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KCF continues growth in Happy Valley

by on February 06, 2020 10:34 AM

STATE COLLEGE — With a new office space with views looking out across downtown State College and Penn State’s campus, it seems as though the sky is the limit for KCF Technologies.

The company’s new space on the second floor of the Metropolitan, 400 W. College. Ave., is just the latest example of its growth as the company hopes to double its workforce and add more than 200 jobs to the area and its economy in the next year.

KCF started as a research and developments technology company by Frank and partners Gary Koopam and Weicheng Chen in 2000. Frank said seven years ago they decided to go “all in” on industrial technology.

“Ever since, our mission has been to transform American industry. Our goal in the next three years is to save industries $20 billion of total waste,” said Frank. The company does that by making sensors and other smart technologies that prevent industrial accidents, broken machinery, downtime and closed factories. “We call it giving machines a voice. We put smart technology in factories, wireless sensors, data and software so we can listen to the health of the machinery and help those problems go away.”

Frank said, “We really do believe in Happy Valley,” and KCF wants to continue to grow in the region. And, a lot of the growth is based on the fact that State College is increasingly becoming a hub for technology start ups due to Penn State providing a wealth of smart, young workers and the Happy Valley community providing an attractive place for people to live. But, he said, tech business needs to lead the way to provide balance to the economy, and he thinks KCF can be a leader in doing so.

“Penn State enables a competitive advantage to this area, but if you only have Penn State without an ecosystem of technologies that thrive and balance the economy, it is not as good as it could be,” said Frank. “The balance is good. It makes Penn State more powerful. It makes our region more powerful. That is what we really believe in.”

Frank said that a goal of the technology businesses in the area is to have $3 billion of private business activity in the region by the year 2033.

“To give you some context, we are somewhere between a billion and a billion and a half right now, so a little less than halfway there with 13 years to go,” said Frank. “It is possible, but that’s what — I mean, that we are not quite where we need to be.”

Centre County Chamber of Business & Industry President Vern Squier joked that the ribbon-cutting ceremony was actually a job fair after the company’s new human resource director, Jen Mitchell, talked about the company marketing and recruitments efforts. She spoke about Happy Valley being a draw for talented people.

“When we are bringing people to State College to work for KCF, it’s not just about working for a great company, which is wonderful,” said Mitchell. “But it is also about where you live and where you live with your family, and what you do at night and on the weekends. And State College has that kind of vibrant community that we think can be very attractive to a lot of different demographics.”

But there are some limiting factors that State College has as a tech hub. While there is a wealth of talent and research through Penn State, there is not large industrial infrastructure that exists in bigger cities, said Frank.

“As a result, our customers are not here; our customers are all over the country. As a result, some of our people are all over the country. We already have a big office in Texas, an office in Michigan, a lot of people in the south east. So some of our growth will be out in the field, but we are going to keep the majority of our growth here in State College because we fuel the engine of innovation from here,” said Frank. He said, also because of technology, the company can do a lot of the monitoring remotely through the internet.

The new location provides an open space in a very visible part of town for the company’s software development team, that is working on artificial intelligence and machine learning. Also housed in the location are engineers that trouble shoot issues that are happening with the machinery the company is monitoring across the country.

Other KCF locations in the region remain open, with their production based out of Bellefonte, and a learning laboratory on Frasier Street and business office on Beaver Avenue. Frank said the company will continue to need more space as it hopes to grow further in the future.


Vincent Corso is writer for Town&Gown and the Centre County Gazette.
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