$100K to Boost Livability, Startups in Shenango Valley

SHARON, Pa. – A $100,000 Creative Communities grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts will help the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce assist community-based projects and businesses.

The grant will be used to fund the Shenango Valley Community Connections Collaborative, or SVC3, which leverages collaborations with local organizations and has an overarching goal of boosting livability, economic development, workforce development, community connectedness and tourism, said Sherris Moreira, executive director of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce.

The grant was presented Friday at Laurel Technical Institute, which will be a focal point of the SVC3. An audience of community leaders, elected officials and stakeholders turned out for the press conference, including state Rep. Mark Longietti, D-7, and state Sen. Michele Brooks, R-50.

Sharon was one of just four cities selected from dozens of applicants throughout the commonwealth. The other cities are Meadville, Lancaster and Philadelphia.

“The selection of the Sharon project as one of only four awards statewide demonstrates the strength of this unique collaboration,” Longietti said.

The array of local organizations collaborating in the SVC3 include Random Acts of Artists, the Shenango Valley Urban League and others representing veterans, the developmentally disabled and displaced workers.

Sarah Merritt of the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts praised Sharon’s application for the grant and its tenacity and thoroughness. “It’s for the whole Shenango Valley but it’s in Sharon,” she said.

A key element of SVC3 will be the creation of a fabrication laboratory, or fab lab, in the Laurel Technical Institute building. The fab lab will offer equipment and training for small and startup businesses and makers.

Carnegie Science Center of Pittsburgh is partnering with SVC3 on the fab lab, providing equipment and instructor training. The fab lab program will also offer a brick-and-mortar location for the new businesses, said Moreira.

One of the first local entrepreneurs to take advantage of it is Beards United and Brohana Products, a company that makes beard-care products, owned by Jake Morgan. Beards United will rent incubator space in the institute.

A strength of the SVC3 program is its direct support from the Carnegie Science Center. The equipment that Carnegie will provide the Sharon location has not been fully determined but will include label- and T-shirt-making machines, said Moreira.

“We’re still in the process of exploring what equipment to get, but getting the Carnegie involved is a big deal because they have their own fab lab,” Moreira said. “It’s a high level of help.”

She stressed that the SVC3 project is fluid and will continue to evolve and find more partners.

The $100,000 grant will be spread out over four years, and efforts are already underway to supplement it with matching grants.

“We’re hoping to match it from other sources, including Community Development Block Grant funding from the city of Sharon,” Moreira said.

She noted that elected officials, including Longietti, are looking into ways to find additional funding. 

Pictured: Melissa Phillips, community and economic development director of the city of Sharon, Pa., speaks at a press conference Friday at Laurel Technical Institute to announce a state grant for arts-based projects. At left is Sherris Moreira, executive director of the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce, and at right are state Sen. Michele Brooks and state Rep. Mark Longietti.

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