Amma Johnson named director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship

Amma Johnson
Credit: Amma Johnson

MIDDLETOWN, Pa. – Amma Johnson, who most recently served as the manager of the Harrisburg LaunchBox powered by Penn State, has been named director of the Penn State Harrisburg Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE).

The CIE will serve as the regional hub for startups and innovative leaders throughout South-Central Pennsylvania. The center will offer accelerator programs including customer discovery training, mentorship, pitch competitions and networking events, and will facilitate the collaboration, development and growth of the region's entrepreneurial community. The CIE will also offer corporate training and continuing education programs focused on design thinking and enterprise innovation.

“I am excited to lead this initiative for Penn State Harrisburg,” Johnson said. “Central Pennsylvania has a strong network of resources to support innovation and entrepreneurship. More collaboration within the network will help to elevate our region’s brand story and ultimately attract and inspire economic growth.”

Johnson is an executive with a 20-year background in retail, economic development and small business advocacy, and has a passion for nonprofit work and community engagement. She earned a bachelor of science degree in marketing from Penn State. She began her career in merchandising, management and buying for department stores and later made a career move into the nonprofit sector in economic and community development. She spent over 15 years in community building from membership management and engagement to DEI programs to building entrepreneurship programs. An entrepreneur herself, she launched her own fashion and accessories brand and economic development consulting businesses. Johnson has been a Harrisburg resident for more than 20 years.

As manager of the LaunchBox, Johnson’s duties included building community-facing business and education collaborative programs and projects between the LaunchBox and local organizations. She implemented a wide range of programs and events and worked with Penn State Harrisburg faculty to coordinate workshops or training programs to prepare student and local entrepreneurs for those events — such as startup weekends, business plan competitions and other events. She helped lead the project management of the Invent Penn State Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging work, supporting entrepreneurial activities across the Invent Penn State LaunchBox & Innovation Network, a statewide collective of 21 innovation spaces embedded in Penn State campus communities.

“We are delighted to have Amma as the director of the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE),” said Sharareh "Sherri" Kermanshachi, associate vice chancellor for research and associate dean of research. “Her vast knowledge and experience in innovation and entrepreneurship domain will undoubtedly enhance the entrepreneurship journey for our faculty, empower our ambitious students, and forge stronger collaborations with our valued partners.”