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"If not for this woman..." Science Center seeks nominations for its Innovators Walk of Fame

The University City Science Center is looking for a few good women -- three to be exact -- as honorees for its Innovators Walk of Fame.

The Philadelphia institution is reinventing the pedestrian walkway along 37th Street between Market and Chestnut as a pocket park -- the Innovators Walk of Fame will be a key element.

"With a name like Innovators Walk of Fame, we thought it was imperative to come up with something more innovative than names etched on the sidewalk," explains Science Center Spokesperson Jeanne Mell. "Instead we’re going with an arrangement of cubes with metal panels etched with the honorees’ names."

The second group of honorees, to be announced in October, will celebrate female innovators with a connection to Greater Philadelphia.

"The Innovators Walk of Fame reflects the diversity of the local, regional and global communities in which the Science Center operates and innovates," says Science Center President Stephen S. Tang. "The face of innovation is varied and diverse, and to be relevant the Innovators Walk of Fame must reflect that spectrum."

The inaugural class of honorees comprised legacy innovators in the STEAM Categories:

* Britton Chance was a leader in biochemistry and biophysics focusing on the physics of electronics and radiation, and developing noninvasive optical devices used in medicine. 

* John W. Mauchly and J. Presper Eckert, Jr. created the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC), the first general-purpose electronic digital computer, developed at the University of Pennsylvania.

* Frank Piasecki was instrumental in the U.S. helicopter industry.

* Buckminster Fuller invented the geodesic dome. 

* Mathematician John Backus assembled and led the IBM team that developed Fortran, for years one of the pre-eminent programming systems.

* Lockheed Martin encourages its 4,800 employees in New Jersey and Pennsylvania to actively interact with the next generation of engineers and technologists by serving as local school advisors, extracurricular activity mentors and career role models for students.

Nominees may be alive or dead, and are not limited by industry or type of innovation. According to the Science Center, successful nominations will complete this sentence: "If not for this woman’s innovation, the world would be a lesser place because..."

The deadline is June 15.

Source: Jeanne Mell, University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider

Calling all Makers: NextFab opens second location in Philadelphia

 NextFab, a "gym for innovators" that provides members access to a variety of fabrication tools, celebrated the grand opening of its second location on Friday. The new outpost is on the first floor of Impact Hub Philadelphia, a socially-minded co-working space in the Fishtown neighborhood.

While the pairing of a business space with a workshop may seem odd to some, the match was well-made. The lovingly restored building at N. 4th and Thompson Streets was formerly occupied by 3rd Ward, a Brooklyn-founded (and now defunct) maker space.

"We learned that 3rd Ward had left a fair amount of equipment and some spaces fit out as workshops, and that Impact Hub was pondering what to do with them," explains Evan Malone, president of NextFab. "Our working together seemed to be a logical solution."

In addition to taking over unused space and equipment, Malone is also excited to be close to where people live and work -- there is a large community of artists, designers and tinkerers in the Fishtown, Northern Liberties and Kensington communities.

"It's not as large as our Wash Avenue location, but it provides well-rounded wood and metal shops, and a very quiet and comfortable CAD and electronics lab," enthuses Malone. "We are most excited that North 4th has NextFab's first shop dedicated to jewelry making and we have a professional jewelry designer on staff."
 
Keep an eye on the NextFab website for special offers throughout the month in celebration of the new space and for partnership projects with Impact Hub later this year.

Writer: Hailey Blessing
Source: Evan Malone, NextFab

Penn Medicine expands at newest University City Science Center building

The University City Science Center in West Philadelphia is now fully leased at its newest building at 3737 Market Street with the expansion of its anchor tenant.

Penn Medicine University City is expanding into an additional 56,000 square feet or two entire floors. With this lease expansion, Penn Medicine occupies almost 268,000 square feet in the 13-story laboratory and office building. 

"3737 Market’s rapid lease up exemplifies the attractiveness of the Science Center as a location of choice in the innovation ecosystem," insists Science Center President and CEO Stephen S. Tang. 

