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Toothbrushes, Textiles, Technology: BFTP/NEP invests in 10 diverse companies

Three early-stage companies and seven established manufacturers in northeastern Pennsylvania are beneficiaries of the latest round of investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP). Those investments total $316,000.
 
Loans were provided to the following early-stage companies:
 
Bison Analytics, LLC, Lewisburg, was awarded $52,500 to complete development of and provide marketing support to their consolidation, planning and business intelligence software, targeted to small businesses that use QuickBooks
 
Colymer Industries, LLC, located at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, earned $50,000 to implement a marketing and sales strategy to commercialize a new proprietary, non-asphalt roofing and waterproofing material called Tarzanite.
 
Four Hound Solutions, LLC, Wilkes-Barre, received a loan of $25,000 to develop and submit a provisional patent and revise their business plan; the company produces software solutions for automated test equipment. 
 
BFTP/NEP will also provide matching funds for these technology-based manufacturing/university partnerships.
 
Applied Separations, Inc., Allentown, and Lafayette College received $50,000 to develop and implement a new process and deploy equipment for the waterless dyeing of textiles. They hope to tap into business-to-business sales to clothing manufacturers and textile companies.
 
Bio Med Sciences, Inc., Allentown, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center earned $25,000 to complete implementation of a new Enterprise Resource Planning system. The company produces innovative and specialized materials for burn and wound care, and aesthetic skin care. 

Effort Foundry, Inc., Bath, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center received $25,000 to implement improved production methods and product tracking capabilities at this supplier of high-integrity steel parts for the pump, power generation, and military industries.
 
Hydro Recovery LP, Blossburg, and Pennsylvania State University were awarded $25,000 to further develop and optimize the economic extraction of useful materials from residual "frac" water used in natural gas wells.
 
Pleasant Mount Welding, Inc., Carbondale, and Johnson College received $20,100 to develop manufacturing capability and produce aluminum I-bar and rectangular bar grating products to better serve customers, increase profit margin and create additional market opportunities. 

Radius Toothbrush, Kutztown, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center earned $18,500 to complete facility assessment and planning to accommodate future growth at this manufacturer of innovative, high-performance, ergonomic toothbrushes.
 
Rea.deeming Beauty, Inc., Bethlehem, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center were awarded $25,000 to streamline current manufacturing and shipping procedures by designing and implementing new automation techniques at this manufacturer of elliptical-shaped makeup applicators. 

Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern PA names seven top innovators

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) will honor seven innovators for their ability to peer around corners at the annual Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards ceremony in May.

BFTP/NEP named Hometown’s Highwood USA as the company that best exemplifies entrepreneurial achievement. A manufacturer of extruded-plastic, synthetic-wood products for outdoor furniture, hot tubs/spas, decks and other exterior lumber uses, the company "demonstrates the successful leverage of Ben Franklin support to accelerate the growth of a young firm," said BFTP/NEP in a statement. "Founded in 2003, Highwood proactively and continuously innovates its processes, introduces new products, and identifies and develops untapped niches in the marketplace…Through thoughtful planning, bold strategy and skillful execution, the firm continues to grow, providing high-value jobs in Schuylkill County for years to come."

Slatington's Luminaire Testing Laboratory (LTL) was honored for its success as a BFTP incubator graduate. In 1989, LTL was the first company to locate in Allentown’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center. In 2010, the owners sold the company to Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the well-known international electrical testing company. The founder recently launched another new company.

"The LTL story demonstrates the importance of business incubators in providing support to early-stage firms," explained BFTP. "It portrays a successful business exit, executed by a founder who was able to attract an international business to the region that continued to create and retain good jobs. Finally, the LTL story illustrates the commitment of a serial entrepreneur who is now developing a second venture."

LifeAire Systems in Allentown will be honored for product innovation. The company’s revolutionary air purification systems "will impact a continuum of patient care, beginning with the protection of the embryo, to the infant in the neonatal intensive care unit, to the patient in the operating room, and to the elderly in long-term care facilities."
        
Wilkes-Barre's EthosGen, meanwhile, is revolutionizing the $1 billion renewable energy market with a patented and proprietary Thermal Energy to Electric Power System. The company best demonstrates "a 'break-the-mold/ approach to integrating new or existing technology into its business," said BFTP/NEP.
        
