Ben Franklin Tech investments secure more than $2 billion in revenue for PA economy

Ben Franklin Technology Partners helped drive Pennsylvania’s economy by generating $2.4 billion in revenue and securing $1.1 billion in post-Ben Franklin financing, according to the 2022 Annual Statewide Impact Report. 

The annual report also shows that Ben Franklin Tech created close to 1,508 jobs, helped retain 10,145 positions, and supported 2,018 companies. 

“The numbers say it all,” Ryan E. Glenn, Ben Franklin’s Director of Statewide Initiatives, said in a release. “Ben Franklin Technology Partners and its clients are powering Pennsylvania’s economy and helping the state maintain its competitive edge in an increasingly high-tech world.” 

Ben Franklin clients developed 130 patents and software copyrights, commercialized 249 new products, and launched 90 new processes. 

Glenn said investments in innovation are the foundation of the new economy. 

“That’s why the competition among states is so intense,” he said. “Investments in early-stage firms, established manufacturers, and entrepreneurial ecosystems can transform our economy and create the types of new jobs and career opportunities that top talent seeks.” 

Ben Franklin serves all 67 counties in Pennsylvania, and has regionally based centers in Bethlehem, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and State College, along with satellite offices across the state. The “2022 Annual Statewide Impact Report” examined the combined impact of Ben Franklin’s regional offices. 

Ben Franklin partners with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to provide funding, business, and technical expertise, in addition to access to resources for both early-stage and established companies. 

Ben Franklin has contributed more than $30 billion to Pennsylvania’s economy in the 40 years since its inception and generated more than 58,000 jobs in client firms along with 101,000 spinoff positions for a total of 159,000 new jobs. According to an independent analysis, each dollar invested by the state into Ben Franklin creates $4 in added state taxes.

Future path of PA energy debated in state Supreme Court

Proponents of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)see it as a path to a modern economy that will see Pennsylvanians benefit from both a health and economic standpoint. 

Opponents to RGGI see it as something else – a plan that will raise taxes on residents and devastate the state’s economy. 

Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court heard arguments on both sides Wednesday on an issue that will determine entry into the multi-state initiative. 

“We are pleased to see the court seriously addressing Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment and pushing the Department of Environmental Protection on its obligations as a trustee of our public natural resources,” said attorney Jessica O’Neill, who argued the case for PennFuture, a Harrisburg-based environmental advocacy nonprofit. 

“Several justices questioned the Commonwealth Court’s injunction, which stopped the RGGI regulation from going into effect, and we are confident that the Supreme Court will agree with the nonprofits and the DEP that the injunction was wrongly issued.” 

Pennsylvania’s Commonwealth Court enjoined the state’s entry into RGGI while legal merits were being argued in court. Wednesday’s arguments were part of an appeal of that ruling that could result in Pennsylvania’s entry while the case proceeds. 

PennFuture President and CEO Patrick McDonnell called RGGI an initiative where every Pennsylvania citizen wins on health and economic outcomes. 

“RGGI is a cap-and-invest system that will add $4 billion in economic value across our region and create 30,000 new jobs in Pennsylvania,” said McDonnell. “The market has spoken, and fossil fuel plants continue to close, giving no employment alternative for the communities that host them. 

“Not only will RGGI reduce carbon pollution in Pennsylvania by up to 227 million tons by 2030, but the energy industry can easily make that transition with proven and affordable renewable energy, energy efficiency, and energy storage technologies.” 

McDonnell said the 11 current RGGI states have proven that the benefits of moving forward equal lower costs, more jobs, better health, and a sustainable future. 

“It’s time to start delivering on the promise of a clean energy future for Pennsylvanians,” he stated. 

Pennsylvania House Republican Leader Bryan Cutler of Lancaster called on the state Supreme Court to follow the law and continue the delay placed on entry into the initiative by the Commonwealth Court while legal merits are presented. 

Cutler said in a statement Wednesday that as the Pennsylvania Supreme Court hears arguments that will decide whether the state’s entrance into RGGI can continue concurrent while legal questions are still being determined, he encouraged the court to follow the law and continue to pause entry. 

Cutler added that legal questions include whether a governor can “unilaterally place a tax on Pennsylvanians.” He said Pennsylvania’s entry into the 11-state compact “will do nothing but raise energy prices on Pennsylvania’s families and crush family-sustaining energy sector jobs.” 

