Polymer Contours Inc. is moving from the Allentown Economic Development Corporation’s business incubator to the former A1 Restaurant & Janitorial Supply building at 732 N. Sixteenth St. and Sumner Avenue in Allentown.
Polymer Contours President Tyson Daniels purchased the former restaurant supply store in February for $1.3 million.
Jeff Barber of Lehigh Financial Group LLC in Allentown arranged the SBA financing for Daniels to make the purchase and outfit the building for the company.
“This is one of those success stories for the AEDC’s business incubator,” Barber said. “Tyson could have left Allentown, but he chose to stay and grow here.”
Polymers Contours Inc., a full-service injection molding company, was founded in 2009. Daniels bought the company, located in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, in 2015. Polymer Contours had one customer and two machines. Daniels has since grown the business to four machines and 35 customers.
Daniels said he needed more space to continue to serve his existing customer base as well as new customers who keep coming. “We needed more space for raw goods as well as finished goods,” he said.
The industrial building is more than 42,000 square feet and was built in 1953.
The business has grown from one part-time person to 9 full-time people. Daniels anticipates adding at least 10 more within the first year.
Polymer Contours specializes in production focused on custom plastic part design/engineering and full mold design/build capabilities. It serves various industries including medical, adhesive, HVAC/refrigeration, packaging, food service and general industrial.
The newest tenant at Allentown’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is the Lehigh Valley’s first kosher winery. It’s also the only kosher winery in Pennsylvania and one of only a few in the Northeast.
But Kevin Danna, owner of Binah Winery, said he’s part of a growing trend in the industry to change the image of kosher wine, which he said has unfortunately been associated for too long with sweet, lower quality wines, like Manischewitz.
“We’re here to break that stigma,” Danna said.
Such wines are generally used for sacramental purposes and just aren’t meant to be premium wines, but there is nothing in the process of kosher wine that would make it taste any different than traditional wines.
“You can’t tell the difference when you’re drinking kosher wine from other wines,” he said. “It’s more about the ritual, religious part.”
Making a wine kosher means selecting ingredients, such as yeast, that are made in accordance with Jewish dietary laws. The wine can also only be made by those who keep a kosher lifestyle.
Apart from that, he got his winemaking skills the traditional way. He began experimenting in wine making in his basement with his friends back in 2014.
“It was bad,” he admitted.
He enrolled in winemaking school and had an apprenticeship at Pinnacle Ridge Winery near Kutztown before leasing his own vineyard outside Easton last year to grow and bottle the grapes. Space for bottling at that location was limited however, and he knew he couldn’t grow his business without more space.
He was unable to find anything that fit his upstart winery budget until he was introduced to the Bridgeworks, which had everything he needed, including a meadery, microbrewery and micro distiller.
“Since I’m a winery, I kind of complete the circle,” he said.
The new winery also received financial support in the form of $165,000 in low-interest loans from the Allentown Enterprise Zone and the Allentown Revolving Loan Fund, programs that are part of AEDC’s Urban Made initiative.
The move changed his business model slightly; instead of growing his own grapes, which was labor intensive, he operates as an urban winery, purchasing his grapes from other growers in the region. He ultimately wants to use all local grapes to give his wine distinction, but he said the grape supply is very low now, impacted by the spotted lanternfly and other issues and most vineyards locally don’t have enough grapes to supply him.
His sales structure remains the same, he sells mostly direct-to-consumer in 40 states with what he said is about a 50/50 split between kosher Jewish customers and regular wine enthusiasts, which is his goal.
“I don’t want to be known for making just excellent kosher wine, but for making excellent wine,” he said.
The local Jewish population has been very supportive, but he doesn’t plan on opening a local tasting room. He noted most tastings occur on Saturdays, the Jewish Sabbath, and he needs to remain closed to be observant. He is hoping to get into Pennsylvania liquor stores and area grocery stores and is building his inventory to tap that market.
In his first year he made around 1,000 cases of red, white and sparkling wine. He’s up about 50 % over last year and hopes to have his inventory doubled by next year.
“Sales have exceeded expectations so far,” he said. So he hopes the growth will continue and he’ll help grow the reputation of kosher wine as fine wine in the Lehigh Valley.
The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania in Bethlehem has tapped the manager of Allentown’s manufacturing incubator to take the reins of its TechVentures program at Lehigh University.
Anthony Durante has been named manager of entrepreneurial support and will direct and develop new TechVentures incubator programs.
He is replacing Wayne Barz, who was recently promoted to chief investment officer for Ben Franklin.
In the role, Durante will coordinate and communicate facility maintenance needs of the TechVentures buildings. He will manage leasing and other business arrangements with resident companies, and monitor and document key performance indicators.
He will also lead the 13-member Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network.
Durante had been the program manager for the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in Allentown, a manufacturing and technology business incubator run by the Allentown Economic Development Corp.
The AEDC Bridgeworks is a member of the Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network.
Chad Paul, president and CEO of Ben Franklin NEPA, said it was the work Durante did with that incubator that made him the best candidate for the job.
“He’s done a spectacular job with the Bridgeworks. He’s brought it a long, long way,” Paul said.
Paul noted that Bridgeworks’ occupancy rate increased from 35 percent to 99 percent during Durante’s tenure. The incubator earned the Economic Development Program of the Year from the PA Economic Development Association in 2015.
“We been working with [Durante] for many years. When we interviewed him it was very clear that he was right for the job,” Paul said.
When Durante takes over, he’ll be leading a tech incubator that has also been growing significantly.
Paul said TechVentures started out in an 18,000-square-foot building but has grown through several expansions to its current 129,000 square feet of incubator space.
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