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PA is hot among site selectors and a new tool heats things up even more

We may not mess with Texas, but Pennsylvania ranks third in new facilities and expansions – and first in the Northeast – according to the prestigious annual rankings published last week in Site Selection magazine
The 2012 Governor's Cup went to the Lone Star State, which led the nation with 761 projects in 2012. (The publication counts private-sector projects that meet one or more of these criteria: a minimum $1 million investment, creation of 50 or more new jobs or construction of new space of at least 20,000 square feet. Equipment upgrades, additions and construction jobs don't count.)
Ohio was second with 491 projects and Pennsylvania was next with 430 in the national rankings. Ranked by region, the Keystone State's 430 easily beat the number-two state, New York, which came in at 119. In new manufacturing, Pennsylvania had 130 projects, compared to New York's 26; in manufacturing expansion, the Commonwealth's 97 beat the Empire State by 49.
Site Selection was also upbeat about Pennsylvania in a January profile assessing the impact of the energy sector on the state's economy. 
With such fertile ground for new and expanded commercial ventures, new features on Team PA's SiteSearch website are well timed. The site now includes heat maps that provide a visual representation of demographic statistics. The new business search allows for queries of businesses statewide by geography, type, number of employees and annual revenue.
"The enhanced functionalities of PA SiteSearch puts more information at the fingertips of site selectors or company officials looking to locate to, or expand their operations, in PA," says Matt Zeigner of Team PA. 
The race is on for 2013.
Source: Site Selection magazine
Writer: Elise Vider

First Lancaster Startup Weekend in February aims to build city's tech ecosystem

To many, Lancaster evokes Amish buggies and verdant farmland. But an emerging community of tech startups expects to declare itself next month with the city's first Startup Weekend.  
Organizer Ben Donahower, a Lancaster native and Internet marketer, sees the event, set for February 22-24 on the Franklin & Marshall campus, as a way to "build the Lancaster startup ecosystem."
After attending a Startup Weekend in Philadelphia a few years ago, Donahower approached Charlie Crystle, who he describes as the "Godfather of Lancaster startups" with the notion of conducting an event. With Crystle as mentor (and a coach and judge at the weekend) and a team of volunteers, Donahower is working tirelessly to attract sponsors and attendees.
The purse is attractive: more than $10,000 in prizes include a full year of the Listrak e-commerce platform, coworking space at Lancaster's Candy Factory and Internet marketing, coaching, design, development from the city's Web Talent Marketing
Equally important to participants is the opportunity to brainstorm and develop ideas, business models, coding, marketing and more. Besides Crystle, the judges are Chuck Russell, co-founder of Harrisburg's Collective Intelligence ; Kyle Sollenberger, a co-founder of San Francisco's Seesaw and Pam Martin, South Central PA Regional Portfolio Manager for Ben Franklin Technology Partners and the executive director of the Ben Franklin TechCelerator Incubator@Carlisle.  
"Lancaster is a sleeping giant when it comes to the tech community," says Donahower. "It's a great place to work and play at a fraction of the [overhead costs]. Even being in a rural area, from the tech standpoint, Lancaster is a far more bustling city than people give credit to."
Source: Ben Donahower, Lancaster Startup Weekend
Writer: Elise Vider

The doctor is always in at York's Rapid Remedy

For everyone who has ever had to take off a whole morning to see the doctor for a few minutes on a routine matter – and their bosses – York's Rapid Remedy has a better idea. 
Rapid Remedy provides its subscribers with immediate and unlimited access to practicing, board-certified family physicians via real-time video conferencing. The doctor can evaluate, recommend treatment and prescribe medication for a host of minor complaints, including viral illnesses, muscle and joint disorders, skin disorders, external eye problems, allergies and headaches. 
Since its establishment in 2000, Rapid Remedy has grown to 25,000 "covered lives" – employees and dependents of subscribing employers including Johnson & Johnson, AON, Dauphin County and, most recently, Harrisburg University, which is also offering the service to its students. The company this year identified colleges and universities as a potential growth market, says Dave Schlager, the company's managing partner.
Rapid Remedy has just opened itself to another vast, new potential market with the launch of its app, Rapid Remedy Mobile, which allows individuals to subscribe to $8.95 a month. "It's a huge deal to have a doctor in your pocket," says Schlager. 
With a larger base of tech-friendly individuals and college-age subscribers, Schlager hopes to overcome still-lingering uncertainty about using technology for medical care and has set the ambitious goal of reaching 100,000 subscribers by March 2013. For now, the company is only active in Pennsylvania, but Schlager expects to expand to other states in the near future.
Source: Dave Schlager, Rapid Remedy
Writer: Elise Vider

