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A new project builds on the success of Scranton business parks

Thanks to the success of its Valley View Business Park and Jessup Small Business Center, the Scranton Lackawanna Industrial Building Company (SLIBCO) is moving ahead with the development of a new 23-acre professional plaza.
The upcoming Valley View Business Park Professional Plaza will house businesses and amenities -- a hotel, restaurant, bank, daycare center, mini-mart, for example -- to support the existing business parks across the street.
"The Valley View Business Park and the Jessup Small Business Center have proven to be successful endeavors and continue to grow and expand," says Andy Skrip, vice president of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce; SLIBCO is the chamber’s industrial development affiliate. "The next phase of development -- creating a professional plaza to serve these companies -- is essential to maintaining thriving business parks."
SLIBCO is marketing the four available lots to commercial developers and Skrip hopes to see construction underway next year.
Meanwhile, SLIBCO is designing the necessary infrastructure -- the site currently consists of abandoned strip mines, subsurface mines and solid waste deposits, and will require environmental remediation to return it to productive use.
SLIBCO has secured $2.5 million in grants, loans and its own funding contribution. According to Skrip, the project will create about 250 construction jobs, and another 250 permanent jobs at build-out.
"We're excited about this development and what it means to the ongoing success of the Valley View Business Park and Jessup Small Business Center," he adds. "To be developing a commercial amenity park strictly to support a larger economic development project speaks to the confidence the community has in this major regional commerce center.”
Source: Andy Skrip, Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce
Writer: Elise Vider

Latest Pittsburgh scorecard tallies 302 deals worth of investment and job growth

Between new facilities, company expansions, attraction and retention of companies and startups, there were 302 economic development deals in the Pittsburgh region in 2013; that's a 12 percent increase. 
In its annual scorecard, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) reported that regional economic development deals totaled $2.4 billion in capital investment. PRA projected that 2013 activity will retain 1,669 jobs and create 6,983 new ones as announced deals come to fruition.
Financial and business services continued to be the backbone of the regional economy, but the big news was the growth in the region’s information and communications sector, which assumed second place for number of deals, growing from 33 in 2012 to 51 in 2013, its biggest spike since 2008. 
Jim Futrell, PRA’s vice president of market research, predicts continued growth in the IT sector. "Considering the presence of Carnegie Mellon and the 2,000 IT graduates coming from the region’s colleges and universities each year, the region is well positioned to become a major technology hub in the foreseeable future," he says.
The region also remains true to its industrial roots, with advanced manufacturing the most active sector for deals in 2013.

"The Pittsburgh region still makes things: specialty metals, medical devices, robots and turbines, to name a few," says PRA President Dewitt Peart. "We’re a manufacturer to the world, capitalizing on technology to make processes precise, sophisticated and efficient."
"While employment growth seems to have plateaued, the outlook for the region is still sound," adds Futrell. "We should continue to experience growth in critical sectors like financial and business services, and energy.  And manufacturing -- which has fueled our economy for some 200 years -- has been a very active sector in terms of business investment deals and activity.  
"What is critical for the region’s future is making sure that individuals entering the workforce have the skills needed to fill the 20,000-plus jobs open in the region right now," he continues. "More than half of these currently open jobs require tech skills, and that requisite won’t be changing any time soon. Tech is driving a 'new workforce order' in the Pittsburgh region. The demand for tech-savvy employees -- across all industries -- is only going to increase."
Source: Jim Futrell, Pittsburgh Regional Alliance
Writer: Elise Vider 

Philadelphia's Invisible Sentinel expands in plain sight

Philadelphia’s Invisible Sentinel continues to grow more visible.
Back in October, Keystone Edge reported that the company was launching its core product, Veriflow, a rapid diagnostic test to detect foodborne pathogens.
Last month, Veriflow was approved for detection of Salmonella. Earlier this year, it added Listeria. Invisible Sentinel now covers more than 90 percent of the food safety test market, says Ben Pascal, chief business officer and co-founder with Nick Siciliano.
The Salmonella approval is especially significant. The bacteria can be found (spoiler alert!) in ready-to-eat foods, deli meats, dairy products and on preparation surfaces. It accounts for 42,000 reported cases of food poisoning annually (though the actual number may be far higher) and 400 deaths.
In January, Invisible Sentinel announced a partnership with Jackson Family Wines in Sonoma, California, to develop a diagnostic tool for Brettanomyces, a yeast that can foul the taste of wine and give it an odor sometimes described as "barnyard-y" (hardly a desirable bouquet). Pennsylvania Bio nominated the partnership for its Deal of the Year award. (PA Bio also presented Paul Touhey, Invisible Sentinel’s executive chairman, with its 2014 Hubert J.P. Schoemaker Leadership Award.)
Invisible Sentinel recently closed on a $7 million private stock deal -- according to Pascal, those funds are being used to ramp up manufacturing and outfit the new corporate headquarters at West Philadelphia's University City Science Center. The company is moving one floor up into 7,500 square feet to accommodate increased production, R&D and corporate offices.
On the R&D side, the company is working on diagnostics for E.coli and on other applications in the craft brewing and wine industries.
The company currently has 21 people on the payroll (19 in Philadelphia), and Pascal expects to add another five to 10 this year.
"This has been a big year for us," he adds. "Last year was about coming out of the gate. Now there is significant demand for our products and we are scaling to meet future demand."
Source: Ben Pascal, Invisible Sentinel
Writer: Elise Vider

