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County to Invest in Local Tech Company's Expansion

by on March 21, 2019 12:05 AM

Centre County is planning a $40,000 investment to help retain and expand a local technology company.

Sensor Networks Inc., currently located on Technology Drive in Boalsburg, announced in November that it intends to move to a new, larger facility in the Centre Region and more than double its number of employees from 48 to at least 100 in the next three years.

On Tuesday, Jennifer Myers, vice president for economic development for the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County, made a request on behalf of the Centre County Economic Development Partnership for a contribution from the county to help make that expansion happen.

"The CCEDP investment will support the purchase of a critical piece of machinery that will enable Sensor Networks to ramp up its expansion, including the hiring of new employees more quickly than it otherwise would," Myers said. "As a result Sensor Networks will be able to accomplish extraordinary things for Centre County and our local economy, investments in a new building and people and family-sustaining jobs with wages that are projected to be well above the Centre County average wage."

SNI develops ultrasound and remote visual technology for testing and inspection in industries including oil and gas, power generation and aerospace. Myers said the company, which was founded in 2014, has been on a steady growth trajectory and is making a positive impact on the local economy and job creation.

Several Centre Region municipalities also are expected to contribute to an investment package for SNI, but Myers said they had not yet determined what amounts.

Commissioners voted to move forward with the $40,000 county contribution, pending a performance agreement with SNI.

"We always talk about trying to draw new companies to Centre County. This is an opportunity to retain a very solid technology company and allow them to expand," Commissioner Steve Dershem said. I think this is one of those investments that will see itself in spades grow over the course of time. It will be a very positive impact for the economy of Centre County, so I think it’s a very fair investment.

Commissioner Michael Pipe said the money will come from contingency funds allocated in the county budget.

The performance agreement will set benchmarks for job creation and a commitment to remain in Centre County for a specified period of time.

"With this situation, they have made a commitment for a longer period of time than usual on performance agreements," Myers said.

It would be the third such investment by the county and municipalities to recruit or retain a tech company in the region. Centre County contributed $16,000 to a package with Penn State and local municipalities recruiting Morgan Advanced Materials to Innovation Park, where it recently opened a new Carbon Science Centre of Excellence research and development facility.

The county gave $50,000 as part of a $150,000 investment last year for the expansion of KCF Technologies in State College and its move to new offices in The Metropolitan high-rise.

Commissioner Mark Higgins said that support from local governments to recruit and retain businesses is becoming more common nationwide as communities look to bring in and hold on to good-paying jobs. That was key to bringing in Morgan and retaining KCF, companies that Higgins said in the past might have looked to California or Texas.

"Now with Sensor Networks we have a company that, I believe they’re only five years old, but they’re growing like crazy," Higgins said. "We’re talking dozens of jobs that will pay family-sustaining wages well above county averages, and the type of company that in the past would have been poached by another municipality or county throughout the country. So glad to see we have these entrepreneurial firms creating jobs in Centre County that pay well and now as various governmental entities we’re working together to ensure they stay here."

"While we work to recruit new businesses in, it’s important to keep what we have and help it grow, because our retention/expansion project is another community’s recruitment project," Myers added

Higgins said high-paying jobs can each generate an additional three to five other jobs. 

SNI will be moving to a new 20,000 square-foot facility, doubling its current space of 10,000 square feet on Technology Drive and increasing tax revenue.

The company has not yet announced the location of its new facility, but Pipe said he believes they are relocating to College Township.



Geoff Rushton is managing editor for StateCollege.com. Contact him at [email protected] or find him on Twitter at @geoffrushton.
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