O’Neill remarked in an interview on the eve of the hearing that a decision by the Supreme Court wasn’t expected soon. 

“The Supreme Court will write an opinion and it could take them some time, so we don’t really have a timeline,” she said, adding that there is a timeliness about entry into RGGI. 

“But for this injunction, we would have begun participating in RGGI last September,” she said. “Every quarter that we’re not in it, the state is losing out on potential proceeds. 

“There is a real sense of urgency to being able to not just start capping this pollution, but to actually receive these benefits and start this program of working toward energy transition.”

PennDOT announces Cargo Growth Incentive Program fund extension

The Pennsylvania Intermodal Cargo Growth Incentive Program (PICGIP), which looks to increase containerized cargo activity by incentivizing shippers to move cargo through Pennsylvania ports, is being extended to July 2024. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) announced on Friday the extension of the program, which was scheduled to end in June 2023. 

“Pennsylvania’s ports are a crucial part of our state’s transportation network,” PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll said in a press release. “Increasing shipping activity will help ensure that goods are delivered to market in a timely manner, and the Cargo Growth Incentive Program is a critical tool in keeping Pennsylvania’s economy moving.” 

PICGIP was created in 2015 through PennDOT’s Multimodal Fund, and it makes up to $1 million available annually to participating ocean carriers that move cargo through Pennsylvania’s ports. Increased cargo helps secure full-time employment at the terminals and also increases economic activity through indirect and induced jobs. 

Used as a tool to compete with other ports in attracting new ocean carriers and trade lanes to Pennsylvania, the Intermodal Cargo Growth Incentive Program helps retain and reward loyalty as carriers return to Pennsylvania ports and have the chance to achieve incentive payment. 

Since 2015, nearly 3 million units of cargo have been sent to Pennsylvania ports by participating ocean carriers. Over the same time, ocean carriers have been awarded approximately $6 million in incentive funds. 

New service at a Pennsylvania port as well as existing carriers qualify for the program incentive. New carriers receive $25 per new container unit loaded or discharged from vessels to a Pennsylvania port. Existing participants who exceed established benchmarks also qualify for the incentive payment.

Lehigh Valley college gets new funding for manufacturing training programs

Northampton Community College in Bethlehem has received $336,024 in new funding to support manufacturing programs, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Rick Siger announced Wednesday. 

Two Manufacturing PA Training-to-Career (MTTC) grants were awarded to Northampton Community College. The school’s Industrial Skills for Manufacturing training program received $199,996, and the Precision Machine training program was granted $136,028. 

Siger visited the Bethlehem-based college on Wednesday and spoke of the “enormous impact” the training programs were having on students. 

“The people in these training programs are learning valuable skills that prepare them to enter the workforce and build strong, sustainable careers,” Siger said in a statement. “The investment that the Shapiro Administration is making here at Northampton Community College is an investment in Pennsylvania’s economic future.” 

The college’s Industrial Skills for Manufacturing training program curriculum includes introduction to manufacturing, workplace safety, measurement, blueprint fundamentals, basic electricity, electric relay control/programmable logic controllers, and mechanical maintenance concepts.

The aim of the Precision Machining training program is for students to learn and master the skill sets to safely and effectively operate the typical machines found in manufacturing environments. The career exploration components of the program will see students identify and align personal strengths and interests with manufacturing occupations to better understand the educational requirements, regional demand, and salaries for each.

Projects that result in short-term work-readiness, job placement, or the advancement of manufacturing are supported by the Manufacturing PA Training-to-Career grants program. The program works with area manufacturers to identify and teach essential skills for entry level applicants seeking manufacturing employment, engage youth or those with barriers to career opportunities in manufacturing, and or advance capacity for local or regional manufacturers.

Lauren Loeffler, vice president of Workforce Development, Northampton Community College, said the school is delighted to expand its relationship with DCED.

“Their support of these programs has been instrumental in helping our students, our college, and local employers to grow and move forward,” said Loeffler. “These high priority occupations are critical to the success of these businesses and our local economy long-term.”

More than 560,000 Pennsylvanians are currently employed in the state’s manufacturing industry.