Lancaster's Williams Forrest launching a virtual farmers market

A Lancaster tech agency with a penchant for sustainability and innovation, and a taste for fresh, seasonal food, is preparing to launch an app that will serve as a virtual farmers market.
"Fresh" carried Williams Forrest , in partnership with kbs+, a New York agency, to a win at last month's Sustainability Hackathon sponsored by BMW i. Now Williams Forrest is taking Fresh to market in March as a mobile app, website and through social media, says Louise Barr, the company's chief marketing officer.
Fresh will allow small farms, farm stands and other producers to post what is fresh and available and consumers to post where they found the juiciest tomatoes or the freshest eggs. The initial launch will focus on Lancaster County's bounteous agriculture, and Williams Forrest hopes in time to expand the concept to a larger geography.
Fresh is the first app to be developed by Williams Forrest, which was founded in 2007 and offers web design and development, quality assurance and other digital marketing services. Underlying all their work, Barr emphasizes, is a company ethos of sustainability.
With clients including BMW North America, Hewlett Packard and Puma, Williams Forrest has outgrown its space and is moving to larger quarters in Lancaster in the spring. The company has 17 employees and anticipates adding three to five new positions in the next six months. Besides releasing Fresh in the New Year, the company is also gearing up for a launch of an internal app for Hewlett Packard using Microsoft's SharePoint application, a new specialty area.
Source: Louise Barr, Williams Forrest
Writer: Elise Vider

Statewide consortium does its part to keep IPart around for technology grant support

Like the young tech companies it serves, the Innovation Partnership (IPart)  did some creative problem solving earlier this year when its state funding evaporated. With a new membership funding model and a recently acquired $80,000 federal grant, IPart now says it "can assure Pennsylvania's small technology companies that its programs will continue to assist them in generating winning, fundable federal SBIR and STTR proposals."
To the uninitiated, the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and the Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs make highly coveted federal grants to small businesses to conduct research and development and to commercialize their innovations. IPart's role is to assist Pennsylvania's emerging, technology-based companies in the Commonwealth in making their submissions. Since its founding in 2003 by the PA Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), IPart has provided 489 technical reviews to Pennsylvania companies; 90 companies have been awarded over $25 million in federal grants.
Among IPart's success stories are ChromaTan in State College, RE2 in Pittsburgh and Y-Carbon in Bristol. 
Director Kelly Wylam credits increased support from IPart's members around the state -- Ben Franklin Technology Partners, University City Science Center, Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central PA, Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, Pennsylvania Small Business Development Center, Pennsylvania State University, Drexel University and Temple University – for keeping IPart up and running and able to further leverage federal funds like the $80,000 Federal State and Technology Partnership grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Pennsylvania, she adds, consistently ranks as a top-10 state for SBIR and STTR funds: "We're a contender."
Source: Kelly Wylam, IPart
Writer: Elise Vider

Socially conscious "B Corps" win a passing grade in PA

The drive to the new economy accelerated last week, when Pennsylvania became the 12th state to officially incentivize corporate activism with the creation of legally sanctioned benefit corporations or "B Corps. "
"B Corp certification is to sustainable business what LEED certification is to green building or Fair Trade certification is to coffee," says B Lab, the Berwyn-based nonprofit behind the global B Corps movement.
Under the new Pennsylvania measure, passed unanimously by both houses in Harrisburg and signed immediately into law by Gov. Corbett, directors of B Corps can take non-financial interests into consideration without fear of legal repercussion. Until now, those directors were legally mandated to make decisions based solely on maximizing profits. So a B Corp can, for example, lose money on a charitable or socially conscious venture without fear of getting sued by its shareholders.
Even without official sanction, there are already 51 voluntary B Corps in the Commonwealth, according to B Lab, including Azavea, a software firm in Philadelphia, Dansko, the footwear maker in West Grove and One Village Coffee in Souderton. Worldwide, says B Lab, there are 643 B Corps including big names like Ben & Jerry's , King Arthur Flour , Seventh Generation and Method  household products.
Writer: Elise Vider

