NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — A standing-room-only crowd packed into The Corner, the new entrepreneurial center in New Kensington, to celebrate its grand opening on Dec. 6.
“We’re here to celebrate what has been a large collaboration of people and organizations focused on an experiment to bring economic development to New Kensington through entrepreneurialism and innovation,” said Kevin Snider, chancellor of Penn State New Kensington. “We are developing a sustained, scalable and hopefully replicable entrepreneurial eco-system that will drive economic development here in this city and in this region.”
The new center has been a vision of Snider and other project partners, including New Kensington Mayor Thomas Guzzo, for at least eight years. Snider credited Penn State President Eric Barron for providing the impetus for the campus to create a collaborative vision for its new entrepreneurial space.
“His creation of Invent Penn State is forward-thinking and community-focused. It’s really because of his leadership that we’re going to be able to introduce tens of thousands of students and community members to the process of ideation and entrepreneurship. In doing so, we’re going to prepare them for a better world, and we’re going to prepare communities for a better future,” said Snider in advance of introducing Barron.
Before delving into his formal comments, Barron pointed out the excitement in the room, stating, “When I walk into an activity and there’s this many community members in the room, I know that success is visibly building, and it’s going to get nothing but stronger.”
The Corner will provide access to the Corner Launchbox entrepreneurial programming, as well as active, membership-driven, co-working space, operated by Pittsburgh’s Beauty Shoppe.
The Corner Launchbox program and co-working space concepts were made possible in part by a seed grant from Invent Penn State, an almost two-year-old Commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success. Penn State New Kensington used the grant to create a unique model that melds entrepreneurship, co-working space and community-driven economic development to revitalize the city. The result is the first center of its kind in Westmoreland County with the goal of being a hub of collaboration, creation and innovation in New Kensington.
“This community support for innovation and economic development in New Kensington is really extraordinary, and I want you to know that all across the state, I hear people bragging about what is happening here,” Barron said.
Mayor Guzzo echoed sentiments applauding the collaborative nature of The Corner project, saying, “This center was brought about by a shared vision, a shared dream and a shared partnership.”
In March 2017, Penn State New Kensington entered into a lease agreement with its partner in the project, the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation (WCIDC), for the 4,725- square-foot location. Founded by the Westmoreland County Board of Commissioners, WCIDC implements a comprehensive economic development strategy to promote growth in terms of job creation, economic output and a stable tax base for Westmoreland County. Through the WCIDC, the Westmoreland County Commissioners have been partners in this project since the beginning and have made an investment in hope that this effort can be replicated in other parts of the county.
“Today is a perfect example of what teamwork can develop. This is a huge collaboration between the city, the county and Penn State,” said Gina Cerilli, Westmoreland County Commissioner.
Regional collaboration is not the only goal of The Corner project. There are hopes that it is the beginning of a future of revitalization and economic development for the city of New Kensington and areas throughout Pennsylvania.
Barron pointed out the importance of Penn State’s commitment to fulfilling its land-grant mission through projects like The Corner. “We don’t want to be an institution that brags about our economic impact. We want to be an institution that brags about the degree to which we drive the economy with our ideas and our partnerships,” he said.
To mark the official opening of The Corner, the Nittany Lion mascot joined Barron, Snider, Guzzo and the Westmoreland County Commissioners at an oversized light switch to illuminate the new entrepreneurial center.
Guzzo summed up the day’s event addressing the city. “To the people of our city of New Kensington, this is the start of it all. Let’s move forward together and begin our ‘new’ New Kensington.”
For more information about The Corner, visit http://thecorner.place or http://newkensington.psu.edu/Launchbox.