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Brown, Newman: Project will offer city many opportunities

Nov. 13—WILKES-BARRE — Larry Newman, executive director at the Diamond City Partnership, on Monday said in Downtown Wilkes-Barre, residents and visitors enjoy the benefit of a compact, mixed-use city center that's anchored by the campuses of two higher-ed institutions — King's College and Wilkes University — as well as LCCC's Wilkes-Barre Center.

"For almost two decades, those attributes have made Downtown the region's 'innovation district' and attracted many different regional startup technology businesses, particularly those looking to collaborate with higher education," Newman said.

Newman said Monday's announcement of the first-of-its-kind Quantum & Space Collaboration intended to accelerate the development of quantum technology in space and national defense efforts builds on those advantages.

"But it introduces a new opportunity — a Department of Defense/Department of Education quantum technology commercialization partnership with private businesses, such as Nebula, that are choosing to grow here in NEPA," Newman said. "While we're at the very beginning of this discussion, the possibility that we might build a new industry cluster around the commercialization of quantum technologies is great news for everyone working to elevate the local economy."

And, Newman added, with the transformation of the landmark building at 67-69 Public Square (the Luzerne Bank Building), new opportunities for students and programs at Downtown's schools, and the chance to nurture a new group of startup businesses, it's also great news for Downtown Wilkes-Barre.

"I am very happy that Congressman (Matt) Cartwright, Michael Bloxton, and their colleagues have identified this opportunity, and I'm looking forward to the next phase of this conversation," Newman said.

U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, D-Moosic, and leaders from the Department of Energy (DOE) and Department of Defense (DoD) announced a first-of-its-kind Quantum & Space Collaboration intended to accelerate the development of quantum technology in space and national defense efforts.

Bloxton and Peter Stridh co-founded Nebula Enterprise, one of the newly formed alliance's strategic partners.

"While I admit I'm no commercial real estate expert, I'd just like to put it out there, Michael, that this location could be the perfect anchor for a quantum space corridor right here on Public Square," Cartwright said. "After all, as the tallest building in Downtown Wilkes-Barre, it's also the closest to the stars."

Cartwright said he was a co-sponsor of the bipartisan National Quantum Initiative Act that was signed into law in 2018 to accelerate quantum research and development.

Cartwright said it's going to take a village to achieve quantum transformation when it comes to the space industry.

"Our region's quantum village is forming right here in this room today," Cartwright said. "I look to all of you to help Northeast Pennsylvania fully realize the potential of this opportunity, which will create economic mobility for so many in our region. By eliminating silos and embracing joint initiatives, we can provide economic opportunity for countless local businesses, all while developing a robust talent pipeline for a quantum-enabled economy.

Cartwright said the space industry plays a critical role in the nation's security and America's prosperity.

"This new space race will also help fuel our local economy, build wealth, and inspire and attract the next generation of STEM talent to Northeast PA," he said.

Mayor Brown comments

Wilkes-Barre Mayor George Brown attended the news conference and he said Bloxton and his company are making a significant investment in the city.

"That's a real testament to value they see in the city," Brown said. "This project will have a major impact on the city's economy for years to come. It's very important for us to have companies like this investing in or downtown. I'm very encouraged by this."

Brown noted that Bloxton has invested in the city by purchasing the Luzerne Bank Building at 67-69 Public Square, and he also owns 1 South Main St.

"He sees the tremendous potential in the future of the city," Brown said. "And we will work with them as partners on all they do."

Brown also noted that the city and region are home to five colleges/universities: Wilkes University, King's College, Luzerne County Community College, Misericordia University and Penn State Wilkes-Barre.

"Those schools will provide a pool of potential candidates for these businesses to draw from down the road," Brown said.