980s. For more than 30 years, the region has consistently faced income disparities, unemployment rates, and population declines disproportionate to national averages. 

Initiative leaders view entrepreneurship efforts as a key means toward driving the region’s long-term economic recovery: “The mission of this initiative is to create a pathway for potential small business owners in the Mon Valley to open and develop profitable enterprises within their communities and link those enterprises to public and private partnerships throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Sabina Deitrick, the initiative’s principal investigator and director of Pitt’s Urban and Regional Analysis Program within the University Center for Social and Urban Research. 

A collaborative effort between Pitt’s University Center for Social and Urban Research and its Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence, the initiative utilizes existing resources within the institute to engage potential business owners with a variety of business consultation services. Services include one-on-one advising, business plan development, financial analysis, information technology, and regional market research, among others. 

Pitt’s consulting services will be provided during a series of interactive community workshops in various locations throughout the Mon Valley region. A full listing of upcoming workshop sessions can be found at Advancing Entrepreneurship in the Mon Valley Region, fall schedule. 

Throughout the project, the University Center for Social and Urban Research will evaluate the effectiveness of the institute’s services. The center also will be charged with making recommendations for improvements to existing services and suggesting new services for future projects. 

“The Advancing Entrepreneurship in the Mon Valley Region Initiative takes business professionals from Pitt and places them within the Mon Valley community, where their experience and expertise can do good for the people of Southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Rhonda Carson-Leach, director of Pitt’s Urban Entrepreneurship Program within the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence. “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.”

Citizens interested in learning more about the Advancing Entrepreneurship in the Mon Valley Region Initiative should visit http://entrepreneur.pitt.edu/institute-centers/mon-valley-entrepreneurship/ , e-mail iee@katz.pitt.edu, or call 412-648-1544.

About the University Center for Social and Urban Research 

The University Center for Social and Urban Research was established in 1972 with a mandate to “bring together, in an organized and integrated fashion, the many research activities and some of the service activities of the University of Pittsburgh which focus on the urban phenomenon.” The center provides state-of-the-art research and support services for investigators interested in interdisciplinary research in the behavioral and social sciences. 

About the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence 
The Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence is a part of Pitt’s Innovation Institute, which seeks to advance Pitt’s successes in entrepreneurship, commercialization, and economic development. It offers small businesses a dynamic mix of consulting, education, and networking resources. It strives to be an innovative leader in connecting people, organizations, and resources in Southwestern Pennsylvania. 
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