Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania is calling on Gov. Tom Wolf to restore the Ben Franklin network’s funding to previous levels.
The state budget proposed by Wolf this week continued funding of $14.5 million per year for Franklin’s statewide network of technology and business incubators, the same budget it’s been working with since 2007 when the center’s budget was nearly halved from its previous allotment of $28 million.
Noting that the reduced funding has put Pennsylvania at a competitive disadvantage with other states that are investing heavily in innovation and high-tech economic development, Chad Paul, Ben Franklin president and CEO, is calling on the governor to restore previous funding.
“Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ ‘secret sauce’ is the combination of financial investment, business and technical support from experienced staff, and a well-vetted network of expert resources,” said Paul. “Underfunding puts Ben Franklin, known as the gold standard in tech-based economic development, at risk.”
Besides operating costs, much of the money Ben Franklin receives from the state goes directly into investing in startup businesses and helping them succeed, he noted.
Ben Franklin is already unable to invest in some deserving companies and has short-funded others because of the sharp decline in state funding over the last decade, he said.
The Bethlehem-based business incubator pointed to an independent analysis by the Pennsylvania Economy League and KLIOS Consulting, which found that the statewide Ben Franklin network helped to create 11,407 high-paying jobs, generated $386 million in tax receipts for the state, and boosted the commonwealth’s overall economy by $4.1 billion between 2012 and 2016.
It showed jobs created by Ben Franklin’s client industries pay an average of $79,364 annually, which is 52 percent more than the average non-farm wage in Pennsylvania.
Ben Franklin Technology Partners serves all 67 counties through four regionally based centers.