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Major solar system will power Urban Outfitters' new center

Urban Outfitters' huge new direct-to-consumer fulfillment center is under construction in Salisbury Township. When complete next summer, its vast roof will support the largest roof-mounted solar energy system in Pennsylvania and the seventh largest energy system in the state.

Solar will provide up to half of the company's energy needs at the site.

URBN, as the corporate entity of the Philadelphia-based retail giant is known, is eagerly anticipating the 970,000-square-foot, $110 million center. The project is on schedule and on budget, according to several press reports. When fully operational next year, it will employ 500, even more at peak times. 

URBN purchased the 52-acre tract last year in a newly created Keystone Opportunity Zone. The site is adjacent to the company's much smaller distribution center that opened it 1996; that facility employs 117. This summer, the state announced that it had awarded a $3 million Economic Growth Initiative grant to the company for the solar array. 

URBN is also on the grow at its headquarters at the Navy Yard in Philadelphia, where it already occupies over 400,000 square feet.

Source: Office of the Governor
Writer: Elise Vider

Greater Reading Economic Partnership marketing campaign wins President's Award

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

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

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

Check out the campaign here.

Writer: Lee Stabert
Source: GREP


PA colleges win funds to grow the state's economic might

Three Pennsylvania higher education institutions are the beneficiaries of large grants aimed at ensuring the state’s economic future -- though in different ways.

Westminster College in New Wilmington won $1.027 million through the Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program of the National Science Foundation, an initiative aimed at increasing qualifications of secondary educators in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

The school's IQ STEM program will work with high-need secondary schools in four Western Pennsylvania school districts to narrow the achievement gap. Also included is the Noyce Scholar Program, which supports academic scholarships for undergraduate STEM majors who commit to teaching in high-need K-12 school districts.  

According to Westminster, the program is projected to lead to a 53 percent increase in highly qualified STEM teachers in Western Pennsylvania and produce a cohort of 20 educators at the end of five years.

In a separate development, Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and Lehigh University in Bethlehem will each receive $1 million to support the state’s Research in Advanced Manufacturing in Pennsylvania program (RAMP), created support collaborative innovation projects with Pennsylvania manufacturers.

Carnegie Mellon will receive $1 million from the Discovered and Developed in PA program to support CMU and Lehigh's research on additive manufacturing (also known as 3-D printing). A $1 million grant to Lehigh from America Makes and private industry contributions has also been provided in matching dollars to fund the partnership.

The grants will support 10 projects that include the fabrication of medical instruments for knee and hip replacement, and complex additive processing parameters with various materials.

Additive technology employs computer design and computer-driven machinery to build complex parts and devices in microscopic layers, using plastics or powdered metals. The technology makes it possible to create shapes and designs previously impossible with traditional manufacturing methods.

Sources: Westminster University, PA Office of the Governor
Writer: Elise Vider

New midtown mural aimed at Harrisburg's youth debuts

Tomorrow's Hope, a new midtown mural to be unveiled this week, offers inspiration to Harrisburg's next generation.

BARAK, a community arts group, commissioned Megan Davis, a co-founder of  Sprocket Mural Works, to "speak a message of empowerment to youth as the future leaders of our city."

Davis designed the 16-by-16-foot mural at Third Street Studio and painted it with help from Philadelphia artist Jacintha Clark and about 25 neighborhood children ages eight to 18. The mural faces the UMC Neighborhood Center and the children depicted in the mural have all taken part in the Center's programs.

"Public art should reflect the community it adorns, and this mural is meant to speak specifically to the children of Harrisburg," says Davis. "It's a dynamic place to grow up in, and this message is meant to empower our young ones toward a brighter future."

Davis co-founded Sprocket with Jeff Copus and Liz Laribee. The citywide mural project works with neighborhoods, artists, organizations and government agencies to create vibrant community murals across the city, and to tell the stories of its rich mural history. The mission is to increase community pride and civic engagement in Harrisburg through united creative action.

Davis says the new mural is the first in a series of collaborations.

"Our goal is to act as a natural hub and gathering place for the people and elements needed to carry out these projects," she explains. "We are identifying walls, meeting artists, gathering supplies and cultivating partnerships in the community." 

Tomorrow’s Hope, located at 1725 N. Third Street will be unveiled at 4 p.m. Sunday, September 14. A panel discussion about the mural is set for 2 p.m. at the Midtown Scholar (1302 N. Third Street). 

