Rep. Brian Smith, Sen. Joe Pittman Confirm Second $1 Million Grant For IUP Punxsutawney Culinary Arts New Educational Facility Construction Project

On April 22 Rep. Brian Smith (R-Jefferson/Indiana) and Sen. Joe Pittman (R-41) confirmed IUP will receive a second $1 million grant from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) for IUP’s Academy of Culinary Arts building project.

“IUP’s Academy of Culinary Arts has a solid, well established track record for offering numerous career and trade programs that many local high school graduates take advantage of to prepare for future occupations in the hospitality industry,” said Smith. “Our region is always in need of more highly-skilled professionals and this second round of state funding will allow for the completion of this culinary trend-setting, state-of-the-art facility to properly train students for the well-paying, family-sustaining jobs that are waiting to be filled right now.”

The grant funding will help complete the construction of a new, 45,000-square foot education and multipurpose commercial site anchored in downtown Punxsutawney, with the facility to serve as the main educational, retail and experiential hub for students and the surrounding community.

“The new technology-focused culinary kitchens and laboratories will provide critical spaces for optimal learning of students. Exceptional lab spaces and classrooms will meet workforce needs for highly skilled culinary arts chefs and bakers,” said Pittman. “This brings the total RACP and federal funding commitment for this project to $2.75 million. I commend Rep. Smith and Congressman GT Thompson for their partnership in bringing these funds to this project as a united legislative team. It will be transformative to IUP and the borough of Punxsutawney.”

Smith and Pittman previously worked with IUP officials to secure an initial $1 million RACP grant in December 2021.These funds join RACP funds of $250,000 secured in 2019 by Senator Joe Scarnati.

The RACP funds will be specifically used for capital costs, including part of the demolition, construction, renovation of property and buildings where classes will be held, as well as the permits and equipment necessary to move forward with all aspects of the project.

RACP is administered by the Office of the Budget for the acquisition and construction of regional economic, cultural, civic, recreational, and historical improvement projects. RACP projects must have a regional or multi-jurisdictional impact and generate substantial increases or maintain current levels of employment, tax revenues or other measures of economic activity.

“We value and appreciate our legislative partners and local and regional stakeholders, who have supported both the Academy and IUP Punxsutawney for many, many years,” IUP President Dr. Michael Driscoll said. “We could not be successful without them.”

“Expanding enrollment at the Academy of Culinary Arts, including investing in new and state-of-the-art facilities for current and prospective students in this nationally recognized program is part of our strategic direction for the university,” Driscoll said.

The Academy of Culinary Arts project, once completed, is expected to allow for an additional 50 to 70 full-time students annually. Since its founding in 1989, more than 4,200 students have studied in Punxsutawney at the Academy of Culinary Arts, which has continued to meet and exceed its enrollment goals.

“IUP is fully committed to Punxsutawney and the region,” he said. “The Academy of Culinary Arts is often described as a ‘hidden jewel.’  This master plan, which includes the expansion and modernization of our culinary facilities right in the heart of downtown Punxsutawney will help to ensure that this jewel is no longer hidden,” Driscoll said.

“Graduates of this program continue to be in high demand, working in four-star resorts and facilities, featured in national publications and even in nationally televised cooking competitions,” he said. “We anticipate that expanding the facilities will add to our anticipated enrollment growth and visibility of the Academy, as well as complementing and stimulating further development in downtown Punxsutawney.”