LEHMAN, Pa. -- Penn State Wilkes-Barre has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the INVENT Penn State initiative to be used for community entrepreneurship activities, Chancellor Charles H. Davis announced. The grant will be used to support the Innovation Squared Project in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
Commonwealth Campuses were asked to submit proposals with the goal of providing support for community entrepreneurship activities within and around the campuses. The vision was to support local off-campus spaces, similar to New Leaf in State College. The New Leaf Initiative was launched in an effort to generate an innovative work environment focused on collaborative partnerships among entrepreneurs, community, businesses, students, and local government. Just as State College seeks to accelerate entrepreneurial and small business activity through the New Leaf Initiative, the Greater Wilkes-Barre region is seeking to accomplish the same activity through the Innovation Squared Project.
The Innovation Squared Project is a multicomponent initiative focused on business expansion and the creation of high-wage e-commerce jobs, revitalization of the city’s public square, and the development of a business incubator lab/shared workspace. The project is a $5.3 million Public/Private endeavor featuring a partnership of local academic institutions, the City of Wilkes-Barre, the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business & Industry, Federal and State Legislators, and the Entrepreneurial Community. The project will have an immense economic impact on the region by creating 81 new jobs, and retaining/transferring 82 more.
“We applaud Penn State Wilkes-Barre’s drive and support of the Innovation Squared Project,” said Wilkes-Barre Mayor Thomas M. Leighton. “In particular we are excited by the enthusiasm and activity demonstrated by the Penn State Wilkes-Barre campus to drive the lecture and mentorship component of the project. This commitment will allow the City of Wilkes-Barre and our partners the opportunity to achieve our goals and objectives for the Innovation Squared Project.”
The business incubator lab/shared workspace, titled Entrepreneurial and Business Training Lab, will serve as the heart of the Innovation Squared Project as it represents a true partnership among all of the academic institutions and business community. The lab will be located in a 5K SF space in the lower level of the already established Downtown Innovation Center, and will provide a location where academics and entrepreneurial leaders can meet to develop initiatives, programs, and businesses geared towards driving innovation in the Greater Wilkes-Barre region. The lab will feature partnerships among the five academic institutions in Luzerne County and will be led by eBay’s Mike Jones and Digital Net Agency’s Aaron Baker. Jones and Baker have committed to providing appropriate and necessary mentorship skills to drive innovation.
“As the regional advocate for business, we strongly support and will continue to drive the active partnership among our academic institutions and business community,” stated Joseph A. Boylan, Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce vice president of economic development. “In particular, the chamber fully supports the mentorship program as a component of the Entrepreneurial and Business Training Lab. The investment from Penn State University will go a long way to help deliver the Innovation Squared Project, but more importantly, the investment will represent the University’s firm commitment to enhance the entrepreneurial activities and opportunities in Downtown Wilkes-Barre.”
The Entrepreneurial and Business Training Lab will feature separate office space designated for each of the five member schools; an open meeting space designed to encourage the collaboration among the schools’ students; and a large conference/meeting space designed to host a mentorship series for students, faculty, and the community.
“We are hoping that the INVENT Penn State Grant will serve as a symbolic gesture of Penn State University investing and planting their roots in downtown Wilkes-Barre,” said Davis. “Downtown Wilkes-Barre is especially close to the heart of the Penn State Wilkes-Barre campus as it is the location where our campus was first formed, at the request of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, 99 years ago.”