R. Chadwick Paul, Jr., President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania®, officially dedicated the Ben Franklin TechVentures2 incubator/post-incubator facility at a ceremony Thursday afternoon. Approximately 200 elected officials and other business and community leaders attended the event in the Innovation Institute on the 4th floor of the new facility.
Presenters at the event included United States Deputy Assistant Secretary for Economic Development Matt Erskine; Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development C. Alan Walker; Pennsylvania Senators Lisa Boscola and Pat Browne; Acting Bethlehem Mayor Dennis Reichard, representing Mayor John Callahan; and Ben Franklin Board Chairman Fred Beste.
At the conclusion of the remarks, Paul declared “Lights on.” This play on words refers to the almost universal struggle of early-stage entrepreneurs to stay solvent long enough to become profitable, colloquially expressed as “keeping the lights on.” “Lights on” was particularly fitting since Ben Franklin TechVentures2 was designed for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, to literally “keep the lights on” efficiently and effectively. The facility has a photovoltaic solar array on its rooftop and the latest energy management and light-harvesting technologies manufactured by Coopersburg, PA-based Lutron Electronics integrated throughout the building.
The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, which owns and manages Ben Franklin TechVentures, received a $6 million grant in September 2009 to expand Ben Franklin TechVentures that was funded by the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act through the US Commerce Department’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). This grant, combined with other federal and state grants, Ben Franklin funding, and private contributions, allowed Ben Franklin to proceed with the necessary expansion, which cost $18 million. The expanded Ben Franklin TechVentures will improve Ben Franklin’s ability to provide resources, workspace, and hands-on support to early-stage technology companies, and generate new jobs.
Ben Franklin TechVentures2 is a 47,000 square-foot addition to the original Ben Franklin TechVentures business technology incubator/post-incubator facility. Located on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop campus, it includes wet labs, office/meeting space, and a new parking garage.
This new facility is projected to create as many as 200 sustainable, highly paid technology jobs and retain 100 more jobs at new start-up companies in its first three years. It will also provide job and internship opportunities for up to 20 university students each year. Twenty-nine early-stage firms, employing 158 people, are currently located in Ben Franklin TechVentures. Since 1983, the Ben Franklin Business Incubator and TechVentures have graduated 52 successful companies, grossing more than $408 million in annual revenue, and creating more than 4,700 jobs.
TechVentures recently won first-place national honors in the US EPA 2011 ENERGY STAR Challenge with a projected reduction in carbon dioxide emissions of 51%. This August, Ben Franklin TechVentures was selected as one of “10 Startup Incubators You Need to Watch” by Inc.com, and was recognized by portfolio.com for providing comprehensive services to start-ups and creating jobs. Just this month, Ben Franklin TechVentures2 won the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association Project of the Year award. The Ben Franklin Business Incubator was named National Business Incubator of the Year by the National Business Incubation Association in 2001.
Ben Franklin TechVentures2 brings together entrepreneurs, Ben Franklin staff, and Lehigh faculty and students to accelerate the growth of the region’s technology economy. The Ben Franklin team will continue to support TechVentures resident companies with management guidance, business planning, strategic planning, and marketing counsel; connections to angel investors and venture capitalists; and assistance in preparing and perfecting funding presentations. The facility provides an entrepreneurial culture that fuels innovation; shared basic office services and access to equipment, conference and meeting rooms; high-speed Internet; and other amenities. Ben Franklin will share its new Innovation Institute meeting, learning, and conference facilities space with local corporate partners and programs.
“Ben Franklin TechVentures2 epitomizes our work at the Ben Franklin Technology Partners,” said R. Chadwick Paul, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania. “Like its predecessors, Ben Franklin TechVentures2 will be a job creation factory. Our legacy of innovation continues.”
About Ben Franklin TechVentures
The original Ben Franklin Business Incubator, established in 1983 and located across the street from Ben Franklin TechVentures in Jordan Hall on Lehigh’s Mountaintop campus, had been at capacity for most of its quarter-century of operation. Ben Franklin and its economic development colleagues had to turn away promising young companies due to a lack of incubator space, and the lack of availability of wet lab space was a problem for emerging companies in many technology sectors.
Lehigh donated the TechVentures building to Ben Franklin to expand its business incubator, and Ben Franklin completely renovated this former Bethlehem Steel lab to meet the needs of high-tech companies. In September of 2007, Ben Franklin celebrated the grand opening of Ben Franklin TechVentures. Staff projected that the 35,000 square feet of rentable space, including more than 11,000 square feet of dedicated wet lab space in TechVentures, would meet the region’s requirements for about five years. Just eighteen months after the grand opening, however, TechVentures was filled to near capacity. This is indicative of the tremendous demand for incubator and wet lab space in the Lehigh Valley.
The Ben Franklin TechVentures incubator/post incubator facility addressed both increased incubator and wet lab space needs by doubling the available wet lab space and more than tripling the office and dry lab space available when compared to the original Ben Franklin Business Incubator.
Ben Franklin funding and the reduced operating costs of starting a company in a business incubator are typically what initially draw early-stage companies to Ben Franklin TechVentures. But the business development assistance and sharing of best practices among tenants are also keys to success, and, are often viewed by company leaders as the most important reason to be a Ben Franklin incubator resident.
About the Ben Franklin Technology Partners
The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) is part of a four-center, state-funded economic development initiative that links companies with business and technical experts, universities, funding, and other resources to help them prosper through innovation. The organization’s strategy encompasses three key areas: developing early-stage, technology-oriented companies; helping established manufacturers creatively apply new technologies and business practices; and promoting an innovative community-wide infrastructure that fosters a favorable business environment for high-growth companies.
Since beginning operation, BFTP/NEP has helped to create 14,922 new jobs for Pennsylvania workers and to retain 21,358 existing jobs, to start 420 new companies, and to develop 1,017 new products and processes. The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania is headquartered on the campus of Lehigh University. The Pennsylvania Ben Franklin Technology Partners network has returned $3.50 to the state treasury for every $1.00 invested in the program.