Source: Megan Davis, Sprocket Mural Works
Writer: Elise Vider

Philly startup Grand Round Table brings technology to medical ritual

Grand rounds are a medical ritual -- regular conferences held at academic medical centers, where doctors, med students and other health care professionals convene to discuss challenging cases, share experiences and talk about relevant research.

Now, with the mass adoption of electronic health records (accelerated by the Affordable Care Act), a Philadelphia startup is aiming to modernize the grand rounds model by sharing best practices through technology.

Eric King, a former medical student and self-described data nerd, launched Grand Round Table (GRT) with co-founder John Schaeffer "because I saw the potential to enhance patient care with the same big data technologies that touch our everyday lives with Google and Amazon," he explains.

GRT's software both enables hospitals and health systems to fulfill upcoming government mandates requiring the implementation of clinical decision support solutions, and saves clinicians time digging for patient-centered resources.

Accorind to King, the company "is using the latest big data technologies to make it possible to continuously connect health care providers in any setting with the collective intelligence of the whole health system for any patient when it’s needed at the point-of-care... Our clinical decision support software automatically transforms the information that clinicians enter into the electronic health record about their patients into actionable insights based on the latest medical literature."

In a partnership with Philadelphia’s Einstein Medical Center, the company is performing at 70 percent accuracy making correct diagnoses on past cases, and two-thirds of residents report that the software enhances their educational experience during daily clinical conferences.
Within the next six months, GRT expects to launch a closed beta of its electronic-health-records application at several outpatient primary care sites in the Philadelphia area. Further along, GRT plans to expand into other kinds of health records and inpatient sites, and to launch another product for health plans.

Besides King, the company has two other employees and hopes to make two more hires in the next year. GRT is a graduate of the inaugural DreamIt Health program. The company stayed in Philadelphia, and is now located at the co-working space Indy Hall. Earlier this year the company received a $50,000 investment through the Technology Commercialization Fund of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Source: Eric King, Grand Round Table
Writer: Elise Vider

Raising Capital: Harrisburg Startup Week runs September 29 to October 5

Harrisburg is getting ready to roll up its sleeves once again at the 2014 Harrisburg Startup Week. About 1,500 attendees are expected from September 29 to October 5 at daily events, all aimed at boosting the tech startup scene in Central Pennsylvania.

The week culminates in Startup Weekend, October 3-5 -- more than 100 would-be entrepreneurs are expected to build startups from scratch. Organizers promise over $20,000 in prizes via products and services.

The event started last year as a three-day festival focused on entrepreneurship and the region’s tech ecosystem. This year’s incarnation, featuring 15 events and a number of open houses, is not just a festival, but a movement, says organizer Chuck Russell, a senior partner at Collective Intelligence

One theme this year is children and youth.

"We're very excited to get the younger folks involved," explains Russell. "On Wednesday, October 1, we'll be holding the Fish Tank High School Pitch contest for high school seniors in Cumberland, Dauphin and Perry counties. And on Saturday, October 4, we'll be hosting the CoderKidz, a group of elementary ed and junior high students passionate about hacking, coding and learning how to build modifications to Minecraft, an online game."

Anyone is eligible to participate in Startup Weekend.

"We look for a combination of business[people], developer/engineers and creatives to come together to build companies," says Russell. "The ideas range from hardware gadgetry to software as service products. We don't focus on any particular vertical market solution."

Of 50 participants last year, one of three winners, Date My Apartment, is actively developing its product. 

"There are a number of takeaways from a Startup Week," adds Russell. "We educate, learn, network and build in seven crazy days. Founders find cofounders, startup teams find talent, products are built and connections are made."

Source: Chuck Russell, Harrisburg Startup Week
Writer: Elise Vider

Parks, trails and pollution management efforts at state's coastal areas get big boost

Labor Day is fast approaching, but the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has the state’s coastal zones in its sites, even as the rest of us trudge back to school and the office.

