Penn-Northwest Development Corp. Adds Innovation Fund

HERMITAGE, Pa. – Penn-Northwest Development Corp. spent 2022 focusing on assisting business recovery efforts in Mercer County, Pa., and increasing the population to meet workforce challenges. As part of that ongoing work, Penn-Northwest announced Dec. 1 the creation of the Mercer County Innovation Fund.

The fund is a collaborative effort among Penn-Northwest, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Shenango Valley Enterprise Zone, Community Hope Investment Partners Group, the Greenville Area Economic Development Corp. and the city of Hermitage, says Rod Wilt, Penn-Northwest executive director.

“The fund is designed to encourage and support technology businesses, with the purpose of creating new jobs in Mercer County,” Wilt says.

The fund is the culmination of more than a year’s work of finding investors, drafting governing documents and ensuring that a robust support network exists for applicants. It allows for broader categories of businesses to apply for funding than was previously available. The goal is attracting new technology investments in the region. Initially, the fund will have $410,000 to invest in Mercer County-based companies, according to Wilt.

The agency’s commitment to increasing the population of Mercer County was supported with $200,000 of initial funding to build out the Homegrown Initiative. The program focuses on re-population efforts through educating students and job-seekers of all ages about the tremendous career and lifestyle opportunities that exist with the county and the Shenango-Mahoning Valley region.

At its annual meeting in November, Penn-Northwest celebrated another year of “impressive” growth in membership and investment in Mercer County, Wilt says.

“We honored two individuals with Improvement Movement Champion Awards for exemplary volunteer work with the organization: Niki Vigna with Premier Power Solutions and Ben Wagner with FirstEnergy,” he says.

Additionally, the organization gave its Lifetime Achievement Award to Doug Thomas, founder of Thomas Construction in Grove City, Pa. The inaugural Homegrown Award went to Kaylee Bender with the American Hospitality Group for her contributions to the Future Leaders and Homegrown initiatives.

Three companies – Compliance Environmental Services, JCL Energy and Jamestown Coating –were honored for their significant investment and job creation in Mercer County.

Pictured at top: Brian Slawin, northwestern regional portfolio director for Erie, Pa.-based Ben Franklin Partners, joined Rod Wilt, Penn-Northwest executive director, Dec. 1 to announce the creation of the Mercer County Innovation Fund.