The new building has achieved LEED Gold certification for its core and shell design. The structure also incorporates innovative energy efficiency features, an extensive green roof system with a white roof membrane that helps reduce heat emissions from the building, and an innovative storm water management system. It is the first health care building in Pennsylvania to have a chilled beam system, an advanced convection HVAC system designed to heat or cool large structures. 

Wexford Science & Technology, a real estate company specializing in facilities for institutions such as universities, university-related research parks and health care systems, and the Science Center jointly developed the building, which opened in September.

According to its website, the Science Center now comprises 16 buildings across a 17-acre campus offering "both plug-and-play incubator space for startup companies and office and lab space for established companies."

Source: University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Virterras's greenhouse in northeastern PA will deliver fresh produce year-round

Virterras, a company that develops sustainable technologies in the energy, food and water industries, is planning a large state-of-the-art hydroponic greenhouse in northeastern Pennsylvania.

"Today, over 65 percent of all fresh produce in the U.S. is imported," explains Virterras President Walton Clark. "To survive the long-haul shipping, it's picked before it is ripe. Varieties are selected for shipping, maximum shelf life and visual appeal, but are completely lacking in taste and have limited nutritional value. To bring back taste we need to be producing locally." 

The first planned crop?

"Great-tasting local tomatoes picked at absolute ripeness for better taste and nutrition," he enthuses.

Several sites are under consideration for the first phase of the greenhouse, which will cover 10 acres under glass and is projected to create up to 40 jobs. Construction is projected to begin later this year, with the goal of expanding in multiple phases and over time to other Pennsylvania locations, boosting overall employment to up to 140. 

According to Clark, Virterras chose northeastern Pennsylvania based on the state's pro-business stance, access to the East Coast U.S. markets and help from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP), which recently made a $50,000 investment in the company. 

"Virterras’ site selection in Pennsylvania, innovative facility design and environmentally sustainable growing practices will provide naturally ripened, fresh produce to local stores with significant improvements in product taste and nutrition," said BFTP/NEP when announcing its loan. "The market for fresh, local food is growing rapidly…and Virterras is part of a growing trend of bringing back local agriculture and jobs to Pennsylvania."

Virterras, whose corporate office is temporarily located in Moosic, Penn., acquires or partners with developers of new technologies, targeting industrial production methods and resources for energy, food and water.

"Virterras defines success in terms of environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and social responsibility," explains Clark. "By combining these principles with innovative technology, Virterras develops projects such as the greenhouse project."

Source: Walton Clark, Virterras
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Ultra energy-efficient Scranton Passive House nears completion

Construction is nearly complete on the Scranton Passive House, which promises to use 80 percent less energy that its more conventional downtown neighbors.

Milford architect Richard Pedranti designed the structure after completing training on passive architecture in 2013.

"Passive house offers an elegant solution to reducing the consumption of nonrenewable resources in our buildings," he explains. "But equally important, passive house is about building comfortable, healthy and durable buildings with excellent indoor air quality."

Passive houses conserve energy by creating a virtually airtight, super-insulated, compact building envelope. Using detailed and specific weather data, high-performance windows are oriented to control solar gain and shading. A heat (or energy) recovery ventilator serves as the lungs of a passive house by providing a constant supply of filtered fresh air.

According to Pedranti, there are about 30,000 to 50,000 passive houses in Europe; North America has fewer than 300 such structures and the Scranton House is the first in northeastern Pennsylvania. 

(Passive architecture is applicable to all building types, from a single-family house to a skyscraper, and can be designed according to any aesthetic, according to the Passive House Institute U.S.) 

Christie Karpiak and Declan Mulhall, both professors at the University of Scranton, commissioned the Scranton Passive House and plan to move in in April. Construction costs for the 2,100 square foot house were $165 per square foot, not including land and fees.

Pedranti is now at work on four more single-family passive houses in the area.

