The Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) tax credits program is one of the largest unencumbered sources of financial support for high growth startup companies in the state of PA. There are 29 KIZs in the State of PA. The companies that are awarded KIZ tax credits are able to exchange those credits for cash. There are 2 KIZs in Pittsburgh, the Greater Oakland KIZ, which is run by the Pittsburgh Technology Council and the Pittsburgh Central Keystone Innovation Zone Program (PCKIZ), which is managed by Urban Innovation21. Urban Innovation21 is a public-private partnership comprised of institutions of higher education institutions, businesses, foundations government agencies and nonprofit organizations. Urban Innovation’s mission is to grow our region’s economy while simultaneously working to make sure that some or our region’s most vulnerable communities and the residents that live in those communities benefit from this growth. “Since it was established in 2006, the KIZ Tax Credit Program has supported Pennsylvania’s early-state technology companies with their continued growth,” said Department of Community and Economic Development Deputy Secretary of Technology and Innovation Sheri Collins. “The tax credit, which is tradable, allows the recipient company to hire interns and new employees, purchase equipment, or use monies in a manner it deems appropriate for building its business.”
In 2016, 20 local companies were awarded $1,156,110 in tax credits. Since PCKIZ’s inception in 2007, 48 companies have been awarded a cumulative total of $7,675,215. Alyssa Boehringer, Director of Workforce & Technology Entrepreneurship at Urban Innovation21, has observed, “The Keystone Innovation Zone provides tremendous support for the growth of our technology companies and the innovation economy in Pittsburgh. As Director of the PCKIZ program, I have witnessed our companies utilizing these incentives to re-invest in their businesses, transform our economy, and grow our local workforce.”
Several recipients of tax credits work out of Alloy 26, a co-working space located on the North Side. “Because they are located within the Keystone Innovation Zone, technology companies at Alloy 26 have been able to take advantage of the invaluable tax credits facilitated by Urban Innovation21. The sales of these credits help provide essential capital as they build their businesses,” states Mike Woycheck, Alloy 26’s Director of Operations.
In addition to tax credits, Urban Innovation21 has provided over 700 paid internships since inception for students from Community College of Allegheny County, Carlow University, Duquesne University, and Point Park University to support PCKIZ companies. This past year, Urban Innovation21 provided over 120 paid internship assignments. These internships help build tremendous capacity within the tech businesses and are comprised of students who are not normally connected to the tech sector, thereby bridging a crucial gap and increasing the local workforce. To date, 55% of intern participants have been women and 30% underrepresented minorities, signifying that Urban Innovation21’s internship program has become the largest and most diverse program of its kind within the region.
These statistics arrive on the heels of Governor Wolf’s administration’s recent approval of $15 million to support 263 technology-oriented businesses and entrepreneurs through the KIZ Program in the upcoming year. The program encourages entrepreneurship in and around Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities by providing young companies with vital working capital. To qualify for tax credit, a company must be in operation for less than eight years, show that gross revenues have increased over the previous year, are located within a Keystone Innovation Zone, and are operating within a targeted industry sector such as information technology or advanced manufacturing/diversified materials.