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Gannon University receives $1.5 million from Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative

Published: 09/17/2021

Gannon University’s Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge has been awarded $1.5 million from Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative

Gannon University’s Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge has been awarded $1.5 million from Appalachian Regional Commission’s POWER Initiative

Gannon University’s Institute for Health and Cyber Knowledge has been awarded $1.5 million to produce a pipeline for a well-trained workforce within coal-impacted communities to fill high-paying, high-demand 21st-century jobs and help existing traditional manufacturers pivot their operations to be smart factories in response to Industry 4.0. 

Gannon’s award is part of a nearly $46.4 million award package announced today by the Appalachian Regional Commission, or ARC. 

The university will use this funding to establish a new Center for Manufacturing and Technology, adding both physical space and areas of expertise on the fourth floor of I-HACK. The funding will also develop a STEM pathway and programming for middle and high school students in addition to creating new jobs that benefit both academic learning and community economic development. 

The new Center for Manufacturing and Technology will mark the next phase of construction of I-HACK. Here, regional manufacturers will have access to the resources, information and assistance to become more competitive in the global economy in five distinct areas of expertise, including: 

  • additive manufacturing; 
  • cyber engineering; 
  • cybersecurity; 
  • assembly, remanufacturing and integrated circuit fabrication; and 
  • analytics and management. 

The expanded focus of IHACK will promote secure intelligent systems and provide support structures for new, existing and expanding industry partners. It will serve as a hub for research and development using faculty expertise; as a training ground for undergraduate and graduate students; and as a resource for regional manufacturers such as those who produce health care-related devices. 

In addition to the physical space, the funding from the POWER Initiative will create a STEM pathway for middle and high school students through Gannon’s partnership with the Air Force Association’s nationally recognized Cyber Patriot program over the next three years. 

Gannon sponsored several teams during the 2020-21 academic year and will again this year, providing educational mentoring, technology support and guidance in preparation for the national competition. The engagement created through the program increases career awareness, skill building and understanding of the academic rigor needed to achieve fulfilling careers in STEM fields. 

These funds will also create new jobs at the university, including lab engineers, a faculty position connecting supply chain and engineering, graduate assistantships and other student employment opportunities. There will also be a consultant, in coordination with the Small Business Development Center at Gannon, who will support the manufacturing businesses collaborating at I-HACK. 

This award is part of a nearly $46.4 million package supporting 57 projects across 184 coal-impacted counties through ARC’s POWER (Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization) Initiative. POWER targets federal resources to communities affected by job losses in coal mining, coal power plant operations, and coal-related supply chain industries. 

The $1.5 million received contributes to an overall total $3.8 million the university has received in support of the new Center’s development. This total includes a previous ARC Area Development grant of $300,000 toward I-HACK’s Maker Lab and soon-to-be Fabrication Lab, as well as $2 million received through the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to create industry commercial space dedicated to bringing in and housing cyber businesses in Erie, creating new jobs and workforce development opportunities for the region. 

“The downturn of the coal industry has impacted economies across Appalachia. That’s why ARC’s POWER initiative helps to leverage regional partnerships and collaborations to support efforts to create a more vibrant economic future for coal-impacted communities,” said ARC Federal Co-Chair Gayle Manchin. “Many of the projects we announced today will invest in educating and training the Appalachian workforce, nurturing entrepreneurship, and supporting infrastructure -- including broadband access. These investments in our Appalachian coal-impacted communities are critical in leveling the economic playing field so our communities can thrive.” 

“We are grateful for this support that will propel the next phase of development at I-HACK,” said Gannon University President Keith Taylor, Ph.D. “Being an urban university located in the heart of downtown Erie, we are committed to the growth of the community around us and recognize our role in ensuring it thrives. We are excited for the opportunities that this will provide as we continue the full realization of I-HACK to ensure the necessary resources are available to produce a well-trained workforce and help transform traditional manufacturers in response to Industry 4.0.” 

Since POWER launched in 2015, ARC has invested more than $287.8 million in 362 projects across 353 coal-impacted counties. The nearly $46.4 million awarded today is projected to create or retain about 9,187 jobs, attract nearly $519.5 million in leveraged private investments, and be matched by $59.2 million in additional public and private funds across the region. 

ARC is working with Chamberlin/Dunn LLC, a third-party research firm, to closely monitor, analyze, and evaluate these investments. A new report, published today in conjunction with the announcement, found that projects funded through POWER grants met or exceeded targets for jobs retained and/or created, businesses created, workers trained, and revenues increased. Chamberlin/Dunn is continuing to monitor POWER investments and make recommendations to ARC for ongoing programmatic efficiencies. 

For more information about I-HACK, visit: https://www.gannon.edu/ihack.aspx