Lewisburg entrepreneurs frequently come through Bucknell University’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) when they look to turn their new business ideas into reality. More specifically, they turn to its Startup Lewisburg entrepreneurial incubator. Startup Lewisburg has been home to business innovators in downtown Lewisburg for the past seven years, providing them access to consulting services, broadband internet and exclusive networking opportunities.
Now in partnership with DRIVE (Driving Real Innovation for a Vibrant Economy), an economic development entity, the Bucknell SBDC is replicating that startup incubator model in nearby Danville. The business incubator has been open since March in the DRIVE office building along Railroad Street in Danville at the site of the former Metso Minerals complex.
Following initial support from Merck's Neighbor of Choice program, Startup Danville will soon be scaling up operations with support from a new $99,500 Rural Business Development Grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
"This started out as an experiment to see if we could replicate Startup Lewisburg within this community," says Denny Hummer, Bucknell SBDC assistant director, business incubation, who oversees both startup incubators. "With the initial support we received from DRIVE and Merck, we welcomed our first tenant in May and haven't looked back since."
With a location less than a mile from the headquarters of Geisinger, a regional health system, Startup Danville is focusing on healthcare and technology innovations. Even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the facility already has four member startups.
"The pandemic has served to highlight the critical need for innovations being fostered by this initiative," says Bucknell SBDC Director Steve Stumbris. "Throughout this project, SBDC educational programming, advisory services and expanded office space will be targeted to entrepreneurs who are working to foster innovations in health services delivery and sustain the health of the community."
Hummer reports that just like at Startup Lewisburg, three Bucknell student business consultants — Amy Yowell '21 (managing for sustainability), Theo Eckert-Budis '22 (accounting & financial management) and Mike Ryan '23 (undeclared management) — are already providing consulting assistance to Startup Danville entrepreneurs, fulfilling his primary goal in the process.
"My number one goal is to give our students the most educational experience possible, an experience beyond the textbook," Hummer says. "In return, our entrepreneurs get amazing research assistance and useful tools from our student consultants that don’t cost them anything out of their pockets. So everybody wins."
According to Hummer, Merck also plans to provide access to intellectual talent by involving local staff in this initiative, an engagement above and beyond the financial support the company provides through its Neighbor of Choice program.
All of the support will serve to make Startup Danville an economic development engine in the region for years to come.