Ben Franklin Tech Partners makes $485,000 in investments

A number of Greater Lehigh Valley businesses were among those sharing a part of $485,000 in investments from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania.

DetectBee Inc. of Bethlehem received $50,000 to develop its software-as-service platform that helps protect supply chains by detecting cybersecurity vulnerabilities in both their own systems and their suppliers’.

Heudia Health LLC of East Stroudsburg, the technology driven healthcare company that helps connect low-income individuals with health, social service, education and economic services, received $25,000 to develop initiatives, complete software enhancements and optimize its inbound sales.

ProdHealth Inc. of Bethlehem received $25,000 to complete the transition of the company’s health and wellness platform from a web-based site to a downloadable app.

Thread Bioscience of Bethlehem, received $25,000 to help commercialize CultureStat, its patented diagnostic test for urinary tract infections.

Ben Franklin has also awarded 1:1 matching funds for a number of established manufacturers to work with a college or university partner on technology-based innovations.

Chemical distributor, Brenntag Northeast Inc. of Reading received $10,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center to improve warehouse and operating efficiencies at its plant.

Medical respiratory equipment manufacturer Precision Medical Inc. of Northampton received $25,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Resource to implement an enterprise resource planning system to improve operational effectiveness.

Aluminum flatbed and drop deck trailer manufacturer, Reitnouer Inc of Birdsboro received $15,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Research to implement productivity improvements to reduce manufacturing costs.

Ben Franklin has also provided $60,000 in funding to 12 incubators, which each received $5,000.

Among the recipients was the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in Allentown; the East Stroudsburg University Innovation Center in East Stroudsburg and the O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship at Alvernia University in Reading.

AEDC reports record 2020 for companies at Allentown Bridgeworks

Binah Winery, a kosher wine-maker, is one of the companies operating out of the Allentown Bridgeworks Enterprise Center. PHOTO/FILE


The Allentown Economic Development Corp. is reporting record results in 2020 for its incubation program.

The AEDC has released the results of its annual incubation impact survey, which showed that its Bridgeworks Enterprise Center grew to a total of 11 companies earning nearly $16 million in revenue. That’s a 33% increase over 2019 revenue.

Those 11 incubator companies employed 39 full-time employees as well as 33 employees that were either contracted or part-time.

They paid more than $2.4 million in salaries, wages or contractor fees to those employees, an increase of 16% over the prior year.

“The Impact Survey results demonstrate the collective, positive trajectory of AEDC’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center incubation program,” said David Dunn, program manager at the Bridgeworks. “Each year, we look for specific increases as indicators that these businesses are crossing the financial threshold into sustained profitability.”

Dunn noted that some of the incubator companies struggled under the COVID-19 restrictions, but were able to hold on. Others saw double-digit growth in sales and employees and profits.

He said Bridgeworks incubation clients were able to secure a combined $274,800 in federally funded assistance and $65,000 from state-funded sources to run technology-focused projects.

Combined, the companies had a 50% increase in new patents.

The manufacturers secured six provisional patents, 11 US and International patents and seven trademarks for an aggregated 24 new intellectual property assets.

The annual Impact Survey collects data from client companies in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center incubation program. The survey focuses on job creation, company revenue, loans obtained, grants, and equity investment data.

“Our goal is to continue to assist entrepreneurs as they launch successful, sustainable businesses that contribute to the area’s economic vitality. The results of our most recent Impact Survey indicate the underlying importance of manufacturing to the local and regional economy,” said AEDC Executive Director Scott Unger. “Manufacturing remains one of the key drivers of innovation. It broadens employment opportunities for our residents while providing tax base stability to local government.”

Allentown Bridgeworks renovating space for STEAM education

R. Scott Unger, executive director of the AEDC, left, with Erin Hudson, marketing communications specialist and Jane George of the PPL Foundation, center. PHOTO/SUBMITTED


With the help of a $50,000 grant from the PPL Foundation, the Allentown Economic Development Corp. will be renovating its STEAM education makerspace at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center business incubator.

The 3,420-square-foot space is occupied by Make Lehigh Valley, a nonprofit providing students and adults with technical, scientific and artistic skills.

The renovated space includes upgraded electrical service to enable more extensive tools and equipment and a new HVAC system to allow for more comfortable temperature control.

It is the last space that had been unrenovated inside the 60,000-square-foot Bridgeworks since the AEDC first developed the building in 1989.

Once the renovation is complete, space will be divided into two separate units to increase functionality. AEDC will continue to lease approximately 50% of the space to Make Lehigh Valley to support on-going STEAM educational programming. The other roughly 50% of the space will be leased as Flex Office Space.

“The renovations will greatly expand the utility of our makerspace. Members and guests will be much more inclined to participate in projects and activities once the work is complete,” said Make Lehigh Valley Board President Scott Piccotti.

The PPL grant was originally awarded at the end of 2019. The onset of COVID-19 restrictions delayed permitting and construction jobs in early 2020. Project renovation began during the summer of 2020 once permits were in place and the tenant moved equipment out.

“We appreciate the continued support of AEDC’s mission by the PPL Foundation,” said AEDC Executive Director Scott Unger. “PPL understands the important role that economic development organizations play in supporting STEAM education and the manufacturing sector. By optimizing the makerspace inside the Bridgeworks facility, we can assist Make Lehigh Valley and other nonprofits address the STEAM skills gap.”