The two newest tenants of the 416 Main St. complex in downtown Johnstown share a similar mission to help students develop the skills and traits they will need to become productive citizens later in life.

Earlier this summer, The Challenge Program moved into the building that was vacant until the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority purchased the structure less than three years ago and started what has turned into a complete rehab project. Meanwhile, Junior Achievement of Western PA Alleghenies Regional Office plans to move into the growing hub within the next few weeks.

The local JA chapter reaches more than 5,000 students every year throughout eight public school districts and nine private or parochial schools, with individuals from the community providing information about particular careers, along with life skills, such as financial literacy. 

“One nice thing with Junior Achievement program is it’s for any student,” said Jennifer Knepper, executive director of the Alleghenies Regional Office “It teaches every student real-life situations that they need to know at some point during their life.”

The Challenge Program has a presence in about 120 school districts throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia with the goal of helping develop a skilled and motivated future workforce.

“Our mission really is to connect business and education,” said Barbara Grandinetti, president of The Challenge Program. “And, at the same time, incentivize students to develop the good habits that they need to succeed not only in school, but in their future careers.”

Both Grandinetti and Knepper spoke with enthusiasm about relocating to the central business district.

“This is where things are happening,” Grandinetti said. 

“We’re really happy to be part of it.”

The center is also home to other agencies – the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority, Visit Johnstown and Cambria Regional Chamber. 

“I think it is an amazing opportunity to be in the same building with other organizations who are making a difference in their community,” Knepper said. “This will open the doors to many partnerships – both new and old – within our business communities. It’s a new adventure for the staff of our organization.”

There are businesses in the building, too – Coal Tubin’, Taco Chellz restaurant, Bougie Hair Care Essentials & More, Camille’s Boutiqe and the Beyond Hello medical cannabis dispensary.

“The addition of Junior Achievement as a tenant in our building is nearly the final piece of a very diverse and exciting mix of businesses,” JRA executive director Melissa Komar said. “416 Main Street is an office building that became a destination for retail, business, education, agencies, dining, outdoor adventure and tourism all contained in one building.”

Komar said the build out “fits the exact mission of the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority.”

“This is a property that was left in disrepair and was available at a Cambria County tax sale and JRA took the opportunity, and the risk, in 2018 to purchase the building,” Komar said. “We are thrilled with the results.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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