Despite some beliefs to the contrary, Williamsport is a fine spot on the map to locate a company, even a software technology business such as Discovery Machine.
"I think a lot of people don't think things are happening in central Pennsylvania," said Anna Griffith, CEO of Discovery Machine, Inc. "It's important that people see this as a great place to be."
The brain drain has long been a problem for much of Pennsylvania, including the local region, with many young college graduates fleeing for the Sunbelt, Silicon Valley or other places that seem to offer more career opportunities.
Jared Snyder works at his desk at Discovery Machine. The Williamsport-based company employs a number of people from area colleges.
The staff of Discovery Machine includes, from left: Susanne Morse; Jay Potts; Todd Griffith, president and chief technology officer; Dean Farnsworth; and Jim McAssey. The software technology company employs more than a dozen people.
She and her husband, Todd Griffith, were among those young, well-educated people in the 1990s looking to do something different.
It was Todd, who had done a fellowship at Georgia Tech following his years as an undergraduate at Bucknell University where he studied philosophy and computer science, who broached the idea of starting a business.
At the time he was teaching at Bucknell.
Anna, a graduate of Allegheny College who later did graduate work and was employed with a research firm, went along with the plan and Discovery Machine was born.
The two have since grown the company which provides business intelligence solutions, software tools and training to companies as well as the defense industry, to more than a dozen employees.
They feel there is a great pool of talent right in the region too.
Take a tour of Discovery Machine's offices at the former city hall building at 459 Pine St. and you'll find a workplace of mostly young people not far removed from colleges and universities in the region.
"We have up to five interns in the summer," Anna said. "Several people came out of intern programs."
The company has involved itself with such projects as training programs for anti-submarine warfare tactics and military helicopters powered by artificial intelligence.
Needless to say, the company looks for people up to the highly sophisticated technological nature of the work.
A software engineering background doesn't hurt.
"You have to have cognitive skills," Anna said. "We have good people here."
The company does a lot of its own training.
It's a results-oriented company, and like any business, it embraces people who are passionate about their work.
"We look for passion," Todd said.
Todd feels the the company has more than held its own over the years.
It holds four patents and has won a number of awards.
Most recently, Discovery Machine earned the distinction of being the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce Emerging Business of the Year.
Todd and Anna feel that many companies could benefit by locating in Williamsport.
"There's lots of support here," Anna said.
Businesses can tap into various resources to find the expertise and help they need.
She credited Ben Franklin Technology Partners, for one, with helping the couple get started in part by making available grant funding and introducing them to technology companies.
Anna chairs the Greater Williamsport Technology Futures Organization which brings together innovators, business leaders, academics and the public sector to spur on technology economic development.
For Todd, who grew up in Williamsport, he's happy to be running a software business in his hometown.
Sure, Williamsport is not a big city, but it definitely has its advantages over urban areas where many educated people with science backgrounds choose to live and think are the only places for opportunity.
But Discovery Machine is affording such opportunities, at least for some people.
"You don't need to be in Seattle or Silicon Valley," Todd said.