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Officials Trying To Make Pittsburgh Friendly To Small Businesses

Sarah Kovash
90.5 WESA
Officials with the city and URA will hold a business resource fair to help entrepreneurs navigate issues like zoning, permits and inspections.

Zoning, permitting, licensing and inspections aren't necessarily the stuff entrepreneurs dream of as they begin to plan their business. Navigating all the steps of setting up shop can be confusing, said Henry Pyatt, Pittsburgh’s small business and neighborhood redevelopment manager.

“For most business owners, you only ever have to do it once in your life,” he said. So, “nobody ever gets good at it, because you only do it once and you never practice and you never do it again.”

To ease the process, the city and the Urban Redevelopment Authority will hold a small businesses resource fair on Wednesday. One of several resource fairs held since 2014, this “Government Edition” aims to help proprietors address their specific issues.

“Whether you want to put a dumpster in the alley behind your pizza shop or bring a crane out to put your new antenna on top of your building, any of those questions can be answered,” Pyatt said. “And you can ask them directly of the experts whose job it is to enforce those laws.”

Pittsburgh has one of the highest small business survival rates in the nation, according to a 2016 report from Kauffman Index of Main Street Entrepreneurship. But the city garners just modest marks for fostering new businesses.  

On the government side, Pyatt noted how Maura Kennedy, director of the Department of Permits, Licenses, and Inspections, has worked to streamline processes for permitting, including striking extraneous permits and putting applications online.

“We’re doing a bunch of little things to slowly and steadily chip away at the regulatory burden,” Pyatt said. “Our city does better when we have a bunch of locally owned small firms thriving... we keep a lot more of the revenue in town. Neighborhoods start to have a lot more wealth in order to be able to address some of their own issues, when small firms are growing and healthy and getting a lot of work.”

The resource fair will be held in Room 646 of the City County Building on Wednesday, June 21 from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. There is no fee to attend.

Margaret J. Krauss is WESA’s senior reporter. She covers development and transportation, and has produced award-winning podcasts on housing, work, and Pittsburgh’s lesser-known history. Before joining the newsroom full time, she covered the challenges facing Pennsylvania cities as a statewide reporter, and spent another life as an assistant editor for National Geographic Kids Magazine in Washington, D.C. She can be reached at mkrauss@wesa.fm.
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