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Freight Train Coming: CSX Pittsburgh intermodal facility will link to Midwest and beyond

CSX Corporation, the transportation giant, is deep into the planning process for its Pittsburgh Intermodal Rail Terminal. When completed, the project will provide Western Pennsylvania companies with a direct freight rail link to the Midwest and beyond.

"Freight rail is the most environmentally friendly way to move goods over land," says CSX spokesperson Melanie Cost. "One CSX train can move a ton of freight 470 miles on one gallon of fuel, and every intermodal train takes up to 280 trucks off the road. CSX's intermodal service involves partnering with trucking companies and other logistics providers to take advantage of the long-haul efficiency of rail and the short-haul flexibility of trucking."

CSX is investing between $50 and $60 million in the facility, which will be built at the former Pittsburgh & Lake Erie Railroad Yard in McKees Rocks and Stowe Township. 

The project is expected to generate approximately 350 construction jobs during the building phase, and 40 on-site and 40 drayage jobs once operational. The terminal is also expected to create about 100 indirect jobs at support businesses.

As for the timetable, the project is currently in the planning, development and permitting stage, which will continue into 2015. Construction is expected to take about two years.  

"Once the terminal is completed, businesses in the Pittsburgh region will have double-stack connections to CSX’s intermodal hub in Northwest Ohio, and connections from there to key markets in the West, the Southwest, the Southeast and Mexico," explains Cost. "That means they’ll have more efficient, more reliable access to major consumption markets beyond their current reach."

Earlier this month, The Pennsylvania Economic Development Association awarded CSX the 2013 Economic Development Partner of the Year Award for its work developing the "environmentally friendly rail corridor connecting the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest."

Source: Melanie Cost, CSX Corporation
Writer: Elise Vider

Ben Franklin Venture Idol Preview: Lewisburg company builds software for accrediting physicians

Keystone Edge is profiling contestants in the upcoming Ben Franklin Venture Idol competition (Nov. 20 at Ben Franklin TechVentures). After earning their way through the afternoon selection process, entrepreneurs pitch their startups to investors and attendees. Ben Franklin will invest $15,000 based on the "crowd-funded" audience vote.

Accrediting the hundreds of thousands of students and physicians who receive clinical training at healthcare institutions in the U.S. and abroad is a vast and complex undertaking. And now the Accreditation Council of Graduate Medical Education requires hospitals to report performance data for each resident physician on a bi-annual basis, a much more onerous task from its old reporting requirement of every three to five years. 

Meeting the requirements is made even more difficult by outdated software products -- created in the mid-'90s to replace paper -- that dominate the industry. 

Santhosh Cherian, a radiology resident at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, was sure there had to be a better way. Combining his background in medicine and in software and web design, he formed Medtrics Lab in 2013 with Adityo Sagir, a management consultant, to fill the gap in the healthcare technology market.

Working with physicians who are actively involved in graduate medical education accreditation and software engineers, Medtrics developed a cloud-based clinical education management system for hospitals, medical schools and universities. The software handles all aspects of training, including scheduling, performance evaluations, demographics data, procedure credentialing and data necessary to maintain national accreditation. 

Several medical institutions are piloting the platform for their residency programs: Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (Lubbock) Internal Medicine program, Mayaguez Medical Center in Puerto Rico, and Lutheran Medical Center’s Internal Medicine program in Brooklyn, N.Y.  

The startup recently moved to Bucknell University Entrepreneurs Incubator where it is at work adding features to improve efficiency for large institutions and to develop full featured iOS and Android applications. 

"Over the next year we also hope to improve our marketing and sales strategy, so that we can share what we built with more institutions," adds Cherian. "We have already started working with experienced advisors at [Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast PA] and Bucknell University to accomplish this." 

Source: Santhosh Cherian, Medtrics Lab
Writer: Elise Vider

Chambersburg's GDC continues to grow after acquiring Mechanicsburg's LAM Systems

Chambersburg-based Global Data Consultants (GDC) has acquired LAM Systems of Mechanicsburg, one of Pennsylvania's largest original equipment manufacturers of custom computer systems and a source of hardware, software and peripherals.

The acquisition, says GDC CEO and founder Greg Courtney, enables GDC, an information technology services provider, to expand significantly into the education market. In addition, he notes, "LAM brings a fully mature manufacturing facility and deployment depot along with a seasoned staff of professionals who know their business model and markets well."

