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New facility, new products and more jobs at Carlisle's fast-growing Tex Visions

In 2004, Tex Visions started operations at the TechCelerator@Carlisle at the Murata Business Center. The 23-year-old founder Marcel Ruhland and a sales manager worked from a 375-foot office suite.
Last week, Tex Visions cut the ribbon on its brand-ne, 60,000-square-foot facility, where its 50-plus employees are at work making display hardware and doing large-format custom printing.  
The company has maintained explosive growth, even through the recession, says Marketing Manager Ashley Werner.  "We found our niche and rolled with it," she says. The big leap occurred in 2008 when the company added in-house production. 
"Murata provided us the space we needed for our staff and also accommodated our need for production space as we grew," says Werner.
But by 2011, the company had outgrown the TechCelerator. The Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority stepped in with a $2 million loan to help Tex Visions build its new, stand-alone facility in Carlisle, with office, production and warehouse space. 
Tex Visions invests heavily in R&D, Werner says, and is constantly innovating and growing. New machinery, just delivered to the new plant, will enable Tex Visions to expand its printing capabilities to rigid materials such as custom-cut magnets. 
A new e-commerce site allows customers to shop online.  The company employs a full team of software developers who are now working on new functions to better process artwork and a tool that will enable customers to design their own materials. 
"Every month we have a new product launch, " Werner says. "We already have thousands of [products] so we might as well keep going." 
And innovation drives job creation. The company is currently hiring five new members of its sales team and Werner anticipates adding another five to 10 more over the next year on the production side. 
Source: Ashley Werner, Tex Visions
Writer: Elise Vider

Good news on Philadelphia venture capital front

After a number of rough years, 2012 saw an increase in the number of venture capital deals and dollars flowing to Philadelphia region technology companies. And 2013 is looking good.
A new report  released by Ernst & Young,  Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP)  and the Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT),  reports that 2012 was the best year since 2008 for investment in the region, bucking the national trend of declining deals and dollars.
"And early results from 2013 appear to be on track to meet or exceed the five-year average annual investment amount of $750 million," the report says.
The report finds that 2012 investment in the region was $698 million: $580 million in 59 deals came from venture capital firms, $59 million in 64 deals from angel investors, $51 million in 11 deals from corporate/strategic investors and $7 million in 57 deals from seed funds and accelerators.
The numbers reinforce Philly's strength in the life sciences, which accounted for 41% of all funded companies since 2008. But the report also finds a significant uptick in the software and information technology sectors, accounting for 33% of all companies funded, which it attributes to a surge in investment activity for enterprise software companies starting last year.
"The results … are a further impetus for entrepreneurs to choose the Greater Philadelphia region to launch and grow their enterprises," says RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, BFTP/SEP's CEO.
Source: Jaron Rhodes, BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

For inundated hiring managers, Philly's gatherDocs offers a solution

For retail, hospitality and service industries, hiring is a constant, traditionally involving floods of emails, overflowing file cabinets and paper. Lots and lots of paper.
Now gatherDocs, a Philadelphia startup, is offering a mobile hiring solution that provides a simple, centralized system for recruiting and hiring for a target market of retailers, restaurants, supermarkets, convenience stores, gas stations and more.
There are a number of software tools to serve human resources in white-collar industries, says gatherDocs co-founder Alex King. But not much for those who hire cashiers, sales associates, wait staff and other hourly, non-salaried help and "are constantly hiring for the same positions, over and over."
gatherDocs allows managers to collect applications, evaluate applicants, schedule interviews and sort, rank and organize applications. In one click, a retailer can post the same job description to hundreds of locations or filter applicants to see who is available for 5 a.m. shifts.
Prospects can apply by scanning a QR code at an in-store "now hiring" sign, send a text or visit the company's page on the gatherDocs mobile site. 
King founded the company last year with Bruce Marable, a high school classmate, and Dan Lopez. The three also are partners in Defined Clarity, a web-consulting firm. gatherDocs is already out with a fully commercialized product, which King thinks will do especially well as seasonal hiring ramps up. 
The company is also rolling out a new "onboard" capacity that allows hires to fill out tax forms and the like on their devices. "Our aim is to optimize the entire hiring process," says King.
gatherDocs has a staff of five and expects to add two positions next year. King's goal is to grow to 70 within five years. And the firm is full committed to Philadelphia. "There is no chance of us moving," he says.   "We’re ingrained here in Philadelphia."
Source: Alex King, gatherDocs
Writer: Elise Vider

Stroudsburg's IER applies its social outreach technology to childhood obesity and more

