$4M to Fund Shenango LaunchBox, Sharon Businesses

SHARON, Pa. – Two $1 million endowments, each with the capacity to each grow to $2 million, are being established to support existing businesses and startups in the city of Sharon.

Through a partnership with Penn State Shenango, the Community Foundation of Eastern Ohio and Western Pennsylvania and the community, a dollar-for-dollar match fundraising program has the potential to raise $4 million for economic development.

The endowments will fund the establishment the Shenango LaunchBox and an economic development fund that will support existing and new businesses that operate in Sharon. Each will leverage Penn State expertise in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics to support community entrepreneurs, officials said.

The LaunchBox incubator program was created by Penn State President Emeritus Eric J. Barron in 2015 to provide the university’s resources, at no cost, to help start and accelerate businesses. Locations in downtown Sharon are being explored for the new Shenango LaunchBox and permanent staffing will be established to support entrepreneurs and business owners, according to the announcement.

“With resources like co-working spaces, legal advice, makerspaces and coaching, a Penn State LaunchBox will be a catalyst in the region,” said Jo Anne Carrick, Penn State Shenango campus director. “Our goal is to facilitate partnerships between businesses, education and industry, while providing facilities and programming to drive regional economic development.” 

Innovation and entrepreneurial programming will begin in the fall at an interim location, officials said. Programs targeted to entrepreneurs from historically underrepresented communities, women and veterans, as well as other aspiring business leaders, will draw upon Invent Penn State’s network of resources to foster the creation of new businesses. 

The economic development endowment will specifically support existing and new businesses that operate within Sharon’s zip code. Startup founders and business owners can apply for funds to de-risk and accelerate operations. Application information for Sharon business owners will be announced later, officials said.

“It has been the Community Foundation’s honor to play a role in helping the city of Sharon and Penn State Shenango create this amazing investment that will support the citizens of Sharon forever,” said Kyle English, executive director of the Community Foundation. “Forward thinking such as this truly needs to be commended.”

Gifts to support select economic development initiatives across the commonwealth are a priority of Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence campaign. Two opportunities to leverage university funds — the LaunchBox Matching Program and the Economic 

To learn more about how to make a gift and secure a match, contact Heather Winfield at hbw11@psu.edu.

Pictured: Downtown Sharon, Pa. Courtesy Penn State Shenango.

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