Wilkes University has opened the Wilkes Enterprise Center, a business incubator that will encourage and support businesses started by Wilkes students, faculty and staff. A grand opening event was held March 17 at the center, which is located on the sixth floor of the Luzerne Bank Building, 67 Public Square in Wilkes-Barre. An initiative of the Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Wilkes, the center reflects the University’s commitment to support Wilkes-Barre by attracting new businesses to the downtown and retaining talented individuals to work locally.
University President Patrick F. Leahy said that the new center is an integral part of Wilkes’ vision to expand entrepreneurial education across academic disciplines.
“The Wilkes Enterprise Center strengthens our educational mission, providing opportunities for students to apply what they have learned to invent new products and processes and to build businesses. Students also benefit by working with faculty who will start businesses under the auspices of the center,” Leahy said.
At the grand opening, Leahy also thanked the Kirby Center Board of Managers for approving new funding supporting the center and its expanded programs, which include the enterprise center. This new Kirby Center funding is in addition to incremental funding provided by Wilkes University to support the initiative.
“The Kirby Center board has made a commitment to grow the programs and vision of the center at Wilkes,” Leahy said. “We are happy to strengthen our commitment as well to provide support for work being done by our students, faculty and staff.
Nine business startups already are housed at the new enterprise center. Three of them are student-run enterprises: Kraken Boardsports, which manufactures outdoor recreation products; Magnesium Works, a company developing a therapeutic wrap to be used in athletics and other applications; and Penwel, which is developing a product to increase student safety at parties.
Other businesses run by Wilkes faculty and staff include Bepa Studio, a nature photography studio; Four Hound Solutions, which provides automated testing solutions; Penn Manufacturing, an additive manufacturing company; MC2 Consulting Group, which provides leadership training and consulting services; and Xonnel Enterprises, which designs and manufactures fitness equipment. A ninth company is a virtual partner not housed at the center. At The Inkwell, which specializes in book promotion and reviews in an online platform, will use the support services provided by the enterprise center.
Businesses in the new center receive support in the form of office space and advising from an executive in residence and a team of volunteer business advisors. Advising may include help with business plans, marketing and other things needed to grow the businesses. A planned seed venture fund also will provide financial support for fledgling businesses.
Wilkes-Barre Mayor Thomas Leighton said that the Wilkes Enterprise Center is the latest in a number of the University’s initiatives that support a vibrant downtown business community.
“Wilkes University continues to be a tremendous force committed to economic and business development in Wilkes-Barre,” said Leighton. “We have welcomed the University’s presence with open arms because we believe the students utilizing the new center will understand the value of living and working in Wilkes-Barre that will, in turn, offer viable options to remain here after graduation.
“As with any revitalization movement, keeping innovative, good-paying jobs local and available are key to retaining top talent from the University in our region. We anticipate the Wilkes Enterprise Center will be a hub of entrepreneurship and academic excellence that will greatly contribute to the pulse of the downtown,” Leighton added.
The enterprise center is one of several new initiatives unveiled in fall 2014 that build on the Kirby Center’s mission and expand its offerings. Other plans include the establishment of a technology transfer office at the University. New initiatives are being led by Rodney Ridley, who was named director of the Allan P. Kirby Center at Wilkes in 2014.