MCKEESPORT, Pa. – On Wednesday, Sept. 4, Penn State Greater Allegheny, in conjunction with the city of McKeesport, held a ribbon-cutting and dedication ceremony of the Mon Valley Launchbox powered by Penn State Greater Allegheny. The new facility is located at 410 Ninth St. in downtown McKeesport.
Penn State President Eric J. Barron joined Penn State Greater Allegheny's Chancellor and Chief Academic Officer Jacqueline Edmondson, Penn State Vice President of Commonwealth Campuses Madlyn Haynes, McKeesport Mayor Michael Cherepko, and other Penn State administrators and local dignitaries in celebrating the new innovation hub that provides business idea and startup support, co-working space, business, legal and intellectual property advice and mentorship for McKeesport residents who are interested in starting or growing a business. The launchbox can support up to 20 businesses at one time and offers entrepreneurs a conference room, an Apple iMac computer lab, and collaborative working spaces.
"We are seeing this vision unfold here in the city of McKeesport,” said Chancellor Edmondson “And we are extremely humbled and honored to be part of the story of McKeesport Rising and the broader revitalization efforts of the Mon Valley. It is about making a difference in the lives of people who have been left behind by a post-industrial economy that ravaged this region over three decades ago. This space is about realizing social and economic change, and most importantly, it is about hope."
President Eric Barron reflected on the mission of the Invent Penn State initiative and the funding of its 21 innovation hubs that are creating job growth possibilities across the commonwealth. "We can transform Penn State’s land-grant mission, which means in service to society and in service to the commonwealth. We can have that mission operate in a different way” said Barron. “(Penn State is) famous for Ag Extension; why not economic extension?”
Mon Valley LaunchBox is one of 21 Penn State-funded innovation hubs opened in Pennsylvania since 2015. They have served 2,463 entrepreneurs, developed 205 new products, started 115 new companies and created 109 new jobs.
“There is a Launchbox within 30 miles of 96% of the population of the state of Pennsylvania," said Barron. “The Mon Valley LaunchBox here provides educational and technical support for aspiring entrepreneurs. In addition, it connects faculty, professionals and students who are passionate about building a vibrant community in downtown McKeesport and the surrounding area."
“When we talk about working together for a better McKeesport,” said Mayor Cherepko, “We look at it as more than a slogan. It’s an invitation. And to have the opportunity to partner with Penn State is amazing. It’s amazing to know that not only have they accepted that invitation, but also they truly exemplify what it means to be a good partner to the City of McKeesport and truly exemplify what it means to work together for a better McKeesport.”
Launchbox co-coordinators Eric Ewell, director of continuing education, and Aaron Whigham, strategic initiatives manager, have already assisted several small businesses since the centers soft opening in 2017.