Source: Richard Pedranti, Richard Pedranti Architect
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Erie Insurance opens first of its big downtown projects

Erie Insurance has cut the ribbon on its new state-of-the-art Technical Learning Center, the first of a trio of real estate projects in downtown Erie.

The 52,000-square-foot claims training facility incorporates a three-story model house (boasting an attic and basement, and made from 400 different building materials), as well as sprinkler and building material work stations. The center also includes 14 vehicle bays with lifts, frame repair stations, wheel alignment machines, and prep and paint booths. 

"This training facility will enable employees to touch, feel, build and get a firsthand look at damage they encounter in the field," said Erie executive Chip Dufala in a statement. 

For many years, Erie had outsourced its claims training to third-party vendors.

"By creating an in-house training experience, we can ensure consistency in the learning environment and techniques, and better instill the Erie approach to customer service," explains company spokeswoman Leah Knapp. "The skills we’ll teach will help us get our customers back in their homes, back on the road and back to normal after a loss."

Erie is celebrating its 90th anniversary this year and is on track with two other major development projects near its downtown home office. One is the transformation of the 100-year-old C. F. Adams Building, an early company headquarters, into the Erie Insurance Heritage Center. The other is the renovation of the 93-year-old Pennsylvania National Guard Armory into office space for the company, expanding its downtown campus footprint.

Redeveloping historic properties, "enables us to maintain the rich history of this region and incorporate it with the needs of a contemporary business," said Dufala when announcing the downtown plans in 2013.

CBT Architects of Boston designed the training center and its adjacent parking garage. The new facility also includes an installation by found-object artist Michelle Stitzlein, who recreated the Erie logo from repurposed automotive and building materials.
 
Source: Leah Knapp, Erie Insurance
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Four northeast PA companies ring in the new year with Ben Franklin investments

Four companies in northeastern Pennsylvania are starting off 2015 with new investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania.
 
EggZack, located at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, has been allocated $50,000 to expand its sales efforts, adding more resellers and increasing its direct sales force. EggZack provides an automated sales and marketing system that is specially designed for companies that serve local markets. The web- and mobile-based platform automates the management of their website, search engine optimization, social media, local search, email marketing, blogs, video and directory optimization to generate more local leads. The system then makes it convenient to convert leads into sales. 
 
OPTiMO Information Technology, LLC in Bloomsburg will receive $65,000 to expand its Legal Technology Division. The company’s new eDiscovery and Forensics Managed Services wade through huge amounts of data to reconstruct electronic events, providing reliable information and evidence for legal, corporate and government agencies in a cost-effective manner. OPTiMO delivers enterprise-level information technology products and services including software related to the digital forensics, e-discovery and litigation support industries.

Orbweaver Sourcing, LLC, also at TechVentures in Bethlehem, will receive $65,000 to develop a "supplier pricing infrastructure" in a cloud-based software solution for electronic circuit board manufacturers. This feature will allow end customers and other industry participants to collect a more robust set of data from component manufacturers and distributors. Current sourcing and procurement models in the electronics manufacturing industry are highly inefficient. Orbweaver’s software platform will allow for better-negotiated terms with suppliers, thereby reducing costs and increasing productivity for clients.
 
In addition, a partnership between East Coast Erosion Control of Bernville, an established manufacturer, and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center earned $25,000 in matching funds. The investment is intended to improve measures of back-end processes, improving customer delivery performance, reducing cost-of-goods sold, increasing efficiency and maximizing production capacity at this manufacturer of erosion control products for the construction industry. East Coast Erosion is one of the largest producers of erosion blankets in the U.S. This upgrade will allow the company to be the first in its industry to advance to this level, providing a competitive advantage and facilitating continued growth.

Source: Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
Writer: Elise Vider

Startup Santa: BFTP-SEP brings $2.8M to 16 companies

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania, aka "Startup Santa," is closing 2014 with $2.8 million in investments to 16 companies. The largest dollar share, $1.5 million, is allocated to the life sciences sector; $925,000 is going to IT companies and $400,000 to the physical sciences.

