Harrisburg, PA – Governor Tom Wolf today joined Senator John Yudichak and Representative Eddie Day Pashinski to announce a $2 million state grant for the expansion of a technology innovation project in Downtown Wilkes-Barre. ‘Innovation Squared’ is a four-pronged initiative to create an innovation district for the region, and will create and retain 200 full-time jobs.
“Great work has already been done to improve the safety of and capitalize on the assets of the Square here in Wilkes-Barre, but this particular site remains outdated,” Governor Wolf said. “The renovation will make the center of Downtown Wilkes-Barre a focal point for a vibrant and active community, while creating good paying jobs that will attract talent to the area.”
“These state funds will further advance the vision of Innovation Squared in transforming downtown Wilkes-Barre into a technology hub that will retain our talented college graduates, attract tech entrepreneurs and grow new businesses,” Sen. Yudichak said. “I am grateful for Governor Wolf’s support of this vital project which brings our academic, business and community leaders, along with our entrepreneurs together to make Wilkes-Barre a successful Innovation District.”
The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) funds will allow the project — a joint venture between the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, the City of Wilkes-Barre, the Diamond City Partnership, and other business and high education community leaders — to expand at its current site, 40 Public Square, and move forward in several areas:
- Pepperjam Retention/Expansion of the Innovation Center: In June 2015, Pepperjam (formerly eBay Enterprise Marketing) announced its intention to make the Innovation Center in Downtown Wilkes-Barre its corporate headquarters through 2021. The project features the retention of 75 employees in the area, and the creation of 125 new jobs at the Innovation Center.
- New Incubator Development: To ensure start-ups and technology firms have the necessary space to grow, Innovation Squared features the acquisition and renovation of the former First National Bank building on Public Square to house new and recently formed start-up companies.
- Wilkes-Barre THINK Center: This 6,000 square-foot technology workshop and multi-media center is located in the lower level of the Innovation Center. The THINK Center provides local professionals, businesses, and colleges and universities access to shared workshops for research and development; private conference rooms for training, presentations and virtual meetings; and a multi-service center to be utilized for virtual board meetings, podcasts, lectures, technology competitions, and mentorship activities. The center also features a co-working space focused on providing entrepreneurs the facilities and services they need to advance their concepts to the incubation stage.
- Wilkes-Barre Connect Initiative: Wilkes-Barre Connect is an entrepreneurial ecosystem that ensures start-ups and existing businesses have access to the providers, services, and facilities they need to grow in Northeastern Pennsylvania. The initiative aims to spur business and job creation, retention, expansion, and business attraction through the support services, including mentoring, training, networking, technical assistance, access to capital, and facilities. The Wilkes-Barre Connect Initiative serves as the necessary service-based component of the Innovation Squared Project – and will be housed within the Innovation Center Technology Workshop.
“I would like to sincerely thank Gov. Wolf for awarding this important RCAP grant to our highly successful Innovation Squared Economic Development Project,” Rep. Pashinski said. “This RCAP award will retain 75 excellent paying jobs, create 125 new ones, and secure a dual entrepreneurial ecosystem and mentorship program for downtown Wilkes-Barre.”
“Today provides validation for our Innovation Squared strategy – an effort brought forth by our academic, business and government partners to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem in downtown Wilkes-Barre,” said Joseph Boylan, vice president Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce. “Launching just 16 months ago, Innovation Squared has already featured the retention and expansion of 200 jobs at Pepperjam, the creation of a 6,000 square foot multi-media and technology center called the Wilkes-Barre THINK Center, and launch of Wilkes-Barre Connect. These components have paved the way for today’s announcement – a commitment from Governor Wolf and the commonwealth to help bring a new incubator online in downtown Wilkes-Barre.”
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