BFTP/NEP also recognized Wilkes-Barre’s Medico Industries, which produces metal parts for oil and gas drilling companies, the automotive industry and other customers, for manufacturing achievement. "A focus on constant improvement has enabled the company to establish a truly flexible manufacturing facility that has economically transitioned through many changes in industrial needs," explains BFTP/NEP.
        
Andrew Stanten, president of Altitude Marketing in Emmaus, "an unwavering supporter of regional entrepreneurship [who] freely shares his expertise and experience widely with startups, established manufacturers and students in northeastern Pennsylvania" was named winner of the entrepreneurial advocate award. Edward J. McCann, Jr., retired COO of the Berks County Workforce Investment Board, will be honored for his "strong vision, dedication and commitment [that] have helped the Ben Franklin Technology Partners accomplish its goals."

The awards dinner is set for May 7 at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University.

Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Pew names Pennsylvania a 'rising clean energy leader'

Pennsylvania has developed a fast-growing clean energy economy, attracting billions in investment dollars for solar, wind, hydropower and other renewable energy technologies, according to a recent report by the Pew Charitable Trusts

Pew found that between 2009 and 2013, Pennsylvania added nearly 1.4 gigawatts of clean energy capacity and attracted $3.5 billion in private investment. In 2013, Pennsylvania ranked sixth nationally in attracting private investment in clean energy at $841 million.

New project installations over the next decade are expected to add five gigawatts of capacity and generate $17.7 billion in investment, Pew added.

The organization attributes much of the activity to the state’s 2004 Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards, and to federal and state incentives. 

"By setting a goal for renewable energy and offering incentives for clean energy projects, Pennsylvania has been able to attract private investment, create new jobs and diversify its energy mix," said Tom Swanson, manager of Pew’s clean energy initiative.

The state’s Energy Portfolio Standards call for 18 percent of the state’s electricity to come from advanced energy sources by 2021 -- eight percent from renewable power and the remaining 10 percent from other advanced technologies, including efficiency and innovations in fossil energy. Pew reported that because of this policy, solar power and industrial energy efficiency have grown rapidly -- 212 megawatts and 3.3 gigawatts respectively since 2013.

State and federal incentives have also boosted clean energy. Today, wind energy and hydropower account for the majority of the state’s renewable capacity. Pennsylvania’s installed wind capacity is enough to power over 300,000 homes. Pennsylvania ranks ninth in homes powered by solar (nearly 25,000), 11th in capacity added in 2013, and 11th in jobs supported by the industry (2,900).

Industrial energy efficiency technologies -- such as combined heat and power from a single fuel source, and reusing waste heat -- are also in play. In 2013, Pennsylvania ranked sixth for total installed capacity of these technologies, eighth for capacity added that year and eighth for private investment in the sector. 

Still, challenges remain. For example, Pew cited the import of electricity from out-of-state solar projects, "effectively outsourcing some of the economic benefits the standards were designed to generate in-state."

Source: The Pew Charitable Trusts
Writer: Elise Vider

Four northeast PA companies ring in the new year with Ben Franklin investments

Four companies in northeastern Pennsylvania are starting off 2015 with new investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
 
EggZack, located at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, has been allocated $50,000 to expand its sales efforts, adding more resellers and increasing its direct sales force. EggZack provides an automated sales and marketing system that is specially designed for companies that serve local markets. The web- and mobile-based platform automates the management of their website, search engine optimization, social media, local search, email marketing, blogs, video and directory optimization to generate more local leads. The system then makes it convenient to convert leads into sales. 
 
OPTiMO Information Technology, LLC in Bloomsburg will receive $65,000 to expand its Legal Technology Division. The company’s new eDiscovery and Forensics Managed Services wade through huge amounts of data to reconstruct electronic events, providing reliable information and evidence for legal, corporate and government agencies in a cost-effective manner. OPTiMO delivers enterprise-level information technology products and services including software related to the digital forensics, e-discovery and litigation support industries.

Orbweaver Sourcing, LLC, also at TechVentures in Bethlehem, will receive $65,000 to develop a "supplier pricing infrastructure" in a cloud-based software solution for electronic circuit board manufacturers. This feature will allow end customers and other industry participants to collect a more robust set of data from component manufacturers and distributors. Current sourcing and procurement models in the electronics manufacturing industry are highly inefficient. Orbweaver’s software platform will allow for better-negotiated terms with suppliers, thereby reducing costs and increasing productivity for clients.
 