Thanks to state fund, five Drexel buildings get energy retrofits

Campus science buildings are the modern version of the shoemaker's children without any shoes.

"Due to their ventilation requirements, science buildings are the largest energy users on campuses and consume dramatically more energy than other buildings on a per square foot basis,” explains Joyce Ferris of Philadelphia’s Blue Hill Partners. But, she added, they are often overlooked for energy efficiency projects.
Now, five Drexel University buildings -- three science and two mixed-use structures, totaling more than 430,000 square feet of space -- are about to get $6.6 million in retrofits to significantly cut their energy use. Upon completion, Drexel's energy consumption will decrease by more than 25 percent at the Lebow Engineering Center, the Center for Automation Technology, the Bossone Research Center, Nesbitt Hall, and the Paul Peck Problem Solving and Research Center. The upgrades will cut energy consumption by about 19.4 billion BTUs a year, approximately the same amount of energy consumed by 142 U.S. families. Drexel will eventually recover the costs through savings on energy bills.
Blue Hill is manager of the state's Campus Energy Efficiency Fund (CEEF), established by the Pennsylvania Treasury to help colleges and universities lower their operating expenses through innovative energy efficiency and sustainability projects. Blue Hill co-developed the project with Dallas-based SCIenergy. Other investors include Mitsui USA, The Reinvestment Fund and the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation
The project includes state-of-the-art, centralized, demand-based controls for three buildings, reducing the energy used to operate the buildings’ more than 62 lab spaces by more than 46 percent. A complete mechanical upgrade of the Paul Peck Research Center will cut the 100,000-square-foot building’s HVAC energy load by 35 percent, saving the university more than $200,000 each year on utility bills. The project also includes a major renovation project at the 78,000-square-foot Nesbitt Hall featuring variable volume air handling units, supply air distribution systems, new lighting and new controls.
Blue Hill expects to lead more than $45 million in investments in CEEF projects at multiple colleges and universities in the Commonwealth. When fully invested, the fund will save Pennsylvania schools more than $150 million in energy costs over 20 years.
Source: PA Treasury and Blue Hill Partners
Writer: Elise Vider

More on Bridgeworks: A new roof means a warmer, greener business incubator

You can read today in Keystone Edge about the great work being done under the roof of the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center
Well, that distinctive, saw-tooth roof is brand-new, energy-efficient and an important component to attracting and retaining businesses at Bridgeworks.
The business incubator is housed within a 100-year-old building, a former Mack Trucks plant. The old roof was made of thin, corrugated plastic sheeting with no insulation value. According to Anthony Durante of the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), on a hot summer day, the building could be 95 degrees, and in cold weather, "we would be fighting to keep the building in the 60s."
Recognizing the need to attract clients to an energy efficient and comfortable space, AEDC secured $500,000 in Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) funds from the state and $500,000 from the U.S. Department of Commerce.
The new roof is made of a combination of insulated rubberized roofing and double-pane insulated Kalwall, a translucent building material. It has an R-15 insulation value and AEDC expects to see efficiency improvements in the range of 30 to 60 percent.
Work began in August -- three-story-high scaffolding was required to replace the 300 feet of roof on the building's northernmost peak. General contractor Walter Brucker & Company of Perkasie completed the job in the first week of December, just in time for this rough winter. 
Tenants at Bridgeworks are already reporting increased comfort and much lower heating bills (some have been cut in half, Durante reports).

