Gov. Wolf plans to court Silicon Valley for venture capital for Pittsburgh | TribLIVE.com
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Tom Fontaine
Gov. Tom Wolf speaks Monday, July 20, 2015, in Downtown Pittsburgh at a breakfast held by the Pittsburgh Technology Council.

Gov. Tom Wolf said Monday he plans to travel to Silicon Valley and elsewhere with the Pittsburgh Technology Council to court venture capital investors for the region’s high-tech entrepreneurs.

“Except for venture capital, we have everything that Silicon Valley and Route 128 (the Boston area’s high-tech corridor) have to offer,” Wolf said at a Downtown breakfast held by the technology council.

Later Monday morning, Wolf appeared at the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ 116th National Convention at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Downtown.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to all of you, and we need to show that gratitude as fully as we possibly can,” Wolf said at the VFW convention.

Wolf said Americans need to do a better job of exercising freedoms that veterans fought to protect, such as voting and petitioning the government. Wolf noted that voter turnout during the primary election in which he won the Democratic nomination totaled less than 20 percent.

“That is not a democracy,” Wolf said.

Likewise, Americans and their government need to provide more support and opportunities to veterans and their families, Wolf said, highlighting initiatives in Pennsylvania that support veterans and current service members and their families.

About 12,000 people are expected to attend the convention, which runs through Wednesday.

At the technology council’s breakfast, Wolf said he wants to be a booster for Pittsburgh and the rest of Pennsylvania.

“We have to overcome our inherent modesty … If you want to be on the ground floor, Pittsburgh is the place to be,” Wolf said.

The nonprofit technology council started its FortyX80 program to aggressively court out-of-state investors and organize several trips a year to other cities to promote Pittsburgh startups. No trips have been scheduled.

Last week, the quarterly MoneyTree report by the Washington-based National Venture Capital Association and PricewaterhouseCoopers showed venture capitalists invested a combined $61.5 million in 20 Pittsburgh companies during the second quarter, up from about $60 million in 21 deals a year ago.

Local investment was up 2.6 percent, but nationally, the $17.5 billion invested in the second quarter represented a 28 percent increase compared with the same period last year, the report showed. More than half the money, or $9.1 billion, went to companies in California’s Silicon Valley.

Pittsburgh Technology Council President and CEO Audrey Russo said she doesn’t yet know how much the FortyX80 initiative will cost, but predicted, “I know the return will be tenfold.”

Also Monday, Wolf said his chief of staff, Katie McGinty, would announce in the next few days whether she is running for U.S. Senate. He declined further comment, but said recently that he didn’t want her potential candidacy to become a distraction as his administration works to broker a deal to end the budget impasse in Harrisburg.

Wolf dismissed recent criticism from the Marcellus Shale Coalition, which said he misled the public by implying a proposed severance tax on natural gas extraction would exclusively fund education. Wolf said his original budget proposal presented March 3 showed an estimated $285 million a year would go toward other uses.

“I proposed it on March 3, I’ve said it since March 3, and I’m saying it to you right now. I don’t know what the confusion could possibly be,” Wolf said.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or [email protected].

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