In addition, a partnership between East Coast Erosion Control of Bernville, an established manufacturer, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center earned $25,000 in matching funds. The investment is intended to improve measures of back-end processes, improving customer delivery performance, reducing cost-of-goods sold, increasing efficiency and maximizing production capacity at this manufacturer of erosion control products for the construction industry. East Coast Erosion is one of the largest producers of erosion blankets in the U.S. This upgrade will allow the company to be the first in its industry to advance to this level, providing a competitive advantage and facilitating continued growth.

Source: Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
Writer: Elise Vider

Call for Ideas: 4th Annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest accepting entries

Are you a researcher, entrepreneur or small business in Pennsylvania (or West Virginia) focused on developing a new product or service for the shale energy space? If so, the Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center has an offer you can't refuse.

Entries are now being accepted for the 4th Annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest. Once again, the four best shale energy-oriented innovations, new product ideas or service concepts will win $25,000 cash and other support.

The organizers are looking for innovations that are either in the development stage or recently launched. Any idea or already commercialized product or service related to the shale energy space is eligible. Examples include natural gas or NGL utilization products and services; novel materials or chemicals to enhance performance, prevent corrosion or improve product yield; remote site monitoring technologies; well pad EH&S products or services; natural gas or NGL conversion technologies; and water management or remediation technologies.

"We continue to be amazed by the rapid pace of innovation adoption across the shale energy play," says SGICC Director Bill Hall. "Entrepreneurs along with many small businesses are playing a significant role, developing new technologies or offering existing products or services already in use in other areas. Through the contest, SGICC shines a light on the best new innovations being developed in our region."

Hall reports that last year's Pennsylvania winners are thriving.

"Optimum Pumping is continuing with mid-stream trial demonstrations and early indications are that they are going very well," he says. "KCF Technologies has had a rather significant penetration in the shale gas industry and made at least one large project sale to a field services company. TM Industrial Supply, as a result of the contest, made manufacturing changes to reduce the time required to produce their filtration product and has at least one major sale, and anticipates more."
 
The contest attracted 70 entries last year. Expecting even more this year, Hall urges applicants to submit ahead of the February 1 deadline. A panel of industry experts will choose the finalists. 

Source: Bill Hall, Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center
Writer: Elise Vider

BFTP to invest $357,100 In Northeastern PA Companies

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania will invest $357,100 to support regional economic development.

Since its founding, BFTP/NEP has helped create 16,214 new jobs for Pennsylvanians and retain 22,155 existing jobs; they have been instrumental in the formation of 458 new companies and the development of 1,279 new products and processes. The Pennsylvania Ben Franklin Technology Partners network has returned $3.60 to the state treasury for every $1 invested in the program. 

The following early-stage companies will receive investment in the form of loans.
 
HB Custom Media, Inc., Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, Northampton County
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000
This company will expand the commercialization effort for producing and selling custom tissue culture media, reagents, cell culture supplements and mouse embryo culture media to the Research-Use-Only market. These products are essential for life sciences companies in various applications, including drug development, cancer research, nerve cell regeneration investigation and treatments for heart attacks.
 
Medtrics Lab, LLC, Lewisburg, Union County
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000
Medtrics will conduct an expanded market launch of a cloud-based clinical education management software system. This software is crucial for healthcare institutions training the next generation of healthcare professionals. Work will include completing the web application for physician training programs, developing both Apple mobile (iOS) and Android applications, and building additional features to support nursing schools.
 
Skaffl, LLC, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $100,000
The investment will enable adding additional functionality to Skaffl, a new mobile application through which teachers and students can exchange class materials, assignments, completed homework, assessments and grades. This product addresses the growing use of tablets in K-12 classrooms and the needs of teachers as they develop tools and curricula to enhance real-time educational interaction.

TSG Software, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, Northampton County
Ben Franklin Investment: $50,000
TSG will implement processes to significantly increase marketing and sales lead generation in commercializing software for business cleaning services, property and facility managers, and building management contractors. TSG's Accelerator CC brings traditionally manual processes into cloud software to automate mission-critical processes. This eliminates workflow disruption.
 
Virterras Foods, Moosic, Lackawanna County
Ben Franklin Investment: $50,000
This investment will support the development of a large, state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse for climate-smart, year-round agriculture in Pennsylvania. The market for fresh, local food is growing rapidly. The U.S. now imports 65 percent of all fresh produce and Virterras is part of a growing trend to bring agriculture and jobs back to Pennsylvania.
 
