York entrepreneur: ‘Rise of the Rest’ pushes York business initiatives

A little like a barnstorming minister, entrepreneur John McElligott of York has spent the last several years traveling the country and spreading a message.

McElligott promotes the “York Plan 2.0,” his hopes of a major business and even social change by creating high-tech education and technology that spurs investment and subsequent jobs and housing.

McElligott was a speaker at the “South By Southwest” conference in March, when he met Steve Case, the AOL co-founder. Case is behind “Rise of the Rest,” an effort to help budding entrepreneurs in middle America – in places like York. After Case heard McElligott speak, the two later met – and Case decided to start his national tour, giving entrepreneurs a chance to vie for funding, here in this region.

The “Rise of the Rest” tour will come to Central Pennsylvania on Oct. 10, it was announced Monday.

McElligott is pushing various plans for York.

Last year, McElligott talked about launching a computer coding school, called the Fortress Initiative, in a vacant former bank building at West Market and Newberry streets in downtown York. The building renovations, which had fallen behind schedule, resumed and are expected to be completed by the end of 2017, McElligott said Wednesday.

McElligott is also planning a 250,000-square-foot manufacturing and software-development center, or “Innovation District,” in the city’s long-vacant Northwest Triangle area. Last week, McElligott received permission from York’s Redevelopment Authority to extend the time period, for up to a year, for him to possibly buy the authority-owned land where the Innovation District would be built. The extension will allow him to continue to seek funding from investors and the state, among other steps, he said.

McElligott feels that York County could be on the verge of leading a major initiative now, through technology, like the original York Plan did when York’s manufacturing sector teamed up to help meet the U.S. war needs of World War II.

“Speaking about the York Plan has been a drum that I’ve been beating for a very long time,” he said. “It’s really exciting to see everyone getting really proud of our heritage and to understand that the last time the world changed this much, this fast, it was this community that led the nation” before and during World War II, he said.

Case’s “Rise of the Rest” is a 3-year-old nationwide initiative to support and promote entrepreneurs in emerging start-up regions. When it comes to the midstate this fall, innovative local companies will be able to make a pitch for a $100,000 investment from the Washington, D.C.-based venture-capital firm Revolution LLC, which Case co-founded.

The “Rise of the Rest” visit actually is to the entire Harrisburg-Lancaster-York market, not specifically York. Still, McElligott feels that York’s rising role in things high-tech helped bring Case and his venture effort to this region.

“His coming here really gives the York Plan some legs, and it’s an opportunity to show the world what we’re made of,” McElligott said.

David O'Connor
Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at doconnor@cpbj.com.

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