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Neat meat substitute grows from Lancaster kitchen to grocery shelves

In 2011, when her two kids decided to become vegetarian, Laura Lapp "started messing around to try to get them to eat something." From those experiments in her Lancaster kitchen has emerged what she says is the first soy-free, gluten-free, shelf-stable meat replacement and the basis for Neat Foods, which she founded in 2012 with her husband, Phil.
 
Neat started selling its line of meat substitutes last year on Amazon, where it has been a strong seller. Now the startup is poised to expand to bricks-and-mortar grocers. The Lapps will be debuting Neat at the Natural Products Expo East trade show in Baltimore later this month.
 
The Lapps have kept all aspects of their young company strictly local. Neat is manufactured at the gluten-free-certified, commercial production facility run by the Susquehanna Association of the Blind and Visually Impaired  in Leola. Their distributor is Garden Spot Distributors in New Holland. Their packaging was designed by The Infantree in Lancaster.
 
Neat's line of ground meat substitutes is derived from nuts and other natural ingredients, comes in three flavors (Mexican, Italian and Original) and has a one-year shelf life. Many meat replacements currently on the market have soy and gluten and even additives and chemicals, so the advent of Neat "is a big deal for vegetarians and vegans," says Laura Lapp.  And much of the competition is frozen, much more expensive to ship and to pay for space at the grocery, adds Phil.
 
For now, the company is just the two of them, but Phil is hoping to add at least one more, a customer service representative, as soon as possible. For now, the goal is to get into more grocery stores, hit $30,000 in sales for the fourth quarter and "ramp up significantly next year," he adds.
 
Neat!
 
Source: Laura and Phil Lapp, Neat Foods
Writer: Elise Vider
 

IPart keeps its funding rolling to assist tech startups secure federal grants

Once again, Pennsylvania's Innovation Partnership (IPart) has scored funding in a challenging environment, in order to "assure Pennsylvania's small technology companies that its programs will continue to assist them in generating winning, fundable federal Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) proposals."
 
Director Kelly Wylam says that IPart secured a $95,000 Federal State and Technology Partnership (FAST) grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration. The funds were contingent on successfully raising a dollar-for-dollar match from the IPart membership: Ben Franklin Technology Partners, University City Science Center, Life Sciences Greenhouse of Central PA, Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse, Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania State University School of Medicine, BioStrategy Partners, the Innovation Transfer Network, Ben Franklin Venture Investment Forum, Drexel University and Temple University.
 
With $190,000 in hand for the 2013-14 fiscal year, Wylam says that IPart can provide training, assistance and review of proposals and micro vouchers and micro grants to help small companies defray the costs of preparing winning proposals.
 
The potential return-on-investment is high. Wylam notes that in fiscal 2012-13, IPart assisted about 25 companies, two of whom have already received phase 1 federal awards of $250,000 each. Subsequent phases offer money in the millions. Since IPart's inception in 2003, the program, administered by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, has conducted 505 technical reviews and 92 SBIR/STTR federal awards have been granted, totaling over $25 million.
 
Despite a drop in federal/state funding, Wylam says, "we have not missed a beat here." For a very small amount of money, she adds, "We're helping [Pennsylvania's tech startups] have a better chance of winning these dollars and moving their technologies forward."
 
Source: Kelly Wylam, IPart
Writer: Elise Vider

York's Dataforma hits the roof

In 2003, when Mark Zeleznock and Daryl Maronic founded Dataforma, cloud computing was "a virgin market … For the first few years of the company's existence, nobody felt confident putting their data online," says CEO Zeleznock.
 
But all that changed – fast – and today Dataforma, headquartered in York, is the roofing industry's largest provider of web-based business management services. Mid-sized roofers with $3 to $20 million in work, multiple employees and offices are the core market, says Zeleznock. 
 
More than 300 roofing contractors use Dataforma to manage project data, work order/invoicing processes, customer correspondence records, bulk mailings, company/personal scheduling, product information, and document storage from one place. 
 