GDC has absorbed all 11 LAM employees, bringing its workforce to about 275 and growing, and will retain the LAM facility in Mechanicsburg.
With the acquisition complete, GDC projects strong growth and hiring. Hardware sales for the newly acquired division are expected to double in 2015 alongside similar growth in the services divisions. GDC plans to hire over 75 IT and business professionals over the next 15 months to support this growth.  

The company is also on track with its revenue forecasts: The forecasted annual projected revenue of LAM Systems is $18 million. The forecasted annual projected revenue of GDC without LAM Systems is $24 million.

Earlier this year, GDC acquired Williamsport, Maryland-based Interstate Communication Services (ICS), a leading provider of telephony and communications. GDC also maintains offices in Lancaster and Pittsburgh, and in Maryland, Wisconsin and Virginia. 

Source: Greg Courtney, Global Data Consultants
Writer: Elise Vider

Philly's University City Science Center wins $1 million grant for new commercialization program

Philadelphia's University City Science Center has won a $1 million federal grant, enabling it to offer a new turnkey accelerator for the launch and growth of emerging companies.

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) awarded the Science Center the funds to create Phase 1 Ventures (P1V), aimed at promising technologies that have moved beyond the initial, technical proof-of-concept stage.
"Initially, P1V will focus on projects in healthcare and the life sciences; however, it is our intent to expand the scope of the program in the future to assist projects in other science and technology domains, such as materials, energy, advanced manufacturing and communications," says Chris Laing, the Science Center’s vice president for science and technology. "The program is likely to have most impact in launching companies around technologies and industry sectors where there is traditionally a long development lead-time."
This is the second Science Center commercialization program supported by the EDA. In 2011, the Center was awarded $1 million for its QED proof-of-concept program, which Laing says can serve as a potential pipeline for the new effort. 

"It’s too early to identify specific projects/companies in the pipeline. However, we have been having conversations with most of the area universities and research institutions," he explains. "Our QED program is a great starting point for us -- it has earned us relationships with 21 research institutions throughout the region, and of course has developed more than 60 projects that could be candidates for P1V."  
The Science Center applied for the latest grant through a competitive process managed by the EDA, and matched the EDA funding. The grant period is two years and Laing says the Center is actively raising further funds in hopes of running P1V for five years.

Source: Chris Laing, University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider

EFE Labs boosts SE PA startups through Ben Franklin Technology Partners alliance

For many aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses, finding the money to design and prototype their ideas can be a tremendous challenge.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) helps bridge that gap through its various programs and grant offerings, and a new alliance with EFE Laboratories will provide young companies with even more of the connections, technical expertise and financial capital they need to bring their products to market.

Led by majority owner and engineer Kip Anthony, EFE is a leading manufacturer of controllers, communication tools, medical devices, and other electrical and mechanical engineering solutions.

With 35 employees and growing, the Horsham-based lab has already helped clients obtain matching Ben Franklin FabNet (BFFN) prototyping grants.

For example, its work with SureShade has allowed founder Dana Russikoff to both expand the company's market reach, and move the design and manufacturing of its retractable boat shades back to the Philadelphia area.

Not content to simply refer clients to the BFFN program, EFE actively reaches out to growing companies facing various developmental challenges and a lack of R&D capital.

"I’m trying to make sure that, through the network and connections I have, clients receive the help they need to move their manufacturing process forward," says Anthony.

An established engineer with an MBA, Anthony understands the vital role manufacturing plays in the economy, and is passionate about sharing EFE's capabilities and experience with the larger entrepreneurial community.

"There are a lot of good people behind this," he insists, discussing how EFE's new alliance might help bring manufacturing jobs back to the region. "[There’s] a lot of shared passion, and a lot of drive and desire to succeed."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Kip Anthony, EFE Laboratories

Ben Franklin Venture Idol Preview: Bethlehem's MyNetwork streamlines social media

Keystone Edge is profiling contestants in the upcoming Ben Franklin Venture Idol competition (Nov. 20 at Ben Franklin TechVentures). After earning their way through the afternoon selection process, entrepreneurs pitch their startups to investors and attendees. Ben Franklin will invest $15,000 based on the "crowd-funded" audience vote.

So you've got hundreds of connections on LinkedIn, hordes more on Facebook and Twitter. But will that kid you went to third grade with really be helpful when it comes time to find a job or land a contract?

