Startup Alleghenies: Empowering the Cycle of Entrepreneurship

Since 1974, JARI has supported the economic growth and diversification of Pennsylvania’s Southern Alleghenies region. Their service area in Greater Johnstown, Pennsylvania historically relied on the steel and coal industries, and like other Appalachian communities needed to diversify its local and regional economic bases to improve long-term vitality. 

In order to best carry out its mission and boost diverse economic and community growth, JARI’s focus expanded to strengthening resources and services to support small businesses. 

We couldn’t rely on big companies to relocate to our areas. We have to have a way of encouraging our own people to invest in their own communities. The only way to do that is through entrepreneurship.

– Linda thomson, president of jari

Thanks to a partnership with the Southern Alleghenies Planning & Development Commission and ARC POWER funding, Startup Alleghenies was launched to strengthen the region’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. The project improved entrepreneurial access to capital, leveraged new private investments, broadened technical assistance, and engaged entrepreneurial coaches to help guide entrepreneurs and small business owners toward meeting their financial goals and giving back to their communities. 

“As an entrepreneur, you feel like you are out in the ocean just paddling by yourself,” said Blake Fleegle, a Startup Alleghenies entrepreneurial coach who provides support to regional entrepreneurs and innovators. “Now we can help steer businesses in the right direction.” 

Jarrod Bunk, founder & co-owner of Hope Cyclery, is among the more than 500 business supported by Startup Alleghenies. Jarrod and Hope Cyclery have received entrepreneurial coaching, microloans, technical assistance and expansion support thanks to ARC’s POWER funding in 2018, and has since been able to broaden the cornerstone of its mission: to provide more bicycles to community members in need including individuals experiencing homelessness, children, and veterans.  

“Whether it be for fun, for fitness, or for transportation, we’re giving people something to look forward to. We are fixing bikes for people in need. We are giving people hope,” Jarrod said. 

Since receiving its first ARC POWER grant in October 2018, Startup Alleghenies has served more than 600 businesses, improved nearly 200 businesses, helped create 300 jobs, and leveraged more than $2 million in private investment.  

In March 2022, Startup Alleghenies received more POWER funding as part of a nearly $21 million award package. Their $150,000 grant will support the launch of an e-commerce platform to help early stage startups reach more customers.  

ARC is proud to support Startup Alleghenies and the pivotal role it plays in building strong entrepreneurial ecosystems and maintaining equitable access to entrepreneurial opportunities to help build vibrant, diverse economies and communities in the Southern Alleghenies region.   

ARC’s POWER Initiative is awarding approximately $25 million in grants to projects that help diversify economies in Appalachian communities affected by the downturn of the coal industry. Applications will be accepted through April 29, 2022. Learn more and apply today.