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Obama Administration and Pitt to Fund New Workforce Development Program

Innovation Works and Pitt’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence and Swanson School of Engineering to launch educational programming and training initiatives

PITTSBURGH—As the market for Appalachian coal continues its steep decline, families in many Southwestern Pennsylvania communities are deeply impacted by job losses and economic instability. Thanks to a grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) announced today by the Obama Administration, a new workforce development program at Innovation Works and the University of Pittsburgh will provide critical assistance to entrepreneurs and small businesses in Armstrong, Fayette, Greene, Washington, and Westmoreland Counties and their communities with rapidly escalating unemployment rates.

The Revitalization of Southwestern Pennsylvania Coal-Impacted Communities Through Innovation and Entrepreneurship program will begin in 2017 with a series of initiatives led by the University’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence (IEE) and Swanson School of Engineering, in collaboration with Innovation Works. Funding for the workforce development program includes $720,000 from the organizations and a $500,000 grant from ARC, as part of the federal government’s Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization (POWER) Initiative. Innovation Works is the Ben Franklin Technology Partner of Southwestern Pennsylvania and is supported by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED).

“We applaud Innovation Works for its efforts and its partnership with the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence and Swanson School of Engineering to serve the residents of Pennsylvania, especially those in areas experiencing economic difficulty,” said DCED Secretary Dennis Davin. “The promotion of alternative solutions for individuals and businesses negatively affected by the declining coal industry will ultimately result in stronger communities and contribute to the overall well-being of the commonwealth. We also thank the Appalachian Regional Commission for its support.”

The grant, announced last week in Salt Lake City and Big Stone Gap, Va., by ARC and the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA), is one of 42 awards totaling $28 million, part of President Barack Obama’s continuing efforts to assist communities negatively impacted by changes in the coal industry and power sector.

“Today’s POWER grants serve as catalytic funding that will leverage and target additional investments from the private sector and other federal agencies, facilitate community-based partnerships, and help create good-paying jobs,” said Jay Williams, U.S. assistant secretary of commerce for economic development. “The Economic Development Administration is committed to helping coal-impacted communities across the country transform, grow, and sustain their economies.”

Pitt’s IEE will offer two programs through its Small Business Development Center (SBDC): “Mining Your Business” for coal-impacted workers who are considering starting their own business and “Planning for Profits,” a lean community-based educational curriculum for small business owners who aim to grow their companies. The IEE also will draw upon the expertise available through the Swanson School and the IEE’s PantherlabWorks, a premier resource for innovative companies looking to bring new technologies, services, and products into the marketplace.

“The IEE is experienced in implementing initiatives like this new program, and this is not our first time providing targeted services in the coal-impacted communities and industry sector,” said Robert Stein, executive director of the IEE, part of the University’s Innovation Institute. “While the Pittsburgh area has a strong, diverse, and resilient economy, the more rural counties we’re positioning for assistance had a disproportionate segment of their population reliant upon the coal industry. Our workshops, business training programs, and strategic human resource services will be designed to help both former miners and existing business owners, building upon a recent collaboration we announced with Catalyst Connection.”

Overall, the Revitalization of Southwestern Pennsylvania Coal-Impacted Communities Through Innovation and Entrepreneurship program will provide: 

  • entrepreneurial education and assistance to individuals and families who have been directly impacted by the decline of the coal industry and who are considering starting their own businesses,
  • proven “lean business” training programs to Main Street small businesses and entrepreneurs,
  • technology innovation and commercialization support to help emerging and existing businesses develop product concepts or technologies,
  • business support services for startup technology and manufacturing entrepreneurial businesses, and
  • strategic human resources services with the aim of moving coal-impacted workers into growing manufacturing and technology companies.

“We’re proud of our successes working with businesses of all sizes and at all stages, whether just starting out or expanding,” said Marc Malandro, vice chancellor for technology management and commercialization and founding director of Pitt’s Innovation Institute. “We provide them with resources such as educational programming and no-cost consulting services for business plan development, financial analysis, marketing, and much more. We know that the economic turnaround that Pittsburgh has experienced in recent years has not happened uniformly, and many communities outside of that urban and suburban core have a very real need for such assistance. We believe this collaboration with Innovation Works will take that strategic assistance to a new level.”

About the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence
The IEE is an entity within the University’s Innovation Institute and is Western Pennsylvania’s number one membership resource for business leaders who are starting, growing, or transitioning a business. Through customized, one-on-one consulting, exclusive educational series, and deep connections to the region’s entrepreneurs, the institute helps the business leaders of today and tomorrow prosper. In 2015, the IEE helped 59 small businesses open their doors and raise more than $16 million in capital. It conducted 108 educational programs and seminars for more than 2,200 attendees and grew and positively impacted 713 jobs.

About the Appalachian Regional Commission
The Appalachian Regional Commission is an economic development agency of the federal government and 13 state governments focusing on 420 counties across the Appalachian Region. ARC’s mission is to innovate, partner, and invest to build community capacity and strengthen economic growth in Appalachia to help the region achieve socioeconomic parity with the nation.

About the U.S. Economic Development Administration
The mission of the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) is to lead the federal economic development agenda by promoting competitiveness and preparing the nation’s regions for growth and success in the worldwide economy. An agency within the U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA makes investments in economically distressed communities in order to create jobs for U.S. workers, promote American innovation, and accelerate long-term sustainable economic growth. To learn more about EDA, visit www.eda.gov.

About the POWER Initiative
The POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative is a community-based administration effort involving 10 federal agencies working together to align, leverage, and target a range of federal economic and workforce development programs and resources to assist communities and workers that have been affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries due to the changing economics of America’s energy sector. The POWER Initiative exemplifies a collaborative approach to federal partnership with communities that President Obama and his administration have steadily advanced. This approach focuses on improving coordination across federal agencies, tailoring federal support based on local needs and priorities, encouraging local long-term strategic planning, and relying on data and evidence to inform solutions that work.


Author: Author: Joe Miksch, University of Pittsburgh News Services

Contact: Paul Kovach