By Bill O’Boyle, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — If you’re looking to create and retain jobs for your business and you need support services to reach those goals, Wilkes-Barre Connect is ready to help.
The organization was created in early 2016 by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce to encourage and foster new entrepreneurship and small-business growth in the area.
Holly Pilcavage, Wilkes-Barre Connect’s manager, said at its core, the organization acts as a catalyst for business development.
“This initiative is free to businesses within the area,” Pilcavage said. “It works to create and retain jobs while providing support services in conjunction with its partners to help establish and grow businesses within the area.”
Pilcavage said Wilkes-Barre Connect offers support services from mentoring and networking to technical assistance and access to capital and facilities.
Larry Newman, executive director of the Diamond City Partnership, Wilkes-Barre’s downtown management organization, said Wilkes-Barre Connect is intended to do “two big things” — coordinate the work of multiple service providers who might assist local entrepreneurs as those entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses; and develop new programs that help increase the number of entrepreneurs in the Greater Wilkes-Barre community.
Pilcavage said the collaboration among businesses, local academic institutions and organizations such as Wilkes-Barre Connect is crucial to the success and forward movement of the overall program. She said Wilkes-Barre Connect guides and supports individuals from the outset to establishing a strategy to making referrals while performing touch points in between.
“Wilkes-Barre Connect acts as a ‘net’ — if you will — ensuring that no one slips through the cracks and gets the support they need,” Pilcavage said.
Led by the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce, Wilkes-Barre Connect also involves participants the Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Wilkes University; Ben Franklin Technology Partners; Diamond City Partnership; Institute for Public Policy and Economic Development; Wilkes University Family Business Alliance; and the Wilkes University Small Business Development Center.
Newman said there are a variety of programs and five areas of focus — entrepreneurs, veterans, interns, finance and education — under the Wilkes-Barre Connect umbrella, which are intended to advance those areas.
Pilcavage said the Wilkes-Barre Connect team aligns you and your business with appropriate providers, services and locations to meet the goals and objectives defined within your strategy.
Joseph A. Boylan, an economic development consultant at the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber, said Wilkes-Barre Connect was built to not only help entrepreneurs, start-ups and small businesses gain access to needed resources in Northeastern Pennsylvania, but as an effective tool to retain, expand and attract large companies to the region.
“A quality and available workforce continues to be the Number 1 topic that national and international site selectors seek when delivering the right locations for their clients,” Boylan said. “By partnering with our K-12, higher-education institutions and business-service providers, WB Connect provides a more streamlined and effective system to meet all needs.”
As examples, Boylan cited business plan assistance, the understanding of markets, product development, research and development, and “the right mix of internship and mentorship programs.”
Boylan said Wilkes-Barre Connect is “now our answer to meet the workforce needs of companies and remain competitive on the East Coast, in addition to showing our commitment locally to supporting the growth and development of businesses.”