Innovation Hub Planned in Schuylkill County

SHENANDOAH, Pa. -- A community in Schuylkill County has plans to build an innovation center in its downtown. Shenandoah has been working with Penn State University on the project.

Downtown Shenandoah, Inc. is overseeing the proposed project. It would serve as a workspace for entrepreneurs in the area, but to make this project a reality, downtown Shenandoah will need $12 million.

"You know Shenandoah has been down and out for a while, so it's time to rebuild, time to get it back on its feet," Jody McAndrew said.

Downtown Shenandoah, a community development organization, is overseeing the project. Its executive director says the innovation center is set to be built in an empty lot on North Main Street in Shenandoah.

In 2013, Downtown Shenandoah was able to purchase most of this property, and earlier this year, the organization was able to buy the rest.

"This has been in the works for a year and a half. So, I think we're moving pretty fast for the amount of work we've got to do," said the director of Downtown Shenandoah, Inc. Mary Luscavage.

Downtown Shenandoah is working to get a total of $12 million needed to complete the innovation center. It would be a place for entrepreneurs to kick-start their businesses. The entrepreneurs would be able to rent the space for a limited time before finding their own space to run their business.

"They would have the ability to come to us and rent a space for less than it would cost to rent on the main street," Luscavage explained.

Since Downtown Shenandoah is partnering with Penn State on the building, there will be a classroom inside as well as conference room and event space.

"We have corporations in the area that have no place to go to have meetings, events. And they have to go out of county. So why would they need to go out of the county?" asked Luscavage.

The hope is that having an innovation center in Shenandoah will bring more business to the area, drawing more people into the community.

"I think the town will come through. I think everyone will come together and pull the rabbit out of the hat," McAndrew added.

Downtown Shenandoah plans to apply for an $8 million grant from the state. The organization is also working to get the other $4 million needed.

The organization's goal is to have the innovation center built by 2020.

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