Wells Fargo supports Hazleton LaunchBox with donation

Nine smiling people standing with large check.

Participating in a check presentation from Wells Fargo to the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress in support of the Hazleton LaunchBox were, from left, Joseph Clifford, Penn State Hazleton advisory board and downtown alliance board member; Mike Kashnicki, Wells Fargo senior business relationship manager; Jocelyn Sterenchock, CAN BE coordinator of entrepreneurial services; Mike Pany, Wells Fargo community relations senior consultant; Joseph Boretski, Wells Fargo senior vice president and business banking manager of Northeast PA and the Lehigh Valley; Krista Schneider, Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress executive director; Gary Lawler, chancellor, Penn State Hazleton; Hazleton Mayor Jeff Cusat; and Chris Pavlick, representing state Rep. Tarah Toohil.

Credit: Penn State Hazleton

Wells Fargo recently presented a $112,500 check to the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress to help establish the Penn State Hazleton LaunchBox. The presentation took place at the 13 W. Broad St. property, which is the target of the rehabilitation funds.

This donation is being made as part of a larger $150,000 PA Department of Community and Economic Development (2017-18) Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP) tax credit award to fund Phase Two renovations to the long-vacant property. This is the second year in a row that Wells Fargo has contributed to this program. Last year’s donation of $110,000 helped fund remediation of the building’s blighted conditions.

“We are pleased to continue to support the initiatives of the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress as part of our commitment to community reinvestment,” said Joseph Boretski, Wells Fargo’s vice president of Northeast PA. “We make every effort to support revitalization projects that directly impact the areas we serve.”

The funds will be used to renovate the first floor of the building for Penn State to occupy as the Hazleton LaunchBox. This will include low-cost co-working space, access to WiFi, meeting rooms, Makerspace, shared printers and other equipment, private offices, and a small café space that will be open to the public.

“We truly appreciate Wells Fargo’s generosity and commitment to serving the Greater Hazleton community,” said Krista Schneider, executive director of the alliance. “This project is a critical component of our downtown revitalization strategy and a cornerstone of the new Arts & Innovation District now under development.”

The Hazleton LaunchBox will become part of the University’s Invent Penn State program, a commonwealth-wide initiative to spur economic development, job creation and student career success. A key strategy of Invent Penn State is the establishment of innovation hubs, commonly known as business incubators, to blend entrepreneurship-focused academic programs, business startup training, mentoring, funding for commercialization, and university-community collaborations to facilitate the challenging process of turning research discoveries into valuable products and services that can benefit Pennsylvanians and others.

"The Hazleton LaunchBox is a tremendous example of the progress that can be made when organizations collaborate," said Chancellor Gary Lawler. "We look forward to the completion of the launchbox and anticipate that it will be a great asset to entrepreneurs in the community."

The downtown LaunchBox programs will be operated in partnership with CAN BE, the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress, the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, and other partners through The Hazleton Innovation Collaborative (THInC).

Phase Two renovations to the building are expected to begin later this summer, with the hope that the LaunchBox will be operational by early next year. The Phase Two renovations are also being funded in part by a $300,000 PA Keystone Communities Program grant and a $150,000 Luzerne Local Share Account grant, both of which were awarded to the Alliance earlier this year by the Department of Community and Economic Development. These grants are designed to spur economic development, encourage the creation of partnerships between the public and private sectors, and further the revitalization initiatives of the local Main Street program.

Other donors to the NAP program have included Mid Penn Bank, First National Bank, Luzerne Bank, FNCB Bank, Community Bank, N.A., Landmark Community Bank, and DHD Realty, who donated the property in 2017. PPL has also contributed Foundation funds to support the IT needs of the facility.