University Park, Pa. – Penn State President Neely Bendapudi discussed Penn State’s economic impact in Center County and Pennsylvania and the importance of the university’s partnerships with the state’s business communities at the Center County Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CBCC) luncheon on Thursday, January 26.
Bendapudi shared her thoughts and vision for Penn State’s role in economic and workforce development at the statewide and local levels. The event was held in a question-and-answer format with CBCC President and CEO Greg Scott serving as moderator.
Bendapudi cited the university’s total economic contribution of $11.6 billion, saying Penn State is a critical contributor to the Pennsylvania economy; It directly and indirectly supports 105,000 jobs across the country, with $1 billion in research spending last year; and more than 390,000 Penn State alumni who live and work in Pennsylvania.
“What’s good for Pennsylvania is good for Penn State; what’s good for Penn State is good for Pennsylvania,” she told the crowd, emphasizing the university’s commitment to impacting the common wealth through its land-grant mission.
At the meeting, which was attended by nearly 200 local businesses and public officials, Bendapudi emphasized Penn State’s desire to partner with the local business community, particularly to meet workforce needs, encourage growth and attract new businesses to the area.
“You are entrepreneurs. You are willing. You will be seen. It’s important – thank you,” Bendapudi said.
By leveraging Penn State’s existing research strengths, intellectual capital and talented faculty, staff and students, Bendapudi said the university is a willing partner to help local businesses and business owners thrive, while making Center County a destination for new businesses to locate. Bendapudi praised Scott and CBCC leadership for their efforts to pursue “smart growth”; This focuses on directing resources to high impact opportunities.
As part of that partnership, Bendapudi encouraged local businesses around Pennsylvania to learn the talents of Penn State students through internships. In particular, she urged business owners to consider first-generation students and low-income people for opportunities. Penn State students are highly sought after by employers — she cites a 2019 survey in which corporate employers ranked Penn State fifth nationally, tied with MIT, for preparing graduates to succeed in education and the workplace. Internships are a win-win for both students and businesses, she said, providing students with valuable work experience in the short-term that opens them up to long-term career opportunities in the Center region and across the state. .
“It’s a wonderful community, and my family and I have been welcomed,” said Bendapudi, who moved to State College with her family last year. “Penn State is an amazing institution, and State College is an amazing place. People want to stay or when they leave they want to come back. It’s important that we partner with people to work, live and play here – it’s a beautiful place. We have a strong foundation to build on and highly talented individuals in the community.
Based on her commitment to both student success and the economic success of the commonwealth, Bendapudi said there is a need to balance Penn State’s academic offerings with the needs of the state’s economy, so students remain highly employed and career-ready.
The university’s continued growth in state funding is critical to Penn State’s efforts to stay at the forefront of career trends, she said, adding that accessible and affordable education is providing an education that appeals to the state’s best and brightest students. Having a skilled and well-educated workforce is key to the state’s long-term economic outlook, she said, and is central to attracting new businesses to Pennsylvania.