Digital Foundry at New Kensington holds virtual groundbreaking

Penn State New Kensington, Westmoreland County and partners reveal plans for digital innovation lab and inaugural director
Rendering of a building

A rendering of the Digital Foundry at New Kensington, a state-of-the-art digital innovation lab to be built in New Kensington, PA and open by the end of 2021. The project is a partnership between Penn State New Kensington and the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland. The building is designed by R3A Architecture of Pittsburgh.

Credit: R3A Architecture

NEW KENSINGTON, Pa. — Today marked the unveiling of the Digital Foundry at New Kensington, a new 15,044-square-feet innovation and manufacturing lab space that will use cutting-edge technologies to develop future-ready skills and improve business outcomes. Located on Fifth Ave. in downtown New Kensington, the Digital Foundry at New Kensington has been a collaborative effort between Penn State New Kensington and the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland, made possible by a $5.5 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and support and advisement from the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation (WCIDC).

Designed by R3A, a Pittsburgh-based architecture firm, the Digital Foundry at New Kensington is meant to be a technological shot in the arm for manufacturing and job creation in New Kensington – a community that historically thrived as the birthplace of commercial aluminum manufacturing, but experienced effects of economic downturn similar to other industrialized, Rust Belt areas.

“This is so much bigger than an unveiling of a new building in town,” said Kevin Snider, chancellor of Penn State New Kensington. “The addition of the Digital Foundry at New Kensington will serve as a model for economic rehabilitation, so similar Rust Belt towns like New Kensington can experience an increase in jobs and new skill sets while adopting a digital infrastructure.”

Kevin Snider sits and looks at virtual panelists on television screen

Kevin Snider, chancellor of Penn State New Kensington and seated at the WPSU studios, leads a panel discussion during the virtual groundbreaking of the Digital Foundry at New Kensington on Oct. 28. The project, a collaborative initiative of the campus and the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland, was awarded $5.5 million from the Richard King Mellon Foundation. Panelists during the event included (clockwise from top left of the television screen): Jozef Petrak, manager of design at R3A Architecture; Jim Smith, president of the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland; Sam Reiman, director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation; Jason Rigone, executive director of the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corporation; and Sherri McCleary, director of the Digital Foundry at New Kensington.

Credit: Penn State New Kensington

The state-of-the-art lab space will serve as a launching pad for training and access to modern software tools by fusing digital data and equipment into new product development, manufacturing, operations and business management. The Digital Foundry at New Kensington will be accessed by regional manufacturers, K-12 school districts, entrepreneurs, college students and faculty, makers and workers wanting to develop new professional skills. Plans at the lab space call for the following:

  • Demonstration spaces for sharing manufacturing and technology industry trends.
  • Classroom and advanced computer lab and software stations.
  • Hardware and software stations.
  • Maker space production areas for product incubation.
  • A factory simulator steering the fourth industrial revolution, known by some as Industry 4.0.
  • Signature programming and training opportunities for current and future workforce development.

“In New Kensington, we have seen a transformation that’s inspiring, uplifting and ready for a bright future,” said Eric Barron, Penn State president. “We anticipate our investment in the next generation of innovators in New Kensington and other communities will not only positively impact new business starts and job growth for rural and underrepresented constituents, but also will serve as a bulwark against ‘brain drain.’”

Sherri McCleary was announced as the inaugural director of the Digital Foundry at New Kensington to develop and oversee the new lab space. McCleary, who brings more than 30 years of executive leadership and experience in industry, engineering and manufacturing, most recently served as director of additive manufacturing-business at Kennametal. In her new role, she will hone the strategic direction of the Digital Foundry at New Kensington, as well as create and generate memberships, develop and implement training programs, and build the reputation of the lab regionally and nationally.

“We are thrilled to begin construction on the Digital Foundry at New Kensington,” said McCleary. “We believe that our future space will serve as a hub for the incubation of ideas and as a model for the development of economic growth and tomorrow’s business technology leaders.”

The Digital Foundry at New Kensington is slated to be completed in late 2021. The launch of the space was funded through a partnership between local government, corporate donors and foundational support. The Richard King Mellon Foundation awarded $5.5 million in funding to the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland and Penn State New Kensington to cover the costs of construction, outfit the space and sustain operations. Penn State has also provided a $1 million matching gift, which will help create an endowment for ongoing operating support of this state-of-the-art facility, through the Economic Development Matching Program, an initiative of its current campaign, “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence.”

To view a recording of the virtual groundbreaking event, visit

About Penn State New Kensington

Penn State New Kensington is one of twenty-four campuses that comprise The Pennsylvania State University. Located just seventeen miles from the city of Pittsburgh, the campus is nestled on 72 wooded acres of Upper Burrell, Pennsylvania, and is easily accessible from almost anywhere in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Indiana and Westmoreland Counties. Penn State New Kensington offers ten baccalaureate and five associate degrees, as well as the first two years of almost all of Penn State’s 275+ majors through the University’s 2+2 plan. The campus continues to fulfill the University’s land grant mission through its ongoing efforts in the city of New Kensington to drive economic development, revitalization and to prepare the Rust Belt region for the next industrial revolution.

About the Richard King Mellon Foundation

Since 1947, the Richard King Mellon Foundation has built on the vision of its founders and has invested in the competitive future and quality of life in southwestern Pennsylvania, and in the protection, preservation, and restoration of America’s environmental heritage. The Foundation’s current giving priorities primarily serve southwestern Pennsylvania with a program focus on Regional Economic Development and Conservation, along with Education and Human Services and Nonprofit Capacity Building. The Foundation gives first consideration to requests that clearly align with these interests and demonstrates the greatest likelihood of achieving measurable results.

About the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland

The Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland is a private non-profit membership-based organization created to foster economic growth and development in Westmoreland County. Governed by a board of directors, our objective is to raise the standard of living through sustainable high-quality job creation and retention.

About “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence”

Support for the Digital Foundry will advance "A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence," a focused campaign that seeks to elevate Penn State’s position as a leading public university in a world defined by rapid change and global connections. With the support of alumni and friends, “A Greater Penn State” seeks to fulfill the three key imperatives of a 21st-century public university: keeping the doors to higher education open to hardworking students regardless of financial well-being; creating transformative experiences that go beyond the classroom; and impacting the world by serving communities and fueling discovery, innovation and entrepreneurship. To learn more about “A Greater Penn State for 21st Century Excellence,” visit