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NPRC Gains Degree-Granting Authority

June 3rd marks another milestone for Northern Pennsylvania Regional College (NPRC). Coming just over a week after the College celebrated their second year of operations, the Pennsylvania Department of Education provided NPRC with their degree-granting authority. This degree-granting authorization is a critical step for NPRC and will allow them to operate independently for the Spring of 2020. Gannon will remain their educational partner through the end of 2019.

To reach this point in the College’s establishment, the last year has been filled with policy development, curriculum writing, and creation of the College’s 2019-2020 course catalog. “This is an extremely momentous occasion for NPRC thanks to the hard work of the staff, the board, and PDE. We are building a top-notch school, and that can only be done with top-notch, dedicated individuals,” says Kate Brock, Chair of NPRC’s Board of Trustees. When Founding President Nairn was delivered the news from the Pennsylvania Department of Education, emotions were strong. “I cannot adequately express the gratitude I felt when I got the news,” said Nairn, “So many people, so much time, so much effort, and now we are one last step away from fully realizing the promise and the mission of this very special institution.”

This milestone couldn’t have been accomplished without the backing by Senator Scarnati, the early work of the Educational Consortium of the Upper Allegheny (ECUA), counties that have supported the College from the beginning, and the superintendents and school districts that took a chance on this initiative. NPRC is the first two-year college in Pennsylvania above interstate 80 and much of its success can be attributed to the seven years of ground work ECUA has laid for the College. Early in 2020, Northern Pennsylvania Regional College plans to begin the process for regional accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Local classes can be taken at the Venango Technology Center.

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s July 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Growth and Expansion at FICDA

By: Deb Eckelberger, Development Director

Thus far in 2019, FICDA is experiencing business growth, building upgrades, and new tenants.

Early this year, in the Franklin Industrial and Commercial Development Authority (FICDA) big Main building, manufacturing space was created to support the expansion of Wolbert Welding. This FICDA tenant is partnering with a Kentucky company to build Grove and Manitowoc crane outriggers here. Several employees have been hired, and have traveled across the state for training on this new product line. Mid-summer, a large robotic welder will be installed at Wolbert Welding. The jobs created by this expansion, along with the new robotic technology are part of the growing advanced manufacturing process—one that is changing the look of manufacturing as we know it.

As you enter Howard Street, the Pattern Shop building is to the left. In that building, Liberty Electronics is expanding, to support their growing customer needs. A former machine shop space is being repurposed into light manufacturing space. Sprinkler, lighting, and HVAC systems all were upgraded, with new flooring throughout.

Together, these two expansion projects will bring close to 40 new jobs to Franklin. In addition, local contractors have been busy working on these projects. All the building trades are involved. Skilled workers are here daily, committed to these business growth projects.

New IT equipment has been installed in the Emerging Technology Center (ETC) building Training and Conference rooms. With financial support from the USDA Rural Business Development Grant Program, these rooms now offer large monitors, lecterns, sound systems, conference calling equipment, video conference equipment, and ease of use. Scheduling of these rooms has increased greatly with this new equipment. Workshops, board meetings, customized trainings, employment interviews, group meetings, are just a few examples of their use. Following the goal of the USDA Rural Business Development Grant program; this new equipment is in place to benefit small and emerging businesses in rural areas. The Training and Conference rooms are truly a community asset, fulfilling that goal.

The ETC building has three temporary highway contractor/PennDOT field offices that support the summer construction projects in the area. Awareness of highway projects, traffic changes, road detours, and then sharing that information with businesses and individuals is helpful information for everyone. Having them as tenants increases safety awareness for all.

As we move into the second half of 2019, we look to the completion of these FICDA economic development projects, to see their manufacturing processes fully operational. We look for new and innovative ways to continue to work closely with the valuable resource partners that exist to help businesses grow, and we look to continue the mission of FICDA: “to nurture economic and commercial development and growth, foster the creation and retention of jobs and assist in the planning and implementation for new and existing businesses.”

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s July 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Gates & Burns Celebrates 130 Years

Originally known as J. R. Gates & Sons, the company was founded in 1889 and had offices in the Latonia Block at 20 First St, Oil City. The sons were H.E. and M.S. Gates.

The 1904 New York Industrial Recorder stated: “The firm represented large insurance companies due to the advantages which the people of Oil City enjoyed to a larger extent than other cities due to its immunity from big fires. The superiority of the water supply, the excellent distribution system, the efficiency of the fire department and the admirable layout of the City and substantial character of the buildings, all contributed to a low exposure rating. Also, the firm does an extensive business in buying and selling real estate.”

Later, the firm became known as Gates & Burns Insurance and Real Estate and remained in the Burns family until 1985, when it was purchased by Barr’s Insurance.

