Grow In Central PA
Dreams Take Flight
Central Pennsylvania’s innovative soul and supportive communities foster entrepreneurship and business growth.
Brian Vargo, owner of Vargo Outdoors, was born half an hour away from where he lives in Lewisburg, but much of his adult life centered around Japan. An adventurer at heart, he explored the world and came to appreciate good equipment that made backpacking better.
Moving back to Central PA, he embarked on a new career turning his adventure blog into a business. Equinox, a Williamsport distributer for outdoor gear, invited Vargo to work with them part-time while he built his company.
“Within probably six months, I had decided to not only buy equipment Equinox was selling to feature on the website but to create my own,” he says.
In addition to Equinox, support has also come from the Small Business Development Center at Bucknell University, SEDA-COG and GAP: Global Access Program over the years. “This has been a great place to build my business, and the resources I have used have been incredibly helpful,” Vargo says.
Like Vargo, Wendy and Carlos De Osambela dreamed of owning their own business, but they were far from family roots. “I’m from El Salvador and my husband is from Peru,” says Wendy, co-owner and head chef at Deo’s Kitchen in Selinsgrove. “When I moved here, what I missed most was the food. I wanted something familiar.”
She and Carlos took their idea for a restaurant to the Small Business Development Center. “They pushed us to do it the right way so we wouldn’t fail,” she says. “They are the reason why we are here, and they continue to be a great resource.”
She need not have worried about her Latin restaurant’s success. “We get phone calls as early as 7 a.m. for people wanting to reserve a dinner spot,” she says. “I’m so grateful for the support the town has given us. We couldn’t have picked a better place to start a restaurant.”
Jeremy Frank, co-founder and CEO of KCF Technologies, hasn’t been a startup in years, but his company’s growth is exciting. “Our mission is to solve industrial problems through the convergence of people and technology,” he explains of creating wireless sensors for manufacturing equipment. “We call it giving machines a voice.”
A global movement toward digital transformation has helped KCF grow from about a 20-person company six years ago to 220 employees today, with plans to add 1,800 jobs by 2030. Frank says their location in State College has fueled their success.
“The access to talent by a very large and very diverse, world-class university has been the dominant factor in being able to handle the growth we’ve had,” he explains.
The primary draw for Frank, though, is the quality of life in Happy Valley. “This is my favorite place in the world.”