Advent Therapeutics in Bucks County focuses on providing therapies for micro-orphan applications. The company is currently working on its first product, which will address a serious disorder in newborn infants in the ICU.
 
AlphaPoint is the leading exchange technology platform provider to support digital currencies. Working with some of the top Bitcoin and altcoin exchanges in the world, AlphaPoint’s platform is faster than traditional digital currency exchanges with the ability to process nearly one million transactions per second. The company has offices in Philadelphia, New York and San Francisco.
 
Philadelphia’s Edify Investment Technologies has the potential to radically alter how typical new home construction is built, marketed and financed. Edify’s software shifts the financing responsibility of purchasing land and constructing homes from the land developer to the home buyer in exchange for a discount on the home’s purchase price, offering significant advantages for all parties within the transaction.

Montgomery County’s Core Solutions is transforming the health and human services experience by improving the provider, client and payer relationship. Its technology has the ability to simplify the end-to-end behavioral health experience, deliver integrated care coordination, improve consumer engagement and streamline accurate provider reimbursement.

Fischer Block in Montgomery County is at the forefront of the Industrial Internet, bringing an unprecedented value proposition to the electrical power industry. With a unique solution to embed millions of advanced high-speed sensors throughout the electrical grid, this widely deployed platform will become the industry standard for applying data analytics and predictive analysis techniques, and will improve energy reliability and prevent power outages at a fraction of the cost of traditional alternatives.

In Philadelphia, Infarct Reduction Technologies is developing a device, the LifeCuff, to deliver an ischemic pre-conditioning protocol. Ischemic preconditioning has been found to improve outcomes in heart attack, stroke, sepsis and other conditions. Currently the only other method of providing this protocol is manually via intensive care, surgical or emergency medical staff.

Opertech Bio in Philadelphia has developed a revolutionary approach to taste testing, a multi-billion dollar market covering the food and beverage, flavor ingredients, pet food and pharmaceutical industries. Opertech Bio’s technology can be used to discover new flavor ingredients, measure palatability and optimize flavor formulations. Opertech’s proprietary technology accomplishes the task of taste testing on hundreds of samples in an afternoon, using far fewer subjects and samples at a fraction of the cost, with greater accuracy and consistency than previously possible.

Bucks County’s OrthogenRx is a late-stage, product-development company focused on the commercialization of class-III orthopedic medical devices. Its business model is to obtain exclusive licenses for products currently on the market outside the United States and seek FDA regulatory approval through a novel regulatory pathway. OrthogenRx is positioned to be the first company to obtain approval for a generic Class III medical device using this pathway by the end of 2014. The company will launch its first product in early 2015 and file for several additional product approvals by the end of 2015.

In Montgomery County, PhotoSonix Medical is developing a treatment for dermal diseases generated by bacterial biofilm, such as acne. Biofilms, which make treatment extremely difficult, shield bacteria from attack by both drugs and the immune system, often inducing a chronic inflammatory response. Photosonix’s product, CLENS™, cuts through biofilm by combining both ultrasound and violet light, killing underlying bacteria.

Polynetworks in Montgomery Count has developed a secure, open architecture PaaS (platform-as-a-service), which allows multiple types of sensor data to be captured, processed and transmitted to multiple users in real time using any communication media. This "any data, any device, anywhere" solution is scalable to multiple applications. Potential markets include defense and law enforcement; emergency response; heavy industries such as energy, mining and construction; infrastructure security such as city, schools and hospitals; and information gathering such as news media, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and robotics.

In Chester County, Stabiliz Orthopaedics focuses on developing, refining and bringing to market innovative orthopaedic medical devices. The company has crafted a proprietary plate and screw system used for the treatment of traumatic bone fracture. By integrating biocompatible metals with bioabsorbable polymers, Stabiliz’s technology allows clinicians to customize the repair process for every patient, eliminating the need for future surgeries and reducing costs to burdened healthcare systems.