The DEP has awarded more than $750,000 in annual coastal zone management grants to 22 nonprofit and government organizations for 25 projects in counties that border Pennsylvania’s coastal zones or have a direct impact on water quality in those areas. These spaces face increasing pressure from development, erosion, biodiversity losses and pollution. Projects range from pollution management to new park facilities to waterside trails.
"These grants play an important role to ensure the protection of our coastal waters," explains DEP Secretary E. Christopher Abruzzo. "This money will not only improve coastal waters, but provide additional recreational and educational opportunities for nearby residents."
Pennsylvania has two coastal areas. The 112-mile stretch along the Delaware Estuary in Bucks, Delaware and Philadelphia counties contains islands, marshes and the shorelands of tributaries that are affected by ocean tides; it is one of the largest freshwater ports in the world. The 76-mile Lake Erie coastal zone includes several major tributaries’ shorelines.
Applications for 2015 grants are due by October 22. 

Source: DEP
Writer: Elise Vider

No sweat! Philly's Fairwear keeps bike commuters cool and office-appropriate

Riffing off Benjamin Franklin, inventor, founding father, quintessential Philadelphian and all-around cool dude, Fairwear, a Philly startup, promises freedom to pursue an active lifestyle while staying comfortable. 

Founder Louis Pollack says the idea arose from the challenge of staying cool and presentable in everyday clothes while biking around Philadelphia, his adopted city.

Fairwear uses performance-based materials to create garments that are moisture wicking and highly breathable.

"Our apparel doesn't have a glossy lycra-like flair, nor does it have awkwardly placed pockets or technical trim," explains Pollack. "Fairwear is meant for a clean and comfortable transition from bike to boardroom to bar, in no particular order."

Fairwear’s line of men's button-down shirts is priced between $75 and $85. 

The company sources everything domestically from Philadelphia or New York, and manufactures at a factory in Northeast Philadelphia.

"When I started I knew I wanted to source everything locally," recalls Pollack. "My desire to keep production nearby is partially patriotic but also makes sense logistically. Local factories offer a much higher level of craftsmanship because you can maintain close input on the process. Sending your stuff overseas to be made is scary because you instantly lose control and are trusting someone you’ve never met before."

Fairwear is sold at a handful of Philly-area bike shops, craft and high-end flea markets like Philadelphia’s Franklin Flea and Phair, and at trade shows such as the upcoming Philadelphia Bike Expo

Pollack comes from a garment industry background and established the company earlier this year. As the company grows, he hopes to take Fairwear to larger national shows, and eventually open a brick-and-mortar location.

"We are always improving and tweaking details," he insists. "Stuff like material, fit and finish can always be made better. Our immediate reaction has been very positive. We want to continue supporting our early adopters, while sustainably growing Fairwear’s presence."

Source: Louis Pollack, Fairwear
Writer: Elise Vider

Calling State College Startups: Apply now for next TechCelerator Boot Camp

For the sixth time, the TechCelerator @ State College is inviting area entrepreneurs, graduate students and researchers to sweat it out at their upcoming 10-Week Boot Camp. The participanting tech-based startups will come away with a list of best practices, lessons learned and a valuable toolbox to help them start their businesses.

The program has already launched more than 20 companies and "past participants have already raised more than $2.45 million in startup funding and generated over $1.3 million in revenue," says Donald McCandless, director of business development for Ben Franklin's Transformation Business Services Network. "Anything we can do to help facilitate this kind of trajectory is great for everyone involved." 

The free 10-week program runs for two hours per week, on ten successive Tuesdays, September 30 through December 9. Participants can receive up to $1,000 toward legal and accounting startup costs and will have the chance to pitch their business ideas to a panel of entrepreneurs at the completion of the course.  

The top presenter will receive $10,000 to help get their company off the ground. Business mentoring from the Transformation Business Services Network and Penn State’s Small Business Development Center staff will be available at no cost. 

The deadline for applications is Friday, September 19. Contact McCandless for more information. 

Source: Donald McCandless, Ben Franklin Transformation Services
Writer: Elise Vider

Philly's VenturePact connects companies with software developers

It's a software jungle out there.

Philadelphia’s VenturePact aims to cut through the overgrowth by serving as an online marketplace that connects businesses with pre-screened software development firms.

"We are accelerating businesses by making software easier," explains Randy Rayess, who founded the company in 2012 with Pratham Mittal. "Through VenturePact, companies can find great software development firms around the world that understand their industry and technology." 

VenturePact has screened hundreds of software development firms worldwide and across industries including healthcare, education, finance, technology and insurance. VenturePact provides clients with extensive data, including client reviews and ratings, validated portfolios, and employee profiles.

"This transparency lets businesses make a better and faster decision regarding which firm to select for their high-risk projects," says Rayess. "We also have an escrow payment system that ensures a trustworthy B2B relationship and allows companies to pay suppliers around the world at no cost."