It all started with the fruits and vegetables that Edward Connors used in the classroom. As founder in 2008 of East Stroudsburg's Innovative Educational Resources to teach science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), Connors says that having students guess the number of petals on an artichoke, say, was a great way to teach math.
But the approach also yielded an altogether different realization. "Our work with inquiry-based math and science using fruits and vegetables as manipulatives in the K-8 classroom led us to discover new educational opportunities related to food choice and nutritional education," Connors says.
In 2010, IER won $548,000 in U.S. Department of Agriculture funding to look at how technology could be used to address the problem of childhood obesity.  What ultimately resulted is IER's "virtual social worker," a community-based research method and community engagement platform, aimed at providing underserved and vulnerable populations – low income, low literacy, non-English speaking, for example – with culturally relevant access to information on health and nutrition.
Working with the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, IER piloted its approach in an application intended to improve access to health and social service resources for the Hispanic community around Charlotte, North Carolina.  IER is also behind the recent launch of PoconoHealth.org, an interactive, online directory of health, social service and education resources. 
Now Connors is preparing to establish a new company, Heudia, to apply the same strategy and technology to health literacy. "I realized that health care costs are being driven by the same lack of access to primary care and income inequality," he says. 
Source: Edward Connors, Innovative Educational Resources
Writer: Elise Vider

A new center for innovation and creativity at Lehigh University's Mountaintop Campus

Lehigh University is embarking on "a bold new initiative to renovate and reimagine" two massive, former Bethlehem Steel buildings on its Mountaintop campus.
With a $20 million gift from alumnus Scott Belair, who graduated in 1969 and went on to co-found Urban Outfitters, the school acquired the buildings, totaling 120,000 square feet, in May and envisions using them as a center for innovation and creativity.
"Mountaintop provides an opportunity for students to define complex questions, take intellectual risks, use faculty as mentors and access resources and support from across the university and beyond," the university said in a blog post. "Students will be challenged to develop their capacities for creativity, inquiry, discovery, synthesis and teamwork."
Several teams of students and faculty worked at Mountaintop this summer in open-ended pilot projects. One team isolated and characterized viruses that attack bacteria that are found in soil as part of a large national project on tuberculosis. Other teams developed a prototype for durable housing for refugees, designed an integrated system for both crop production and water filtration and produced a documentary film about the first four women faculty members in Lehigh's English department. 
The university is gathering ideas for projects and uses for the facility and expects to use Belair's gift to leverage an additional $40 million as it moves ahead with its multi-phase Mountaintop project.
Source: Lehigh University
Writer: Elise Vider

Griesing Law earns major recognition, attracts major event for women, minority owned firms to Philly

When we profiled Fran Griesing, founder of Philadelphia-based, startup-focused Griesing Law in May, the trailblazing attorney spoke about the traps of working at a large firm -- especially for women -- and the value of making her firm "an environment in which everyone who worked there could reach their best potential."
The approach was validated last month when she picked up the 2013 Law Firm MVP award from the National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF). The award honors a member law firm for "its outstanding achievement in furthering NAMWOLF's mission of promoting diversity and inclusion by fostering relationships between preeminent minority and women-owned law firms and corporations and public entities. Griesing was joined by her firm's Director of Administration Jessica Mazzeo, to accept the award in Minneapolis on Sept. 23 at NAMWOLF's annual meeting and expo.
Griesing played a significant role in attracting the 2014 NAMWOLF annual conference to Philadelphia next September. The event is important to not only Griesing, but the many women- and minority-owned law firms in Greater Philadelphia. The event (and its build-up) will provide many valuable opportunities for those firms to connect with large corporations and public entities, helping attract bigger business.
"We are honored and delighted to be recognized given the many firms that work tirelessly to promote NAMWOLF's important mission of affording access and opportunities for minority and women-owned law firms," she said.
Keystone Edge staff
Source: Fran Griesing

HalenHardy earns honor at SHALE INSIGHT

Hey! What's the big idea? (There's $25K and more for tech innovation.)

Do you live in Central or South Central Pennsylvania? Do you have an idea for a new, technology-based product or process? Get busy, because your idea could win one of two $25,000 cash prizes in Ben Franklin’s BIG IDEA Business Plan Contest
This year’s competition, sponsored by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern PA  (BFTP/CNP) and the BF Venture Investment Forum, targets 25 counties in Central and South Central Pennsylvania.  

To be eligible, you must live in one of the 25 counties; have developed or be developing, a new, innovative tech product or process; have had no significant sales if a product has already been developed; have fewer than 50 employees if a company has been formed and have never received previous BFTP funding.