Ben Franklin will also invest in the following established manufacturers, providing 1:1 matching funding for work with a college or university partner on tech-based innovation.
 
B. Braun Medical, Inc., Allentown
Ben Franklin Investment: $50,000
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
These funds will support a baseline energy assessment and carbon footprint analysis at this manufacturer and distributor of disposable medical devices. The company is committed to sustainable manufacturing processes while also reducing costs and increasing market competitiveness. The overall goal is reducing energy use by at least 10 percent.
 
Custom Processing Services, Inc., Reading, Berks County
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $15,000
With help from their partner, this company will create new processes to manage internal logistics and minimize material handling costs during its continued growth. CPS provides sophisticated air-jet milling, micronizing, blending and testing of powdered materials on a contract and toll basis. 
 
A. Rifkin Company, Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $17,100
This investment will help improve the cutting operation process and develop labor costs for the company's newly acquired Hope Uniform product line, which is relocating from New Jersey. Rifkin is the leading manufacturer of commercial and financial security bags, and is expanding into specialty apparel.
 
Simplex Industries, Inc., Scranton, Lackawanna County
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000
Simplex will map and analyze the designs of current processes to improve factory automation, material handling, storage and inventory control. Simplex is a regional leader in high quality modular construction, and is positioning itself as an industry-leading builder of energy efficient homes. The company built a prototype Net Zero home that is both environmentally conscientious and economically prudent for homeowners.

 

Greater Reading Economic Partnership marketing campaign wins President's Award

Thanks to its inventive marketing campaign featuring local companies, the Greater Reading Economic Partnership (GREP) has won the prestigious President’s Award from the Northeastern Economic Developers Association (NEDA).

Entries for the NEDA 2014 Annual Literature & Promotions Competition were accepted from across the economic development industry. The key factors considerd by the committee were design and layout, clarity of message, production quality, functionality and overall creativity and impact.

"One of the ways we work towards our mission is to empower our local companies to share their stories of thriving in Greater Reading," says Aaron Gantz, GREP’s marketing manager. "The success story campaign series featured four companies (Bills Khakis, Cambridge-Lee Industries, Metals Your Way and TAB Industries) and their leaders, centered around three main themes that support the Greater Reading brand: a community built for business; a highly skilled workforce -- and great lifestyle; and a heritage where great things happen."

Check out the campaign here.

Writer: Lee Stabert
Source: GREP

 

BFTP/NEP has busy July, announces another batch of funded companies

In addition to last week's slate of funded companies, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania's (BFTP/NEP) has announced the following investments, provided to clients in the form of loans.

Cerora Inc., Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $150,000
This investment will go towards the development and commercialization of the company's first product, Cerora Qumpass, a cloud-based software as a service medical-grade neurodiagnostic solution. The company's MindReader is a portable electroencephalogram (EEG) brain wave biosensor that measures the electrical activity of the brain. It combines cutting-edge advancements in EEG design with cognitive and voice-based data streams, all integrated with software to provide real-time, objective neurodiagnostic information in the field. The rapid diagnosis of brain disease and injuries can lead to early and effective intervention with resulting cost savings, improved clinical outcomes and increased patient satisfaction. There are currently no affordable, portable and accurate neuro-diagnostics available to physicians, nurses, first responders and trainers for use in real time.

Map Decisions, LLCBen Franklin TechVenturesBethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $100,000
This loan will help provide sales, marketing, product development and customer service support. Map Decisions produces infrastructure asset and work management software, and provides field mapping and data management services. The company's secure, cloud-based mobile platform is designed for state and local governments, utilities, oil and gas, transportation, and construction industries. Map Decisions helps organizations increase operational efficiency, improve customer service, reduce compliance risks and decrease operational costs. 

Orbweaver Sourcing, LLC, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000
Orbweaver aims to complete development of a bill-of-material authoring tool as a module in a cloud-based software solution for electronic circuit board manufacturers. Current sourcing and procurement models in the electronics manufacturing industry are highly inefficient. Orbweaver's software platform will allow for more well-negotiated terms with suppliers, thereby reducing costs and increasing productivity for clients.

Pivitec, LLC, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $21,100
This developer of audio streaming and distribution products will continue commercialization and enhancement of hardware and software products. Live performances in theaters and houses of worship require a variety of approaches to provide performers the ability to hear their own performances as well as cues. Wired systems currently in use require extensive cabling, limiting performers' movements, and have limited audio source reception. Pivitec uses wireless mobile devices as interactive controllers for its network devices to address these problems.

