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'Fortress' of the futureInitiative transforming former York bank into community education, technology facility

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The former Western National Bank building in York's WeCo neighborhood will become “The Fortress of York” as seen in this artist's renderings provided by the nonprofit Fortress Initiative.
The former Western National Bank building in York's WeCo neighborhood will become “The Fortress of York” as seen in this artist's renderings provided by the nonprofit Fortress Initiative. - (Photo / )


A former repository of money in York's WeCo neighborhood is on its way to becoming a repository of knowledge.

The nonprofit Fortress Initiative on March 9 formally took control of the old Western National Bank building, initiative President John McElligott said. The initiative’s goal is to create “The Fortress of York,” a training facility that will “prepare our region for the future through workshops, educational partnerships, community events, meet ups and showcasing emerging tech,” McElligott said.


For information on obtaining a space in the Fortress of York, individuals, companies or organizations can contact info@thefortressinitiative.org.

At nearly 8,000 square feet, the center will have space for tech companies, individual technologists and accelerated education providers, McElligott said.

The price tag for phase I of the project is “just under a half a million dollars and construction will begin in the next several months,” McElligott said.

Wanted: disruptors

“The space is designed to embrace disruptors, out-of-the-box thinkers and those that are excited to help strengthen the region’s future,” McElligott said.

The D-word is one of his favorites, and he uses it in a positive sense.

As McElligott described it during Mantec Inc.’s fourth Business Growth Conference, beneficial disruption is caused by exponential advances in technology, from smartphones to the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence.

It’s the sort of disruption seen when Uber puts taxi drivers out of work, or when drones change the way we document the landscape and deliver packages.

“Disruption will affect all ages, so it’s imperative that we include everyone,” McElligott said, explaining that the project is aimed at people from ages 8 to 80.

McElligott said the group is working closely with several local organizations, including Mantec, SCPa Works and the YMCA, which had owned the building.

Brave new world

Known professionally as a vision caster and technical futurist, McElligott’s “primary passion is focused on the rise and rejuvenation of third-tier cities and improving the quality of life of others.” He has preached that gospel around the nation, including at several White House events.

McElligott, 36, also is CEO of York Exponential, which provides consulting, marketing and tech training services. He previously served as senior vice president of Royal Square Development.

He sees the seeds of a new “machine age” in events worldwide: the World Economic Forum announcing the “Fourth Industrial Revolution”; discussion of self-driving cars in the U.S. Senate; the Wolf Administration in Pennsylvania providing millions of dollars worth of early-stage funding for tech companies; and routing of the upcoming Gigabit Revolution broadband line through York.

“The excitement and support shown by the manufacturing community, led by Mantec, has only confirmed that York has the potential to build our own tech culture around robotics, IoT, AI and other tech that will impact manufacturing in a big way,” McElligott added. “It really is creating a perfect storm.”

Scott Sipe, Mantec’s director of finance and technology, echoed that theme.

“The skill sets for manufacturers are changing, will be changing, should be changing,” Sipe said.

“Given the the need for automation, robotics, in manufacturing, the goal (of the Fortress) is obviously to get folks excited about technology, excited to work in manufacturing.”

“Being able to get that training in X amount of weeks and being able to apply it immediately to an opportunity in manufacturing is the goal,” Sipe added, with workers being able to build on that experience with two- and four-year degrees later on, as needed.

“Normally you would hear about projects like this in larger cities,” Sipe said. “There’s nothing like that in the area at this point in time.”

“This has happened out on the West Coast, but on the East Coast, this is now starting to take off,” Sipe said.

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Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis

Roger DuPuis covers Cumberland County, health care, transportation, distribution, energy and environment. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at rdupuis@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @rogerdupuis2.

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