Times Observer photo by Josh Cotton Mayor Dave Wortman presents Phil Gilbert, right, with a citation after receiving the Governor’s Award for Excellence in Local Government. Gilbert will travel to Harrisburg to be officially recognized later this month.

Each year, Governor Tom Wolf’s administration presents the Governor’s Awards for Excellence in Local Government to “to recognize local leaders for their successes in implementing innovative initiatives to improve the quality of life in their communities.”

Phil Gilbert was selected as one of the 2022 recipients.

Gilbert was selected for his role in transforming the Innovault coworking space on Liberty St. from concept to reality.

“When I opened the email, I was shocked and happy to see all of our efforts recognized,” Gilbert told the Times Observer. “There were times when I wasn’t sure we were going to make it. We persevered and stuck with it and I’m so glad we did.

County Commissioner Jeff Eggleston made the appointment, he said.

The idea behind a coworking space is to provide a place for remote workers, freelancers, and other freelancers to have a collaborative space to work. Innovault operates on a subscription model and is located on the first floor of the PNC building at the corner of Liberty St. and Second Ave.

“Innovault is intended to help small businesses, entrepreneurs, teleworkers and freelancers”, Gilbert explained. “We wanted to provide space for them to network and do their work, and provide that atmosphere for ideas and growth.”

This is a project that took several years to mature.

Gilbert, who is the county’s tax claims director while also serving on the county’s Redevelopment Authority and Warren City Council, was recognized by Mayor Dave Wortman at a recent council meeting.

“It’s a really big deal” Wortman said of the award.

But Gilbert immediately turned to everyone else involved in making this project a reality.

“Look, I know this sounds corny but it takes a whole village,” he said. “Many people have been involved in the realization of this project. Say it was just me? It’s silly.”

He called Ben Kafferlin’s initial idea “baby, his idea.

“I was so captivated by the concept that I wanted to be part of it”, said Gilbert. “So much that I took the lead.”

That didn’t just mean the white-collar work of establishing an organization, but also ripping up the floors and painting the walls.

This included working with a graphic designer to work on a brochure and logo as well as “facilitating meetings, making sure we were on pace and constantly striving to complete and not run out of steam.

“Now that being said,” he added, “I couldn’t do it alone, and neither could I.” He credited Ben and his father, Doug Kafferlin for construction, Jameson Shepherd for flooring, Heidi Kafferlin for design, Jim Decker for construction, Nathaniel Schmidt for legal work and filings, among others.

“I can’t just stand there and say ‘I did this'” he underlined. “We did this. This prize is shared with the entire group that contributed to the opening of Innovault. And, of course, I must also thank the community for their support and donations, Northwest Bank, Warren County Development Association, Sokolski Foundation, Lemeur Family Foundation, Bingaman & Son Lumber Inc, County Commissioners, US Dept of Agriculture and Katelyn Cataldo. This could not have happened without all of their help.

Gilbert will travel to Harrisburg later this month for official recognition with this award.

“I was invited, along with 5 guests, to a recognition ceremony at the State Museum of Pa. in Harrisburg on April 13th”, he said. “I was asked to submit photos of the project in advance. I wanted to make sure anyone who helped with the project was invited and then opened it up to my family. “

So he takes Ben and Heidi Kafferlin, his son, his aunt Christine Porter and Stephanie Davis.

“I’m sure it will be a fun afternoon,” he said.

And the status of Innovault?

“We officials opened in February and things are going very well,” he said. “We already have a full-time person in our office area, and have had several users since”day pass“. Users in Arizona used the space for a few weeks in a row. We are currently in discussions with a few potential full-time users. We recently had an art exhibition which was very well attended and we are planning future events. All in all a good start.

And there are expanded visions for the bottom of the line.

“In the future, we hope to offer business courses and grants to help their businesses, while being downtown to visit stores, eat in restaurants and visit our breweries,” he said. “Bringing, essentially, life to the city center.”



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