Squareknot in Philadelphia has the simple goal of allowing everyone to do more with its interactive outlet for making how-to-guides. The Squareknot platform allows users to generate step-by-step guides from scratch, or contribute to someone else’s project, or branch off in a new whole direction. 

Developed in Montgomery County, Superior Solar Design’s "SolarPower Table" is a collaboration of world class engineering and photo-voltaic science. The SolarPower Table is a highly reliable, year-round, off-grid solar energy charging station for cell phones, mobile devices and small electronic equipment.

Montgomery County's Telefactor Robotics is a research and development company focused on commercializing advanced vision systems and dexterous manipulation solutions for the first responder and military explosive ordnance disposal markets. The company’s suite of integrated technologies components add value to military and security robots, and enable new forward-looking industrial and manufacturing applications.
 
In Philadelphia, TowerView Health’s mission is to ensure that patients never miss a dose of critical medication. The company has developed a smart pill box and accompanying pre-filled medication trays that fit into the pill box like a k-cup fits into a Keurig. The pill box senses the presence or absence of medication and automatically reminds patients via text message or phone reminder when they’ve forgotten a dose. The data generated by the pill box will be accessible to clinical staff, allowing them to efficiently monitor patients.

Philadelphia’s Yorn is a unique, closed-loop platform for healthcare, business and hospitality settings, enabling patients/consumers and participants to provide feedback, in the moment, on any experience. Utilizing a unique URL through a smartphone, tablet or any web-enabled device, participants can submit comments or ask questions. 

Writer: Elise Vider
Source: Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania 

 

The Millworks in Harrisburg offers 23 artist studios -- plus galleries, a restaurant and biergarten

Thirty-three artists are unpacking and settling in at 23 newly opened studios at The Millworks in downtown Harrisburg.
 
The completed spaces are a critical step in the transformation of the long-abandoned industrial building, which once housed The Stokes Millwork, into an arts, culture and food destination.
 
Construction is now underway on three galleries, an open-air biergarten, and a full-service bar and restaurant that will specialize in locally sourced food. The Millworks will also function as a live music venue.
 
Owned and developed by Joshua Kesler, the mixed-use hub is located in Harrisburg’s historic Midtown District near the Broad Street Market, the Midtown Scholar Bookstore and the Susquehanna Art Museum. Its stated mission "is a simple one: to create a regional destination which showcases Central Pennsylvania’s wonderful artistic talents as well as our region’s bountiful, sustainable agriculture. With our hyper-local approach, we look forward to being a part of Midtown Harrisburg’s renaissance, supporting local growers, local artists and local businesses."
 
Patrick Garrity, The Millworks' operations manager, says that the 160-seat restaurant and bar will open early next year.

"We are passionate about showcasing Central Pennsylvania's bountiful agriculture," he explains. "All of the dishes served at our restaurant will fully consist of local and sustainable ingredients sourced from local farms. Our menu will also change seasonally."
 
The 50-seat open-air biergarten will have a view of the restaurant, art galleries and studios. A 200-seat rooftop terrace is also planned -- it will be the city’s largest outdoor serving space. Once fully operational, restaurant and biergarten guests will be also able to watch sculptors, painters, photographers and others at work in their studios and purchase artworks at the on-site galleries.
 
Source: Patrick Garrity, The Millworks
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Bucks County biotech incubator adding capacity thanks to federal grant

The Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center of Pennsylvania in Doylestown is expanding its space and its capacity to support more startups thanks to a new $4.2 million federal grant.

The Center, which opened in 2006 in an abandoned warehouse as a partnership between the Hepatitis B Foundation and Delaware Valley College, will add 15 laboratories, office space, increased emergency power capacity and new, high-tech freezer capacity. 

Five companies have already committed to locating in the expanded incubator space, and even more life sciences companies can be accommodated, says Operating Officer Lou Kassa. 

