Reading’s Jump Start Incubator and Allentown’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center both earned top honors in the first Growth Accelerator Fund competition from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The organization reviewed more than 800 applications and awarded 50 winners throughout the nation, representing 31 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
A panel of seven judges selected the winners after reviewing the applications and pitch videos submitted by the 100 finalists. Each organization will receive $50,000 from the SBA.
TARGETING TECH COMPANIES
Allentown Economic Development Corp., the organization that operates the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, plans to use the money to increase its ability to attract technology companies and help them become successful, according to Anthony Durante, business incubation program manager for AEDC.
The center has space for home/office alternative use and is looking to combine it with the center’s co-working space to create a new 4,200-square-foot incubator space, Durante said this morning.
“We are going to renovate those spaces and recruit companies to expand our focus from manufacturing to include some technology companies,” he said.
The goal is to help these companies become successful, much like AEDC has done with its manufacturing companies, Durante said.
For this project, AEDC will create desks in an open, flexible environment where companies could expand easily if needed, he said.
The co-working space is called Hive 4-A, but the name might be changed, Durante said.
The renovation project will include remodeling the home/office alternative space and creating a new conference room, he said.
“Some of the budget will be used for marketing and branding the space,” Durante said.
As a result of the $50,000 grant, the Kutztown University Small Business Development Center, along with its associated Jump Start Incubator and Latino Business Resource Center, will be launching a new initiative called the IDEA Accelerator (Innovation, Development and Entrepreneurship Accelerator), according to Ashley Tomasko, marketing director for Reading’s Jump Start Incubator. The Kutztown University center also has an office in Reading.
The Kutztown SBDC identified that almost 40 percent of the small businesses that go to it looking for assistance are looking to start a food-related business, Tomasko said.
There is a shortage of bilingual consulting services in the food industry. The center had been exploring the concept of the IDEA Accelerator, and the award money will help it launch the service and to fill that gap, she said.
The IDEA Accelerator program is designed to help established businesses in the food service industry and will focus on minority or women-owned businesses, Tomasko said. The program will help participants with training in packaging and labeling, package design, product development, trade shows, international trade and wholesale distribution.
In addition, partnerships with local supermarkets, financial institutions and other food business experts will be tapped for participation in the program and to help the businesses reach their fullest potential.
“We’ve seen a lot of people wanting to start food-related businesses in the area, and in the past we’ve been able to help them with basic business development such as identifying funding sources, conducting market research and business plan assistance,” Tomasko said. “This grant is going to allow us to take our assistance to the next level and provide real hands-on assistance in a way we haven’t been able to in the past.”