PA's digital government services get an A-minus, helping business and boosting efficiency

Last year, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture (PDA) automated food safety inspections, "taking away clipboard, paper and pen and replacing them with a tablet," says Dan Egan of the state's Office of Administration. 
The new system, PA Food Safety, helps food businesses by leading to greater consistency, higher quality and faster inspections. The state also now publishes inspection results on a new public portal and uses geographic information system (GIS) software to enable food analysts to visualize contamination and to track and trace it to its source.  
And PennDOT now has an online application process for highway occupancy permits, allowing  real estate developers, construction companies and others who need access to state roadways to get their permit in 10 days, instead of the old 30 to 45. Until only a year ago, permit applications were submitted by hand or mailed to PennDOT offices. 
It is innovations like these that helped Pennsylvania make the "A" team – well, almost – in a new survey of progress made by state governments in their use of digital technologies.  The Commonwealth earned an A-minus in the recent 2012 biennial survey, conducted by the Center for Digital Government, a national research and advisory institute.    
Smart states – and the smartest, according to the survey are Michigan and Utah – use technology to "realize operational efficiencies and strategic priorities," the Center says. They show evidence of meaningful collaboration, they adopt performance measures and metrics and they make cuts strategically. 
Source: Dan Egan, Pennsylvania Office of Administration
Writer: Elise Vider

PA higher education puts out a welcome mat in Mumbai

With 30,000-plus international students and growing in Pennsylvania, accounting for more than $965 million in annual economic impact, the new Pennsylvania-American Center for Education in Mumbai, India is working to encourage Indian students to pursue their higher education in the Commonwealth. 
Pennsylvania ranks sixth in the nation for foreign student enrollment in higher education institutions. Indian students are expected to be the top international student population in the U.S. by 2020. Currently, they account for 17.2% of Pennsylvania’s international students, second only to Chinese students (who make up 24.7%).
Opened last month, the Center, believed to be the first of its kind, is fully funded by a Mumbai private school, but is fully open to  the public. Its purpose is to help Indian families who are exploring educational opportunities for their children outside of the country. One of the main challenges they face is the lack of information available on the universities and colleges, and an understanding of the application and admissions process in other countries
The Center will send counselors for training in Pennsylvania and to meet with universities and colleges in the state.  
"Pennsylvania was one of the first states in the U.S. to open an official office in India to promote trade and investment opportunities," says Kanika Choudhary, Philadelphia's honorary ambassador to India. "Now we are proud to have a dedicated facility that will provide Indian families with information about studying at Pennsylvania's world-class educational institutions."
Source: Theresa Elliott, PA Department of Community & Economic Development
Writer: Elise Vider

PA's energy sector gets a jolt with new interactive map

It is common knowledge that Pennsylvania has a large and diverse energy industry. But where exactly are the companies and what do they do? Who is doing cutting-edge R&D? And what are the opportunities for partnerships and collaboration across the Commonwealth?
Now companies, academics, economic development and public officials have a robust new tool: the Pennsylvania Energy Economy Map that chronicles the state's energy sector in a single, web-based location. 
Jim Gambino, vice president of technology commercialization: physical sciences, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA (BFTP/SEP), says that the interactive map allows participants in traditional and alternative energy to connect the dots and form the collaborations that drive research, technology transfer, funding and commercialization. "At the end of the day if you really want to drive economic development and success, it always comes down to interaction … that finds common purposes and partnerships," he says.
The  map also promises to be an invaluable tool for business attraction, allowing out-of-state and overseas interests to view potential customers and suppliers in Pennsylvania, he adds.
The statewide Ben Franklin Technology Partners developed the map, with support from the Department of Community and Economic Development and the governor's office, based on a regional pilot done by BFTP/SEP in 2009.
The statewide map already has more than 2,000 entries – companies, universities, capital providers and organizations – with interests ranging from shale gas to renewable energy to pollution reduction and cleanup. Site users can easily add information, which is verified before going live. 
Gambino can only guess how many entries the map may eventually hold:  "That really speaks to the value of this map."
Source: Jim Gambino, BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Pennsylvania-made products onboard latest mission to Mars