PROVA Systems and Technologies, Inc., Carbondale
Ben Franklin Investment: $40,000
This infusion will support the commercialization of PROVA Systems' Fleet Genius® PRO, a fleet management software system for small- and medium-sized enterprises. The software integrates PROVA's plug-and-play fleet management monitor that links with its cloud-based SAAS application to collect, monitor and analyze the performance of vehicles and drivers. PROVA's system enables proactive management of vehicles using data derived from their usage patterns and collected from on-board computers. Fleet Genius PRO can reduce fleet operations costs by more than 60 percent versus current technology, and, in many instances, pays for itself in less than a year. 

Skaffl, LLC, Allentown
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000
This company will complete the development of Skaffl, a new mobile application through which teachers and students can exchange class materials, assignments, completed homework and grades. This digital application addresses the growing use of tablets in K-12 classrooms and the needs of teachers as they develop tools and curricula to enhance real-time educational interaction. There are no other applications that address these needs comprehensively while also being simple to use for students, teachers and administrators. 

Susquehanna Mining Solutions, Shavertown
Ben Franklin Investment: $150,000
SMS will design, construct and begin operation of a four-million-gallon-per-day pilot facility for the recovery of minerals and clean-up of water from acid mine drainage. The company's process produces clean water and harvests iron oxide, while utilizing accessible geothermal energy as the power source for material processing operations. Once completed, the patented technology will be commercialized for large-scale use.

XiGo Nanotools, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $50,000
Thanks to this funding, this manufacturer of patented products that rapidly measure the wetted surface area of nanoparticles and droplets using magnetic resonance technology aims to complete software enhancements, allowing expanded sales. Nano-particles are minute; they typically have diameters that are 1/1,000th the diameter of a human hair. Nanoparticle properties are key predictors of material performance in many industrial applications, including energy, electronics, ceramics and pharmaceuticals, and currently there are no other efficient measurement methods. XiGo's new Acorn Drop is a product extension of the company's initial product, the Acorn Area, and measures the drop size of emulsions.

Ben Franklin also announces the following established manufacturer investments. Ben Franklin provides 1:1 matching funding for work with a college or university partner on technology-based manufacturing innovation in established manufacturers.

Cambridge-Lee Industries LLC, Reading
College Partner: Northampton Community College's Emerging Technologies Applications Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $22,350
Cambridge-Lee will conduct controlled testing to optimize their manufacturing process for copper tubing, helping the company enter new markets and capitalize on market growth. Copper tubing is used in plumbing, refrigeration and other commercial applications. The process improvement will increase throughput and reduce energy costs.

Georg Fischer Harvel, LLC, Easton
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $10,000
This company aims to complete a sustainability analysis to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent or more. GFH is an international leader in thermoplastic extrusion, primarily manufacturing PVC and CPVC piping for a diverse set of customers. Energy costs are a top manufacturing expense, so cost savings in this area will yield a significant competitive advantage.

BFTP/NEP announces latest funding round

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania's (BFTP/NEP) has pledged $620,000 in support of regional economic development. The funds will go towards developing and growing early-stage tech companies, helping manufacturers apply new technology and achieve industry leadership, and fostering a favorable business environment for high-growth companies.

Ben Franklin has also announced the following investments, provided to companies in the form of loans.

CEWA Technologies, Wyomissing
Ben Franklin Investment: $350,000
This company hopes to complete design, construction and prototype testing of a new kind of point-concentrated solar power dish. Their product should deliver power for industrial and institutional applications at a lower cost due to its innovative shape and build.

Good Vittles, Hamburg
Ben Franklin Investment: $56,000
This company aims to complete the development and implementation of its exclusive technology to support its e-commerce marketplace for specialty foods. Good Vittles' two e-commerce portals serve as direct distribution channels, connecting food suppliers with professional chefs and individual consumers. Suppliers will use the company's proprietary packing process to maintain freshness while employing cost-effective shipping methods.

U.S. Specialty Formulations, LLC, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem
Ben Franklin Investment: $100,000
U.S. Specialty Formulations will complete the set-up, staffing and cGMP-approval process to produce sterile injectable pharmaceuticals for the medical community. Millions of Americans require specialized and custom-compounded drugs, and the current infrastructure is insufficient. As an FDA-registered outsourced manufacturer, USF will employ advanced quality and manufacturing controls to comply with new, more stringent federal quality standards.

