HONESDALE—Amid the whirring drills and slamming hammers continuing their renovations of the Stourbridge Project business incubator space, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Deputy Secretary of Technology and Innovation Sheri Collins toured the facility Monday afternoon to glimpse the goings-on and assess their compliance with state programs.
“We have a lot of technology based economic development activity occurring across the state and this is just another example where our region is really trying to harness the assets that are already here,” said Collins following the tour.
According to a DCED press release, since 2017, the Stourbridge Project has offered over 70 training sessions on use of its prototyping machines, CAD software, music and video recording software, graphic design and animation equipment, and GIS mapping capabilities.
Since the facility opened its doors, it has assisted ten local businesses in the prototyping lab and helped eight incubator tenants create or retain 17 jobs in Wayne County, according to DCED's release.
“From a physical asset, or even from a talent asset, so many people that we met today, I think [the Stourbridge Project] directly aligns with the programming that the Commonwealth has provided through the Keystone Innovation Program or with the Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners,” said Collins.
According to a Wayne Economic Development Corporation (WEDCO) release around the time of the designation, a Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) “is a state incentive program that provides tax credits to for-profit companies less than eight years old operating within specific targeted industries.”
To “...encourage innovative technologies and entrepreneurial creativity...” as the release puts it, the KIZ program offers up to $15 million in tax credits.
Since its formation in 1983, the Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) “...has provided both early-stage and established companies with funding, business and technical expertise and access to a network of innovative, expert resources,” states the organization's website.
Reflecting on the significance of Deputy Secretary Collins' visit, WEDCO Executive Director Mary Beth Wood noted her organization was “excited” for the visit because “Sheri really has a strategic thought behind innovation in Pennsylvania.”
Wood further stated Collins was “instrumental” in the Stourbridge Project's KIZ designation.
“She and her office recognized that innovation can take place in our rural community, given the correct infrastructure,” said Wood.
Representing Wayne County on the tour, Commissioner Joseph Adams lauded the multi-level cooperation between local and state government, and local businesses at the Stourbridge Project.
“It's an impressive facility,” said Adams. “It's the culture and the commitment within our community, within our schools, our county and the employers in our area.”
The commissioner added working at the state level “with an official of Sheri's capacity” is a large step “...to be able to make Wayne County competitive for future economic development.”
On the tour
In addition to Wood and Adams, Collins' tour was guided by WEDCO Board Member Jim LaBar, WEDCO Marketing and Business Development professional Troy Bystrom, Wayne/Pike Workforce Alliance Executive Director Lucyann Vierling, and State Representative Jonathan Fritz.
The group meandered through the coworking space, the renovated business incubator rooms, the prototyping lab and the digital media studio, pointing out the state-of-the-art tech available and the local businesses which make use of it.
While touring the ground-floor coworking space, Collins met with local entrepreneur, Steven Earl, President of Honesdale-based Northeast Analysis.
Working in the Stourbridge Project for over a year, Earl reported the facilities in the coworking space have allowed him to create four products “that are just about ready to go to market.”
Earl added WEDCO, “... has brought me a lot of support and systems...,” helping particularly with gathering investors, forming marketing plans and “taking off” in ways he would otherwise be unable.
Stourbridge Project resources are helping Earl launch a second Honesdale-based company, Compass Rose.
Up in the digital media studio Collins and crew met with Jim Jennings and Megan Corcoran of Yoga International.
Jennings noted the company made use of the Project's shared spaces while the Yoga International Main Street offices were being remodeled.
“The internet, access to all the computers, it's just a great centralized location,” said Jennings of the Stourbridge Project.
Jennings and Corcoran explained their company is an online Yoga journal and instructional resource for practitioners and instructors.
“The easiest way to think of it is like Netflix for Yoga,” said Corcoran, explaining the classes and workshops are streamed online and via mobile apps through the membership subscription.
Jennings explained in the span of a few years, Yoga International's staff quintupled from around eight to now more than 40 individuals, earning them recognition by Inc. Magazine as number 122 of the 500 fastest-growing privately-owned companies in the United States.