PennDOT announces Freight Movement Plan crucial to PA economy, travel

A comprehensive strategic plan for moving foods throughout Pennsylvania has been announced by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT). 

The 2045 Freight Movement Plan (FMP) is deemed by Gov. Josh Shapiro to be critical to Pennsylvania as it promotes economic growth and safe travel. The plan is available on PennDOT’s website.  

PennDOT Secretary Michael Carroll said the new Freight Movement Plan will help guide the investment decisions the Shapiro Administration makes regarding infrastructure that supports freight movement.

“The plan positions us to respond to the major changes from the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and ensure Pennsylvania has a safe, efficient, and integrated freight system to support jobs and commerce,” Carroll said in a press release.

The state of Pennsylvania’s freight infrastructure and PennDOT’s efforts to improve movement of freight are provided in the FMP. The freight plan seeks to ensure that Pennsylvania remains eligible for approximately $58.5 million annually in federal funding through 2026.

FMP, along with the 2045 Long Range Transportation Plan (LRTP), sets priorities and transportation strategies to guide project investments. The FMP and LRTP aim to improve mobility, safety, sustainability, resilience, and fairness for moving people and goods throughout Pennsylvania.

“The FMP’s goals and objectives set a clear direction, and PennDOT will carry out an Action Plan in coordination with freight stakeholders to make systematic progress over the next four years,” PennDOT Deputy Secretary for Planning Larry Shifflet said. “We’ll be regularly tracking implementation progress and performance measures in Pennsylvania’s biennial Transportation Performance Report.”

PennDOT collaborated with freight stakeholders over a two-year period to develop a plan that addresses state and federal provisions for freight planning.

Bill aimed at aiding PA economy passed by State Senate

Legislation requiring a one-time review of resolutions with economic significance was passed last week by the Pennsylvania Senate. 

Senate Bill 190 was sponsored by Sen. Michelle Brooks, R-Crawford/Lawrence/Mercer. 

“My bill cuts government red tape that hurts Pennsylvania’s employers, farmers, and local governments,” Brooks said in a statement. “With this change, we could see a statewide benefit from job growth and a boost to our economy.” 

The bill advances to the House of Representatives for consideration. 

Regulations with an economic impact or cost to the state, to its political subdivisions, and to the private sector exceeding $1 million annually would, under Bill 190, be reviewed for their effectiveness, efficiency, and need three years following implementation. 

The agency with the regulation must review it after three years and report to the Independent Regulatory Review Commission (IRRC) the following findings: 

  • Status of implementation. 
  • Effectiveness and efficiency of the regulation, along with steps taken to increase efficiency in implementation. 
  • Direct and indirect cost of regulation, and whether the fiscal impact was over-or under-estimated, along with the nature of public comments on the regulation. 
  • Whether Pennsylvania’s current laws require the repeal or amendment of the regulation. 
  • If the agency with the regulation is considering changing the regulation, and whether the regulation is still required. 

Public comments about the submitted report would be collected by the IRRC for at least 30 days. IRRC would determine within 30 days of the end of the public comment period whether the regulation remains in the public interest and whether statutory changes should be considered. 

The one-time automatic review would help protect businesses, nonprofits, educational institutions, and individuals from costly regulations and hold state regulators accountable.

Pa. economy receives billion-dollar boosts from Ben Franklin Technology Partners

Pennsylvania’s economy has been receiving sizeable boosts from Ben Franklin Technology Partners. 

From 2017 to 2021, Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) generated $400 million in tax receipts for the state and boosted Pennsylvania’s economy by $6.1 billion while helping create 16,006 high-paying jobs, according to an independent economic analysis conducted by KLIOS Consulting and Econsult Solutions Inc. 

BFTP, in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, provides funding, business and technical expertise, and access to a network of valuable resources that early-stage and established companies need to grow and succeed in the highly competitive worldwide marketplace. 

“The Economic Impact of Ben Franklin Technology Partners” analysis report revealed that BFTP has boosted the state economy by more than $30 billion since the company’s inception more than 40 years ago. During that time span, BFTP has generated more than 58,000 jobs in client firms, and an additional 101,000 spinoff positions, for a total of 159,000 new jobs that otherwise would not have otherwise existed. 

