KANJORSKI AND CASEY ANNOUNCE OVER $2.2 MILLION FOR SMALL BUSINESS INNOVATION CENTER EXPANSION PROJECT FROM U.S. ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT ADMINISTRATION FUNDING
Original Innovation Center Created More Than 115 New Jobs,and Expansion Will Continue to Create Even More WILKES-BARRE – Today, Congressman Paul E. Kanjorski (PA-11), Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), and Willie Taylor, Regional Director of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Philadelphia Regional Office announced $2,263,500 for the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business & Industry’s (CBI) Innovation Center at Wilkes-Barre II (ICWB II). The funding will expand an existing program to create affordable office space for local small businesses in Wilkes-Barre which will help them develop their companies and encourage start-up companies to locate and grow in Northeastern Pennsylvania. Since its opening in 2004, the original innovation center has housed 15 startup companies, which have added more than $2 million into the local economy, and fostered the creation of more than 115 new jobs, paying average annual wages of $62,000, to date. Members of the EDA’s regional office staff also joined Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber representatives and area elected officials in Downtown Wilkes-Barre for the announcement. The project, which CBI’s real estate development affiliate, the Greater Wilkes-Barre Development Corporation (GWBDC), will undertake, involves the construction of a 30,000 SF building with an estimated cost of approximately $5 million. The facility will be built at 27-29 South Main Street in order to accommodate the expansion of the Innovation Center@Wilkes-Barre (ICWB). “The Innovation Center at Wilkes-Barre has provided a unique opportunity to bring new small businesses to the area, create jobs, and promote economic development in Northeastern Pennsylvania,” said Congressman Kanjorski. “I applaud the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business & Industry for its innovative initiative as part of the downtown revitalization program. The expansion of the Wilkes-Barre Chamber’s successful program will enable the goals of the innovation center to continue so that more small businesses can grow and thrive in Northeastern Pennsylvania, while also benefiting the area’s economy and its residents.” “The funding for the expansion of the Innovation Center is great news for Wilkes-Barre,” said Senator Casey. “By expanding this proven facility, we can create more resources for businesses, thereby creating jobs, bolstering the local economy and furthering entrepreneurial development in the area.” Commenting on the announcement, Chamber President/CEO Todd Vonderheid stated, “We are very thankful to EDA and our federal delegation – Senator Robert Casey, Congressman Paul Kanjorski, and Senator Arlen Specter — who advocated for this application. This new building will give our community the kind of space required to allow us to not only build on the success of our existing incubator, but most importantly to create a more formal relationship between area colleges, universities and private investors that will ensure the necessary support for entrepreneurs over the long term.” The new Wilkes-Barre small business incubator will create 17,110 square feet of affordable office space for lease to local small businesses and start-up companies. Because of the success of the original incubator, the CBI has worked to expand the program to provide more room for new small business tenants, thereby furthering additional entrepreneurial development in the Greater Wilkes-Barre area. The CBI will rehabilitate an abandoned building in downtown Wilkes-Barre to house these businesses. This announcement allows the GWBDC to initiate the design process for the ICWB II project. Previously, the GWBDC performed environmental abatement and demolition activities on the project site; it is anticipated that building construction will begin in the first quarter of 2011, and will take approximately one year to construct. By undertaking the ICWB expansion project, the CBI will be able to leverage its original ICWB investment, continue to expand the business and job creation generated by the ICWB incubator program, and advance the larger revitalization program for Downtown Wilkes-Barre. “Today’s announcement continues the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s long record of support for economic and entrepreneurial development in the Greater Wilkes-Barre area,” noted Larry Newman, CBI’s Vice President of Planning, Policy, and Development. “We are extremely grateful to Regional Director Willie Taylor and his team in the Philadelphia Regional Office for their ongoing belief in the importance and effectiveness of our organization’s work; without the EDA investment announced today, the construction of an expanded Innovation Center in Downtown Wilkes-Barre would simply not be possible.” In addition to the EDA award announced today, the ICWB II project is being funded through $2 million in Industrial Development Program and Local Share Account grant funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development, with the remaining debt and equity being provided by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Development Corporation. The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry is a community, economic development and business service organization charged with the mission of collaborating with community and regional partners to create quality employment and business opportunities and improve the area’s quality of life through strategic planning, programs and investments in our community.