Fast forward to 2019, now known as Gates & Burns Realty, the company only deals with real estate and has been owned since 1990 by William P. Moon and William P. Moon Jr., Broker. With offices in Oil City, Franklin, and Clarion, the staff includes 11 sales associates and 2 administrative assistants serving all of Northwest Pennsylvania. All sales associates are members of the local, state, and national Realtor Associations.

An open house will be held on July 24 from 4-7 p.m.

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s July 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Everyone is a Leader

When many hear the word “leader,” they imagine a CEO, executive director, or president. At the FLEX Speakers Series in June, panel participants assured attendees that “everyone is a leader.” The panel consisted of six of the 13 graduates of the inaugural class of Leadership Venango, the Venango Chamber’s new leadership program.

Brian McNulty, Randy Arnold, Dan Flaherty, Greg Lander, Ashley Smith, and Tessa Byham shared their experience and advice from the nine-month program. Leadership Venango is designed to identify, educate, involve and motivate individuals who desire to become more effective leaders, and participants got to know the region.

“It wasn’t just about leadership, but about getting to know your community,” said Ashley. “Most of the places we visited are hiring and expanding, and our eyes were opened to all we have here.”

Several sessions helped participants learn more about themselves, too, and involved personality tests, mindfulness, and diversity.

“Many of the activities helped us build self-awareness, which in turn makes us better leaders in our community and work,” said Tessa.

“Learning my strengths and weaknesses enlightened me and has helped me strategize how I can use those to better work with others,” Brian added.

The participants networked with local leaders, as well as the other participants, forming a “family” they described. “We found we’re not all that different and were able to grow and develop together,” said Dan. “We learned the community needs people to step up and this program gave us the empowerment and skills to do that.”

At the Speaker Series, each panelist covered a topic, including honorable leadership, community, economic development, and communications. “Leadership is what you make of it and the value you bring in your position,” said Randy.

The Chamber is currently accepting applications for the next class, which begins in September.

“Leadership is not knowing all the answers, but where to find them,” Greg said. “This program helped us build connections and knowledge to do just that.”

Learn more about Leadership Venango, at or get  in touch with us—we can connect you with graduates who are happy to share more about the program.

This article was published in the Future Leaders & Entrepreneurs Exchange’s (FLEX) July 2019 edition of the FLEX Your Ideas (FYI) Newsletter.

Creating a Positive Experience For You and Your Intern

Jessica, left, and Heather, right, are the Chamber’s amazing interns!

Summer is finally here and for many of us, we are fortunate to have a college intern (or two) joining us for the next few months. It may be tempting to think of extra staff as the opportunity to boost your office with some affordable help and, let’s be honest, many interns will spend a good bit of time doing busy work, fielding phone calls, filing stacks from our desks, and running errands.

But if that’s all they’re doing, we’re wasting a wonderful chance to infuse our offices with new ideas and energy, while short changing their experience. So how can you and your intern make the most of your time together?

Start with a Plan

Before your intern’s first day, you should have a good idea of what their daily tasks will include. Discuss what goals you have for your time together and invite your intern to share what they hope to take away from this work experience.

Invite Input

We all talk about engaging young people, so once you are together, take the time to meet regularly and ask for feedback on your business.  Take advantage of what your intern is currently learning in school and find ways to incorporate this newfound knowledge in what you’re doing, even if it may be a little uncomfortable.

Be a Great Example

Make sure you are always modeling good behavior. Having the extra help in the office is not a good excuse for you to slack.  Be on time, dress as you would expect them to dress, and remember how you talk about others will reflect on the character of you and your business.

Let Them Know You Care

Ask your intern to share their career goals and be willing to share your journey.  By letting them know what has worked for you AND what hasn’t, you can help them envision the many possible paths (even bumpy) to success. Genuinely attempt to learn what’s most important to them, personally and professionally, and invest time into supporting their priorities.

Have Fun!

Most interns will have some anxiety, at least initially, as they try to fit into your office culture.  Make sure to take some time in your day, or at least week, to invite a little down time.  A quick walk for coffee or ice cream or a few minutes laughing about something funny can help lighten stress they may be experiencing, allowing them to be far more productive.  It will make your day more fun too, if you are doing it right.

Introduce Us

We’d love to meet your intern!  Please give us the chance, by stopping by our office, bringing your intern to our next Chamber event, or sending us a message so we can reach out directly. We want all those spending time in the region to have the best summer ever, with the possibility of staying in or returning to Venango County sometime after graduation.

FLEX will host an Intern Appreciation Luncheon on August 2nd at Komatsu in Franklin. Any students, interns, or young professionals are invited to attend. Find more information at or on their Facebook page at

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s July 2019 VenangoWorks! Newsletter.