‘Second round of success’: UPJ plans downtown Johnstown center for advanced manufacturing, engineering, automation | Local News

JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown is set to open a center for advanced manufacturing, engineering, automation, and training to support the semiconductor industry in downtown Johnstown by 2025, project leaders say.

The Pitt-Johnstown project could be the keystone of a downtown that has made leaps and bounds in development in recent years, said Robert Meeder, chairman of Pittsburgh Gateways, a nonprofit real estate developer that is providing the capital stack for the project.

Meeder listed investments downtown including maker spaces, restaurants, residential lofts and a theater that bolstered Pitt-Johnstown’s decision.

A public announcement was made on Friday at the Holiday Inn Johnstown-Downtown, with Pitt-Johnstown President Jem Spectar giving an impassioned speech about Johnstown’s future economic outlook.

The crowd of about 60 people at the announcement included government officials, business owners and representatives of local economic development agencies, including Johnstown Area Regional Industries.

“Johnstown was the epicenter of the industrial revolution in America,” Spectar said. “The primacy of the United States was built on the brawn and backs of people in our coal mines and steel mills. And we’ve been beaten down, but as I’ve always said – as someone who has lived across these United States – I have never known a more resilient group of people. … We can have a second round of success. It is key that that message goes throughout our community.”

State Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr., R-Richland Township, said Pitt-Johnstown’s presence downtown is the latest piece of the city’s comeback. For his part, Langerholc has pushed the addition of a second daily Amtrak round-trip train through Johnstown by 2026.

“Think back seven years,” Langerholc said. “Just see in your mind the difference in the investment and opportunity, things we are now able to do, things that are yet on the horizon, things that the naysayers said would never work. This is another piece of that puzzle.”

The concept for “Pitt-Johnstown Future Works” has been developing for a couple years in partnership with the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies.

Pitt-Johnstown and the city of Johnstown were selected from a list of several western Pennsylvania cities and colleges that could have been the focus of a similar project, Community Foundation for the Alleghenies President and CEO Mike Kane said.

Pitt-Johnstown Future Works is the result of a study of how a mutually beneficial project could increase a school’s capacity to serve students while also generating a positive economic impact on a community, in particular a downtown, Kane said.

Spectar said the vision for the project is to offer opportunities not only to university students, but also to students in the K-12 system and vocational-technical education and to people in the workforce who want to further their skillsets for new career opportunities in advanced manufacturing.

“The vision is to make our area competitive nationally and even internationally,” Spectar said. “Today is the celebration of collaboration and can-do spirit of the people of Johnstown.”

The building at 426 Main St. that currently houses a liquor store on the first floor and offices on the second floor has been chosen as the location for the project.

The liquor store is in the third year of a five-year lease, said Meeder. He referred to the 1920s building as the “Jupiter” building because it is the former location of the Jupiter department store.

The Pitt-Johnstown Future Works project has also received support from Vision Together 2025, the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, the 1889 Foundation and the Richard King Mellon Foundation. In addition, the Polacek family of JWF Industries provided a $1 million donation.