“Year after year, Ben Franklin continues to deliver impressive results, which is why we are one of the most widely known and emulated state technology-based economic development programs in the nation,” Ben Franklin’s Director of Statewide Initiatives Ryan Glenn said in a statement. 

The economic analysis report also revealed that recent growth surpassed the previous five-year analysis, from 2012 to 2106. This despite the most recent reporting period being hit by the COVID-19 pandemic that brought on a global recession. 

“That proves that investments in innovation are a powerful job creation and high-tech economic development engine for Pennsylvania,” said Glenn. 

According to the economic analysis report, every dollar invested by Pennsylvania into Ben Franklin generates $4 in additional state taxes. KLIOS Consulting and Econsult Solutions Inc. also found the following: 

  • Ben Franklin invested in 612 companies across the state. 
  • Pennsylvania received $352 million in additional state tax receipts as a direct result of Ben Franklin investments in client firms. Another $48 million in state tax receipts flowed from related Ben Franklin client services, for a total of $400 million in state revenue due to Ben Franklin. 
  • BFTP investments generated 5,874 jobs in client firms, plus an additional 10,132 spinoff positions for a total of 16,006 new Pennsylvania jobs. 
  • BFT-created jobs are in industries that pay annual salaries 29 percent higher than the average private nonfarm salary in Pennsylvania. 

BFTP serves each of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties through regionally based centers in Bethlehem, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and State College, and has satellite offices across the state.

Pa. unemployment rate declines, nonfarm jobs reach record high

Lower unemployment rates and new highs in nonfarm jobs marked the month of March in Pennsylvania. 

The state’s unemployment rate last month dropped two-tenths of a percentage point to 4.2%, and the total nonfarm jobs hit a record level, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry’s situation report. 

March marked the third consecutive month of record-high total nonfarm jobs in Pennsylvania. The state’s unemployment rate was also two-tenths of a point below its level in March 2022. 

The national unemployment rate also declined, dropping one-tenth of a percentage to 3.5%. The national rate is also down 0.1 percentage points over the year. 

Pennsylvania’s civilian labor force, which is the estimated number of residents working or looking for work, increased 5,000 over the month. Resident employment rose by 12,000 over the month and unemployment decreased 7,000. 

The state’s nonfarm jobs increased by 12,500 over the month to a record level 6,108,900 in March. The previous mark of 6,096,400 was set last month. Jobs increased from February in seven of the 11 supersectors with the largest gain (4,500) in leisure and hospitality. Professional and business services also hit a record high. 

Total nonfarm jobs increased by 159,000 over the year with gains in all 11 supersectors. Education and health services were up 52,000 and had the largest volume over-the-year gain among supersectors. Three other supersectors each added more than 16,000 jobs.

Lehigh lawmaker looks to make esports available to all Pa. students

Electronic sports (esports) are introducing students in high school and higher education to careers in gaming, software, and STEM-related jobs, and a Lehigh lawmaker looks to make esports accessible to every student across the state. 

Rep. Mike Schlossberg, D-Lehigh, was part of a roundtable discussion held Wednesday by the House Majority Policy Committee to learn more about the billion-dollar industry and its impact on the state’s economy and education. While esports teams exist throughout Pennsylvania at the high school level, the cost of these programs includes thousands of dollars in equipment and supervisors and poses challenges to economically disadvantaged school districts. 

Schlossberg has authored legislation to create a sustainable funding stream to support extracurricular programs for students across the state. 

“At first glance, esports might look like only video games, but one of the greatest aspects of extracurricular activities is to create an atmosphere where students build friendships and learn outside a classroom,” Schlossberg said in a statement. “Esports not only provides those opportunities, but it also exposes students to new digital technology and presents the possibility – like traditional sports – for students to earn college scholarships.”

Rep. Danilo Burgos, D-Philadelphia, said esports can provide the spark that encourages academic and emotional development in students.

“One of the most exciting aspects about esports, for me as a legislator and Latino, is its potential for an equitable solution to our strikingly low number of Black and Hispanic workers in STEM-related careers,” said Burgos, chairman of the Policy Subcommittee on Progressive Policies for Working People.

“Esports attract a diverse group of students, regardless of race or gender, and it has proven itself as a gateway into encouraging young people to pursue STEM education as well as STEM-related careers.”

