Program Designed to Aid Economic Recovery from Wood-Mode Closure
LEWISBURG, Pa. — The Bucknell University Small Business Development Center (SBDC) was recently awarded a $17,250 grant from Pennsylvania’s Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) that will launch a rural entrepreneurship initiative for regional economic recovery from the closure of Wood-Mode Inc. in Kreamer.
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announced the award as part of $26.5 million in funding from the DCED’s Neighborhood Assistance Program (NAP). The program promotes community participation and collaborations among nonprofits, businesses and residents to produce outcomes that assist a distressed area or low-income population.
Over 900 Wood-Mode Inc. employees were laid off in May. Formerly the largest employer in Snyder County, Wood-Mode’s closure saw the county’s unemployment rate nearly double overnight — with an estimated 2.4% of the county’s population becoming unemployed. The SBDC’s upcoming project will focus on economic recovery through entrepreneurship, and will complement support efforts already underway by regional and state organizations.
“The SBDC will provide educational programming and entrepreneurial skills training through a series of outreach initiatives, including educational workshops, outreach advising events, consulting services, specialized new research tools and diverse informational resources,” said Steve Stumbris, director of the Bucknell SBDC. “These services will be targeted to aid the community of employees displaced from the workforce as well as the owners of other firms in the region that suffered a negative impact from the Wood-Mode closure, including suppliers to the company, distributors of Wood-Mode products and firms that provided goods and services to the displaced workforce.”
Stumbris says even with the recent re-opening of the Wood-Mode facility, the need for this assistance remains critical, as local workforce development estimates suggest that over 500 individuals are still displaced from employment or underemployed throughout the region.
“We are mindful of this as well of the layoffs occuring at ACF Industries in Milton, and this programming will be open to employees displaced there too, as well as to the nearby small business owners who will feel this impact” he said.
Potential new businesses that may be created from this SBDC initiative include:
- Mechanical or electrical contractors.
- Crafters of artisan wood specialty products.
- Refinishing and restoration expert services.
- Designers and manufacturers of consumer goods
- Diverse pursuits related to the rich agricultural heritage of the Central Pennsylvania region.
The owners and employees of local small businesses affected by these economic conditions will learn about marketing their goods and services to new and changing audiences.
Stumbris says there are plans to have Bucknell students directly involved in the recovery initiative as consultants and research assistants.
“They’ll have a chance to help us develop educational and reference materials for our outreach programs, and support the off-site workshops too — directly interacting with the community participants,” he said.
The project will be supported by $23,000 in contributions from Northumberland National Bank, Fulton Bank and M&T Bank. As this project supports a Special Program Priority of DCED, each of these contributing partners will receive a Pennsylvania tax credit representing 75% of their contribution.