Ben Franklin is also investing in the following established manufacturers, providing 1:1 matching funding for work with a college or university partner.

Bosch Rexroth Corporation, Bethlehem
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000

This Lehigh Valley manufacturer of motion-control equipment aims to develop and implement a process to automate data collection, driving process improvements and enabling predictive maintenance for machining centers throughout the company.

Fidelity Technologies Corporation, Reading
College Partner: Northampton Community College's Emerging Technology Applications Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000

Fidelity will develop superior tactical electric power generator technology, primarily for the U.S. Department of Defense. These new generators meet a need for compact, reliable, fuel-efficient and fuel-flexible generators in the field.

Hydro Recovery LP, Blossburg
University Partner: The Pennsylvania State University
Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000

The company will further develop and optimize the economic extraction of useful materials from residual "frac" water used in natural gas wells. Hydro Recovery's process converts the used water into a Hydraulic Stimulation Fluid (HSF™) that can then be reused. This process eliminates the need to transport wastewater over long distances, will save millions of gallons of freshwater each year, and eliminate discharge of treated water into waterways.

Palram Americas Group, Kutztown
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $12,500

This manufacturer of polycarbonate and polyvinyl chloride plastic sheets will complete the development of standard operating procedures to maximize efficiency. These standards will enhance safety and reduce both direct and indirect costs, leading to improved competitiveness and customer satisfaction. 

PMF Industries, Inc., Williamsport
University Partner: Pennsylvania College of Technology
Ben Franklin Investment: $23,000

The company aims to optimize the electrical consumption of its largest motors -- energy consumption represents a significant cost of manufacturing. PMF provides contract manufacturing services with an emphasis on flow forming -- producing metal parts that are cylindrical, conical, or contoured with precise control of wall thicknesses. Customers include the aerospace and energy sectors, as well as users of precision pressure vessels. 

Suburban Testing Laboratories, Inc., Reading
University Partner: Lehigh University's Enterprise Systems Center
Ben Franklin Investment: $3,500

This Reading company will define current and future facility requirements for the installation of a new, centralized walk-in incubator room. Suburban provides environmental, product and water testing and analyses for both industry and municipalities. 
 

Jump Start Grants to boost state's early-stage life science companies

It’s a classic dilemma: scientists have profound therapeutic or drug discovery expertise, but often lack the comprehensive development, regulatory or commercial expertise -- to say nothing of the necessary funds to engage consulting help -- to commercialize their discoveries. 

The Jump Start Grant, now accepting applications, is aimed at filling this void in Pennsylvania. Early stage therapeutic companies can compete for professional services and expertise in the form of product development and commercialization plans, which are critical to raising venture capital and growing efficiently. 

"Early stage companies often lack the expertise to comprehensively address the myriad commercial development challenges which exist in the life sciences marketplace," says Pennsylvania Bio President and CEO Christopher P. Molineaux. "We are fortunate to have partnered with two industry leaders on this unique grant opportunity which gives our members access to development and commercialization insights required for preparation of funding applications and presentations."

PharmaDirections of North Carolina and New Perspectives in Alabama are partnering with PA Bio, the statewide trade association for the life sciences, to award two grants of about $50,000 each.

Subject matter experts will assess applications based on the following submission criteria: concept, scientific rationale, innovation, market opportunity understanding, management team and impact. Two winners will receive service grants that include an additive development plan and budget, associated Gantt charts, and commercial opportunity assessment.

Applications are due August 21. Winners will be announced in October 2014 at PA Bio's Life Sciences Future Signature Event. 

Source: PA Bio
Writer: Elise Vider

Reading's Smartz Studios launches its first cultural education app

Reading's Smartz Studios has released its first app and it’s close to los corzones of founders Leo and Al Martinez and Paula Calvo. The family members are all Colombian natives, and the app, called Ty Tunes: Colombia, is designed to teach young children about Colombian culture.  

Al Martinez, a graphic artist, immigrated to the United States from Colombia in 1998. His brother, Leo, a software developer, followed in 2012; Paula Calvo came in 2013. Ty Tunes emerged from Paula and Leo’s desire to teach their five-year-old son, Sebastian, more about his Colombian culture.

"After searching for similar educational apps with no success, we were determined to start a software development company that specializes in cultural digital toys," explains Calvo. 
 
