Dr. Rodney Ridley speaks at the Reading CollegeTowne Announcement in December 2019

O’Pake Institute and Small Business Development Center advance Reading entrepreneurship


Alvernia University and Kutztown University partner to enhance entrepreneurship and the redevelopment of downtown Reading through Alvernia’s O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship and Kutztown’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC).


“Collaboration is the cornerstone for the Reading CollegeTowne model, and working together, colleges and universities are stronger, particularly in securing funding to support academic programming and community engagement,” said Alvernia President John R. Loyack. “This partnership with Kutztown and the Small Business Development Center is a wonderful example of the positive economic impact Berks County higher education institutions can have on the revitalization of downtown Reading.”


The universities will work in mutual cooperation to encourage students, faculty, staff and community members to develop and operate businesses of the future, provide education on the nature of free enterprise, generate value through curricular and experience-based activities and enhance the economic climate of southeastern Pennsylvania.


“The joint partnership of universities and community organizations create pathways for students to valuable experiential learning by supporting startups and established businesses in our community,” said Sonya Smith, associate state director of program and policy, PASBDC. “There are a variety of motivators for encouraging student community involvement; promoting civic engagement, student learning/real-world experience and a service tool for community organizations. With this new agreement we at the KUSBDC are focused on seeing this model through fruition, for the betterment of the students, our small business community, the downtown Reading area and both Alvernia and Kutztown University’s commitment to this initiative.”


Through a new student fellows program, O’Pake serves as the catalyst for educational and business expansion in center city. In addition to the partnership with the Kutztown SBDC, O’Pake recently announced partnerships with SCORE Berks Schuylkill Chapter and Lehigh Valley Angel Investors that will allow for the establishment of an Alvernia University Technology Transfer Office and Office of Industry and Community Outreach as O’Pake Institute offerings as well as the development of a financial services operation that will bring capital and knowledge to early-stage entrepreneurs in a unique delivery that includes new academic offerings for Alvernia students, as well as financing, investment and mentoring for rising entrepreneurs.


“The SBDC has a well-established and proven strategy and our partnership will open up new experiential learning opportunities for students at both institutions and will greatly benefit entrepreneurs looking to establish their enterprises in Berks County,” said Vice President, Associate Provost and Chief Operating Officer of the O’Pake Institute, Dr. Rodney Ridley. “The ever-growing O’Pake partnership network and collaboration between Berks County’s higher education institutions will make Reading and southeastern Pennsylvania an attractive location for entrepreneurs.”


In December, Alvernia unveiled Reading CollegeTowne, a strategic model for economic development in downtown. Alvernia assumed ownership of its newly acquired building at 401 Penn Street on June 30. The downtown location also is where the new O’Pake offerings will operate.

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