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PNC drops $1M on Penn State incubator

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PNC Bank has donated $1 million to a startup incubator at Penn State University, building on the college's statewide initiative to encourage entrepreneurs in and around its campuses.

Based in downtown State College, the incubator has been renamed Happy Valley LaunchBox, Powered by PNC Bank.

"For us it’s very important to make sure that the communities we’re serving are vibrant and robust not just today but into the future," said Jim Hoehn, PNC regional president for Central Pennsylvania, an area spanning 22 counties from Berks to Blair. "I think this is a really cool and effective way to have that happen."

The LaunchBox is one of 17 innovation hubs opened by Penn State as part of its Invent Penn State Initiative, which is focused on spurring economic development, creating jobs and matching students with careers. Both Penn State York and Penn State Harrisburg host innovation hubs. The hubs offer free co-working space, legal and business advice, and programs to help people get businesses off the ground.

Each hub has been aiming to raise $1 million, which would trigger a matching donation of $1 million from the university. The LaunchBox is the first to reach that goal, according to a Penn State press release.

"PNC Bank’s grant marks a turning point for the Invent Penn State initiative and our innovation hubs, because their support will encourage additional supporters to come forward," Eric Barron, Penn State’s president, said in a statement.

In addition to its $1 million donation, Pittsburgh-based PNC plans to offer professional advice and guidance to startups at the LaunchBox but details are still being worked out, Hoehn said. 

PNC also is developing metrics for measuring the success of its grant, Hoehn said. The bank likely will look at the volume of capital and grants flowing into the LaunchBox, as well as the number of entrepreneurs who attend events and workshops there. 

Will any startups become PNC customers?

"That would be a great thing to have happen," Hoehn said. But, he added, "First and foremost we’d like them to be successful businesses."

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Joel Berg

Joel Berg

Joel Berg is editor of the Central Penn Business Journal. Born in Philadelphia, raised in Northern Virginia and now living in York, he's a graduate of Franklin & Marshall College and the University of Maryland. Have a question or story idea? Email him at jberg@cpbj.com. Follow him on Twitter, @JoelBYorkPa.

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