Last week, we reported on Dunmore Corporation, the Bristol firm whose products are circling the planet onboard a NASA probe.  Turns out there are more made-in-Pennsylvania goods currently up there in the final frontier.
Die-Tech, a second-generation, family company in York Haven, makes components for "almost everything that goes into space from America," says P.K. Dennis, Die-Tech's marketing manager whose father founded the company in 1974. And Vectron International's Military/Space Center of Excellence in Mount Holly Springs  has been supplying frequency control products for space missions as far back as 1958.
Die-Tech precision stamps the tiny metal "legs" that attach to capacitors, the electricity-storage devices most recently installed on the Mars Rover Curiosity that is on a two-year mission to explore the Red Planet. Vectron is also onboard Curiosity.
Die-Tech provides its metal stampings to Presidio, the California maker of what Dennis calls the "Mercedes Benz of capacitors."

"You don't want your [component] to fail when it's in outer space," she notes.
Besides serving the aerospace industry, Die-Tech's portfolio also includes the automotive, medical devices, military and consumer electronics sectors.  Medical devices and automotive are both growth areas, Dennis says; medical devices because of their high profitability and automotive because even though fewer cars and trucks are being made, those that come off the assembly line carry more electronics than ever. Another growth area, she adds, is in Mexico, where many U.S. and European companies have moved their assembly plants.
Source: P.K. Dennis, Die-Tech
Writer: Elise Vider

Lancaster startup takes aim at key-access technology, hiring up to four

For everyone who has ever fumbled to unlock the front door or garage or to disable the alarm -- you know who you are -- a Lancaster startup is offering its patented technology to come to your rescue.

ECKey turns any Bluetooth-enabled cellphone into a secure device to unlock the car, house, garage door, gate, office, alarm system, or access control system without the need for keys, fobs, cards or remote controls. 

Nick Willis, an inventor in New Zealand, founded the company there in 2005, and has sold about 2,000 units. The company moved to Pennsylvania last year and is now ramping up to begin domestic production and distribution this fall, says President and CEO Paul Bodell. 

There will be two products for starters. One is a complete stand-alone system in which the phone becomes the keypad and proximity reader. The other is an enterprise-wide system that can be used to retrofit large systems like those found in universities and office campuses.

ECKey is on track to raise about $1 million, including a $150,000 investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania, says Bodell. He's working on building a distribution and dealer network and is assembling a small staff  for sales, marketing, customer and technical support, says Bodell. Within a year, he expects to have about five on the payroll altogether.

Source: Paul Bodell, ECKey
Writer: Elise Vider

A new online marketplace for artist-entrepreneurs: The Usic in York

John McElligott and Mike McHenry had more in common than names that start with "Mc" when they met in 2005: both played in rock bands in and around York and both were struggling to pay for creative services like photography, videography, mixing, mastering and graphic design or "do a mediocre job of it ourselves" at the expense of their music, says McHenry. 

With a third partner, Dan Thompson, they're addressing the problem with The Usic,  a startup, co-op web marketplace for artist-entrepreneurs. "We've realized that not only have we created a way for musicians to band together to get all the services they need, but we've stumbled on to something much larger," says McElligott. "Imagine if there was a place that you could go to find a moviemaker that would jump at the chance to shoot a short documentary on your grandfather at a price you could afford? …  Or a local musician that would love to come and perform at your BBQ? …  Or a new photographer who would kill for the chance to get paid while they build their portfolio?"

Since its soft launch in the York-Lancaster-Harrisburg market in May, the site is growing fast, with most metrics up 150% in August alone, The Usic reports. The company currently employs six, including two web developers hired this summer, and plans to bring on Internet marketers. With private investment and a boost from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania, "We've validated much of our business model," says McHenry. Next, The Usic plans to expand into the Baltimore market and from there, he adds, "we tackle Philadelphia, New York City, and the rest of the nation."

