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Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Homewood, Sharpsburg Selected For Intentional Community Development

As designated up-and-coming neighborhoods, Homewood and Sharpsburg have been added to the Allegheny Conference’s Strengthening Communities Partnership program.

The program pools private sector resources to invest in local community growth and also leverages state tax credits as incentive.

Five communities were initially selected based on potential for rapid improvement. Once those neighborhoods are selected, members of the conference offer in-kind or pro-bono support for the designated neighborhood. Conference leaders also help the communities qualify for a state tax credit program.

Bill Flanagan, chief corporate relations officer for the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, said a community is eligible for up to $500,000 a year through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Neighborhood Partnership Program. Through the program, businesses pledge support and contribute $50,000 a year for six years. That money is eligible for an 80 percent tax credit.

Flanagan said once a community qualifies for the tax credit program, Allegheny Conference will approach members to pledge support.  

“And when a community gets the designation, they’ve been stepping up to invest in the communities. Today it’s totaled up to $10 million dollars so far,” he said.  

The money businesses contribute can be used to develop affordable housing, education, crime prevention, real estate development, social services, workforce development or other community revitalization efforts.

Flanagan said the program also offers communities mentorship and guidance in setting up community programs.

“So sometimes it’s hard goods and services but sometimes it’s intelligence. It’s bringing the expertise of our member companies to bear to give the partners capacity that they really would never be able to afford under any other circumstance,” he said.  

While communities and companies across the state have expressed interest in the program, Flanagan said the program is over-subscribed. Last year the state only made $18 million in tax credits available.

“So a number of communities and companies that wanted to invest were turned away. So we’re hoping the state will consider expanding the tax credit program to make it possible for more communities to participate,” he said.  

As the process to find community partners just recently began, Flanagan said he hopes Homewood and Sharpsburg businesses will respond as enthusiastically as the initial community groups did. 

“I think the business community has responded so strongly because this is really a focused effort on communities that have been pre-qualified in a sense as really having potential for much more rapid improvement,” he said. 

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