Bethlehem’s MyNetwork, the brainchild of co-founders Andy Fine and Drew Riley, aims to cut through the clutter.

"We're at a time when we're all more connected than ever before, yet so disconnected from our contacts," explains Fine. "The last thing society needs is another social network. What we do need is a systematic way to manage and foster our existing connections."

With the notion that any individual can realistically manage only about 150 social/professional relationships at a time, MyNetwork integrates with LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and email to consolidate, streamline and optimize contacts. The program helps users select the important connections from their networks, assigning them basic attributes, including contact type, importance and frequency of contact.  

Connections that make the cut are displayed in an immersive network visualizer -- Fine call it the backbone of the application -- allowing users to easily follow and manage their important contacts. Features include recurring reminders to stay in touch, a detailed relationship history for each contact that tracks all communications over the connected platforms, and an intelligent messaging system that provides templates for well-written, concise communications.
Colleges and universities are MyNetwork’s initial market -- annual licenses give students access to the tool for finding internships and jobs. The company had a successful launch this fall at Lafayette College and has inked a deal with Bucknell University

"We’ve designed and built the only application for students to turn connections into career opportunities by taking the work out of networking," says Fine. "Students need a better way to turn the connections they make at career fairs and networking events into real opportunities -- and that's what MyNetwork does best."

The company began offering the platform to individuals in September and already has more than 200 users.

Source: Andy Fine, MyNetwork
Writer: Elise Vider

Manheim's Spooky Nook Sports, already huge, keeps expanding

It's not particularly spooky, but it certainly is big. Spooky Nook Sports claims to be nearly twice the size of the next biggest sports complex facility in the country. (In fact, Spooky Nook says it isn’t aware of any indoor sports complex quite as big anywhere else in the world.)

Owner Sam Beiler acquired the vacant Armstrong Flooring Warehouse on Spooky Nook Road in Manheim in 2011. Surrounded by 65 acres, the vast structure has 14 acres under its roof.

"Even though the building was empty and in need of renovation, everyone agreed it just screamed whistles, cheering crowds, and the hustle and bustle of an exciting sports venue," says the company on its website.

Spooky Nook opened last year and today offers 20-plus sports programs for everyone from the serious athlete to the weekend warrior. Facilities include 10 hardwood courts, acres of sport court and turf fields, an outdoor field hockey pitch, a domed turf field, six tennis courts, an indoor baseball diamond and 14 batting cages. The Nook also features a fitness center, group exercise classes, daycare, a sports performance area, a game arcade, a food court, a smoothie bar, a pro shop, a rock climbing gym, meeting space and birthday party rooms. Orthopedics Associates of Lancaster is on-site and the Women’s USA Field Hockey Team calls Spooky Nook home.

Now Beiler is adding a 130-room hotel and 260-seat restaurant, which he will own and operate. The hotel and restaurant are under construction with a scheduled completion date of spring 2015, says spokesperson Stephanie Jordan.

"Spooky Nook is growing at a rapid rate," explains Jordan. "Each season we've been adding new programs and aspects to our business. New pieces to the business include field trips, senior activities, home schooler events and additional sports programming."

Spooky Nook employs 86 full-time and more than 215 part-time employees, and management anticipates more hires for the hotel and restaurant. 

Source: Stephanie Jordan, Spooky Nook Sports
Writer: Elise Vider

Pipersville Technical Vision launches low-vision mobility-aid product with PA partners

In the why-didn't-anyone-think-of-this-sooner department comes the My Mobile Light Low Vision Aid, launched last month by Technical Vision of Pipersville. The product, which combines an ultra-bright LED with a sturdy walking cane, was designed and developed in collaboration with other Pennsylvania partners. 

"Our goal was to create an effective, practical and easy-to-use assistive device for people with uncorrectable vision loss due to eye conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and other chronic conditions that also cause vision loss, including diabetes, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's Disease," explains CEO Lorraine Keller.

“My Mobile Light combines two different assistive concepts -- bright LED lighting and mobility support -- in a completely new way," she continues. "My Mobile Light projects clear, even, bright light directly onto the ground around the user's feet and immediate walking area to illuminate obstacles in the walking path. The support cane function assists with balance and gait; both are frequently impaired by vision loss and physical instability."

