Round Two for Pennsylvania Rust Belt Town

New Kensington, a community about 25 minutes northeast of Pittsburgh is taking on a new challenge: sustainable revitalization. The small rust belt down had a once booming economy based on the aluminum industry, while today the city works to transform its economy. With the help of Penn State New Kensington branch students and educators armed with a $75,000 grant they were able to organize a workshop, reNew Kensington that mapped out possible options for New Kensington’s future.

The grant was awarded by the West Penn Power Sustainable Energy Fund which is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that focuses its investments on sustainable energy technologies. WPPSF breaks their donations into three categories

1.)  The Deployment of sustainable and clean energies

2.)  The Deployment of energy efficiency and conservation technologies

3.)  Facilitation of economic development in relation to sustainable energy deployment in areas that use West Penn Power

Over 60 community members and business owners along with students and professors gathered in downtown New Kensington at the end of September to discuss models. During the workshop attendees and the opportunity to listen and get ideas from a plethora of panelist speakers with diverse backgrounds. Panelists included:


Erin Hart: Director of Farm to Table

Mario Leonie Jr.: Borough manager of Monaca

Meredith Benek: communications and program coordinator of Sustainable Pittsburgh

Grant Ervin (Keynote speaker): Chief resilience officer for the City of Pittsburgh

In addition to having access to diverse range of speakers, there were also two breakout sessions offered. ‘Building Retuning’ with the Pennsylvania Technical Assistance Program and ‘City Planning with Sustainability’ that was led by the Green Building Alliance and Sustainable Pittsburgh. By giving attendees the opportunity to interact with professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds it elevates all voices in the discussion on the revitalization process.


Kevin Snider, Chancellor of Penn State New Kensington is taking the lead on the development project, and hopes that the community and Penn State New Kensington are able to develop a model that extends beyond their region, and is applicable to other small rust belt towns.


The grant funding not only covered the reNew Kensington workshop, but also was invested in Penn State N.K’s innovation hub and the creation of the Corridor of Innovation, a few block stretch downtown where officials would like reinvigorate by welcoming new businesses.

According to Mayor Tom Guzzo, the attitudes surrounding the implementation of sustainability in the city are positive, which allows the city planning momentum to be maintained. City officials and Penn State N.K affiliates are going to use the remainder of the WPPSEF to create more events based on sustainability awareness that further layout ideas for the city’s revitalization model.

For more information about this grant please visit:


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