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Center of Excellence takes shape at Penn State Erie Knowledge Park|
By Loretta Brandon
| In northwest Pennsylvania, only 13 percent of manufacturers use the World Wide Web for sales, and only 19 percent use the Web for purchases. The region also lags behind the state and nation in per capita income, in the percent of businesses producing and using information technology and in the relative number of information technology workers.|
GE Transportation Systems, the Economic Development Corporation of Erie County and Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, are addressing the need for improvement in these areas by collaborating, with the support of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, to establish the Ben Franklin Center of Excellence of Northwest Pennsylvania. Located in Knowledge Park at Penn State Erie, the new center is providing the help businesses need to enter and compete successfully in the digital economy.
The center, which opened in November, has five permanent staff members and employs up to 15 student interns as software programmers and consultants.
Our goal is to establish northwest Pennsylvania as the regions center for e-business, said Peter Kay, president and chief executive officer of the Economic Development Corporation of Erie County. Well start with a focus on educating businesses about Web-based supply chain management, providing cost-effective software programming and promoting e-business and advanced information technology research. Well also maintain a comprehensive information technology Web site that can be used by all interested businesses.
In 2002, the Governors Office provided an initial grant of $3 million from the Department of Community and Economic Development to fund development of the new center. The center is coordinating its efforts with the northwest regional office of the Ben Franklin Technology Partner of Central and Northern Pennsylvania. Established in 1982, the Ben Franklin network is a statewide effort of the Department of Community and Economic Development to foster innovation and expedite economic development in Pennsylvania.
GE Transportation Systems is pleased to be a part of this Ben Franklin partnership, Nancy Anderson, manager of commercial e-business initiatives at GETS, said. As a company that is deeply involved in e-business, our tested knowledge of best practices in the use of information technology will serve as a foundation for a research-based approach to information technology development in the region.
We see this Ben Franklin Center as a way to create and grow companies that provide information technology services, Frank DeWolf, director of the Center for e-Commerce at Penn State Erie, said. As more companies use information technologies, we expect to see increased revenues, reduced costs and, most importantly, increased employment. Instead of leaving the region, our college graduates will stay and work here. Given the potential we have, this Ben Franklin Center has the opportunity to make a major difference in northwest Pennsylvania.