Pittsburgh’s tech boom has the potential to rebound the local economy from the fall of its 20th century leadership in manufacturing to a robotics and AI powerhouse. In fact, we would go so far as to say that global success in certain tech sectors here is anything but certain.
However, despite sweeping titles like “the robotics capital of the world,” Pittsburgh still struggles to ensure that this growing industry benefits everyone who lives here now. It goes beyond the tech industry and into the roots of the social structure of the city itself: in 2019, a meaningful report from City of Pittsburgh Gender Equity Commission showed with data that Pittsburgh is actually one of the least livable cities in the country for black women.
But that doesn’t mean it should stay that way. The cool thing about the tech industry is that it has nowhere to go but Pittsburgh. Opportunities abound as more businesses look to set up shop here and tap into local talent of all kinds. From workforce development programs to regular community events to civic initiatives, there are so many people and organizations in Pittsburgh working to make tech an industry that can uplift more people.
So, in honor of our June editorial calendar’s theme of racial equity in tech, Technically put together a roundup of resources highlighting some of those we know who are doing this work. Do you have another organization or program in mind that we should add to this list? Let us know by emailing [email protected]
The local chapter of this learning model is managed by Quarantex80the not-for-profit arm of Pittsburgh Technology Council. He launched the program last year with a focus on creating new pathways to local tech careers for underrepresented groups without a college degree.
The Apprentices The model removes the cost of a college degree or coding bootcamp and offers paid training with existing Pittsburgh tech employers. During the apprenticeship, participants can earn 60% of the salary associated with the job they are training for and receive allowances and other services such as childcare to cover some additional costs. If all goes well during the apprenticeship, program participants will already be in contact with an employer about full-time employment, removing the challenge of further career research after training is complete.
Co-founded by Max Denison (a RealLIST Connectors laureate who is also a specialist in digital inclusion and Rec2Tech coordinator for the City of Pittsburgh) and Anthony Harper, Pittsburgh Beta Builders provides community engagement, trainings to improve local student placement in technology, and access to technology education opportunities for people of all ages. Information on all program offerings is listed on the Beta Builders website, along with links to resources related to local government Rec2Tech programming.
Where black tech nation seeks to provide a community and network for black technologists across the United States and beyond, Black Tech Nation Ventures brings investments to underrepresented founders. The main organization’s venture arm was launched only a year ago, but has already begun investing in minority-led startups across the Midwest. Getting involved in either organization is a great way to connect with a wide range of people working in tech with the goal of promoting racial equity in the industry. Whether you’re just starting out in a coding bootcamp or have a startup looking for seed funding, keep these two organizations in mind.
Great Pittsburgh Catapult is a local non-profit organization that offers a number of programs committed to economic justice through all kinds of startups and small businesses. Some of its best-known programs include Startup to Storefront and Gallery Retail Incubation, both of which provide incubator resources to eligible businesses run by minority entrepreneurs. Earlier this spring, Catapult opened its new Gallery in the center in the Hill District, an entrepreneurship and retail incubation space that is also supported by the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA), Mayor Ed Gaineythe PNC Foundation and others.
A primary school turned small business and entrepreneurship center, Community Forge has a mission to create an equitable economy in its home borough of Wilkinsburg and in Greater Pittsburgh at large. The organization hosts several community events offering business advice, in addition to providing coworking space and office space for eligible businesses and founders. It also runs its own eight-month incubator and invites outside programs to collaborate. Including Resilient encoderswhich launched a Pittsburgh chapter of its bootcamp last year.
Founded in 2021, emeraldcity is a new 12,000 square foot coworking space in downtown Pittsburgh managed by the Greenwood Diet. Despite the existence of several other coworking spaces in Pittsburgh, Emerald City has a specific mission to provide resources, education, and other related opportunities to Black businesses and entrepreneurs. Membership rates are not publicly available on Emerald City’s website, but membership benefits include access to the usual amenities of a coworking space – private conference rooms, event spaces, services printing and yes, free coffee.
Created in 2005, the Diversity Business Resource Center is a collaboration between the Riverside Innovation Center and the MWDBE Government Committee with a mission to provide resources to disadvantaged entrepreneurs in the 10-county area of southwestern Pennsylvania. According to the center’s website, it has helped more than 4,500 entrepreneurs, who have contributed more than $204 million to the local economy. And it is supported by several local philanthropic and economic development organizations, including the URA, Richard King Mellon Foundation and Neighborhood allies.
This new URA program is one of two launched by the organization to increase investment in local minority founders. URA Ventures is a new $3 million fund for high-risk portfolio investments that prioritize impact on economic return, while its partner program, the Equity Fund for Minority and Women-Owned Business Development, will provide a total of $2 million in direct equity investments in real estate development projects. The two are launching a new action by local government entities to provide tangible investments to Pittsburgh’s minority founders.
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member of Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by Heinz endowments. -30-