The service is free to clients; suppliers pay VenturePact for referrals. The potential is huge, with the market for software outsourcing estimated at $300 billion and growing. The firm’s client network includes big names such as ESPN, Adidas, BMW and Yale University.

The company currently employs 12 and expects to add one or two new sales positions soon. They are planning to move to expanded Center City office space next month. The founders, both University of Pennsylvania graduates, are also looking to expand their industry portfolio in wearables, the Internet of Things and data science.

Source: Randy Rayess, VenturePact
Writer: Elise Vider

The arts 'Create Influence' at new downtown Lancaster sculpture

A new 60-foot sculpture in downtown Lancaster proclaims that the arts "Create Influence." The installation, commissioned by the Pennsylvania College of Art & Design for its new Art Garden, was designed by New York-based Anderson Newton Design and will be dedicated on September 2.

The school acquired the corner property adjacent to its main building on North Prince Street in 2012 and embarked on a community engagement process to shape its design. Since then, the college has planted a grove of Yoshino cherry trees, installed seating and tables, and connected utilities to the green space, which has been used for convocation events and class activities.

The concept for the installation emerged when Gail Anderson, a nationally-acclaimed designer and recipient of the prestigious AIGA Medal, visited PCA&D and conducted a listening tour with staff, faculty and students. In conversation with school President Mary Colleen Heil, Anderson observed, "What you really do here is create influence." And the concept was born. 

Working with partner Joe Newton, Anderson developed an inventive piece that combines typography and lenticular imagery. The message of the sculpture appears differently, depending on the position of the viewer.  

"PCA&D has a long history of leading and supporting innovative and entrepreneurial arts-based initiatives," says PCA&D spokesperson Mary Stadden. "Create Influence clearly reflects PCA&D's mission and vision, and is the newest addition to the college's outdoor art collection, which includes the nightly show of lights on PCA&D's facade and the Poetry Paths mural in its exterior portico."

Create Influence was installed in July by Benchmark Construction of Ephrata Township and will be formally dedicated at a free public event, 1 p.m. Wednesday, September 2.

This fall, PCA&D is also unveiling Steinman Lofts on West King Street, nine new student apartments for 26 incoming freshman that feature adaptive, transformative and creative re-use of empty, upper-floor spaces above existing businesses downtown. 

Source: Mary Stadden, PCA&D
Writer: Elise Vider

Health-tech startups on the fast track at second DreamIt Health Philadelphia boot camp

Nine startups are currently at work developing health-tech innovations at the second DreamIt Health Philadelphia boot camp. 

The start-up teams, recruited from around the country, started their 16-week incubator program last month. Each team receives $50,000 in seed capital, coaching from successful tech entrepreneurs and participates in an intense curriculum at the intersection of health care, business, technology and design on the campus of the University City Science Center. The capstone event of the program is Demo Day on October 30 -- each team will share its progress and plans for the future with an audience of investors, industry leaders, potential customers and the press. 

DreamIt Health Philadelphia is sponsored by Independence Blue Cross, Penn Medicine, DreamIt Ventures and Venturef0rth

The 2014 DreamIt Health class comprises:

BioBots of Philadelphia hopes to create low-cost 3-D printers supporting multiple biomaterials for creating biological structures without mutation risk.

Drop Diagnostics of Philadelphia is developing a method for rapid disease diagnosis through detection of signature proteins using carbon nanotubes and microfluidics.

FlexiSched of Philadelphia enables dynamic scheduling of patients, predicting no-shows and accounting for variable provider productivity and visit length.

NarrativeDx of Austin, Texas, employs big data analysis of patient feedback to improve the hospital customer experience and maximize Medicare reimbursement.

RegDesk of Bear, Del., is the leading marketplace for matching biotech and device companies with freelancing regulatory expertise around the world.

Ristcall of Pittsburgh is updating the call button, making it wearable so inpatients can communicate on-demand with nursing staff.

Tissue Analytics of Baltimore is promoting remote management of wound healing through image analysis of mobile-generated photos.

TowerView Health of Chicago, Houston, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco hopes to Improve patient adherence to complex, multi-drug regimens using novel "smart" pillboxes.

TrueClaim of Philadelphia and Jacksonville, Fla., aims to reduce instances of upcoding and fraud in health care claims submissions.

