Economics / Entrepreneurs / Startups

Don’t squander PSU: Centre County’s #econdev playbook

How the county has helped young founders like Michael McCarthy get ahead.

Penn State University. (GIF via YouTube)
This story is part of Grow PA, a reported series on economic development across 10 Pennsylvania counties underwritten by the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia. Sign up for our weekly curated email here.
Though local economies may be diverse across the state, Centre County shows the importance of understanding how to thrive in the one you’re in.

According to the Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County (CBICC) Vice President Jennifer Myers, the economy is pretty strong in central Pennsylvania.

“I think every area has its own issues and benefits,” said Myers. “I think we’re unique in we have a major university smack in the middle of us.”

If comparing local economies across the Commonwealth, Myers said compare Centre County to other college towns. Amidst its own unique ecosystem, one success Centre County is modeling well is its use of collaboration.

Myers said the main campus of Penn State University is an economic engine in and of itself, with the research it’s conducting, the people it’s bringing to the area and the graduates that have stayed, started companies and created jobs — the same three things the CBICC is focused on.

In terms of what Centre County is doing well, Myers said, “Speaking for us as an economic development group, helping businesses here stay and grow — retaining them.”

CBICC formed the Business and Industry Partnership (BIP) to fulfill its mission to support small businesses. The partnership works to support the private sector in Centre County, Myers said, by sending out teams of volunteers to meet with businesses and connecting them with resources to help find solutions to their challenges and unmet needs.

One startup Myers hopes to retain is OGOVO, a communication technology company co-founded by Michael M. McCarthy, a current Penn State student.

McCarthy said his company began as a video marketing service, which was its introduction to the area and local businesses.

“[CBICC was] helpful in this process because everyone’s really in tune with this university,” McCarthy explained.

OGOVO, now building its tech division, is benefiting from this ecosystem, he said, and PairSense is the next move. It’s a smart-city system that utilizes data and statistics to help cities and towns make more informed decisions on economic development.

“The Internet of Things is driving cities,” said McCarthy. “Our company’s vision aligns beautifully with [State College Borough’s] plans to use technology like PairSense to position State College to become a ‘Smart City,’” he added in an email to

The connections made through his video business were important in expanding OGOVO in State College along with resources like Happy Valley LaunchBox, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, CBICC, Downtown State College Improvement District and many others.

McCarthy, sounding as though he’s still in disbelief toward the amount of help he’s been offered, said those local resources have been made available to entrepreneurs and innovators and have had a “big impact” on his startup.

“People go out of their way to help young entrepreneurs in this area,” he said.

Companies: Penn State
Series: Grow PA

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