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Penn State and City Center Partner to Open Lehigh Valley LaunchBox

By Colin McEvoy on December 17, 2015

A ribbon-cutting was held for Lehigh Valley LaunchBox at the Velocity business incubator in Allentown.

A ribbon-cutting was held for Lehigh Valley LaunchBox at the Velocity business incubator in Allentown.

Penn State University and City Center Lehigh Valley have partnered together to bring a new community-based program supporting entrepreneurs into downtown Allentown.

A ribbon-cutting was held today for Lehigh Valley LaunchBox, a business accelerator program that will award micro grants to budding entrepreneurs who have scalable business ideas, and will link the grant recipients to business leaders, academic partners, and Penn State alumni to provide mentorship and to help launch ideas and turn them into useful products

“Today we begin a new chapter of inspired innovation and economic vitality through collaboration and investment in the region,” Penn State President Eric Barron said to a crowd of more than 100 people at Velocity, City Center’s co-working space at 532 Hamilton Street in Allentown, where Lehigh Valley LaunchBox will be based.

“You can see from this gathering that Penn State Lehigh Valley has very strong ties to industry, area businesses, and the broader community,” Barron said. “This unity and the collaborative spirit make Lehigh Valley an ideal spot for advancing the economic activity in our state.”

The program is part of Invent Penn State, an initiative focused on leveraging Penn State’s research, knowledge, and entrepreneurial spirit to bring needed ideas, products, and services to market. Penn State Lehigh Valley has received $50,000 in seed funding to initiate the program.

J.B. Reilly, co-founder and president of City Center Lehigh Valley, speaking at the Lehigh Valley Lending Network ribbon-cutting.

J.B. Reilly, co-founder and president of City Center Lehigh Valley, speaking at the Lehigh Valley Launchbox ribbon-cutting.

Lehigh Valley is one of only six Penn State campuses that has received these funds to enhance local partnerships and entrepreneurial environments as part of Invent Penn State, Barron said.

“Our location here brings us downtown and allows us to experience the resurgence of downtown Allentown,” said Penn State Lehigh Valley Chancellor Tina Richardson said. “Look around us. The transformation is obvious. This connects us to the revitalization of the city and invites us to become further ingrained in the fabric of this rejuvenated community.”

J.B. Reilly, City Center co-founder and president, said Velocity was opened last year with the intention of encouraging entrepreneurs to establish forward-thinking businesses in downtown Allentown, and Lehigh Valley LaunchBox supports that same mission.

“In 2011, when we launched City Center, we knew that real estate development alone would not revitalize downtown Allentown,” he said. In researching successful urban economic development, two components kept coming to the top: innovation and higher education.”

The Lehigh Valley Launchbox already has about 10 young entrepreneurs enrolled in the program, from current Penn State students to recent graduates. Their projects range from drone development, to health and wellness products, Richardson said.

The program will compliment other strong incubator programs in the Lehigh Valley that assist entrepreneurs and startups, including Ben Franklin TechVentures; the Allentown Economic Development Corporation’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center; Lehigh University’s LaunchBayC Student Accelerator; and Bethlehem’s Pi: Partnership for Innovation.

Eleven total community partners have already committed more than $70,000 in matching funds and services for LaunchBox projects.

In addition to the Lehigh Valley, Penn State campuses in Abington, Erie, Harrisburg, New Kensington, and Scranton have received funding awards through the Invent Penn State initiative.

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