CAN DO recently utilized a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture to complete facility upgrades at its CAN BE Innovation Center in the Valmont Industrial Park. The project marked the first time major aesthetic modifications have been made to the 14,000 square-foot facility since opening in 2005.
As part of the funds invested, CAN DO used an $83,750 grant, received from the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Business Development grant program, to purchase furniture, fixtures and equipment for the project. The furniture was purchased from Muzo, a company CAN DO had recruited from the UK, who recently announced an expansion to relocate their global headquarters and manufacturing operations to 360 Kiwanis Blvd in Valmont Industrial Park.
The aesthetic modifications included upgrades to all common areas; the conference room is now state-of-the-art with full audio/visual capabilities that can fit up to 30 people in a classroom style and 26 people in a conference setting; a small and private “quiet room” complete with acoustic sound barriers to allow founders and C-level team members to take private meetings, calls, or regroup outside of their office; a new look to the kitchenette area; and new LED lights with Bluetooth advanced controls provided by CAN BE tenant American Eagle Solutions.
CAN DO Director of Economic Development Jocelyn Sterenchock said, “The vision for the innovation center was to create a welcoming and inspiring facility that got founders and entrepreneurs excited to walk into their office and around the building. We created warm and innovative common areas throughout the facility so that tenants can walk freely throughout and plug in wherever creativity and productivity strikes them. Perhaps they’re in their office, the conference room, the quiet room, the lobby, or even in our café-style kitchenette enjoying a cup of coffee. Wherever they land, we wanted to create openness and a feeling of invigoration – perhaps even a bit of ownership.”
CAN BE, an equal opportunity provider, is a mixed-use small business incubator with a range of clients, including consultants, manufacturers, and technology businesses. The facility currently has 13 clients in its Innovation Center that employ roughly 40 people. Since opening its in 2005, CAN BE has been home to nearly 50 businesses.
In total, there are approximately 9,000 square-feet of rentable space, including 9 offices and 10 multipurpose/light manufacturing spaces. Two of the manufacturing spaces have high bays with no ceilings while three spaces have direct dock door access.
All utilities, including WiFi, are included in monthly rent and clients receive a secure key fob to access the facility. In addition to office/manufacturing space, CAN BE clients have access to the newly-renovated conference room, a networked fax/printer/copier, high-speed internet, audio/visual equipment and a mailbox.
All clients also receive business mentoring (including planning, financial, technical and operations assistance), access to training programs, internship availability, office hours with entrepreneurs and mentors, networking opportunities, and free (then-reduced) membership with the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce, Hazleton POWER!, and the Manufacturers & Employers Association.
Additionally, clients and tenants of the innovation center are plugged into a larger, community-based ecosystem. CAN BE worked in partnership with Penn State Hazleton, the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress to form The Hazleton Innovation Collaborative (THInC). The partnership is focused on leveraging Penn State's academic and research resources while working together with community partners to nurture and grow entrepreneurship across Greater Hazleton. The emphasis is on fostering an entrepreneurial culture that will lead to increased economic development, job creation, income growth, improved quality of life and student career success.
CAN BE is also part of the Ben Franklin of Northeastern Pennsylvania network, the largest network of incubators in the state, and partners with tecBRIDGE to offer multiple regional business plan competitions and conferences. Clients have access to funding stream organizations and can receive legal reviews and assistance at a pro-bono or reduced rate. Additionally, CAN BE is located within a Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ), which is a state-based tax credit program for startups.
CAN DO Business Development Specialist Mark Minnig said, “I want to thank the USDA for their commitment and effort in assisting small businesses in rural communities such as ours and, specifically, Area Specialist Jason Cali in helping us work through the nuances of this grant application process. The CAN BE Innovation Center renovations are amazing. The work completed through this grant will enhance our ability to assist our current clients and attract new entrepreneurs to Greater Hazleton in the future.”