(PITTSBURGH) Sept. 30 Mayor Luke Ravenstahl, City Councilman Reverend Ricky Burgess, Senator Jim Ferlo, and representatives from the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) this morning officially cut the ribbon for the new Mikes Auto Body and Vocational Center, located in the City’s Larimer neighborhood. The $1.8 million state-of-the-art, ‘green’ automotive repair facility is now a certified education and training center with a drive-in insurance claim service. The expanded facility brings with it 10 new full-time jobs.
“This marks the first substantial private investment in Larimer in more than 40 years,” said Ravenstahl, “and speaks to the direction this neighborhood is headed. Mike is a pillar of the community, and his investment in his business and commitment to the neighborhood is to be commended. With this expansion, he is improving the quality of life in Larimer, creating new jobs and preparing our youths for future job opportunities.”
Mikes Auto Body is a family-owned and operated direct repair specialist, collision center and custom body shop. For the past 40 years, Mike Fiore has been working with the youths of Larimer, providing job training and mentoring. This expansion formalizes Mike’s vocational program and triples his operational capacity.
Mike’s old shop, located across the street and still functional, is 5,000 square feet. In the past, he had to take his trainees off-site for instruction and certification. Now, with his new, 14,500-square-foot facility’s vocational center, he can hold those classes on-site. The new training center seats 36 students and will feature a state-certified instructor on staff, new paint and manufacturing technique seminars four times a year, Hertz I-CAR classes, and Jobs and Labor in the Automotive Workplace series training. Mike’s goal is to be able to train and certify a minimum of 30 young people a year.
The new space also applies sustainable development principles, and incorporates specific green building features such as a rain-garden, enhanced day-lighting features and tree-planting to take advantage of natural cooling. In addition, the training space will serve as a community amenity, and the Carnegie Mellon University Charge Car project is interested in Mike’s as a community partner that will retrofit gasoline powered cars into electric cars.
“Mike’s really weathered the storm in Larimer, and the success of this project is a testament to the community-driven transformation taking place there,” said Senator Ferlo.
Mike Fiore was 20 years old when he decided to open his first auto repair garage in Pittsburgh and has been on Meadow Street since the ‘70s. He started tending to other residents’ vacant property and parked his race cars out on the street around the late ‘70s when people started moving out of the neighborhood. He continues both practices today, and still gives the neighborhood kids candy money for good report cards.
The $1.8 million in funding for Mikes was provided by loans from the URA, U.S. SBA, Fidelity Bank and private investment. Design was completed by Robert J Worsing Assoc., and construction by Just-Mark Contracting.
“There are so many people who have helped to make this dream come true,” said Fiore. “From Mayor Ravenstahl and Senator Ferlo, to my family and friends, to the late Bob O’Connor and his family, thank you all from the bottom of my heart for your encouragement, guidance and support. I couldn’t have done it without you.”