Source: John McElligott and Mike McHenry, The Usic
Writer: Elise Vider

Hanover home builder breaks ground with social media and iPads

Every time Burkentine & Sons breaks ground for a new house, they do likewise in their innovative use of technology and social media.
Mike Burkentine joined his family's Hanover-based construction and property management business a few months ago with a freshly minted Penn State degree and an inventive approach to keeping customers informed.
Every house under construction now has its own Facebook page, a way for buyers to stay up-to-date and share images. And customers get an iPad, loaded with apps that turn the device into a digital owner's manual. Burkentine has devised an array of apps that display contract documents, change orders, warranties and floor plans. Using the iPad, buyers can browse appliances, cabinets and other fittings and try out interior and exterior details and colors. A 3D model allows users to do a virtual walkthrough and arrange their furniture to see how it fits the new digs. The iPad also generates maintenance alerts notifying residents when it’s time, for example, to change the HVAC air filter or install fresh batteries in the smoke detectors.
Burkentine got the idea as an intern with a Baltimore builder of mega-commercial projects and skyscrapers. He continued to develop it for the residential market over the next year and a half before pitching it to his father, Paul, and Burkentine's marketing team.
"The idea spoke for itself," he says, adding that he continues to tinker: "It's always evolving. It's only a matter of time before the competition catches on."
Source: Mike Burkentine, Burkentine & Sons
Writer: Elise Vider

Entrepreneurs across PA get a jumpstart from Ben Franklin Technology Partners

An array of firms across the commonwealth, mostly startups, are beneficiaries of investments made in the last week by The Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Pennsylvania's venerable technology-based economic development programs.
BFTP of Central and Northern PA (BFTP/CNP) announced investments totaling $1.8 million in 11 firms. In Northeastern Pennsylvania, BFTP/NEP announced nearly $560,000 in investments in six early-stage companies and six established firms working with academic partners on technology-based manufacturing innovation. And BFTP of Southeastern PA is making $1.375 in new investments.
The companies funded by BFTP/CNP are:
  • AgIntegrated Inc.,  State College, a tech consultant to the agriculture industry;
  • BRL Solutions, Kane, for a new lubricant for use on boats;
  • Conduit Marketing, Girard, software for purchase of in-home medical equipment;
  • Dataforma Inc.,  York, web-based business management software;
  • ECKey, Lancaster, turning Bluetooth-enabled cellphones into access keys;
  • Eduplanet21,  Mechanicsburg, a social learning platform;
  • Flashpoint Informatics, Bellefonte, cloud-based computing services;
  • Lewis Designs LLC, Waterford, innovative brake designs;
  • Strategic Polymer Sciences,  State College, animation for mobile devices and smart phones;
  • TM Filtration,  Erie, systems to serve the shale gas industry;
  • USIC LLC,  York, a web-based marketplace for artists/entrepreneurs.
The early-stage companies funded by BFTP/NEP are:
  • A Sound Strategy,  East Stroudsburg ($30,000), to roll out a national sales effort on software-as-a-service products;
  • Cernostics, Danville ($100,000) to validate tests for risk of esophageal cancer in certain patients;
  • Micro Interventional Devices, Bethlehem ($100,000) to develop a new, minimally invasive heart repair product;
  • OPTiMO Information Technology,  Bloomsburg ($25,000) for sales and marketing of IT products and services;
  • Pivitec, Bethlehem ($70,000) design and commercialization of hardware and software products for audio streaming;
  • Walton Motivation,  Allentown, ($20,000) sales and marketing of cloud-based employee recognition system.
BFT/NEP is also investing in these established manufacturer/academic partnerships:
In Southeastern PA, the recipients are:
ARB Geowell, West Conshohocken ($125,000): The company uses a unique design to promote heat transfer for its geothermal heating/cooling platform, which offers higher energy efficiency and eliminates significant construction costs for commercial buildings, schools and developments.
Brad’s Raw Chips, Pipersville ($100,000): Founder Brad Gruno wants others to discover the benefits of eating raw food like he did. He uses an advanced dehydration system to keep raw chips crunchy and tasty.
Drakontas, Glenside ($250,000): The company provides mobile collaboration software solutions for police, military, fire, emergency response and public service teams. Its flagship DragonFroce product utilizes geo-tracking and shared media and files to help those teams act faster and enhance public safety.
Kerathin, Chester ($200,000): The company previously received $150,000 from Ben Franklin for its PodiaPro nail debridement system for the diabetic population.
OneTwoSee, Devon ($150,000): Formerly Mobile Reactor, the company targets television broadcasters and producers to help them deliver interactive TV experiences through connected devices.
S4 Worldwide, Doylestown ($250,000): The company provides a variety of safety, security and regulatory solutions for drilling companies working in the Marcellus Shale.
Tangent Energy Solutions, Kennett Square ($300,000): Commercial and industrial companies can save up to 20 percent on energy costs thanks to Tangent’s grid optimization technologies.

Source: Ben Franklin Technology Partners
Writer: Elise Vider
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