Those new tenants include Flow Metric, a provider of state-of-the-art flow cytometry and cell sorting services; Novira Therapeutics, a company working on a cure for Hepatitis B; Fox Chase Chemical Diversity Center, an organization that works to translate biomedical research into commercial opportunities; Synergy Pharmaceuticals, an enterprise developing treatment for gastrointestinal disease; and Cross Current Corp., a software developer that serves the healthcare market.

"We are extremely excited about the project and the growth is very beneficial for life sciences companies and the surrounding community," says Kassa.

The grant comes from the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) and is expected to generate 90 jobs and more than $450,000 in private investment.

"Recent changes and downsizing in the sciences and pharmaceutical industries in the Bucks County area, coupled with industry mergers and consolidation, have resulted in mid- and late-career separations for highly educated professionals and have created a nexus for entrepreneurship to flourish," explained the EDA in a statement announcing the grant. "The Center is recognized as a significant regional resource for biotechnology incubation and has reached capacity. It needs to expand in order to continue supporting entrepreneurs emerging from the life sciences and academic environments that are advancing innovations in pharmaceutical discovery and green sectors."

Source: US EDA and Lou Kassa, Bucks County Biotechnology Center
Writer: Elise Vider

New GE center to focus on 3D printing as a manufacturing tool

GE is making a major investment in 3D printing and so-called additive manufacturing -- the company plans to build a research and manufacturing facility in Findlay Township, outside of Pittsburgh. The new center represents a $32 million investment over three years and, according to GE, will result in the creation of 50 high-tech engineering jobs.
   
"The new facility will be the bridge between R&D and full-scale manufacturing," explains Barbara Negroe, Additive Business Leader: GE Supply Chain. "There is a gap right now between something proven out as feasible in a lab environment and something we would feel is ready to turn over to a plant to begin full-rate production. Plants normally do not have the knowledge [when it comes to additive] or the time to stop and work through all of the issues that come with developing a new part or process."
 
GE is all-in on additive manufacturing, which uses advanced 3D printers to manufacture parts and products, one layer at a time.  The company is already using parts produced with additive manufacturing in a production aircraft engine and gas turbine.

"We use it for prototyping designs to be able to quickly review parts and fit up," says Negroe.
 
The new facility will focus on developing and implementing additive manufacturing technologies across GE’s industrial businesses and on developing a training program for GE technologists in additive manufacturing.
 
The company chose the Findlay Township location "to capitalize on the renowned academic institutions and skilled workforce in the area," explains Negroe, adding that the company already has several small projects underway with area universities and will explore further partnerships.
 
Construction is expected to begin in March and be completed by September 2015.
 
Source: Barbara Negroe, GE Supply Chain
Writer: Elise Vider

Call for Ideas: 4th Annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest accepting entries

Are you a researcher, entrepreneur or small business in Pennsylvania (or West Virginia) focused on developing a new product or service for the shale energy space? If so, the Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center has an offer you can't refuse.

Entries are now being accepted for the 4th Annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest. Once again, the four best shale energy-oriented innovations, new product ideas or service concepts will win $25,000 cash and other support.

The organizers are looking for innovations that are either in the development stage or recently launched. Any idea or already commercialized product or service related to the shale energy space is eligible. Examples include natural gas or NGL utilization products and services; novel materials or chemicals to enhance performance, prevent corrosion or improve product yield; remote site monitoring technologies; well pad EH&S products or services; natural gas or NGL conversion technologies; and water management or remediation technologies.

"We continue to be amazed by the rapid pace of innovation adoption across the shale energy play," says SGICC Director Bill Hall. "Entrepreneurs along with many small businesses are playing a significant role, developing new technologies or offering existing products or services already in use in other areas. Through the contest, SGICC shines a light on the best new innovations being developed in our region."

Hall reports that last year's Pennsylvania winners are thriving.

