CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) — Small businesses bring character to our communities and make our neighborhoods unique, but entrepreneurship comes with many challenges. An event hosted Wednesday by the Penn State Small Business Development Center celebrated entrepreneurs and highlighted available resources.

“These resources are provided through the federal government as well as through state funding, and what we’re able to do is provide no cost consulting, workshops, and well as business consultant at the Penn State Small Business Development Center.

The center serves clients in Centre, Mifflin, Clinton, and Lycoming County and they’ve helped those clients create or purchase 650 business and create 3,700 jobs.

“Our business started in Penn State as two kids with a college project in the engineering and entrepreneurship department back in ’02,” said Ethan Wendle, co-founder and executive chairman of DiamondBack Truck Covers. “We kind of are a bit of a poster child for this space because we’ve used all these services to help us along the way.” 

The event also highlighted the work of Invent Penn State, the Happy Valley LaunchBox, and the Penn State Law Clinics.

“The goal of all of this is to create businesses that are homegrown in Pennsylvania to start and stay here and help them do that faster and better,” said Ben Nason, idea catalyst for Happy Valley LaunchBox.

To help small businesses and hospitality groups survive through the pandemic, the Centre County Commissioners approved over $10 million in grant funding.

“The overwhelming majority of them made it through,” said Commissioner Mark Higgins. “According to some statistics, as many as 20 percent of American small businesses closed during the pandemic.” 

Higgins said supporting small businesses is essential to uplift the community spirit and promote growth.

“They define most of the character of Centre County,” said Higgins. “I think especially in Bellefonte you can see the transformation over the past five or six years. We have more than 20 startups just in Bellefonte Borough, population 62 hundred.”