Dr. Elliot Menschik, DreamIt Venture’s managing partner for health care, describes the program as "an intense and transformative 16 weeks for these teams as we coach them through the most volatile period of a company’s life and as wire them into people, resources and opportunities that are significant shortcuts to success in the market."

Source: DreamIt Ventures 
Writer: Elise Vider

BFTP/NEP invests in innovative roofing and digital companies

Protecting property -- both physical and digital -- is the work of two early-stage companies, the latest to receive investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania

Colymer Industries, located at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, was approved for a $50,000 loan. The funds will enable them to implement a marketing and sales strategy to commercialize a new, proprietary, non-asphalt roofing and waterproofing material called Tarzanite. An improved coal tar formulation, Tarzanite is non water-soluble and environmentally beneficial. The material is expected to outlast traditional asphalt-based materials by a factor of four.

Allentown's SeKur Technology, Inc. was awarded a $10,000 loan. They plan to complete a sales and marketing strategy, launching a proprietary licensing, encryption and storage solution to secure all types of digital media, including PDF documents, e-books and audio/video files. The owner of the media can encrypt, track and control the distribution of any file -- on- or off-line -- preventing unauthorized transfer or download.

Since beginning operation, BFTP/NEP has helped create 16,214 new jobs for Pennsylvania workers and retain 22,155 existing jobs, to start 458 new companies, and to develop 1,279 new products and processes. 

Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Chambersburg's Kur Technologies is developing sustainable generators

In 2011, when Keystone Edge last visited Chambersburg's Kur Technologies, its founder Kurt Hinds had completed a prototype for a small, battery-powered generator.

Now Hinds has built a larger version of his Kem-Generator -- large enough to work as an alternative to some fossil fuel generators and a device with the potential for use in water purification, and medical and health applications around the globe.

"By providing electricity in remote locations, the Kem-Generator can be used to combat the spread of diseases by powering refrigerators, air purifiers and mobile sterilization devices," explains Hinds. "Mobile or permanently installed water purification systems powered by Kem-Generators can also combat the spread of diseases by providing clean water for drinking, hygiene and sanitation."

Kur's generator is powered by maintenance-free, deep-cycle, rechargeable batteries that can be charged via photovoltaic cells, making the system fully self-contained. Unlike generators powered by internal combustion engines, it's safe (and quiet) for indoor use. 

Hinds tested the new prototype last year at a Harrisburg community garden using a small, off-grid photovoltaic battery charging system. The generator powered his electric tiller and irrigation system, and provided non-invasive pest control. 

Expanding on the Kem-Generator’s ability to power submersible pumps, Hinds has now devised a mobile water purification system that he believes could be further developed to serve the energy industry and to purify water for refuge camps and similar situations around the world.

Source: Kurt Hinds, Kur Technologies
Writer: Elise Vider

Harrisburg's rebranded IntermixIT grows by blending business with technology

By 2010, Harrisburg’s Capital City Computers had outgrown its seven-year-old name and its business model. The solution: reinvent itself as IntermixIT.

"'Capital City Computers' didn’t align with our mission," says CEO Jason Abel. "We are much more than just a computer shop located in the capital city."

The rebranded company decided to focus solely on developing a suite of products and services that the average small business needs to make its technology network run efficiently.  

It worked. IntermixIT recently moved into a new 1,500-square-foot office, nearly double the size of its old space, and it continues to grow and hire.

Under the old business model, dating to 2003, computer services were strictly reactive: the company sent out a technician to fix problems. (And, as the company points out, many computer techs aren’t great at communicating with clients in a non-technical manner.)

"A large part of our rebrand was a huge effort to partner with our customers, as this type of relationship is much more than just the person they called when things break," explains Abel. "This involved us changing to a more proactive, not reactive, service model, focusing on regular preventative maintenance and documented disaster recovery plans. Our goal was to prevent problems from happening, rather than waiting for them to happen."

IntermixIT also moved to a flat-rate monthly package for all support services and products. 
In its expanded space, Abel is hiring for technical and marketing positions, and expects to increase the company’s Network Operations Center within the next 12 months. He's also promoting his new book, Blending Business & Technology: The ultimate small business owner's guide for finding a professional, competent, honest, considerate, on-time, fairly-priced and dependable computer consultant.
Source: Jason Abel, IntermixIT
Writer: Elise Vider
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