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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.

County Receives $3.4 Million In Gaming Grants For Community Development

More than $3.4 million in gaming returns will be distributed to 14 community and economic development initiatives through the Redevelopment Authority of Allegheny County.

Community groups and organizations looking to jumpstart a business, improve a park or start a program or project were eligible to apply for grants up to $500,000.

The money is generated from state casinos through a daily assessment of the facility’s gross terminal revenue. For every dollar of revenue produced from slot machine play, 54 cents is returned to state residents, according to the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Rich Fitzgerald said the revenue will benefit regional powerhouses like the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, the cultural district and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Vacant lots in the Millvalle, Etna and Sharpsburg areas will also be open for rehabilitation to get the blighted lots back on the tax rolls and into development, he said.

Ballet theater officials pledged to construct three dance studios. PSO will put theirs toward Heinz Hall  renovations. The Historical Society of Mt. Lebanon is expected to renovate the historic former McMillan House as the Mt. Lebanon History Center, and the Woodlands Foundation will build a multi-purpose building for staff offices and residential housing, Fitzgerald said.

He said community groups can use the grants to leverage collaborating partners.

“Gaming money might be just a small piece but it gives kind of a jump start or priming of the pump, if you will, for projects to move forward,” he said.

One of the projects promises to create 496 new full-time jobs. Stemnion, Inc. works in stem cell research to heal diabetic ulcers and burns. The company was granted $500,000 to expand facilities and launch its first clinical project.

“So they’ve been getting contracts with the Department of Defense on war wounds," Fitzgerald said. "Things have been happening there, and the fact that they’re doing this in Pittsburgh right in our backyard with some of the great scientific and research folks that are here investing in this will invest in our future and invest in jobs.”