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DU, Hill House Lead Effort to Develop New Keystone Innovation Zone

Zone aims to draw biotechnology, information technology industries

Duquesne University and the Hill House Economic Development Corp., along with 14 other leading educational, health, governmental and development agencies in Pittsburgh, have applied to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development for a grant to establish the Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone (PCKIZ). The state established the KIZ program to generate job growth through technology transfer and entrepreneurship using the resources of university and community partnerships.

If approved, the PCKIZ would become a springboard to launch new technology businesses in areas near the partners, especially in Duquesne’s Uptown neighborhood and the Hill District, a critical bridge between Downtown and Oakland. Targeted industries include medical devices, tissue engineering, drug discovery, pharmaceutics, compliance engineering, digital media, record management, software, cyber security and nanotechnology.

The PCKIZ’s geographic area would encompass:

  • Uptown, including commercial areas on Forbes and Fifth avenues
  • Hill District, including commercial areas on Centre and Herron avenues
  • Downtown, along Forbes and Fifth and near Point Park and CCAC’s City Centre campus
  • North Side, near CCAC and the Allegheny General Hospital
  • South Side, near the River Walk Corporate Center.

“This effort will open doors of opportunity to entrepreneurs and help invigorate Pittsburgh’s technology landscape,” said Dr. Charles J. Dougherty, Duquesne University president. “The partners will all play a vital role in creating, attracting and retaining new businesses; supporting their efforts; and training the workforce.”

Hill House Economic Development Corp. sees the project as one that will energize the area, benefiting residents.

“I believe the PCKIZ will serve as a catalyst to promote business growth and economic development in ways that will positively impact the neighborhood, city, and region,” said Evan Frazier, president of the Hill House Economic Development Corp. “The PCKIZ will complement other efforts designed to strengthen our community.”

Community partners to date include: the Allegheny Conference, Allegheny County, Carlow University, City of Pittsburgh, Community College of Allegheny County, Heinz Endowments, Innovation Works, Manchester Bidwell Corp., Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, Pittsburgh Technology Council, PNC Bank, Point Park University, UPMC Health Plan, and R.K. Mellon Foundation.

The PCKIZ goal is to start at least two new technology companies each year and to relocate at least one a year. This would position the area for increased job and internship prospects, as well as strengthen the existing workforce. Duquesne University will work with the partners to relocate companies from outside the region, and utilize the University’s Chrysler Corporation Small Business Development Center to direct business support, student internships, and a loan/grant fund.

The PCKIZ, which has a $25,000 planning grant from the state, is initially applying for $225,000 to put the plan into action. The state funds KIZs for four years, reducing its contribution by 25 percent each year. The state grant is matched by KIZ partners.

Plans also call for opening a business incubator, which is crucial to success in the first stages of business, according to Dr. Alan W. Seadler, the Edward V. Fritzky Chair in Biotechnology Leadership and director of the Center for Biotechnology at Duquesne, and a former CEO of a high-tech company.

“Establishing an incubator with significant laboratory space, convenient to research-quality libraries and other resources will provide a much-needed asset to new technology companies and encourage other companies to relocate in the PCKIZ,” said Seadler, noting that nearby incubator spaces are filled to capacity.

A decision on the application is expected in early fall.

Duquesne University

Founded in 1878, Duquesne is consistently ranked among the nation's top Catholic universities for its award-winning faculty and tradition of academic excellence. Duquesne, a campus of nearly 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students, has been nationally recognized for its academic programs, community service and commitment to sustainability. Follow Duquesne University on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.