Edinboro’s branch of the Northwest Pennsylvania (NWPA) Innovation Beehive Network received significant grant funding to promote small businesses and entrepreneurial growth in the region.

On March 3, PennWest Edinboro’s Center for Branding and Strategic Communication received a $200,000 grant from Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority (ECGRA) as part of the “Building a Better Future Transformative Grant Program.”

“ECGRA has supported the Beehive Network from the very beginning,” said Chris Lantinen, director of Edinboro’s Beehive branch. “They believe in our model – free services for our region, and in turn, experiential learning opportunities for our students – to the point where they've funded us multiple times.”

Several members of the NWPA Beehive Network received the $200,000 grant, with additional funding of $96,000 for the Erie County Public Library’s Idea Lab – bringing the total award to $896,000.

“Working to spur business growth and job creation, small businesses make up the backbone of Erie County – and their entrepreneurial spirit should be celebrated,” said Dr. Perry Wood, ECGRA’s executive director. “We are focused on making transformative investments that drive economic and community development – uplifting small businesses for the benefit of our whole county.”

Lantinen explained that the funding will allow the Beehive to tackle new initiatives and expand their reach to every corner of Erie County – both rural and urban.

These initiatives include connecting with the local freelancer community and emphasizing industries that were disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic – including hospitality and leisure.

“This grant award is testament to the creative and necessary work that our students provide to local small businesses and entrepreneurs,” Lantinen said. “We're thrilled to continue assisting Erie County in its economic growth, especially as the region recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Each semester, Lantinen collaborates with Edinboro professor Cassandra Reese and Beehive creative director Scott Gladd to help students build resumes and portfolios with real-world projects while making a positive impact on Erie County economic growth.

In fall 2022, among many other projects and clients, Edinboro students developed community signage for Our West Bayfront, an Erie economic development organization, and created a logo, business cards and branding elements for Erie creative Ansumana Gbembo.

“We’re making a real impact, right on this campus,” Lantinen said.

Photo (Left to right): Gary J. Winschel, board member, ECGRA; Dr. Perry Wood, executive director, ECGRA; Brenton Davis, Erie County Executive; Chris Lantinen, director, PennWest Edinboro Beehive; Scott Gladd, creative director, PennWest Edinboro Beehive; Dale E. Barney, board chairperson, ECGRA; Amanda Sissem, associate vice president of Alumni Engagement and Edinboro campus administrator; Chuck Scalise, executive director, Edinboro University Foundation.