Preferred industry sectors include (but are not limited to):  nanotechnology; green technologies; alternative energy; advanced manufacturing; advanced materials; medical devices; information technology and software.
The application deadline is December 9; final judging is set for February 20, 2014.
In addition to the $25,000 in cash, the two grand-prize winners will also receive:

  • One-year website hosting offered by Netrepid;
  • The opportunity to participate in a BF TechCelerator Boot Camp for Startups;
  • Six months free rent in the BF TechCelerator @ Carlisle (for a winner from that area);
  • Assistance from the Innovation Partnership in preparing a proposal to receive a federal research (SBIR) grant;
  • Access to all Ben Franklin’s business support services at no charge.
“We had a huge response to last year’s contest. Nearly 2,000 people came to the BIG IDEA landing page to check out the easy application process.  We believe that anyone with the courage, energy and enthusiasm to apply to a business plan contest is already a winner,” says Stephen Brawley, President/CEO of Ben Franklin.

Full details, a list of the eligible counties and an application forms are online
Source: BFTP/CNP
Writer: Elise Vider

Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse leverages capital to nurture two promising startups

The Pittsburgh Life Sciences Greenhouse (PLSG) has announced new investments in two biotech startups "that are  addressing large markets and solving problems that have never been solved before," says John Manzetti, PLSG's CEO. 
And the greenhouse's involvement with the two companies goes beyond dollars.
PLSG first became aware of Complexa Inc., which is working on a new class of drugs to treat metabolic and inflammatory disorders, in 2008. Since then, the greenhouse has invested more than $500,000 in the company, including its recent $200,000 commitment.
In 2011, PLSG helped recruit and place Joshua Tarnoff  at Complexa as CEO, through its Executive Program, designed to bring experienced life sciences executive talent into the region. 
PLSG helped attract Cognition Therapeutics to Pittsburgh from San Francisco. The company is working on a new class of drugs to treat and possibly even reverse Alzheimer's Disease. 
"Our PLSG team was absolutely floored by the technology and promise it would bring to patients," says Manzetti, who adds that the value of the company, if successful, would be "incalculable."
From its initial $200,000 investment in 2007, PLSG helped leverage further investment from other sources. And through its Executive Program, PLSG placed Hank Safferstein as CEO (he splits his time between Cognition and PLSG as an executive-in-residence.) 
PLSG also helped Cognition set up by purchasing its lab equipment and leasing it to the company in lab space that it also provided.
With its latest investment of $138,000, PLSG has invested a total of $1.2 million in Cognition, the greenhouse's largest investment to date.  In addition, the PLSG Accelerator Fund has invested heavily into Cognition. 
Both CEOs have raised significant capital for Complex and Cognition and both will need millions more to test and potentially bring their drugs to market. 
Manzetti pledges to keep at it: "These are the types of companies PLSG loves and in which we will continue to invest."
Source: John Manzetti, PLSG
Writer: Elise Vider

Green is the school color at Pittsburgh's Chatham University

The legacy of the seminal environmentalist Rachel Carson, class of '29, continues to shape Pittsburgh's Chatham University and its commitment to environmental sustainability.
Now the school has received its largest gift ever, $15 million from the Falk Foundation to support academic programs at Chatham's interdisciplinary School of Sustainability & the Environment (to be renamed the Falk School of Sustainability) and to help fund construction of the school's green Eden Hall Campus.
Chatham made a formal commitment to environmental education and advocacy in 2008, pledging to integrate "sustainability into the fabric of the University through a coordinated and sustained effort of a kind rarely seen before."
"Sustainability at Chatham is many things," says President Esther L. Barazzone. "A way of institutional living that in itself educates students and all who come in contact with us; a commitment to living respectfully upon the land; a body of educational content and practice that is offered in courses and degrees; and a substantial and important repositioning of the entire institution around urban sustainability transformation – one of the most critical and transformative issues of modern society and within the higher education industry."
The first phase of Chatham's branch Eden Hall Campus, which it claims will be "the world's first fully sustainable campus in higher education" is set to open by December 1. The 338-acre campus in Pittsburgh's North Hills, originally home to an early Heinz company executive, will eventually serve 1,500 students while emitting zero carbon emissions, producing more energy than it consumes and managing all storm and waste water on-site.
Source: Bill Campbell, Chatham University
Writer: Elise Vider

