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“Today is a good day for Johnstown,” said Mike Kane, president of the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies (CFA). Collaborators and leaders from the city of Johnstown, JARI, The University of Pittsburgh (UPJ) at Johnstown, Pittsburgh Gateways, and local elected officials reiterated this message of positivity at a press conference held at the Holiday Inn in Johnstown.

A few years ago, the CFA received a grant to study western Pennsylvania communities that have small colleges. The goal was to see if there were ways to help the schools’ capacities to serve their students, while at the same time creating a positive economic impact in those communities, particularly in their downtowns.

Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar met with the consultant, who also met with and interviewed many other communities. At the end of the study, UPJ and the City of Johnstown were identified as the top choices, being the readiest to further support to catalyze such an opportunity.

Bill Polacek, representing Vision Together 2025, and Mike Kane met with President Spectar to hear his response and vision of the opportunities this engagement presented and reviewed the potential of a collaborative partnership. With the support of the CFA, 1889 Foundation, the Richard K. Mellon Foundation, and the work of a team led by Johnstown native Thaddeus Pawlowski, a site was identified.

The Jupiter Building on Main Street in Johnstown will be transformed in the coming years into a robust learning center. UPJ will use the downtown site to enhance its School of Engineering degree programs with courses, labs, and research in robotics and semiconductor manufacturing. Pitt-Johnstown Future Works is a collaborative project by the nonprofit Pittsburgh Gateways and the University of Pittsburgh-Johnstown to create a Johnstown center for advanced learning entrepreneurship and jobs training.

“I have lived many places in my life,” said Dr. Jem Spectar from UPJ. “The resilience and work ethic of the people in Johnstown continues to amaze me. These are the descendants of those who were at the center of the Industrial Revolution when Johnstown was a booming coal and steel town. We helped build the United States into one of the strongest countries in the world,” continued Spectar. “We can build it back through the hard work and collaboration of all of us,” he said in the crowded room at the Holiday Inn.

Spectar said the vision for the project is to offer opportunities not only to university students but to students in the K-12 system, vocational-technical education, and people in the workforce who want to further their skill set for new career opportunities. The project has also received support from Vision Together 2025, The Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, the 1889 Foundation, and the Richard King Mellon Foundation. In addition, the Polacek family of JWF Industries provided a $1 million donation.

More updates will be posted as the project progresses.

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