The development of My Mobile Light is a case study in collaboration. 

With a grant from BioStrategy Partners and the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Technical Vision began to develop the product in 2011 in partnership with the Salus University College of Education and Rehabilitation in Elkins Park.  

IMET Corporation in Southampton, a contract manufacturing and product development firm, built the first prototypes (tested under low-vision simulation at night to identify the optimal combination of light color and intensity for visually impaired eyes). Today IMET builds the custom electronic circuitry that provides constant light output and does not gradually dim like a flashlight. MTS Ventures, an Allentown engineering firm, built several generations of prototypes and is Technical Vision's manufacturing agent overseeing components manufacturing and assembly.

Technical Vision is selling My Mobile Light direct-to-consumers online and to medical supplies distributors who service older adults, caregivers and healthcare professionals. 

Source: Lorraine Keller, Technical Vision
Writer: Elise Vider

For three young entrepreneurs in Malvern, 'Maholla' means eco-centric products

Three young entrepreneurs, committed, they say, "to getting back to the basics of good business: high-quality innovative products, unparalleled customer satisfaction, social responsibility and having the smallest environmental impact possible," have launched Maholla Products, an eco-centric lifestyle products company in Malvern.

The company name comes from a mixture of the Hawaiian word "mahalo," meaning thanks or gratitude, and the slang greeting "holla."

"'Mahalo' is a really powerful word that encompasses how we approach people, life and our company," says co-founder Evan Hajas. "We chose 'holla'… to mean 'keep in touch' or 'see you soon.' The combination of the words, to us, is a respectful and friendly greeting. It sums up our company in one word. We respect our customers and our products, and want them to keep in touch. When we sell a product, that is just the beginning of our relationship with the customer -- we don't want it to be a cold 'see-you-never' sale."

Hajas, along with co-founders Andrew Lees and Jim McHugh, recently launched Grassracks, a line of easy-to-hang, bamboo racks that can be used to hang skateboards, bikes, skis, etc. Grassracks make a stylish statement and are made of 100 percent bamboo, a highly sustainable material.

Grassracks are manufactured in Malvern and Ohio, and sold online in a few brick-and-mortar locations around Philadelphia.

"Our product is unique in that brick-and-mortar stores buy them for use as in-store displays, but also to sell to end consumers,” explains Hajas. "That has allowed us to develop some creative referral programs that have worked out great for us and the retailers."

Maholla is currently developing some new home decor lines. "Even some that dip into the audio and accessory industries, but those are still a little hush hush," adds Hajas. "We started this company to live the American dream. We're three young guys that are committed to making high-quality products, being good to our customers, and doing what we can to protect the environment and raise the bar in terms of environmental awareness for companies."

Source: Evan Hajas, Maholla Products
Writer: Elise Vider

Malvern's Sugartown Strawberries keeps growing

Despite the proliferation of farmers’ markets and farm-to-table dining, sustaining a small family farm in Pennsylvania is still a tough row to hoe.

Robert T. Lange, owner of Sugartown Strawberries in Malvern, knows well the challenges of farming. His 230-acre Willisbrook Farm has been in the family since 1896. It’s incredibly hard work from the growing season to harvest, April through November, says Lange. Field corn and soybeans draw low commodity prices. Deer helped themselves to his crops until he fenced off the entire property. 

“The weather is the wild card in the mix," he explains. "You cannot control the weather and if it turns against you, you are out of luck... Being the last farm remaining in an area is difficult because the neighbors do not understand farming practices and become unsupportive and resentful."

Lange has kept the farm going by diversifying with specialty crops such as asparagus, strawberries, sweet corn, sunflowers and pumpkins. He is looking into expanding the sunflower business and selling bouquets commercially.

The farm hosts over 5,000 school children annually, an essential source of income and good will.

"Providing school tours for kids to come out, take a hay ride and pick a pumpkin has helped unbelievably to sustain the farm," says Lange. "The school tours provide a large portion of my yearly income. Allowing schools to come out and visit the farm allows me to help teach the kids a little about what a farm is. The hayrides and parties provide a venue for the community to enjoy the farm, often reaching new customers that would not normally have come to the farm unless they were an invited guest at a private party."

Innovations in agricultural science are critical, too.

"Advances in seed technology, modern farm equipment and herbicides allow a single farmer to accomplish by himself what it would have taken 20 people to do years ago," he explains.

