W. Kevin O’Donnell has been synonymous with CAN DO for almost 50 years. His passion and commitment to the organization was unwavering as he dedicated his life to serving the community and making a difference in the lives of so many. Notably, Kevin’s mastery of economic development was unmatched as Kevin was highly respected throughout economic development circles, not just in Hazleton or Northeastern Pennsylvania, but across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a whole.
Kevin’s tenure with CAN DO spanned for more than four and a half decades. He joined the organization as the second hired employee in 1973 – serving as the Assistant Director - under then Executive Director Joseph Yenchko. During his initial year with the organization, Kevin led the development of the area’s first synthetic fuels plant, the CAN DO Coal Gasification Facility, in 1974. In 1984, Kevin was promoted to the position of Executive Director, a title that in 1995 was changed to President & CEO, until his retirement in 2020. Kevin was one of the incorporators of the CAN DO Community Foundation, and the driving force behind the formation of the CAN BE (Community Association for New Business Entrepreneurship) Innovation Center – which encourages entrepreneurship through the launch of new businesses within the Greater Hazleton Area.
As President of CAN DO, Kevin helped bring regional, national, and global companies to Greater Hazleton – resulting in over 20,000 family sustaining jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars generated annually for the local economy. During his tenure, CAN DO expanded and/or launched multiple business parks: Valmont, Humboldt, and McAdoo as well as the CAN DO Corporate Center in Drums, and Humboldt Station, a commercial park located just off Interstate 81 at Route 924 totaling more than 3,700 acres.
The organization’s accomplishments under Kevin’s leadership are notable. CAN DO was recognized as a Top 10 Development Organization by Site Selection Magazine in 1989; bestowed the Arthur D. Little Environmental Excellence in Economic Development Award in 1993; earned the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Award, given by the U.S. Green Building Council, in 2006 and was acknowledged by the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association as “Large Agency of the Year” in 2007.
In 1984, Kevin was personally recognized by his peers as the first-ever “Developer of the Year” - selected by the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association (PEDA), and in 2006, was honored with the Ben Franklin Innovation “Special Achievement” Award for his contribution to the creation of the Great Valley Technology Alliance (GVTA), now operating as tecBRIDGE. In 2009, Kevin also received the high honor of being inducted into the Northeast Pennsylvania’s Business Hall of Fame in recognition of his numerous achievements and contributions to the Greater Hazleton Area and Northeastern Pennsylvania as a whole. In 2014, Kevin was presented with the Distinguished Citizen Award by the Minsi Trails Council of the Boy Scouts of America. As Kevin neared retirement, he was again recognized by PEDA with the prestigious President’s Award – a special award given on selective occasions to honor an individual’s commitment, leadership, and dedication to economic development in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Kevin was a catalyst for regional cooperation asa founding partner of the Great Valley Technology Alliance which is a regional public-private partnership designed to facilitate the development of a knowledge-based, technology-focused economy for Northeastern Pennsylvania. Additionally, Kevin wasan incorporator and past president of Penn's Northeast, a coalition of private business leaders, utility companies, local economic development organizations, chambers of commerce, and governments to promote Northeastern Pennsylvania and its collective assets to the world. Kevin was also instrumental in revitalization efforts of Downtown Hazleton as a founding member of the Downtown Hazleton Alliance for Progress (DHAP).
Prior to retirement, Kevin served on multiple boards and organizations including NEPA Alliance, tecBRIDGE, Ben Franklin Partnership of Northeast Pennsylvania, Penn’s Northeast, the Luzerne and Schuylkill County Workforce Investment Board (WIB), Hazleton Partners in Education (PIE), and the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association. Kevin was also an advisor to Schools and Home in Education (SHINE) and the Penn State Technical Assistance Program (PennTAP), and was a member of the International Economic Development Council (IEDC), The International Business Innovation Association (InBIA), Northeast Economic Development Association (NEDA), and the Manufacturers and Employers Association of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
In his retirement, Kevin was elected as a lifetime honorary member of CAN DO’s Board of Directors, served as the Assistant Treasurer of the CAN DO Community Foundation (which he was instrumental in the formation of), was Treasurer of the Eckley Miners Village Association, and an active member of the Hazleton Rotary and Drums Lions Club.
Kevin's visionary leadership and unparalleled commitment to the growth and prosperity of the Hazleton region will be deeply missed. His tireless efforts to promote economic development, create job opportunities, and foster a sense of community spirit have left an indelible mark on the area, and his legacy will continue to inspire future generations. We extend our heartfelt condolences to Kevin's family, friends, and colleagues during this difficult time.
Kevin will be eternally missed, but his spirit will live on in the countless lives he touched, the positive impact he had on our community and through the continuation of CAN DO’s mission.
For information on funeral arrangements, please click here: https://www.harmanfuneral.com/obituary/WKevin-ODonnell?fbclid=IwAR3ofZThWcZ_MMXyA1X-2OGwhgYkzxTsNyc8CyZvinV7_L9Za4A_yYCBIww&mibextid=Zxz2cZ