Shenango LaunchBox Set to Turn Dreams Into Reality

SHARON, Pa. – The Shenango LaunchBox, a combined effort of several entities from the local community and Penn State Shenango, is ready to help those with big ideas and dreams turn them into reality.

Officials cut the ribbon on Penn State’s newest LaunchBox location Wednesday, bringing the center to fruition on the second floor of the Hope Center for Arts and Technology Inc.

“At every Penn State LaunchBox and entrepreneur center, they say, ‘Don’t quit your daydream.’ Well today my daydream became a reality,” said JoAnne Carrick, campus director and chief academic officer of Penn State Shenango.

“As a land grant institution, Penn State is uniquely charged with serving Pennsylvania, its people and its communities,” said Margo Dellicarpini, vice president for Commonwealth Campuses and executive chancellor at Penn State. “It’s our mission to help build a stronger Pennsylvania and more robust empowered communities.”

Dellicarpini noted that the new Shenango LaunchBox, HopeCAT and other economic development initiatives she sees in Sharon is the land grant mission in action.

In 2022, Molly Bundrant, president of Sharon City Council, said the council had more than $14 million in American Rescue Plan Act money and decided to look for a way to use some of it to support and promote long-term growth in the community. The city contributed $2 million from the ARPA funds, placing $1 million into two different endowments at the Shenango Valley Foundation, an affiliate of the Community Foundation of Western PA and Eastern OH. Penn State University matched the funds, leading to a $4 million nest egg to drive development and support the dreamers in the Sharon area.

“To borrow a tagline of Invent Penn State, which is our program which administers the LaunchBoxes across the commonwealth, ‘That is the ingenious power of partnership,’” Dellicarpini said. “It is a reflection of Penn State’s “We Are” spirit and acknowledgement that we can always accomplish more together than we can ever do apart.”

The ribbon was cut for the Shenango LaunchBox on Wednesday. From left are Molly Bundrant, president of Sharon City Council; Margo DelliCarpini, Penn State vice president for Commonwealth Campuses; Jo Anne Carrick, Penn State Shenango campus director; Kyle English, executive director at the Community Foundation of Western PA & Eastern OH; Mark Longietti, Hermitage director of community development; Mary Kay Bernat, Butler County Community College @LindenPointe; James Delattre, Invent Penn State; and Tom Roberts, director of Shenango LaunchBox.

One of the endowments will support the Shenango LaunchBox, while the other is intended to support economic development grants for those in the city of Sharon. Bundrant announced at Wednesday’s event that the application is now available for those grants and will be found on the city’s website.

“Through trusted relationships, creativity, investment and collaboration, we’ve established the Shenango LaunchBox, powered by the greater Shenango region and the Shenango Economic Development grants that will fuel enterprises for generations to come,” Bundrant said. “I’m so excited for the future.”

Kyle English, the executive director of the Community Foundation of Western PA and Eastern OH, said many people avoid relying on one another when they need each other. He said the LaunchBox is a safe space to share dreams and receive the support they need.

“The LaunchBox network gives would-be entrepreneurs the support they need to take something that is extremely personal and share it in an environment where they know they will not be attacked,” English said. “Instead, they are encouraged. They are given the support and connection to the resources and the reach needed to take that idea and make it a reality. What an amazing gift this is to our community.”

Those include entrepreneurs like Mary Kay Bernat of Other Wind Productions and her partner, Gene Blair Jr., who have already tapped into the help provided through LaunchBox to expand their business ideas into reality. They used the program’s free legal services through Penn State Law that connected them with available space in downtown Sharon, where they will now have a brick-and-mortar space.

“We’re really excited about that,” Bernat said. “We’re all about Sharon.”

Pictured at top: Tom Roberts, executive director of Shenango LaunchBox.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.