From unveiling plans to expand its Bethlehem facility to adding four new networks to its business incubator network, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania capped off a year filled with growing investments in innovation.
The organization released its annual report on its contributions to early-stage firms and its focus on innovation throughout the region.
“Business incubation is one of our strengths,” said Laura Eppler, director of marketing for Ben Franklin. “That’s why we chose ‘incubating innovation’ as our theme because of the burgeoning demand for incubator space. One of the areas we excel at is business innovation.”
The organization is part of a state-funded economic development initiative that began in 1983.
Since that time, it has helped bring space, funding and resources to many developing early-stage, technology-oriented companies.
In October 2016, the organization broke ground on its West Wing expansion of its TechVentures facility at Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus to meet the increased demand for office and meeting spaces for businesses in the incubator program.
The expansion is expected to be finished in the fall, Eppler said.
The concept of synergy inherent in a business incubator can be found throughout Ben Franklin’s 21 counties in Northeast Pennsylvania.
In 2016, the report showed the organization added four new incubators to its network, including Jump Start Incubator in Reading and others in Wilkes-Barre, Honesdale and Jessup.
With its business innovation network now expanded from 10 to 14, it is one of the largest business incubator networks in the U.S., Eppler said.
The business incubator network brings together incubator managers in Northeastern Pennsylvania to exchange ideas and information, work collaboratively and share guidelines that align with the International Business Innovation Association standards, according to the report.
The organization is expanding not just in Bethlehem but throughout the region, she said.
The organization surveys its client companies on the economic impacts that are accomplished as a direct result of its investments.
These figures are reported to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and are used to evaluate Ben Franklin’s effectiveness.
In 2015, the most recent data available, the organization reported the creation of 383 new jobs and since 1983, has created 16,986 new jobs.
In 2015, it retained 604 existing jobs and since 1983, has retained 23,761.
In 2015, it started seven new companies and since 1983, started 482.
Also, in 2015 it developed 65 new products and processes and 1,433 since 2007, the first year it began recording that data.
In 2015, the organization helped 298 companies and 2,465 since 1983.
Finally, in 2015, it provided $20 million in follow-on funding (investments in Ben Franklin client companies from other investors) and since 1983, provided $1.42 billion.