Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania in Bethlehem has released its latest round of investments, with a lion’s share of the funds going to a Snyder County snowboard manufacturer.
Gilson snow, which manufactures innovative snowboard and skiing equipment, will use the $100,000 investment from BFTP to enhance its production capabilities and expand marketing efforts.
Ben Franklin is also making several investments in the form of 1:1 matching grants to a number of established manufacturers in its territory, so they can work with college or university partners on innovation.
Among them is American Polarizers Inc. of Reading, which will receive $24,800 to work with the Emerging Technology Applications Center at Northampton Community College to complete development of a process for vacuum lamination of circularly polarized films. The work is intended to expand the company’s product line in polarized and non-polarized optical products.
CarbonLITE of Muhlenberg Township will receive $25,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Research to develop a standardized work process in a new plastic resin manufacturing facility.
Gateway Ticketing Systems of Colebrookdale Township will receive $25,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center to identify and implement best practices for its admission control and ticketing software.
Polytek Development Corp. of Williams Township will receive $7,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center to analyze its tooling board manufacturing process.
Sealstrip Corp. of Gilbertsville will receive $20,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Research to implement new features in its shop floor management system.
Vastex International Inc. of Bethlehem will receive $25,000 to work with Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Research to implement a new enterprise resource planning system.
BFTP/NEP owns, manages, and is headquartered in Ben Franklin TechVentures, a business incubator/post-incubator facility on Lehigh University’s campus in Bethlehem.
A Pennsylvania manufacturer is hitting the big time as super fans of the Transformers toy line prepare to hit the slopes.
Gilson Snow, based in Snyder County near Sunbury, is now partnering with toy maker Hasbro Inc. to make limited edition Transformers-themed skis and snowboards.
The launch was announced at the annual Comic-Con Convention in San Diego in July. Gilson was contracted to make 35 sets of skis and 35 snowboards with a Transformers theme, a popular set of toys that convert from vehicles to robots and has spawned television cartoons and major motion pictures.
Hasbro spokeswoman Kelly Wade said the toymaker was looking for a special way to commemorate the popular Transformers toys’ 35th anniversary.
“With only 35 snowboards and 35 skis produced and available, it’s the perfect consumer product for die-hard Transformers fans, collectors and outdoor adrenaline junkies alike,” Wade said
Nick Gilson, founder and CEO of Gilson Snow, said the Transformers boards sold for $625 and the skis for $825, which he said is a premium price but is in line for the quality of the products. Each came with its own authenticated production number. They sold out quickly.
Boards made by Gilson Snow, without the Transformers name, are being advertised for between $350 and $500 at various online retailers. Gilson-made boards are crafted from poplar hardwood and aerospace composites using aeronautical engineering concepts
Wade said Gilson was a natural fit for the Transformers promotion.
“Gilson is one of the top ski and snowboard manufacturers in the industry with their products engineered for performance in all snow conditions,” she said. “These snowboards and skis have been receiving rave reviews universally so it only seemed natural for a Transformers collaboration.”
A good fit
Gilson said the limited run was just the first of what he hopes will be a long and fruitful partnership with Hasbro and the first of similar deals Gilson Snow is working on with other nationally known companies.
He said Gilson and Hasbro are already looking at other licensed games and toys – including G.I. Joe, Monopoly and My Little Pony – for future limited edition runs.
“For us this is a big deal because it fits with exactly where we want to go,” Gilson said. “These are major passion points that are incredibly valuable and exclusive that are coveted by fans.”
While he couldn’t yet name names, Gilson said his company, which employs 19, is in talks with other companies for branded partnerships involving other familiar names.
He said such partnerships fit perfectly into the company’s manufacturing style, which is to create highly specialized and small batches of skis and snowboards with a fast turnaround.
“We have the ability to rapidly turn around a cool idea and build a product after an order is made,” Gilson said
He said that makes Gilson Snow’s skis and snowboards ideal for customization and for limited runs.
A portfolio star
Laura Eppler, chief marketing officer for Bethlehem-based Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, said Gilson Snow is certainly a company to watch, and the staff of the technology incubator is proud to have helped the company on its path to success.
Ben Franklin invested a small amount of money, Eppler said, but it also provided expertise.
“Ben Franklin worked with Gilson to improve the longevity of graphics on the boards and skis, enhancing the company’s ability to customize and facilitating its continued expansion,” Eppler said.
She said the technology boost helped attract artists and corporate partners because of the quality of the graphics.
Personally, she said she is impressed with the way Gilson’s skis and snowboards blend nature and technology.
She noted that the boards are manufactured from hardwood poplar trees that are sustainably harvested in Pennsylvania, but Gilson then employs the latest modern technology to create a high-quality skiing and snowboarding experience.
She said the company has long been a star in the Ben Franklin portfolio. Gilson Snow won Ben Franklin Venture Idol in 2015, as well as a product innovation award in May 2019.
Different generations working together was the theme of the keynote speech at Tuesday night’s annual iXchange event at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem.
The talk was given by author, and trend-spotter, Seth Mattison, co-founder and chief movement officer of Luminate Labs, a media platform for business influencers.
The technology-themed event, hosted by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Bethlehem, gave area tech, business and community leaders an opportunity to hear Mattison speak on how leaders need to develop and maintain a work environment that encourages experimentation, freedom and trust while different age groups, each raised in a different organizational culture, learn to work together.
To go with the keynote speaker’s theme, iXchange guests were offered small pins to wear that identified their generation.
“You may wonder why there were bowls of small pins at the registration area of tonight’s event,” said R. Chadwick Paul Jr., president and CEO of BFTP/NEP. “We have the most age-diverse workforce in American history, with five generations at work, represented by the five pins here tonight. While workers of different ages are pretty much looking for the same things, they can have very different ideas of what those rewards should be.”
Also at the event, six honorees were presented with this year’s Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards:
The Incubator Graduate Award was given to Forge3 Ltd. of Bethlehem and its founder Jeff Teschke as a graduate of the incubator program at Ben Franklin.
Graduating from Ben Franklin TechVentures in late 2016, Teschke transitioned Forge3, a website and marketing platform for independent insurance, into the scalable company. Teschke is now a TechVentures affiliate client and is coaching new incubator clients.
This year’s Entrepreneurial Achievement Award went to Dynalene Inc. of Whitehall and its leadership, president and CEO Satish Mohapatra, and David Arcury, COO.
A developer of heat transfer fluids for industries including fuel cells, solar and geothermal energy, Dynalene has experienced recent growth, increasing revenue 38 percent over the last three years. The company employs 21 and occupies three buildings in Whitehall and one in Schnecksville.
The Product Innovation Award went to Gilson Snow Inc. of Winfield and its CEO, Nicholas Gilson. Gilson Snow is a snowboard, ski, and apparel manufacturer that designs bases to provide an enhanced and unique “feel” on the mountain.
The Innovative Application of Technology Award went to Galaxy Mfg. Co. of Moosic and Lee Batzel, president and CEO.
Galaxy produces innovative, durable brushes for oil and gas pipeline operators and pipeline cleaning service providers. It employs 27 and increased revenues 100 percent over the last three years.
The Frederick J. Beste III Partnership Award went to Penn State Berks and its chancellor Keith Hillkirk. The Partners said Penn State Berks models the productive relationship between higher education institutions and innovative companies that Ben Franklin was created to foster.
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