The Greater Reading Chamber of Commerce & Industry joined with local entrepreneurs Wednesday night to launch an initiative for college students.
The chamber held a networking reception in the Center for Business Excellence in Wyomissing to announce the launch of its 2014 Business Idea Challenge. The chamber created the challenge to bring together six companies of the Greater Reading Keystone Innovation Zone and the Berks County Institutions of Higher Education to encourage local college students to consider and pursue entrepreneurial opportunities, while competing to win prizes.
The GRKIZ companies in Berks County, and those participating in the Business Idea Challenge, include Adhezion Biomedical, Colorfin, FiberOptics-Precision Rated Optics and Interactive Liquid, all of which received the 2013 tax credit award based on their companies' growth and success. Continental Tide Defense Systems Inc. and Directlink Technologies are active members in the GRKIZ, as well.
"The KIZ tax credit is an important benefit to Adhezion that has allowed us to reinvest in our business," said Pete Molinaro, chairman and CEO of Adhezion Biomedical. "It is these types of investments that help to create key technology differentiations that enable startup businesses to achieve success."
Paul Esqueda, senior associate dean for academic affairs at Penn State University-Berks, called the challenge the "most thought-provoking competition for our business students."
"It has definitely awakened their creativity, spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship," he said.
Students may participate as individuals or as teams, to come up with a startup business idea and plan. A participant must be registered in college as a full- or part-time undergraduate student or have graduated within the last 12 months. The competition consists of two rounds; finalists present their entrepreneurial plans to a panel of judges.
"By participating in this Business Idea Challenge, my students have expanded their entrepreneurial vision and sharpened their presentation skills," said Sue Kong, assistant professor for the College of Business at Kutztown University.
The Keystone Innovation Program is a result of the state's 2011 initiative to provide resources to startup companies and entrepreneurs.
"These are the programs that work for economic development and our region," said Gail Landis, GRKIZ coordinator and vice president of the Reading chamber. "Providing early stage companies with the financial support and incentives that accelerate technology transfer and commercialization of new products and services."