Ty Tunes: Colombia, the first in an intended series, is designed for children between the ages of four and seven. They interact with the app’s main character, Pablo, feeding him Colombian foods, dressing him in Colombian costumes, and helping him play Colombian music using instruments representative of the country. 

The digital toy can toggle back and forth between English and Spanish to teach children in their preferred language. The app also has an educational section for parents. 

"The digital toys that Smartz Studios are working to create aren’t just for first-generation immigrants," insists Calvo, but are learning tools to teach about other cultures and embracing diversity.

The app is currently available on Android devices and is expected to be available on Apple products by the fall. Smartz Studios plans to develop more apps about other cultures around the world and should issue its next release by the end of the year. 

Source: Paula Calvo, Smartz Studios
Writer: Elise Vider

Pennsylvania SBDC reports 2013 results amid a challenging funding environment

Nearly 11,000 aspiring entrepreneurs and small business owners benefitted from free, confidential business management advice provided by Pennsylvania’s 18 Small Business Development Centers in 2013, and SBDC can point to an array of success stories and positive results.

But, in releasing its 2013 annual report, SBDC also makes clear that with an 8 percent drop in federal funds due to sequestration, its capacity is diminished.

Altogether, the centers advised 10,966 entrepreneurs and businesses in 2013, providing nearly 110,000 hours of consulting. Most participants were very small ventures, with fewer than six employees, and most requested help with developing a business plan. More than half -- 55 percent -- were operating in the service industry. Many were women-, minority- or veteran-owned. 

SBDC reports that the number of advisees fell by about 1,000 from 2012. The number of educational programs and attendees fell, too.

"Automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to federal funding took a toll on our program last year…directly impacting services to Pennsylvania’s small business owner," said PA SBDC State Director Christian Conroy in a statement. 

Still, client-obtained financing grew to more than $138 million and client government contacts rose to more than $305 million. 

Success stories included the Gannon University SBDC, which helped McKean Veterinary Hospital in Edinboro raise $960,000 to expand operations. The Bucknell University SBDC helped the father-daughter founders of Upper Desk in Hughesville with patent and market research for their product. And in Philadelphia, the Widener University SBDC helped the AAA School of Trucking navigate the federal procurement data system and find new opportunities.

SBDC says it is seeking "stable federal funding" for the 2015 fiscal year in order to "best serve entrepreneurs and small businesses in Pennsylvania and nationwide."

Source: Kelly Cofrancisco, SBDC
Writer: Elise Vider

PA businesses -- large and small, east and west -- to be honored with ImPAct Awards

An array of Pennsylvania companies -- everything from ABEC Inc. in Bethlehem to Zook Motors in Kane -- are finalists in the 2014 Governor’s ImPAct Awards

For the second year, the awards are aimed at celebrating "companies and individuals who are investing in Pennsylvania and creating jobs." The awards will be given at a May 30 luncheon at Hershey Lodge.

The finalists paint a picture of the Pennsylvania economy -- they range from small businesses to vast enterprises, startups to long-established companies, represent geographic diversity and come from a wide array of sectors. Where else would you find Webster’s Bookstore and Café in State College nominated in the same category as financial services giant Vanguard in Valley Forge?

The PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) led the process for nominations and selecting finalists. Two panels of judges from different parts of the state chose the 50 winners. Any size company is eligible, as long as they have significant operations in Pennsylvania and have been in business for at least one year. 

The awards will be given in five categories: Community Impact to a company that exemplifies the tenet of "doing well by doing good"; Entrepreneur Impact to recognize leadership via creativity, innovation, managerial ability, leadership skills or turnaround; Export Impact to a company that has significantly increased its export sales and number of new foreign markets since 2011; Jobs First, to recognize consistent job growth and retention; and Small Business Impact to a growing firm of 100 or fewer employees. 

Source: DCED and Laura Eppler, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern PA
Writer: Elise Vider
 

BFTP/NEP names its Innovation Award winners

Five cutting-edge companies and three invdividuals are being honored for their achievements as innovators and entrepreneurs by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP). The winners of the 2014 Innovation Awards will be honored at the Ben Franklin i xchange event, scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 6 at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University. They are:
 
Saladax Biomedical, Inc., Bethlehem, for entrepreneurial achievement 
Saladax develops and commercializes diagnostic blood test kits that quickly, accurately and inexpensively personalize chemotherapy drug levels for optimal results. Saladax originally planned to launch in New Jersey, but chose instead to start in Ben Franklin's TechVentures. Saladax now holds 82 international patents and employs 45. 
 
