Emily Lewis is the Executive Director of the Venango County Economic Development Authority.
The Venango County Economic Development Authority has had an exciting start to the year. After a significant amount of behind the scenes work on the Oil City National Bank building, physical changes are beginning to take place at the facility.
Canfield Development of Pittsburgh was selected through a competitive bidding process to perform environmental abatement of the facility as well as interior demolition of obsolete utility systems, false walls, furniture and fixtures, etc.
Once this process is complete we will have a clean canvas to paint our new vision for the building, but don’t worry, we are working to preserve as much of the historic integrity of the structure as we can, keeping the original vaults in place and removing marble panels and original wood doors to store in a safe pace and re-use in the new design.
KLA roofing of Everett, PA was selected to replace the existing leaking roof. All of this work is expected to wrap up by October of this year and we are hoping to squeeze in the replacement of exterior doors and windows before the snow flies.
The building, constructed in 1926 is a solid structure that we believe can be renewed to its former glory, though banking operations are not in its future. Rather, we are working to develop a business innovation center in the upper floors of the building, providing a space for entrepreneurs and new businesses to foster there next big idea.
As for the first floor, we have been working with a private business owner to create a brew pub. This will serve as a gathering space for both the tenants of the building and the community.
In 2019 we will see the launch of the eAcademy at Venango and the addition of my very first staff member, an Entrepreneurship Program Manager. The eAcademy at Venango is an extension of the highly successful eAcademy program at Linden Pointe.
The original eAcademy was established in Hermitage, PA in 2014 and is a program that fosters and encourages an entrepreneurial mindset. In our program, high school seniors from 6 different school districts in the Venango area will spend half of their school day from September to May being trained in entrepreneurial and leadership curricula. Classes are 75% experience based learning and 25% lecture based learning.
There is no exact procedure that guarantees success in entrepreneurship education and training. Yet there is a common thread – that a mindset guides the decisions empowering entrepreneurs. We believe that anyone, not just those who want to start a business, can benefit from understanding and applying an entrepreneurial mindset to any situation that demands change in their life.
This program is designed to immerse students in learning about economic development, their local region, and the essential aspects of the unlimited opportunities a different way of thinking can provide. As students learn the academic knowledge, the startup methodology, and individual skill sets they will apply it all to the creation of a startup business with a working prototype.
Through a partnership with Clarion University the eAcademy will be housed at Clarion University Venango Campus and will be managed by the Entrepreneurship Program Manager. I am over the moon to bring this program to Venango County and give students in our area the opportunity to interact with our local businesses.
This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s May 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.