Developing familiarity with digital technology at a young age is another aspect of esports. Studies show that Black youth make up the largest portion of the gaming teenage community, yet Black workers account for only 9% of the jobs in STEM-related fields.

“Esports offer students another chance to interact and learn alongside their peers,” said House Majority Policy Committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie. “It also has the potential to bring together a diverse group of students, and it encourages an interest and understanding of the science and digital technology being used at their fingertips. Esports also offer a tremendous economic opportunity for Pennsylvania.”

During the roundtable discussion, the House Majority Policy Committee heard from experts and business leaders on the esports industry and its potential positive effects on Pennsylvania’s economy and workforce.

Underserved small business owners to get boost from new USBA rules

Two rules to address persistent gaps in access to capital impacting small business owners have been finalized by the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

The rules impact small business owners in underserved communities and grant permanence to SBA’s program for nonprofit mission lenders, remove outdated limits on non-depository lender participation, increase opportunities for employee ownership, and modernize the credit criteria and underwriting standards to incentivize a wider distribution network and small-dollar loans. 

SBA Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman said in a statement that modernizing and expanding SBA’s lending programs will open new opportunities to entrepreneurial but underserved communities that have been denied access to the funding needed to create jobs and grow the economy. 

“Equity has been a top priority of the Biden-Harris Administration since day one as our economy needs all of our great ideas and talented entrepreneurs,” said Guzman. “These rule changes demonstrate that commitment by providing government-guaranteed lenders with all the tools they need to close the gaps that still exist for small businesses who need capital.” 

SBA’s rules will help new entrepreneurs grow their businesses by addressing capital access market gaps in underserved communities and expanding the number of participating SBA lenders.

To increase the number of credit-worthy business owners who can access SBA loans, particularly among underserved communities like women, minority, veteran, and rural entrepreneurs, SBA is modernizing the lending criteria and conditions for its business loan programs and reducing red tape for SBA lenders. SBA is achieving this by updating lending criteria for its 7(a) and 504 loan programs, including by:

  • Allowing lenders to make SBA loan decisions based on their existing credit policies for similarly sized non-SBA loans. 
  • Providing additional flexibility for loans under $150,000 to reduce the cost and complexity of small-dollar lending. 
  • Streamlining paperwork required of lenders, enabling them to spend more time with applicants and make loans more efficiently. 
  • Simplifying and clarifying affiliation standards to ease the burden on small business owners and lenders and make clear who qualifies for an SBA loan.

SBA will expand the number of lenders who can offer SBA-guaranteed loans, providing small businesses with more options for meeting their capital needs. The rule will expand the number of Small Business Lending Company (SBLC) licenses, which promote responsible small business lending through non-depository lenders backed by SBA loan guarantees.

SBA is addressing capital access gaps by granting permanence to SBA’s program for nonprofit, mission-oriented lenders by creating a new Community Advantage SBLC license. Community Advantage lenders have lacked long-term certainty about their participation in SBA programs due to the pilot status of the program.

Despite these limitations, SBA said the Community Advantage Pilot Program has demonstrated success with higher rates of lending to Black, Hispanic, women, and veteran-owned businesses.

SBA’s rule will achieve the following:

  • Lift the moratorium on new regular SBLCs and allow for additional licensees, enabling them to make loans to small-dollar borrowers with government guarantees, reducing risks and broadening opportunities. 
  • Provide certainty through permanence of Community Advantage, encouraging current and new nonprofit lenders to invest in and expand SBA lending operations. 
  • Utilize modern technology to make lender oversight and borrower protection stronger and less resource-intensive than was possible when the SBLC moratorium was put in place.

These rules build upon a previous announcement on the Community Advantage Pilot Program that increased the maximum loan size from $250,000 to $350,000, lifted the four-year lender moratorium, enabled the SBA to expand the lender network, and allowed lenders to offer lines of credit, interest-only periods, and other loan modifications that meet the needs of small business borrowers.

Patrick Kelley, associate administrator for the SBA’s Office of Capital Access, said it’s imperative that entrepreneurs from underserved communities have access to stable and affordable capital to grow and expand their businesses.

“With these new rules, the SBA is taking steps to invest in credit-worthy entrepreneurs and mission-oriented lenders, which will build on the Biden-Harris Administration’s progress to date,” said Kelley.