"Optimum Pumping is continuing with mid-stream trial demonstrations and early indications are that they are going very well," he says. "KCF Technologies has had a rather significant penetration in the shale gas industry and made at least one large project sale to a field services company. TM Industrial Supply, as a result of the contest, made manufacturing changes to reduce the time required to produce their filtration product and has at least one major sale, and anticipates more."
 
The contest attracted 70 entries last year. Expecting even more this year, Hall urges applicants to submit ahead of the February 1 deadline. A panel of industry experts will choose the finalists. 

Source: Bill Hall, Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center
Writer: Elise Vider

Phoenix Contact expands its manufacturing and R&D capacity near Harrisburg

In 2005, Phoenix Contact, a German maker of industrial electrical and electronic technology products, established a development and manufacturing (D&M) subsidiary in Swatara Township near Harrisburg. The facility was intended to meet the needs of customers in North and South America by designing new products based on American standards and customer needs.

Now Phoenix Contact has significantly expanded its plant to accommodate a growing workforce and increase its manufacturing capacity. 

The company recently dedicated a three-story 125,000-square-foot addition, bringing its total space to 360,000 square feet.

"Our growth over the past five years in particular had our development and production teams located in different areas of our current facility as well as rented space across the street from our campus," explains Vice President David Skelton. "This new facility allows all of the teams that work together to be located together."

The addition includes 50,000 square feet of production and support space designed to improve material flow throughout the facility and expand overall production capacity. New open offices facilitate collaboration and allow for easy re-configuration. New engineering laboratories support research and development, primarily of products used in the connection, collection, protection and automation of field signals in industry, says Skelton. The expansion is also energy efficient and includes a green roof.

Phoenix Contact's D&M workforce in Swatara Township has grown to 220, primarily in professional positions such as production logistics, manufacturing, electrical, mechanical, computer engineering and project management. (The company employs 521 total at the location, including sales and other personnel.)

Among the products developed there in recent years are standard function Ethernet switches, 900 MHz wireless products, and customer-specific connection and signal conditioning products for Enphase, a leading global manufacturer of micro inverters for the solar industry. 

Source: David Skelton, Phoenix Contact
Writer: Elise Vider

Ben Franklin Venture Idol Preview: Bethlehem's Map Decisions software helps manage infrastructure

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.

For strapped local governments, compliance with everything from stormwater management regulations to inventorying traffic signals can be a big job.

"With revenues declining and infrastructure aging, municipalities need to maximize the value from their existing assets," says Christian Birch, founder of Bethlehem's Map Decisions. "And even though budgets are getting tighter, demands for high quality service and accountability increase every day. In recent years, local governments face growing regulatory compliance demands that present an increased risk of fines and tort liability claims. Municipalities need to ensure that infrastructure assets are available, safe, reliable and performing to design standards."

Map Decisions streamlines the process of mapping, managing and analyzing infrastructure assets. Its Mobile Enterprise Asset Management System, launched earlier this year, is a secure, cloud-based mobile platform that combines the benefits of geographic information systems (GIS), mobile work orders and computerized maintenance management systems. Aimed at governments, utilities, and the energy, transportation and construction industries, Map Decisions’ products are affordable, easy-to-use, can be set-up quickly and require no long-term commitment, says Birch.

"These services are an attractive option for customers that do not have the staff required to conduct the collection of data for their initial asset inventory," he explains. "For example, our Traffic Sign Management module helps municipalities comply with a federal mandate that requires them to map and capture 30 different attributes for each road sign that is located within their municipality. Our product dramatically reduces the time required to capture and manage asset data versus paper-based processes. If our customers don't have the staff to complete their initial inventories, Map Decisions will conduct [them]. Once completed, Map Decisions will provide them with their complete data and the free use of our software for a year."

Looking ahead, the company will focus on sales and marketing; it is on target to hit revenue projections for this year and projects quadrupled revenue next year. Map Decisions doubled its staff from two to four in the past three months, and anticipates creating four additional jobs in the next 12 months. 

Source: Christian Birch, Map Decisions
Writer: Elise Vider

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
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