NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — The Digital Foundry at New Kensington, a new 15,044 square-feet innovation and manufacturing lab space that will use cutting-edge technologies to develop future-ready skills and improve business outcomes, was unveiled last week.
Located on Fifth Avenue in downtown New Kensington, Pa., the Digital Foundry at New Kensington has been a collaborative effort between Penn State New Kensington and the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland, made possible by a $5.5 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and support and advisement from the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation (WCIDC).
Designed by R3A, a Pittsburgh-based architecture firm, the Digital Foundry at New Kensington is meant to be a technological shot in the arm for manufacturing and job creation in New Kensington - a community that historically thrived as the birthplace of commercial aluminum manufacturing, but experienced the effects of economic downturn similar to other industrialized, Rust Belt areas.
“This is so much bigger than an unveiling of a new building in town,” said Kevin Snider, chancellor of Penn State New Kensington. “The addition of the Digital Foundry at New Kensington will serve as a model for economic rehabilitation, so similar Rust Belt towns like New Kensington can experience an increase in jobs and new skill sets while adopting a digital infrastructure.”
The state-of-the-art lab space will serve as a launching pad for training and access to modern software tools by fusing digital data and equipment into new product development, manufacturing, operations and business management. The Digital Foundry at New Kensington will be accessed by regional manufacturers, K-12 school districts, entrepreneurs, college students and faculty, makers and workers wanting to develop new professional skills. Plans at the lab space call for the following:
• Demonstration spaces for sharing manufacturing and technology industry trends
• Classroom and advanced computer lab and software stations
• Hardware and software stations
• Maker space production areas for product incubation
• A factory simulator steering the fourth industrial revolution, known by some as Industry 4.0
• Signature programming and training opportunities for current and future workforce development
“In New Kensington, we have seen a transformation that’s inspiring, uplifting and ready for a bright future,” said Eric Barron, president of Penn State University. “We anticipate our investment in the next generation of innovators in New Kensington and other communities will not only positively impact new business starts and job growth for rural and underrepresented constituents but also will serve as a bulwark against ‘brain drain.’”
To develop and oversee the new lab space, Sherri McCleary was announced as the inaugural director of the Digital Foundry at New Kensington. McCleary, who brings more than 30 years of executive leadership and experience in industry, engineering and manufacturing, most recently served as Director of Additive Manufacturing-Business at Kennametal. In her new role, she will hone the strategic direction of the Digital Foundry at New Kensington, as well as create and generate memberships, develop and implement training programs, and build the reputation of the lab regionally and nationally.
“We are thrilled to begin construction on the Digital Foundry at New Kensington,” added McCleary. “We believe that our future space will serve as a hub for the incubation of ideas and as a model for the development of economic growth and tomorrow’s business technology leaders.”
The Digital Foundry at New Kensington is slated to be completed in late 2021. The launch of the space was funded through a partnership between local government, corporate donors and foundational support. The Richard King Mellon Foundation awarded $5.5 million in funding to the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland and Penn State New Kensington to cover the costs of construction, outfit the space and sustain operations. Penn State University has also provided a $1 million matching gift through its campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence”, which will help create an endowment for ongoing operating support of this state-of-the-art facility.