Penn State Hazleton receives funding for entrepreneurship center

InventPennState event

Penn State Hazleton campus leaders and community partners attending today's (Feb. 5) Invent Penn State announcement in Harrisburg included, from left, Joseph Clifford, member, Penn State Hazleton Council; PA State Representative Tarah Toohil, 116th Legislative District; Jocelyn Sterenchock, coordinator of Entrepreneurial Services, CAN BE; Penn State Hazleton Chancellor Gary Lawler, and Penn State President Eric Barron.

Credit: Susan Bartal

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — As part of its Invent Penn State initiative, the University today (Feb. 5) announced four new seed grants, each valued at $50,000, designed to bolster entrepreneurship and economic development in communities surrounding Penn State campuses across the Commonwealth. With today’s announcement, the University’s effort has grown to include 21 hubs for innovation, spread across Pennsylvania, including one at Penn State Hazleton — an undertaking introduced by Penn State President Eric J. Barron just two and a half years ago.

“As a major public research university, we are committed to empowering entrepreneurs and providing the tools to take great ideas to the next level,” said Barron. “Penn State is uniquely positioned with its Commonwealth campuses for each Innovation Hub to have a meaningful impact on student career success and to become a vital part of the Pennsylvania ecosystem, driving local economies and job creation.”

This year’s grant recipients include the following Penn State campuses: Beaver, DuBois, Greater Allegheny and Hazleton. The 21 innovation hubs and programs across the state use partnerships with local community organizations and local industry to meet the needs of their unique business startup ecosystems. Through a competitive process, the winning grant proposals include varying combinations of training, mentorship and space to improve entrepreneurial leadership and spur economic development. The programs and services of each center are available free of charge to Penn State students and faculty, as well as community members who are not directly affiliated with the University.

“The Launch Box in Hazleton, THInC, the Hazleton Innovation Collaborative, is a true community collaboration with partners, including the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress, CAN DO, CAN BE, and the Society of Hispanic Business Professionals, all of whom anticipate the impact and success that this downtown Hazleton center will bring to the entire business community and economic development,” said Gary M. Lawler, chancellor of Penn State Hazleton.

An initial planning grant allowed the group to explore options and carefully plan the mission and vision of THInC to provide entrepreneurship services and four locations that will be integrated virtually and will target designated audiences.

Once entrepreneurs meet established criteria, they can apply for mini-grants to help create and support the initial startup of their businesses.

Interest and support has been garnered from area businesses, including PPL; Wells Fargo; Mid Penn Bank/Miner’s Bank; First National Bank; Luzerne Bank; FNCB Bank; Landmark Community Bank; Community Bank, N.A.; and DHD Realty.

Programming began on Saturday, Feb. 3, in downtown Hazleton at the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce.

Even with only five of the 21 innovation hubs open for the full first year, results demonstrate Penn State’s re-envisioned land-grant mission to support economic development, job creation and student career success, including:

  • More than 2,500 faculty, staff and students engaged in entrepreneurial activity;
  • Hundreds of community entrepreneurs supported;
  • 80 new products developed;
  • 79 startups launched; and
  • 110 student internships created.

“We are building momentum in establishing a culture where entrepreneurialism is embedded into who we are as an institution, especially for our students,” added Barron. “We believe that if we remove obstacles that stand in the way of launching new businesses, we open up endless opportunities to thrive.”

Matthew Roda, a current junior at Penn State, is one example of a student with a bright idea who accessed the free and readily available resources to help launch his startup, Reflexion. In his junior year of high school, Roda suffered a concussion while playing ice hockey but the standard tests at the time didn’t pick up on it right away. He now runs a company that has developed a new testing system he hopes will prevent other young athletes from going through his experience.

“The support from Penn State has been phenomenal, particularly with the amount of advice and resources made available to us at the Happy Valley LaunchBox in State College,” said Roda. “I do not believe we could have gotten where we are without the help of Penn State.”