Debra Clark

Debra Clark

The receipt of a new grant, which will allow Huntingdon County to be a part of a new initiative, was among the topics discussed at monthly meeting of Huntingdon County Business and Industry (HCBI) last week.

“It has been another busy month at HCBI,” said HCBI executive director Bob Reitman. “The Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) grant has been signed and the county, with HCBI, along with Fulton and Bedford counties, has become a part of the Startup Alleghenies initiative, which now encompasses the entire Southern Alleghenies region along with Blair, Cambria and Somerset counties.”

The ARC grant and related efforts have helped increase entrepreneurial activity within its first year.

“This effort will also result in increased activity and events through other partners, such as the Penn State Ben Franklin Technology Partnership and will result in more visibility and likely more tenants for the Sill Incubator,” Reitman said. “HCBI will administer the Startup Alleghenies program for both Huntingdon and Fulton counties.”

He explained what the start-up program will do for the local community.

“The entire startup initiative is to try to start up entrepreneurial activity in communities in all respective counties,” he said. “Since I have started, there has already been a lot of entrepreneurial activity in the county and we would just like to build it up a notch.”

The startup program will bring more entrepreneurial awareness and information events to the county, helping individuals to build early connections with other entrepreneurs. In light of the new program, Reitman announced the creation of a new position at HCBI.

Current HCBI operations manager Debra Clark will now serve as the HCBI director of business development and Startup Alleghenies Entrepreneurial Coach, transitioning out of her present HCBI role. She has been in Startup Alleghenies training most of the previous month.

Clark will oversee meeting with entrepreneurial individuals to discuss expansion possibility in the county, as well as communicating and working with those who already have a business in town and they are looking for ways for their business to have more of an innovative spin.

“She is a well-connected person, with great insights,” Reitman said. “She was a very attractive candidate to hire into the new position. We are trying to currently fill her previous position, but overall, I think have a three-person office will allow us to place a different emphasis on various things.”

Reitman said a new operations manager will be hired at HCBI.

Clark already has big visions and dreams for her new position.

“I am humbled by this opportunity to play a role in the Startup Alleghenies entrepreneurial initiative,” she said. “As the coach for Huntingdon and Fulton counties, I hope to facilitate entrepreneurial ecosystems where your ideas can expand into successful businesses. This ecosystem will assist all types of entrepreneurs at every level of development.”

She elaborated on some of the efforts that she and partners of Startup Alleghenies will be making.

“We will be building a network of individuals and programs for every facet of your business needs from locations and spaces, financing options and market analysis to product development and manufacturing,” Clark said. “The future of our communities depends on us, what we do today to strengthen our economy, how we inspire our youth to be business leaders and the encouragement we provide to our neighbors. All of these factor into our success and I hope to use our local and regional resources to advance this initiative right here, right now.”

A celebration event to launch the initiative will be held at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 5, at Old Bedford Brewing.

HCBI president Tracey Cook noted that all payments for the 2017-2018 investment campaign have been received.

“We have received 42 percent of our pledges for the 2018-2019 campaign,” Cook said. “Twenty-four percent have paid, which are ahead of the numbers for the year. So far, there have also been 32 renewals.”

Michele Ivory, representing state Sen. John Eichelberger, shared that the recent meeting would be her last as the senator’s office closed Tuesday, Nov. 20, as the Senate seat transitions to Judy Ward. The board thanked her for her dedicated service on various issues and to also Sen. Eichelberger for being present at many county events.

The next HCBI meeting will be held at 11:45 a.m. Monday, Dec. 17, at the J.C. Blair Education Center. All meetings are open to the public.

Kayla can be reached at khandy@huntingdondailynews.com.

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