Agriculture continues to be essential to Pennsylvania's economy, and that of Chester County in particular. The Chester County Economic Development Council reports that one in seven jobs in the state are directly related to agriculture. In Pennsylvania, Chester County ranks first in value of crops, including nursery and greenhouse, and second in value of total agricultural products sold in the state including crops, livestock and their products.

The Board of Chester County Commissioners and the Chester County Agricultural Development Council will honor Lange next week as 2014 Farmer of the Year

Source: Robert T. Lange, Sugartown Strawberries
Writer: Elise Vider

Three biotech companies and a legal tech startup land at the University City Science Center

Four early-stage companies, including one making its first foray into the U.S. market, are settling in at the University City Science Center's Port Business Incubator. 

CETICS Healthcare Technologies is a medical device company based in Germany. With its analysis technology and digitalization of sample profiles, the company's products drastically simplify how in-vitro diagnostics are used, opening new application areas in quality control, chemical stability testing, toxicology, and process optimization and control.

In Philadelphia, the company is launching a new product for genotoxicity testing. The TOXXs Analyzer is an automated method for fast quantification of DNA strand breaks and DNA repair capacities. 
In the longer term, CETICS is developing a new generation of breakthrough in-vitro diagnostic products known as "Spectral Biomarkers" that can provide early, non-invasive diagnoses of Alzheimer Disease, prostate cancer and liver fibrosis.

HaRo Pharmaceutical, another new Port company, is conducting research and development focused on the treatment of high-risk neuroblastoma, funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). HaRo was the only small molecule therapeutic company -- out of 75 startups nationwide -- admitted to the Innovation Corps Team Training Pilot Program (ICORPS),  an NCI/National Institutes of Health-sponsored intensive commercial development course.
Hyalo Technologies is a biotech and pharmaceutical company developing an innovative nanotechnology drug delivery system that promises to drastically reduce systemic side effects and increase patient compliance. Potential applications include cancer, pain management, wound healing and dermatology.

Legal Science Partners (LSP), spun out of Temple University's Beasley School of Law in 2013, builds tools for the legal profession. LSP's knowledge management platform, The Monocle, allows easy, low-cost access to legal information across jurisdictions and topics. Meanwhile, products such as LawAtlas.org and Workbench convert unstructured legal text into structured question-and-answer formats.

LSP is currently building custom platforms in particular areas of law such as Prescription Drug Overdose Prevention Laws for the National Institute for Drug Abuse and Everytown for Gun Safety, and is planning to release a prototype in the coming weeks of its 50StatUS, which will include pay-per-use statutory data in the business law sector.

Source: Kristen Fitch, University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider

Carlisle's CRIMEWATCH PA helps law enforcement get the bad guys

When the epic manhunt for Eric Frein began last month, the first warrant-and-reward notice was released through PA Crime Stoppers, managed by Pennsylvania State Police and the first paying customer of CRIMEWATCH PA

The Frein alert was quickly syndicated across the CRIMEWATCH PA network, generating over 200,000 unique views in September and hundreds of tips to the State Police.

Based in Carlisle, CRIMEWATCH PA is a system comprised of law enforcement websites, social media accounts and a mobile application that facilitates the distribution of local crime information. It allows law enforcement agencies to manage, organize and control fugitive and offender data, and quickly share it with the public and each other. From arrests and investigations to full fugitive profiles and a tip submission platform, CRIMEWATCH enables law enforcement to have a unified virtual presence.

With functions including crime mapping, notifications and tip submission, the subscription-based service eliminates the need for agencies to build or maintain their own websites and social media presences. The company just announced the launch of its 2.0 platform. 

Twenty active police departments in Central Pennsylvania already use the CRIMEWATCH PA technology. Over 500 actionable tips have led to more than 100 arrests in a year, and the network has helped police identify and capture individuals wanted or suspected in connection to crimes ranging from shoplifting to child sexual assault

"We’ve been having tremendous success in helping police act more transparently, engaging the public and using technology to assist in investigations," says CRIMEWATCH PA's Matt Bloom.

For now, the platform is marketed to qualified Pennsylvania police agencies. Next year, Bloom plans to expand CRIMEWATCH PA throughout the mid-Atlantic region, hoping to reach 300 police departments and clear its first million in revenue. 

