Allentown firm launches incubator space for startups

By - Last modified: December 17, 2013 at 10:48 AM

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Artist's rendering of Velocity
Artist's rendering of Velocity

City Center Investment Corp. will launch a new small business incubator and accelerator space in Downtown Allentown, opening May 1.

The spot will be on the upper floors of two buildings near the Federal Grill, a restaurant that City Center is renovating, along the 500 block of Hamilton Street. It will be a space similar to Ben Franklin's TechVentures on the campus of Lehigh University, said Jeff Vaughan, spokesman for City Center Lehigh Valley, a mixed use development project for City Center Investment Corp.

This new space, called Velocity IA (incubator/accelerator), will offer new companies a place to start operations. As the program expands and businesses get larger, it could eventually offer multiple spaces along or near the Hamilton Street block, said J.B. Reilly, CEO of City Center Investment Corp.

"We look at this program as an investment in the innovative future of Downtown Allentown," Reilly said this morning. "We just think having higher tech, innovative companies in Allentown is an important dimension to the vibrancy that's being created. We hope there's a culture of innovation in Downtown Allentown that permeates through all companies."

Reilly said the goal is to attract young workers who would live in the downtown, drawn in part by the growing entertainment and nightlife created by a hockey arena being built and by new restaurants, bars and other developments.

City Center is investing a little more than $1 million for the first part of the incubator project, with North Star Construction Management Inc. performing the construction, which covers about 7,000 square feet of renovated space, Reilly said.

City Center signed The Social Station of Center Valley and Sarbari of Boston as the first two member companies. The Social Station, which has four employees, plans to expand its client base to 100 in the next six months. The company is a marketing technology business that specializes in social media management and analytics for small to medium-sized firms.

Sarbari, a company that developed a solution for streamlining food purchases for restaurants, will relocate from the Boston area to Allentown. It has more than 80 clients.

Velocity's first corporate partner is Trifecta Technologies, a technology company relocating to Downtown Allentown. Trifecta provided Velocity with recruitment and advisory and technical support.

Reilly said having an established technology company such as Trifecta in the downtown – on Hamilton Street in a nearby building – will attract other high-tech companies to the area. Within a few weeks, Velocity will add more corporate partners, form an advisory board and create a group of mentors, according to City Center.

City Center is looking for new tenants to fill the incubator/accelerator space. Applicants must have fewer than 10 employees and be committed to working and living in Allentown. Reilly said the existing space for Velocity has room for about eight companies.

Applicants can choose among three monthly rent packages ranging from $175 to $595. Rental prices include 24/7 access to desk and office space, furnishings, private and locked storage, plus shared conference, workrooms and kitchens.

Brian Pedersen

Brian Pedersen

Reporter Brian Pedersen covers construction, development, warehousing and real estate and keeps you up to date on the changing landscape of our community. He can be reached at brianp@lvb.com or 610-807-9619, ext. 108. Follow him on Twitter @BrianLehigh and read his blog, “Can You Dig It,” at http://www.lvb.com/section/can-you-dig-it.

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