Dyer, baker, software makers and more get BFTP/NEP $$$ support

A dyer, a baker and several software makers are among the early-stage companies and established manufacturers in the latest investment round announced by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
BFTP/NEP is making loans to these to early-stage companies: 
Colymer Industries, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, $35,000 to complete a new financial model, strategic business plan, corporate operating agreement, and assignment of intellectual property for this manufacturer of proprietary non-asphalt roofing materials.
Columbia County Bread & Granola, Bloomsburg, $28,000 to complete development of a strategic business plan that will help the company expand into new markets and raise capital as needed for its line of food products for health-conscious consumers and individuals who suffer from a variety of dietary restrictions. 
eVendorCheck,  Hawley, $81,000 to develop and implement enhanced sales strategies for the company’s web-based customer feedback system for procurement professionals.
Pivitec, LLC, Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, $75,000 to continue commercialization and enhancement of hardware and software products for this developer of audio streaming and distribution products. 
PROVA Systems and Technologies, Inc., Carbondale, $60,000 to support the commercialization of a fleet management software system for small and medium-sized enterprises, and family fleets. 
TSG Software,  Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, $100,000 to support a focused sales and marketing effort in commercializing software for business cleaning services, property and facility managers, and building management contractors
These tech-based, established manufacturers and their higher-ed partners are receiving 1:1 matching funds: 
Applied Separations, Inc., Allentown,and Philadelphia University, $50,000 to develop and implement a new process and deploy equipment for the waterless dyeing of textiles for business-to-business sales to clothing manufacturers and textile companies.
Cambridge-Lee Industries, LLC, Reading and Northampton Community College’s Emerging Technologies Applications Center, $27,650 to conduct testing of  energy-efficient, micro-fin refrigeration tubes at this manufacturer of copper tubing for plumbing, refrigeration, and other commercial applications. 
Custom Processing Services, Inc., Reading and Northampton Community College’s Emerging Technologies Applications Center, $50,000 to investigate how the waste energy from a proposed thermochemical process can be used in the company’s manufacturing processes and as a potential fuel source and to determine the economics, technical, and environmental issues involved with the process. The company provides sophisticated air-jet milling, micronizing, blending, and testing of powered materials on a contract basis.
EcoTech Marine LLC, Allentown and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center, $25,000 to implement a new Enterprise Resource Planning system with features to accommodate facility expansion and maintain quality for this maker of equipment for hobby reef aquariums. 
Georg Fischer Harvel, Easton and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center, $50,000 to complete a sustainability analysis to reduce energy consumption by 20% or more. GFH is an international leader in thermoplastic extrusions, primarily manufacturing PVC and CPVC piping for diverse target markets in high-end applications such as microelectronics and pharmaceuticals. 
KME Kovatch, Nesquehoning and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center, $25,000 to develop new finishing processes associated with the pumper truck and tanker truck. KME Fire Apparatus is an industry leader in the design and manufacture of custom fire and fuel tanker vehicles and equipment, and the largest privately held manufacturer of fire trucks in the nation
McGregor Industries Inc.,  Dunmore and Penn State, $15,154 to survey and test three new, more cost-competitive tread infills at this manufacturer of metal stairs, gratings, and floor plates. McGregor will also test the tread infills for material characterization and stair tread structural and slip performance.
Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Indiana's Arctic Blast Covers keeps bank branches toasty

Working for a bank purchasing department, Dale Conrath knew that ATMs, drive-through windows, cash drawers and night-deposit slots were great for customers. But for the tellers and others huddled around space heaters behind those drafty holes, not so great.
Internet searches showed that there were simply no products available to solve the problem. So Conrath started tinkering. For four years, working out of his Indiana garage, he experimented with materials and designs and built prototypes, with significant help from the Small Business Development Center at Indiana University
In 2012, he launched Arctic Blast Covers, which offers a line of thermal covers for ATM machines, night-drop boxes and cash drawers.
Conrath has a patent pending for his technology, which he claims can reduce a bank's utility bills up to 20% annually, raise inside room temperatures as much as 15 degrees and has the added benefit of keeping automotive pollution outside.
A recent pilot program at 16 PNC bank branches in western PA was a big success. And Conrath was recently awarded $35,500 from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern PA for marketing and distribution.  He reports that he is in close talks with Bankers Security, which offers security devices to the banking industry, to distribute Arctic Covers in four states.
Conrath is already thinking about other possible markets. Pharmacies are one. Another is the gas and oil drilling industry to address the problem of water freezing in wells when they are shut down.
For now, though, the focus is on growing sales for the bank line. As Conrath notes, "There is no competition – zero." And winter is coming.
Source: Dale Conrath, Arctic Blast Covers
Writer: Elise Vider
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