Pocono Mountains resources help turn passions into paychecks
Sparking innovation in areas ranging from bioscience and software design to transportation and manufacturing, entrepreneurship has long been a cornerstone of the Pocono Mountains region’s economic success.
One reason entrepreneurs can get their ideas off the whiteboard and into market is the availability of resources, including the homegrown incubators and business accelerators at the Innovation Center at East Stroudsburg University (ESU) and the Stourbridge Project in Honesdale.
Better Business Builder
Both are located within the Pocono Mountains Keystone Innovation Zone, created to help develop new businesses in Monroe and Wayne counties. The Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) Program was established by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to foster innovation and produce entrepreneurial opportunities by combining the resources of public-private partnerships with those of higher education institutions, such as ESU.
The Business Accelerator located in the ESU Innovation Center, for instance, offers entrepreneurs access to facilities and equipment, a ready workforce of student interns and graduate students, business mentors, workshops to help with marketing and commercialization, and access to local investors and funding sources.
“The Business Accelerator is designed to provide flexible accommodations for early-stage companies – from coworking spaces to hot desks,â€ says Keith Modzelewski, director of entrepreneurship at ESU. “Most importantly, the program provides business owners with exclusive networking opportunities and relevant business support services. Our programs encourage creativity and innovation and provide a wealth of management and technical resources including access to ESU faculty expertise and student internships.”
A Head Start to Startup
In addition to a dozen undergraduate and graduate degrees in business, ESU’s Entrepreneurship Club provides students with a network of innovative thinkers and creative outlets for discovery. The Warrior LaunchPad, a student business incubator, supports students in creating their own companies and pursuing careers in innovation, and the President’s Distinguished Entrepreneur Speaker Series enables students to speak directly with real-world innovators who have excelled in their respective fields, many of whom graduated from ESU.
Since 2012, ESU students have earned top honors in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Student Business Plan Competition, TecBridge Business Plan Competition, and the Lehigh Valley Collegiate Business Pitch Summit.
“Creating an entrepreneurial ecosystem in the region is important in our collective efforts to diversify the business base of northeast Pennsylvania, encourage economic development and attract entrepreneurs to the area,â€ says Mary Frances Postupack, vice president of economic development and entrepreneurship at ESU.
Perhaps nowhere is diversification through innovation more important than in the region’s rural areas, such as in Wayne County, which includes the Stourbridge Project, a technology-focused business incubator and coworking space.
Catalyst for Development
“There’s a big push to invest in rural communities so that economic development opportunities and career opportunities for young people are comparable to those in urban areas,â€ says Susan Shaffer, director of the Stourbridge Project.
The incubator helps entrepreneurs with product development and business planning and pairs them with seasoned business leaders for networking and mentoring. Shaffer says because of its reputation as a great place for second homes and retirement, the Pocono Mountains is a gold mine of leadership resources.
“We have a very strong cadre of recently retired executives who participate in mentoring the new companies. They come from all industry sectors and various parts of the country, so they have very rich experiences that they’re able to share with those who are in the incubator,â€ Shaffer says.