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State Hopes To Bolster Jobs For Recent Grads With Tax Breaks For Startups

Jake Savitz
90.5 WESA

In an effort to keep more Pittsburgh college grads in the region, a state initiative is offering tax credits to startups to make wages more competitive.

The Keystone Innovation Zone Program was designed to foster entrepreneurship near Pennsylvania colleges and universities. This year, it's offering 43 Pittsburgh small businesses a collective $2.5 million in tax credits.

According to Allegheny County state Sen. Jay Costa, the tax credits will help burgeoning businesses offer competitive wages.

"We need to retain the bright, young college students who are educated in Pennsylvania, and one way to do this is by boosting the businesses that will hire them," Costa said in a press release.

The Program has outlined two zones in the city with a high level of startup activity -- the Greater Oakland KIZ, where 18 startups are receiving tax breaks, and the Pittsburgh Central Zone, comprised of 25 businesses.

BirdBrain Technologies in Uptown is receiving about $80,000 in credits, according to CEO Tom Lauwers.

"My company is a small business, we have 11 people, nine full time and two part time," Lauwers said. "Essentially what the tax credit enables us to do is have one to two extra people on staff."

He said a large chunk of the credits will help ensure the company can offer paid positions for interns.

"We have to offer relatively competitive wages," he said. "We need to compete with companies like Google and Uber."

Along with residing in a recognized zone, businesses eligible to receive tax credits through the Keystone Innovation Zone Program must be in the fields of information technology or advanced manufacturing, and must be younger than eight years old.