The state is paying half of the construction costs as Rock Lititz is set to begin building a $10 million education center expected to host about 50 jobs as it works to address a shortage of workers in the live industry events.
The $5 million state grant for Rock Lititz comes from Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, or RACP. It is the largest of four grants announced last week for projects in Lancaster County. The other grants are going to the Lancaster Visitor’s Center, Lancaster Life Science Incubator and Lancaster YWCA.
For its project, dubbed the Pod 1A Education Center, Rock Lititz has pledged a $5 million match in private funds. The state grant will be used for site work and the construction of the building, including the build-out for the building’s three tenants. Construction was anticipated to begin this spring with a completion date of April 2023, the company said in its application for the grant.
“To best serve our clients, tenants and the industry, Rock Lititz holds a long-term vision that includes cultivating the next generation of live event industry leaders and professionals,” Rock Lititz CEO Andrea Shirk wrote in an email, responding to questions from LNP | LancasterOnline. “We are grateful for the state’s support of our exploration of adding an educational facility to the Rock Lititz campus that will help ensure our leadership in the entertainment industry continues.”
The 29,227-square-foot Pod 1A Education Center will be built next to Rock Lititz’s two rehearsal studios, Studio 1 and Studio 2, the company said in its grant application.
Studio 2 opened with fanfare earlier in April. That additional rehearsal space is intended to keep the campus of entertainment-driven businesses ahead of its imitators. It complements Rock Lititz Studio 1, which opened in 2014, and had become so booked that the organization needed to expand or lose clients to other venues.
The 8-year-old Rock Lititz and its 96-acre production campus located a block west of Route 501 in Warwick Township has become a rehearsal mecca for the biggest names in music and an economic driver for Lancaster County as the first business campus for the live event industry in the world. The campus is home to 1,500 employees who work at 35 entertainment-driven companies, two restaurants, two bars, and a 139-room boutique hotel. Also, each year about 2,000 union-wage workers come through to support rehearsals.
Rock Lititz did not detail the number of workers needed in the industry in its application.
Rock Lititz said in its application that once the education center is built, it plans to work in conjunction with “the public school system, career and technology schools and system of higher education to meet this unmet need” for workers.
“Through the state’s partnership with Rock Lititz, the PA live events industry has been a driver of economic development, increased tourism and cultural engagement, and a net exporter of goods and services to the global marketplace,” Rock Lititz wrote in its application for the RACP funds. “However, there is a shortage of skilled workers needed to keep pace with the industry’s rapid growth and increase in demand for these manufactured goods and services. In particular, there are no trade schools or universities in PA focused specifically towards training a workforce for this industry. This project looks to address this need by constructing an education center on the Rock Lititz Campus to house a university (Backstage Academy), technical school (Blackbird Academy) and training center (Clair Global).
The structure will be built to accommodate three tenants: Backstage Academy (13,849 square feet), Blackbird Academy (8,679 square feet), and Clair Global Training Center (6,699 square feet).
Backstage Academy is a United Kingdom-based university offering short courses as well as graduate and postgraduate degrees in live production and design events. Blackbird Academy is a Tennessee-based audio engineering school founded by recording and live sound engineer John McBride and his wife, country artist Martina McBride. Clair Global manufactures audio equipment that goes into sound systems it designs, assemble and leases to pop, rock and country bands on tour. Clair Global is already located near the Rock Lititz campus.
Since 2013, Rock Lititz has received $5.5 million from RACP to build its two studios. It has also recently received a Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority $2 million low-interest loan to help fund the $12 million Studio 2 addition.
The state’s RACP is a catch-all funding program that targets regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational and historical projects that aren’t eligible for primary funding under other state programmes. Applications are made and commented on by the public. Awards are announced twice a year.
To qualify for funding, a project must boost or maintain current levels of employment, tax revenues or other measures of economic activity, and the developer must contribute at least as much money to the project as the grant amount.