New Kensington Virtual Groundbreaking Event

for the city’s digital innovation lab on October 28.
Recording 10/16/20

Good afternoon. This is a great day for New Kensington and the region, and I’m honored to be part of it.

The story of this city is one that we have seen across the state, where once vibrant economic hubs fall on hard times when the main manufacturing plant closes. But in New Kensington, we have seen a transformation that’s inspiring, uplifting, and ready for a bright future.

Just three years ago, I joined many of you as we opened the doors to the campus’ innovation hub, The Corner LaunchBox, under the leadership of Chancellor Snider. Working with the mayor, area businesses, and local government, this visionary team built an entrepreneurial ecosystem that began the downtown revitalization.

The impact has been dramatic and attracted external funding from Westmoreland County, the Appalachian Regional Commission, and private gifts and donations.

Today with our partners, we take the next steps with this groundbreaking for the "Digital Foundry at New Kensington.” It will support the vision for reimagining manufacturing, as well as making sure students, workers, businesses and community members are ready to be successful in the digital age. The foundry, made possible by a $5.5 million award from The Richard King Mellon Foundation, will become a model for training and access to modern software tools to assist new product development, manufacturing, operations and overall business management in a variety of fields. Furthermore, it will help continue New Kensington’s revitalization and economic development initiatives associated with downtown.

What was once called the Aluminum City has been now dubbed the “corridor of innovation.”

The critical mass of entrepreneurial activity occurring at the Corner LaunchBox has already helped attract new companies, investment and attention to the city. We anticipate our investment in the next generation of innovators in New Kensington and other communities not only will positively impact new business starts and job growth for rural and underrepresented constituents, but also will serve as a bulwark against “brain drain.”

This is what we envisioned when we launched Invent Penn State, and I’m proud of what we are building across Pennsylvania.

Since 2015 the hubs have opened on a rolling basis and from 2015-2018 supported 2,516 entrepreneurs, graduated 224 startups from accelerator programs, and completed 208 product development projects.

We are leveraging Penn State’s size, technology, and broad research strengths—notably, research expenditures in 2019-20 reached a record $1.01 billion. This is accelerating the transfer of new ideas into useful products and processes that span industry sectors. All of this is translating into new businesses in Pennsylvania. And since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the LaunchBoxes and Innovation Hubs have quickly pivoted to offer virtual programs, creating even greater accessibility.

Today, we are not simply unveiling a building; we’re embarking on a new way to think about engagement, partnership, entrepreneurship and innovation.

Along with our friends and partners at the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland and the County, and the generosity of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, we’re helping to create an epicenter for future-ready preparedness.

Penn State is deeply committed to this city and region. In that spirit, we have also invested a $1 million matching gift through our campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.” This will help create an endowment for ongoing operating support of this state-of-the-art facility.

On behalf of Penn State, congratulations to everyone involved in this one-of-a-kind project. New Kensington is one of the great success stories in western Pennsylvania, and I’m very proud that Penn State is part of it. I look forward to being able to join you in the future as the facility opens its doors.