The company just hired a new chief technology officer and anticipates adding customer service, sales and industry experts to its payroll next year. In September, CRIMEWATCH PA received an investment from Benjamin Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania

Source: Matt Bloom, CRIMEWATCH PA
Writer: Elise Vider

Ben Franklin Venture Idol Preview: Scranton's JUJAMA brings conference attendees together

Keystone Edge is profiling contestants in the upcoming Ben Franklin Venture Idol competition (Nov. 20 at Ben Franklin TechVentures). After earning their way through the afternoon selection process, entrepreneurs pitch their startups to investors and attendees. Ben Franklin will invest $15,000 based on the "crowd-funded" audience vote.

No matter how advanced social communications technology becomes, there is still a human urge to convene to share information and connect face-to-face. Thus the simultaneous proliferation of both social media networks and meetings, tradeshows and conferences.

JUJAMA, based in Scranton and Hyderabad, India, has capitalized on both those divergent realities. Established in 2010, the company is a leading creator of customizable desktop and mobile app-based technologies for business events around the world. 

A core offering of the platform allows participants to schedule one-on-one meetings before, during or after their conferences.

"By facilitating this unique interaction, JUJAMA brings together individuals with mutual business interests and provides them with the platform to leverage these opportunities into business transactions," explains President and CEO Nadia Dailey.

JUJAMA works with a wide variety of industry sectors, from a huge luxury travel event for Virtuoso to the Australian Biotech Association to the Pennsylvania Bankers Association. For the latter, JUJAMA created a customized contact database that allowed conference registrants to interact while meeting strict regulatory concerns. 

Another client, PA Bio, uses JUJAMA to push notifications to attendees, informing them of last-minute changes, and enables members to follow up with promising potential partners once everyone has returned to the office.

"With 24/7 customer support and available onsite customer support, JUJAMA delivers technologies that make events more productive for attendees, exhibitors and sponsors, and more successful for event organizers," adds Dailey.  

Dailey reports that JUJAMA became profitable in 2012 and has doubled its revenue year over year since inception. Since starting as a one-woman operation, JUJAMA has grown to employ 28 at its two locations. 

Source: Nadia Dailey, JUJAMA
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.


Accolades roll in for Lehigh's entrepreneurship program

Entrepreneurship education is thriving at Lehigh University, where the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation continues to rack up top rankings and national recognition.

In September, The Princeton Review ranked the school No. 17 on its list of "Top 25 Undergraduate Schools for Entrepreneurship Programs for 2015." This is the fourth time Lehigh has received a top 25 ranking. Last year, the Bethlehem-based school was ranked No. 20.

Based on surveys sent to school administrators at more than 2,000 institutions from April to June, the lists recognize 50 programs in all -- 25 undergraduate and 25 graduate -- for their excellence in entrepreneurship education. The Princeton Review has compiled these lists annually since 2006 in partnership with Entrepreneur Media Inc., publisher of Entrepreneur magazine. 

This summer, Lehigh was also named to Forbes' Top 50 Startup Schools list (No. 45) and to the Top 30 Most Entrepreneurial Schools list (No. 29) by entrepreneur networking website FounderDating.com

In the past year, Lehigh's entrepreneurship programs have also been recognized by the University Economic Development Association -- which named the school's Masters of Technical Entrepreneurship program the top program in North America for talent development -- and by the international organization that runs Global Entrepreneurship Week

Last year, Bloomberg BusinessWeek ranked Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics No. 12 for entrepreneurship specialty programs.

The Baker Institute, founded in 2010, provides students, faculty and alumni with the skills, resources and connections needed to make their entrepreneurial ventures launch and prosper. Its network encompasses a worldwide alumni base, regional economic development and incubation resources, and campus-based courses and programming. Since 2010, Lehigh students and recent graduates have launched more than 150 startups. 

"I'm remarkably proud of our Lehigh entrepreneurship family -- students, faculty and staff from across the whole campus,” says Todd A. Watkins, Lehigh professor of economics and Baker Institute executive director. "The continuing stream of national recognition like this is, I think, testimony to the vibrant innovation ecosystem we're building and our deeply cross-campus approach to entrepreneurship. Lehigh has emerged as a national-class destination. Creative thinkers and entrepreneurs want to be in environments like this that energize, mix and grow great ideas from all corners."

Source: Lehigh University
Writer: Elise Vider
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