Viddler, Inc., Bethlehem, incubator graduate award
Viddler delivers secure, interactive media solutions for thousands of business communication, learning and publishing clients in more than 150 countries. Viddler graduated from TechVentures in September 2011 and today employs 22 at its new Southside Bethlehem headquarters.
 
XiGo Nanotools,  Bethlehem, product innovation
XiGo Nanotools has commercialized three table-top devices for characterizing the nature of particles -- or emulsion droplets -- in liquids using patented magnetic resonance imaging technology. Ben Franklin invested a total of $400,000 in XiGo; the company is a resident at TechVentures.
 
Vitrius Technologies, Wilkes-Barre, innovative application of technology 
Vitrius Technologies provides smart window systems for the residential, commercial and architectural markets. Ben Franklin invested a total of $320,000 in Vitrius, and provided financial support for sales efforts and industry-required testing. The company is now beginning to commercialize its groundbreaking products.
 
Cambridge-Lee Industries LLC, Reading, manufacturing achievement
Cambridge-Lee Industries, the second largest plumbing tube manufacturer in the country, recently constructed a new 195,000-square-foot manufacturing facility to produce thin-wall copper tubes for the commercial HVAC market. (For more on Cambridge-Lee, check out this Q&A with CEO Andi Funk.)
 
PA Senator John R. Gordner and PA Senator John P. Blake, Special Achievement Senators
Gordner’s and Blake’s bi-partisan legislative efforts on behalf of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners will result in much-needed investment capital to significantly leverage private investment in promising companies for future job growth. They worked tirelessly to pass the crucial Innovate in PA legislation, providing a three-year infusion of funds to allow Ben Franklin to make impactful investments in deserving Pennsylvania companies.

Former PA Governor Dick Thornburgh, Partnership
Governor Dick Thornburgh was the leader with the foresight to establish the Ben Franklin Partnership in 1982. His idea has emerged as a resounding success and his work a lasting legacy. The Ben Franklin Technology Partners has dramatically strengthened the Pennsylvania economy and improved the lives of thousands of entrepreneurs, workers and their families.

Last year, more than 550 tech entrepreneurs, business people, economic developers, venture capitalists, political leaders, educators, students, bankers, lawyers and accountants attended i xchange; that number is expected to grow again this year. Jeff Hoffman, veteran of seven startups, including Priceline.com, will give the keynote address. The registration fee is $65 in advance; $75 the day of the event. To learn more or to register, visit nep.benfranklin.org or ennect.com/e2331, email ixchange@nep.benfranklin.org or call 610-758-5200.

Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Taffy Activewear joins Reading's Jump Start Incubator

While working as a trainer at a Philadelphia gym, Katie Kozloff Banks was struck by how frustrating it was for her female clients sized 12-and-up to find stylish, comfortable and flattering activewear. 
 
She knew the market potential was huge. According to a recent piece in the Washington Post, plus-size fashion is one of the fastest-growing segments of the apparel industry with over $17 billion spent in 2012.
 
In 2010, Banks launched Taffy Activewear, exclusively for women sizes 14 to 24.  

"The concept is simple," she says. "When you feel good about how you look, you work out harder. Our mission is to help plus-size women feel confident about the way they look in activewear. Whatever their goal, curvy women can look stylish and attractive as they lead healthier, more active lives."
 
Banks works with contract designers to create products that meet her specifications; the garments are manufactured in China. With a national team of sales representatives and a contract fulfillment center in Pennsylvania, Taffy’s sales have nearly doubled every year. The clothes are sold at national retailers including Burlington Coat Factory, T.J. Maxx and Marshalls. Sales via Amazon are imminent.
 
Now Banks is launching a companion line, Katie K Active, with an extended size range (small through 24) aimed at a higher-end market. Online pre-sales will start next month and Katie K will be available starting in March at specialty retailers, boutiques, yoga studios and department stores, including Canyon Ranch resorts. 
 
Banks recently moved her company into the Jump Start Incubator in Reading. For now, she is a company of one, but her goal is to build a location where she can have in-house design, sales, warehousing and shipping under one roof. 
 
Source: Katie Kozloff Banks, Taffy Activewear/Katie K Active
Writer: Elise Vider
 
 
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