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Wilkinsburg is an ideal location for businesses. Located east of Point Breeze, Homewood, and Squirrel Hill, and two miles from our great universities in Oakland, Wilkinsburg encompasses a clearly defined commercial corridor with historic building stock and great potential. 

One of the Borough’s most significant business challenges is a lack of code-compliant space for entrepreneurs and businesses. A merger with the City would provide needed access to resources for the renovation of unique, architecturally-significant buildings. 

For example, the City’s Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) offers financing programs that provide guidance, incentives, and support for property owners to address these challenges. In combination with reduced property taxes, these resources can make a real difference in our community. It not only will lead to improved commercial buildings; it also will create better opportunities for local businesses.

Wilkinsburg taxes discourage investment. A CVS in Wilkinsburg assessed at $1.3 million pays $62,289 in real estate taxes, while a CVS in Pittsburgh assessed at the same value pays $29,560. The same value property used for the same purpose spends twice as much on taxes in Wilkinsburg as in the City.

I own a business in Wilkinsburg. How would a merger affect my taxes?

With a merger, you would no longer be required to pay the Borough’s Business Privilege Tax. The City, however, does have a payroll tax.

Wilkinsburg’s Business Privilege and/or Mercantile Tax is $1.50 for every $1,000 in gross receipts of business, not to exceed $10,000. The City of Pittsburgh’s Payroll Tax is $5.50 for every $1,000 of the employer’s total payroll expense (total compensation) associated with business activity in the City of Pittsburgh. Therefore, the merger could benefit small businesses with fewer employees. Also, if you own building(s), your property tax would be reduced by almost half!

How do we protect existing small and locally owned businesses In Wilkinsburg? How do we attract more businesses like them?

While Wilkinsburg’s business district is home to many small businesses, there are also a lot of vacant storefronts. The Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) offers business planning programs and continually seeks funding for resources such as rent abatement and façade renovations to recruit and support small businesses.

The WCDC’s Business Planning Program has over 100 graduates, 90% of which are proudly women of color. These entrepreneurs want to launch their businesses in Wilkinsburg, but there are many barriers. Lack of available storefronts with suitable conditions and insufficient resources to fund renovations to bring spaces up to code limit the potential of our business district. Merging with the City of Pittsburgh would provide numerous resources to businesses and entrepreneurs and provide incentives for building owners to invest in their properties. 

How are resources distributed in the City?

The Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh (URA) is the conduit through which resources are made available. As the City’s economic development agency, the URA offers a variety of programs and can act as a certified partner in applications for state programs. The URA has a Minority & Women-Owned Business Enterprise (MWBE) policy which requires that projects in excess of $250,000 that use URA funds must submit a MWBE plan. 

These projects must award 18% of the total project costs to minority-owned businesses and 7% of total project costs to women-owned businesses. In 2020, over $23 million in contracts were approved for minority and women-owned businesses. The City’s goal in 2021 is to increase the number of contracts awarded to minority and women-owned businesses by 5%.

What types of resources do these programs provide?

Numerous programs offer low-interest loans of varying amounts to small- and medium-sized women and minority-owned businesses, including but not limited to the Minority Business Recovery & Growth Loan Fund, Small Diverse Business Capital Access Program, Micro-Enterprise Loan Program, PIDA Loan Program, and Pittsburgh Business Fund. For more information, visit the URA’s Access to Capital page.

How would a merger affect Wilkinsburg zoning and code requirements?

The City of Pittsburgh would be required to create an amendment to their zoning code and ordinances to include Wilkinsburg. The zones and codes are required to be reported on a neighborhood plan. Based on zoning in other Pittsburgh neighborhoods, the WCDC would likely create a neighborhood plan with Wilkinsburg residents during a merger transition period.

I’ve always dreamed about opening a business in Wilkinsburg. How would a merger affect new businesses?

New businesses are required to register with the City of Pittsburgh’s Finance department. The registration form can be submitted online, by mail, or in person.

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