Northampton Community College (NCC) established a presence in the south side of Bethlehem 13 years ago, at a time when very little was happening. Look around the area now and you see the Sands, Artsquest, LV Charter School for the Arts, PBS39, National Museum of Industrial History, 510 Flats apartment complex, Factory LLC, Molinari's, great shops, great restaurants, and more.
Today, with the completion of the major renovations, the Follett Family Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship (CIE) can be added to that impressive list as another valuable resource to the local community.
“The CIE's mission is to provide an open learning environment where the innovative spirit, technology, and skills align to drive the entrepreneurial mindset, with accessibility and affordability key.”
The CIE includes an entrepreneur-in-residence series, weekly and monthly entrepreneurial lecture series, a 10-week "start-up" school for NCC students, credit classes focused on entrepreneurial mindset, a specialized diploma in entrepreneurship, counseling for small and minority businesses, and a student pitch competition.
In addition, NCC's Fab Lab has moved to the first floor and incorporated into the CIE. The expanded 7,500 plus square foot Fab Lab includes the Martin Guitar Luthier Lab and the following lab spaces: electronics, computers, 3D printing, metals and machining, woodturning, woodworking, and audio and recording.
This creative space is designed to bring NCC's regional community together to help them achieve their dreams, whether they are academic, business oriented, entrepreneurially geared, personally enriching, or just plain fun!
The CIE is a state of the art facility that impresses all who enter its doors, but none of it would have been possible, without the generous support of many, first and foremost The Follett Family, who the center is named for.
A $2.5 million grant from the Pennsylvania Department of Education was matched with private philanthropy from the college's Transforming Lives campaign. Don, Mibs, Steven, and Jeanne Follett made a generous donation to the campaign for the CIE.
Commitment from Generous Supporters
"We are committed to this community, because we made our lives here, so we want to see it succeed," Don Follett, former President and CEO of Follett Corporation, said. "Having started a business in this area, and hiring people over the years, I know the better trained the employees are, the better quality of work they do, which is an incredible asset for people starting businesses here."
Steven Follett, former CEO/President at Follett Corporation and a member of NCC's Foundation Board, has had firsthand experience with how effective NCC is in training people for jobs. Follett Corporation has partnered with NCC for supervisory, welding and refrigeration training, among other instructions for many years.
"I have always had an affinity for the college because of its excellent value and affordable cost," he said. "When the Transforming Lives campaign started, we knew we wanted to be a part of it. Thinking about where to invest, the importance of entrepreneurship in our economy resonated with us. That's how jobs get created and our community becomes stronger."
In addition, the Keystone Savings Foundation and the Foltz family established chairs in entrepreneurship which will support the programming of the Center. There are also many other supporters of the CIE.
The seeds for the CIE were planted from the generosity of Drs. W. Beall and Marlene O. "Linny" Fowler, a prominent philanthropic couple who were the leading donors to the Fowler Family Southside Center in 2005. In 2013, the community mourned the passing of Linny. Her husband Beall has been able to witness the final stages in the couple's dream for the CIE.
"I've been following the Fab Lab with awe and interest since its development. These new facilities are terrific, not just for the college, but the community, which is already making great use of all the possibilities," reflected Fowler. "What I like about the Southside is that it has a different kind of energy. That combined with the CIE creating even more opportunities for the community is exciting."