Pittsburgh URA board approves loan program for small businesses
Elaine Price said she never would have expanded her Hazelwood landscaping business — Floriated Interpretation — without a $19,000 loan provided by the Pittsburgh Urban Redevelopment Authority.
Ryan Crisman said the URA’s small-business loan program helped him open a specialty men’s clothing shop in Lawrenceville six months ago.
“I’m definitely a huge fan of the URA,” said Crisman who opened the Franklin and Mercer Co. men’s shop on Butler Street in November. “I feel that the process was not only beneficial financially but also beneficial in getting you ready for being a small business owner.”
The URA board of directors on Thursday unanimously agreed to make its Micro Enterprise Loan Program a permanent part of its daily business. Directors in February 2018 approved it as a pilot program.
The URA provides low-interest loans of up to $20,000 to businesses in the city of Pittsburgh that wouldn’t traditionally qualify for backing from lending institutions because of their size. It’s geared particularly toward minorities and women.
The URA so far has awarded 23 loans — 21 of which went to businesses owned by minorities or women — totaling $418,566 that have helped to sustain 59 jobs in the city, according to Tom Link, director of the URA’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which administers the program.
“This has become a core part of our business,” Link said.
Price said she previously opened a garden center on Second Avenue in Hazelwood and wanted to expand into commercial landscaping, but didn’t qualify for a loan to purchase the necessary machinery.
“I was able to buy equipment and the inventory so I could do some larger jobs,” she said. “Those jobs allow me to keep my two seasonal employees with a future plan to be able to be a year-round business instead of a seasonable business.”
Price, a Hazelwood resident, said she employees workers from the neighborhood.
“It really is, in my case, an attempt to keep the resources within the community,” she said.
Crisman said he had similar problems raising capital to open his specialty men’s shop. He said URA staff not only guided him through the loan program, but helped him write a business plan, which would have been difficult to complete alone. Crisman received $20,000 from the URA, and the authority’s staff helped him apply for and receive a $50,000 loan from the Washington County Council on Economic Development, which provides loans for business development throughout the region.
“The people who work for the URA are definitely passionate and care about the people they’re helping,” he said. “I think they’re helping to build the Pittsburgh community, the small businesses.”
Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Bob at 412-765-2312, [email protected] or via Twitter .