The last year presented numerous economic challenges for communities throughout the country as COVID-19 restrictions stifled businesses. Unemployment rates spiked when businesses closed their doors and laid off employees. Pittsburg has been able to overcome many of those challenges because of a unique partnership the City shares with Pittsburg State University and the Pittsburg Area Chamber of Commerce called the Business Development and Innovation Services Agreement. The Pittsburg City Commissioners approved an amendment to extend the expiration date of the agreement till Jan. 25, 2022.
The agreement states that PSU will provide support to the city to effectively help create and attract new businesses, industries, and manufacturing concerns of the city, as well as more effectively promote the expansion and growth of existing businesses and industries already located in the city through the Small Business Development Center (SBDC), located at Pittsburg State University.
PSU Chief Strategy Officer Shawn Naccarato said the SBDC supported businesses small and large through the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 by assisting them with federal programs and consulting with them on plans to survive and even thrive through the difficult times.
“We are entering the 5th year of our unique and innovative approach to economic development,” Naccarato said. “(It is a) collective approach wherein the City of Pittsburg contracts with the Chamber of Commerce and PSU for an effective team approach, leveraging the respective contacts, capacity, talents and perspective of each respective organization.”
Blake Benson, Director of Economic Development for Pittsburg, said the partnership helps to provide services that new businesses need access to when just starting up.
“The Small Business Development Center at Pittsburg State provides expertise to help small businesses navigate the difficulties associated with successfully operating a business, particularly new and emerging businesses,” Benson said. “The SBDC counselors help business owners think and talk through opportunities and issues to put the business in the best position to succeed.”
Naccarato said the partnership allows them to help provide numerous supportive services that help small businesses grow and succeed.
“We provide a broad range of economic development support—startup support, support for expansion of existing small businesses, support for attracting existing business relocation, as well as industrially relevant research and development to support business growth in all three of these areas.”
Naccarato and Benson told city commissioners that Pittsburg’s economy is strong. Benson said that the economic environment in the Pittsburg area has improved significantly, despite the pandemic, reporting that unemployment is now at 3.5 percent, compared to 6.7 percent nationwide. The local labor force increased by about 700 in 2020, further indicating the strength of Pittsburg’s economy. Benson said that PSU students contribute significantly to the workforce of our existing businesses.
“The students at Pittsburg State truly make our community special,” Benson said. “While we often cite the economic impact of the students, their energy and enthusiasm… (are) just as important. We’re truly fortunate to have them in Pittsburg.”
Naccarato said the relationship between PSU and the city has been a fruitful one.
“Our shared approach to community-wide quality of place has produced incredible fruit,” Naccarato said. “Pittsburg has seen nearly $500 million in capital investment and over 1,600 new jobs over the past seven years which has been consistent with and supportive of broad economic growth in our community. By nearly any key economic development metric (i.e. unemployment rate, median wages, jobs, etc.) our local is economy strong… always with more work to be done.”