Now, with a new $150,000 investment from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA, Dataforma is investigating expanding its platform to serve other industries, in particular HVAC and electrical contractors and property managers.
 
The funds are also helping Dataforma grow its workforce, which currently numbers around 14, by adding sales and technical positions. Zeleznock says the company hires opportunistically, when the right people come along. And as a York native, he's especially psyched about "building a talent pool in York County."
 
Dataforma hires interns from a number of Pennsylvania universities and it's getting easier to recruit quality software developers locally, he says. The company just hired two intern developers from Clarion University.
 
Most of its jobs are in York, but Dataforma also has sales and training personnel around the country and a data-center operations team based in San Francisco to serve an expanding geographic market. The company is active in all 50 states, says Zeleznock, and is now moving aggressively into the Canadian market.
 
Source: Mark Zeleznock, Dataforma
Writer: Elise Vider

York's new wet labs grease the way for MRG Laboratories

York College's J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship  has opened its new wet lab incubator space, providing resources and room to grow for its first tenant, MRG Laboratories
 
MRG is the developer of the Grease Thief, a patented device that allows sophisticated sampling and analysis of industrial equipment that relies on grease. Industries served include wind turbines, robotics, nuclear power plants and pharmaceutical makers.
 
Launched in 2007, MRG is on schedule to double its sales this year, says CEO Rich Wurzbach. The company employs nine, including several recent hires, and expects to hire another one or two this fall.
 
The new digs are helping to make expansion possible. At 3,000 square feet, they are nearly double the company's previous space, says Wurzbach. Amenities such as additional fume hoods, sinks and other equipment, plus light and air,  further  boost productivity.
 
Equally important, says Wurzbach, are the benefits of being in an incubator: opportunities for collaboration among the company, York College and local industry through internships, shared resources, employment opportunities and programs such as the college's Chemistry Industry Advisory Council.
 
For example, MRG is working with students in York's mechanical engineering department on a prototype for a "grease mini-lab," a portable device that can be used in the field and for which Wurzbach anticipates a large potential market.
 
Also promising is a modified product under development specifically for robotics applications, "almost a blood test for robots to check the health of this important workforce," says Wurzbach.
 
Source: Rich Wurzbach, MRG Laboratories
Writer: Elise Vider

More birthday presents: BFTP-CNP delivers $1.2 million to eight startups

 
Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern PA (BFTP/CNP) also marking the big 3-0, announced $1.2 million in funding for eight startups.
 
They are: 
Chromatan Inc.,  State College, is commercializing a new method for purifying drugs called Countercurrent Tangential Chromatography.  The company’s innovation is a cost effective alternative to the current method, column chromatography.
 
Maculogix, Inc., Hummelstown, has developed a diagnostic tool for the early detection of age-related macular degeneration. 
 
Hatchback, LLC,  Harrisburg, has developed a platform that allows retailer loyalty programs to take advantage of geo-location data.  
 
Hot Mix Mobile, LLC, Lebanon, manufactures a mobile, truck-mounted, mix-on-site volumetric Hot Mix Asphalt system.  RoadMixer™ repairs roads on demand, eliminating the need for cold patching. 
 
CrimeWatch,  located in the Ben Franklin TechCelerator in Carlisle, developed software that allows law enforcement agencies to use a simple web tool to manage, organize and control content relative to criminal activity. 
 
Dataforma, Inc., York, provides business management software for roofing contractors.  The company developed a single source, web-based and mobile device platform to support all the needs of this and vertical markets.
 
Lewis Designs, LLC,  Waterford, is in the process of designing and testing prototypes for an innovative new braking system. 
 
Direct Allergy, LLC, Erie, has started an allergy immunotherapy service that can be utilized by primary care physicians, especially those located in rural areas.  

Source: BFTP/CNP
Writer: Elise Vider

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
 
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