New Kensington pleased to share its revitalization efforts with Sen. Bob Casey
New Kensington isn’t waiting for the future — it’s inventing it.
That’s the message U.S. Sen. Bob Casey imparted on the city Wednesday after a short walking tour of the city’s zone of economic revitalization, known as The Corridor of Innovation.
“It’s so challenging to take on the assignment of transforming a town, a community, and it can only happen if you have the kind of determination and collaboration that these city leaders, starting with the mayor and the business leadership, have taken on,” Casey said during the tour. “What we’ve got to do better in Washington is try to better understand what their needs are, what they’re up against, what they hope we can help with.”
Casey came to New Kensington to find out more about its ongoing innovation and revitalization efforts. The visit by Casey, D-Scranton, comes ahead of November’s general election, in which Casey is being challenged by Republican U.S. Rep. Lou Barletta, Hazleton.
He said the federal government doesn’t spend enough time trying to understand the challenges cities are facing, creating incentive for businesses or taking the steps needed to pass a major infrastructure bill that would ultimately help communities like New Kensington.
That’s why, he said, it’s encouraging to see that the city isn’t waiting around for that to happen, and it is working to rebuild itself.
”You can learn a lot from a community like this about how to rebuild an economy,” Casey said.
Wednesday was the first time Casey had ever gone on a walking tour of New Kensington. He said he was excited and inspired by what he saw.
Guzzo said praise from a U.S. senator makes the city feel as though it is moving in the right direction.
“It’s a great boost to have someone who you’ve met and who’s actually seen the town now,” Guzzo said. “If we call their people, maybe they can help us. We’ll be responsible about it, and hopefully they’ll be able to help us.”
The tour began at the Knead Community Cafe and ended at Penn State’s Entrepreneurial Center, The Corner.
At the Knead Community Cafe, Casey spent time with co-owner Kevin Bode, who told him about the concept of his business and some of the things it has accomplished. The restaurant has a unique “pay-what-you-can” model instead of set prices for meals.
Casey said he likes that the cafe is a hub for the community that allows people who are usually divided to gather and creates opportunities for volunteerism and hard work.
“I haven’t seen many places in the state where you have that kind of a concept,” he said. “I hope it can be replicated.”
Bode said it was encouraging to be visited by the senator. He said the more the city can get the word out that it needs some help, the better.
“We’re going to do a lot of it on our own, but if we can get outside help as well, people coming in, we need that,” Bode said. “You need those kind of sparks to kind of keep it from falling.”
Penn State New Kensington Chancellor Kevin Snider told Casey that the idea behind The Corner, a business incubator and co-working space, is to develop an entrepreneurial ecosystem to drive economic development in the city.
Snider said entrepreneurism is a key component to the future workforce, and the center will help develop different skill and mind sets for the area in preparation for the next industrial revolution.
“It’s a great way to kind of give back to the roots of New Kensington that was the birthplace of Alcoa,” he said.
Casey said it’s exciting that New Kensington isn’t just focusing on the future, but also on innovation, which is something Pennsylvania is known for.
“The focus on innovation, the focus on bringing the skills and the talent of this community and of this region, to one place or to a number of places here in New Kensington is really inspiring,” he said. “I hope we can continue to work together.”
Madasyn Czebiniak is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Madasyn at 724-226-4702, email@example.com, or via Twitter @maddyczebstrib.