Dean Lawrence | Businesses keep economy humming

May 3, 2014 

Many of us may have heard of longtime successful Centre County companies such as Restek, Harner Farm, Videon Central and Minitab.

But how many of have heard of newer businesses such as Co-Space, New Leaf 2.0, Fasta & Ravioli Co., The Village Eatinghouse Marketplace and Café, or Actuated Medical?

While the national economy has been slowly recovering the past several years, there have been a number of local companies — old and new — that have managed to adapt and do well during these changing economic times.

These businesses are directly stimulating the local economy by providing goods and services and by creating employment opportunities and tax revenue by selling their goods and services nationally and internationally.

Members of the Leadership Centre County Class of 2014 spent some time in early April visiting some of these companies and learning how they are converting ideas into profitable and growing businesses.

Despite their length of time in business, all of the companies share one common denominator:

They are all locally developed and grown companies.

One newer company providing assistance to other local companies is the New Leaf Initiative (brandnew.newleafinitiative.org), which offers individuals and groups with new ideas a place to work, assistance with business planning and assistance finding financial resources.

New Leaf is in the State College Municipal Building on South Allen Street.

Another upstart providing assistance to fledgling entrepreneurs is CoSpace (thecospace.com), which allows college students to live in an environment that enables them to transform their ideas into business opportunities after they graduate.

LCC class members had the opportunity to visit several food-related businesses, both old and new, as well. Fasta & Ravioli Co. was an idea Bob Ricketts had while attending Penn State. Taking his recipe ideas for delicious pastas and sauces, he has built a company with locations in Pleasant Gap and State College.

Clay and Melanie Phillips re-opened the Village Eatinghouse Marketplace & Café in Pleasant Gap after deciding the community needed a place to sell locally made and produced goods.

Meanwhile, Harner Farm, which has stood at the corner of Whitehall Road and West College Avenue in Ferguson Township since the mid-1940s, has evolved from a wholesale apple and vegetable farm to one that provides locally grown fruit, vegetables, flowers, apple cider and Christmas trees.

The family-run business also offers hay rides, pumpkins and a haunted corn maze each fall.

Several other companies may be lesser known locally, but they have grown to become leaders in their fields nationally and internationally.

Videon Central, for example, has developed the Chrome Stick, which has enabled them to become one of the leaders in the media market.

Actuated Medical has invented a product called TubeClear, which helps medical staff clear patients’ clogged feeding tubes.

Restek, a model employee-owned company, has developed a chromotology technology that enabled it to become the national leader in determining chemical compositions of foods and pharmaceuticals.

And Minitab, with about 300 employees, has become the world’s leader in providing statistical software to higher-education institutions.

Minitab also has implemented a “Divergent” community-based environment in its workplace, which includes workout centers, an indoor pool, think rooms called “ideation lounges” and water features to provide a soothing work environment.

Restek and Minitab have created unique, employee-focused models that have led to employee retention rates greater than 95 percent.

All of the businesses mentioned have the support and encouragement of several local organizations designed to help achieve success.

Anyone who has a business idea they would like to pursue should consider contacting the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County ( www.cbicc.org); the Small Business Development Center (spdc.psu.edu); Service Corps of Retired Executives; SEDA Council of Governments (seda-cog.org); Private Industry Council of Centre County ( www.piccc.org); or the Ben Franklin Technology Partners ( www.benfranklin.org).

These organizations can provide a range of business planning and marketing resources and provide assistance finding financial resources within Centre County.

Economy Day was an eye-opener in the sense that it highlighted Centre County businesses that are the leaders in their respective markets. It also was impressive to see how many new businesses are being developed through the CBICC incubator, CoSpace, the NewLeaf Initiative and the Ben Franklin program.

Given the amount of intellectual and financial capital in Centre County, it is a great location to take your ideas and turn them into success.

Dean Lawrence, of KW Commercial, is a member of the Leadership Centre County Class of 2014. For more information about Leadership Centre County, visit www.leadershipcentrecounty.org.

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