You may remember the low-slung building on Old Plank Road in Mayfield as the home St. Rose Academy. The building is about to become a place for knowledge once again.
The 95,000-square-foot mixed-use building is about to become the Northeast Environmental and Technology Center (The NEET Center for short), which will serve as a business incubator. Officials say the center will provide an opportunity for entrepreneurs and product developers to get the assistance necessary to move their idea and inventions forward.
“Northeast Pennsylvania is well positioned to play in the life sciences/environmental product development arena,” Dan Summa, president of NEET, explained. “The intersection of new technologies being created for the gas industry, agriculture and healthcare will spawn new companies developing solutions to today’s issues. The Life Sciences Incubator with its first-class labs, offices and meeting rooms, is a natural fit for startup companies to test new ideas with both administrative and facility support.”
The NEET Center will be will be marketed to the bioscience industry and it is launching the Keystone Life Science Incubator with the goal of becoming a test bed for innovation and research on emerging technologies.
According to Karl F. Pfeiffenberger Jr., managing partner, the site has everything an entrepreneur will need.
“The building has more than 35 enclosed offices, five laboratories, lab support spaces, three conference rooms, other meeting rooms, a conference center, an auditorium with a seating capacity of 250, four break-out rooms, two teaching labs, a high-bay demonstration space, tiered TV classrooms, production/projection rooms, a computer/technology lab, common areas, a lobby, security office, kitchen, cafeteria, staff lounges, restrooms and a restored greenhouse,” he said.
In addition the principles have received a $1.5 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant to assist in the acquisition and facility upgrades to The NEET Center.
“After St. Rose Academy closed,” Pfeiffenberger said, “the building sat pretty much empty for years. The bank did minimal repairs. The good news is that back in the day it was constructed well. It always had good bones and a solid structure. But just as with a house, the work is never done, you get one room done and move on to the next. We’ll initially focus on things that may be out of sight but insure the longevity of the project and comfort of our tenants. Things like upgrading the air conditioning and taking care of the roof and outside lighting. We’ll then take care of some of the things that will be more immediately visible like upgraded signage and some landscaping and plantings.”
Pfeiffenberger has run a full-service real estate services company serving Northeast Pennsylvania since 2013. The industrial, office, medical and retail properties that he has managed total more than 712,140 square feet with 18 business tenants. He has 26 years’ experience in the real estate industry. Karl served on the Scranton Lackawanna Industrial Building Company (SLIBCO) staff from 1988 to 2014 as project manager. He was responsible for planning and managing of SLIBCO’s development projects.
Another NEET principle, Ray Angeli, was a member of former Pennsylvania Governor Robert Casey’s cabinet, serving as secretary of the state’s Department of Community Affairs. He had beginning in January of 1994, after having served as deputy secretary for programs at the agency and as director of its Northeast Regional office. In addition, many in the community know Angeli from Lackawanna College, where he was president for many years and oversaw the growth of the college until 2013 when he retired.
Summa is an entrepreneur who has both operated companies and was a partner in a venture capital fund. The portfolio companies he has been involved with have raised more than $100 million in venture funding.
“His experience in building early-stage companies will be an asset to the NEET Center incubator,” Pfeiffenberger said.
The center will focus on early-stage companies that are developing in the life science and environmental space with breakthrough market potential, officials said.
“We plan to assist companies in a highly hands-on way to increase their chances of success and to make the crucial transition from start-up to IPO or sale of the company.”
All of NEET Center partners live in Northeast Pennsylvania.
“Our offices are right in the building,” Pfeiffenberger said. “We work here, sit on boards, and volunteer in the community. Any given weekend you can find us attending church at Holy Cross parish in Olyphant, eating breakfast at the Eatery in Jessup, perhaps having a beer in the Backyard Ale House on a Friday night, or taking care of the honey-do list at the Home Depot in Dickson City on Saturdays.”
Summa said he is happy the found the right building in this area.
“While at times it seems like it was forgotten, we believe that the Mid and Up Valley area can be something special,” he said. “Working with Mayfield Borough, we helped develop a farmer’s market on Route 6 near the Meredith Street exit. We’ve reached out to the Lackawanna Heritage Valley Authority about planting flowers along the Lackawanna Trail.
“Our plan is provide a Google-like atmosphere for startups. The younger generation doesn’t want to be confined to just one small office space. They find energy and ideas by interacting with others in their company and with employees of other companies. That’s why the Atrium at the NEET Center will feature comfortable furniture where employees may congregate or just grab a coffee, a gym for use by the tenants, and a gaming area with a billiards table and ping pong. And after work or during lunch the Lackawanna Trail is steps away, providing a means to escape some of the stress of the day.”
All that promise is paying off.
“We definitely have interest in the building,” Summa said. “We closed on the NEET Center not quite a month ago but have already have received two verbal commitments to move into the space in the next couple of months. While we have leases out, we’re busy painting the offices to get them ready for occupancy.”
“We like to think that the NEET Center we’ll be a good neighbor,” Summa said. “We’re going to be working hard to revitalize the building and make it a hub of activity. All of which will be good for the community.
For more information, visit NEET.center or the NEETCenter Facebook page.