Wilkes-Barre, PA – The Greater Wilkes-Barre, Greater Hazleton, Greater Pittston, and Back Mountain Chambers of Commerce have launched a new economic development initiative called Project EVOLVE.
Project EVOLVE is an initiative designed to identify solutions and align external innovation to assist local businesses as they adjust to, and thrive in, the new post-COVID economy. EVOLVE leverages the innovation, products, and services already located in Northeastern PA, as a means to provide cross-industry solutions to help businesses adapt to new methods of doing business.
Project EVOLVE utilizes a systematic approach to identify COVID-generated challenges within the top ten industries in Northeast PA. These industries, chosen based upon the number of establishments and percentage of overall employment, are: health care and social assistance, retail trade, accommodation and food services, manufacturing , construction, transportation and warehousing, other services except public administration, wholesale trade, professional and technical services, and finance and insurance. By addressing one industry at a time, then leveraging the network and strength of local economic development partners, the Chambers will identify and deliver innovative solutions to help businesses “evolve” and thrive in the new, post-COVID business environment.
The economic development partners include Wilkes-Barre Connect, Small Business Development Center at Wilkes University, The Institute, Allan P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Wilkes University, Family Business Alliance, Diamond City Partnership, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and Penn State Wilkes-Barre.
Project EVOLVE has three main components:
- Industry Specific Surveys: Allows businesses in each specific industry to confidentially share information on the challenges and opportunities they have seen during and post-COVID-19.
- Industry Specific Roundtable Discussions: Enables businesses to actively engage in the process of identifying challenges and new opportunities while sharing their vision for success.
- Presentation of Solutions: Deliver solutions and identify providers in Northeast PA who can assist businesses in pivoting and adapting to meet and overcome the challenges encountered during this most difficult time.
All businesses in Luzerne County are encouraged to participate in the survey and roundtable discussion for their specific industry. All surveys are currently open and available via the link below. Free roundtable discussions will be held on the following dates at 12 PM via Zoom:
Health Care & Social Assistance - September 23rd
Retail Trade – September 30th
Accommodation and Food Services – October 7th
Manufacturing – October 14th
Construction – October 21st
Transportation & Warehousing – October 28th
Other Services (Except Public Admin) – November 4th
Wholesale Trade – November 11th
Professional and Technical Services- November 18th
Finance and Insurance – November 25th
If you are interested in participating in a survey or roundtable discussion for your industry, please contact Tim Ooms at email@example.com
or Shanie Mohamed at Shanie.Mohamed@wilkes-barre.org
. Also, visit https://www.wilkes-barre.org/evolve-program-covid-19-assistance
for more information and to register for each discussion and complete the survey.
Project EVOLVE received $300,000 in CARES Act funding distributed by Luzerne County, launched on September 14, 2020 and will conclude on December 31, 2020.
“There is no ‘one size-fits-all’ solution to getting our Luzerne County economy back to where we were pre-pandemic” said County Manager David Pedri. “EVOLVE gives each business and industry the specific tools to succeed” continued Pedri.
“We are thankful for the support and partnership of Luzerne County, our Luzerne County Chambers and our local partners as we all work together on this solution based initiative to help our businesses through the challenges of COVID-19,” says Mary Malone, President of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce.
“Project EVOLVE's roundtable component enables solution-driven, honest dialogue with business owners and leaders who have been directly impacted by the pandemic. Deliberate connection to others — and the ability to openly discuss industry-specific issues and solutions — is imperative especially during this time,” says Jenny Hetro, Executive Director of the Back Mountain Chamber.
Michelle Mikitish, Executive Vice President of the Greater Pittston Chamber is excited about the opportunities presented by this new partnership and urges businesses to engage in the EVOLVE initiative. “It is crucial for business leaders to know that they are not alone in this puzzling new world and many of your friends and colleagues are experiencing similar challenges. By working together and engaging new partners, we can all learn how to EVOLVE our business so that everyone can be successful.”
Lindsay Griffin, COO & Vice President of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber encourages all businesses to get involved in this collaborative and innovative approach. Griffin states, "This is one of several ways in which we will all be working together to create the most impact for our businesses and residents of our area to continue evolving and thriving into 2020 and beyond. In addition to EVOLVE, more projects will be announced soon and function as a collective approach to the strong recovery of our county.”
Photo, from left to right: Lindsay Griffin, COO & Vice President of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber; Mary Malone, President of the Greater Hazleton Chamber of Commerce; Luzerne County Manager David Pedri; Jenny Hetro, Executive Director of the Back Mountain Chamber; and Michelle Mikitish, Executive Vice President of the Greater Pittston Chamber.