A handful of business incubators have set up shop in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania neighborhoods where vacant overgrown lots, faded signs and boarded up storefronts suggest that the local economy has struggled for decades.
Nonprofits such as Urban Innovation21 and Thrill Mill are taking steps to redefine the image of incubators as solely focused on highly educated tech developers by reaching out to struggling communities and adopting inclusion and neighborhood engagement as part of their strategies.
Such efforts are seen as critical to the future of city neighborhoods such as the Hill District and Homewood, as well as southwestern Pennsylvania, where U.S.
Census Bureau data suggest only 11 percent of jobs are held by racial and ethnic minorities – the lowest workforce diversity rate among Pittsburgh Today benchmark regions.
“If we’re going to grow, if we’re going to be able to compete, we’re going to have to attract minorities. We’re going to have to grow our workforce here,” says William Generett Jr., president and CEO, Urban Innovation21. “The only way we’re going to do that is by creating opportunity.”
Cincinnati, Ohio is an example of a place that has taken a successful regional approach to improving the support available to local minority-owned businesses.