Volume 3: December 2010

Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ): Green Business Initiatives in Northwest Pennsylvania

NWPAGE is a regional leader in supporting green economy initiatives in NW PA and is one of our newest partners.

written by Fahrner Fellow Emily Bacheller ‘11

Over the summer, Rob Faris ’12 worked to create a series of seven short videos that highlight the sustainable initiatives and green technologies of several businesses that participate in the Northwest Pennsylvania Keystone Innovation Zone (NWPA KIZ). This regional KIZ consists of a group of business partners that “foster innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities through a multi-faceted collaborative program involving Institutions of Higher Education (such as Allegheny College), local communities, businesses and economic development partners.” The NWPA KIZ aligns these resources to encourage partnerships that focus on innovation, patent development and technological advances designed to help businesses and entrepreneurs grow and build their companies. One of the central goals of the NWPA KIZ has been to focus on implementing clean and green technologies in order to spark the sustainable growth and development of the company.

Three of the companies shown in Faris’s videos — Ernst Conservation Seeds and Biomass, Wilson Engineering, and Optical Filters — have all prospered through their implementation of clean technologies in the workplace and environmentally sustainable business practices. For instance, Calvin Ernst and Dan Arnett of Ernst Seeds are pursuing the use of switchgrass as a sustainable biofuel for energy production. According to Ernst and Arnett, implementing this technology could be part of the answer to America’s energy crisis. Adjacent to Ernst Biomass, is another KIZ business partner, Wilson Engineering, a company devoted to helping their clients develop renewable energy and energy conservation projects. Acutec Precision Machining, owned and operated by Allegheny College alum and Trustee Rob Smith, focuses on building energy efficient engines in their energy efficient facilities.

Several other video’s were made and can be viewed on the CEED website. One of these videos illustrates the city of Meadville’s biodiesel project, which recycles waste oils to provide fuel to city vehicles. This project was developed by students in Professor Rich Bowden’s ES210 class a few years ago and has evolved into a fully operational biodeisel opperation for the city of Meadville.

These videos all demonstrate a strong commitment to expanding the green workforce in Northwestern PA. To assist that effort the KIZ and CEED have recently begun to collaborate with a new program called NWPAGE (Northwest Pennsylvania Green Economy Task Force), which represents “a diverse collaboration between private sector alternative energy companies, energy efficiency companies, non-profit organizations, economic development organizations, work-force development organizations and state agencies.” During the spring semester three students will work with NWPAGE to develop an asset inventory of the green economy businesses and/or sustainablity resources in Northwest Pennsylvania.