When top Obama administration officials come to Pittsburgh Thursday to learn how they can help local entrepreneurs grow the nation’s economy, local economic development leaders hope to present a unified front.
Six business and entrepreneurship groups have been invited to present at the “Startup America” roundtable to be held at Chatham University. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development has built three general areas of focus it is calling the “Pittsburgh Principles.” Those principles are to “bring great ideas to market faster,” “improve access to capital”, ad “build the next generation.”
Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse President and CEO John Manzetti says on the “improving access to capital” front he will suggest that the administration put more money into the Small Business Innovation Research Program. “To be able to provide non-dilutive capital for early stage companies and entrepreneurs trying to get their technology developed,” says Manzetti, “Then those companies can get the technology developed and they can come to organizations like the Life Sciences Greenhouse and others and get additional capital and get support to get their products to market.”
The group of six organizations is also planning to push for new rules that make patenting a new technology easier. Manzetti says models in Europe are often better than the system in the United States.
Audrey Russo runs the Pittsburgh Technology Council. She will be among those at the roundtable. She says if she gets a chance to speak she will try to focus the administration on the issue of building the region’s pool of entrepreneurs through changes in immigration laws. Specifically she says she will push or a “Startup” visa. A bill making its way through congress would allow foreign students to stay in the United States after graduation and earn a green card if they can round up at least $100,000 in capital investments and create at least five jobs in two years.
Russo says the visa would be a boon for Pittsburgh with all of its universities. Most international students have to leave the country to launch a business. That has prompted some to say we are creating our own international competition. Russo says the visa would not take away jobs from Americans and it would not negatively impact the tax base.
Pittsburgh is one of eight cities hosting a “Startup America” roundtable. The others are: Durham, NC, Austin, TX, Boston, MA, Minneapolis, MN, Atlanta, GA, Boulder, CO, and the Silicon Valley region of California. Regional boosters say Pittsburghers should be proud to have been included on the list. Audrey Russo takes a slightly different approach, “We have a very diverse economy, we have a strong epicenter of international corporations, and then we have what people say is the real, true, work ethic and grit. You add that all up and have the icing of technology and innovation, we better well should have been selected as one of the top eight cities in the US.”