The third in a series of roundtable discussions with Mayor Bill Peduto focused on better fostering business startups and helping incubators and co-working spaces thrive. With several universities and young companies, Peduto says it’s critical to ensure young graduates stay in the Steel City.
He said these businesses will want to locate within city limits, and in clusters.
“And what we have in abundance is land,” Peduto said. “How do we partner with you to be able to open up access to these buildings that have remained vacant for so long to create opportunities for everyone?”
The mayor, City Councilman Dan Gilman and several local business leaders gathered to discuss the issue and figure out next steps. Dave Mawhinney is director of the Carnegie Mellon Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. He said Pittsburgh has a lot to gain by keeping recent graduates and young entrepreneurs here.
“Recent startups from Carnegie Mellon have created over a thousand jobs here in the city,” said Mawhinney, “and in the last three years we’ve made 38 investments, 25 of them have stayed here in Pittsburgh.”
Gilman said keeping those companies here and helping startups grow does not benefit only individual companies.
“This is economic development,” he said. “Not only, obviously job creation, but this is how you rebuild neighborhoods. When one of these companies comes into a neighborhood a coffee shop’s going in next door, the bar and restaurant is going in across the street and the dry cleaner is going up –this is how you rebuild neighborhoods.”
But there are challenges for young businesses. Many don’t have the capital to invest in real estate or lease long-term space. That’s where co-working spaces come in. That’s a trend that is growing in Pittsburgh. Revv Oakland will have six locations by February. It offers shared office with the goal of helping startups grow faster.
“For a flat fee you get office space, everything you’d imagine you’d need in a co-working space,” said Revv Oakland Director Mark Musolino, “conference room, phone booths, an event space. In addition to the physical infrastructure, we also do business services so we bring in accountants and financial planners and even a photographer in monthly. We vet them, we bring them to the companies – it’s all about efficiency.”
Some at the roundtable said the city could also benefit from space that would allow for larger gatherings – like big conference rooms.
Peduto has now held three roundtables, one on the maker movement, one on clean technology and this one. The fourth and final roundtable on startup companies will be held next week.