"This project," says Ajay Khatri of ColdEdge Technologies, "is having an immediate positive impact on our company’s bottom line."
Source: Anthony Durante, AEDC
Writer: Elise Vider

Erie's CNG One Source provides one-stop-shop for natural gas-powered vehicles

Natural gas has been used as an automotive fuel since World War II; by 2011 there were nearly 15 million natural-gas vehicles around the world [Wikipedia]. But, in 2009, fewer than 120,000 domestic vehicles run on compressed or liquefied natural gas.
It's a situation Karen Teslovich, president of Erie's CNG One Source, would like to change. Billed as a one-stop shop, CNG One Source provides an array of natural gas-related services including consulting, engine conversions, refueling stations, maintenance, service and training.
Teslovich founded the company in 2011 after a career in government. In April, CNG One Source acquired a bankrupt Texas company that specialized in converting heavy diesel engines to compressed natural gas (CNG) and brought those operations to Erie.
About 80 percent of the company's work is now in diesel engine replacement, a complicated process that runs upwards of $20,000 per vehicle. But the low cost of CNG fuel makes the conversion of big-truck fleets -- garbage, delivery or moving trucks, for example, that travel 150,000 miles or more per year -- cost effective. The return on investment for gasoline-powered automobiles isn’t quite as compelling yet, but, according to Teslovich, "It will trickle down to the consumer level."
Another challenge facing the industry is the relative scarcity of refueling stations. CNG OneSource has installed small, fleet-size stations and has capacity to tackle bigger projects. The company is also doing research and development towards building new CNG engines.
Sales have grown 25 percent year over year. CNG One Source now has five employees and Teslovich hopes to double their workforce over the next year.
Source: Karen Teslovich, CNG OneSource
Writer: Elise Vider

Bigger and better Pittsburgh Public Market reopens

Pittsburgh significantly upped its creative city cred last week with the official re-opening of the Pittsburgh Public Market
Pittsburgh had been without a public market house since 1965 when the last one was demolished. In 2003, Neighbors in the Strip began planning for a new indoor year-round market in the city's historic market district, The Strip.
The new market supports local businesses by allowing them to thrive without the high overhead of a traditional storefront.

"The idea behind the market is to give food-based entrepreneurs the opportunity to focus on building their businesses," says market manager Tiffani Emig. "We envision it as a third space away from work and home where people can feel comfortable hanging out -- a place for education, a place for social interaction."
The market opened in 2010 in a smaller, temporary location. It had a "soft opening" in October at its new 25,000-square-foot home, a vacant telecom equipment building that was re-purposed by the city's Indovina Associates. Emig estimates the capital investment at $1.2 million.
The new facility hosts 20 small businesses, mostly food based; many of them do their food preparation on-site. Eliza’s Oven, for example, is a full-scale bakery operating out of only 100 square feet. Work on the project continues, with a shared-use commercial kitchen scheduled to open by summer, and more signage and streetscape improvements on the way.
The Pittsburgh Public Market is a non-profit entity under the auspices of Neighbors in the Strip, a non-profit organization established in 1999 to promote economic development opportunities while preserving the personality, integrity and character of the Strip, a one-time shantytown and wholesale produce market northeast of downtown.
Source: Tiffani Emig, Pittsburgh Public Market
Writer: Elise Vider

Going Electric: Tesla powers up in Pennsylvania

Tesla, maker of super high-end electric cars (base price $70,000), has powered up in Pennsylvania with a new King of Prussia store and a "supercharger" station off the PA turnpike.
The charging station at Somerset, which opened a few weeks ago, is part of Tesla's efforts to provide its drivers with a jolt of electricity along well-traveled corridors, enabling them to travel long distances for free. (Teslas can go about 300 miles on a single charge.) According to spokesperson Alexis Georgeson, Tesla chose Somerset to service travel between Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. 
With about 65 superchargers nationwide, Tesla is nearing its goal of enabling travel from Boston to Miami and coast to coast. 
Tesla's store at the King of Prussia Mall (which opened in June) exemplifies the car maker’s retail concept which is as revolutionary as the automobiles themselves. Think more Apple Store -- Tesla's nextdoor neighbor at the mall -- than Buick dealership.
Tesla chooses its retail sites -- 80 so far, with 24 coming soon -- based on foot not automotive traffic. In lieu of a freestanding building on a busy suburban roadway featuring a giant lot, Tesla opts for small (about 3,000 square feet) storefronts packed with interactive touchscreens. The goal, says Georgeson, is to create a no-pressure environment where prospective buyers can hang out, become educated about electric driving and create their own model with the features and functionality they want. 
Every Tesla is built to order so there is no need for a vast lot filled with inventory. Tesla maintains a few vehicles in the King of Prussia parking lot for test drives.
Tesla sold about 22,000 cars in 2013. Georgeson won’t reveal exact sales data for the King of Prussia store, but says the location is a "testament to the strength of that market."
Source: Alexis Georgeson, Tesla Motors
Writer: Elise Vider

Two new natural-gas-fueled power plants underway in PA

With its Liberty generating station under construction on 33 acres in Asylum Township, Panda Power Funds has announced a second plant. The Dallas investment company expects to break ground immediately on 85 acres in Clinton Township for its Patriot plant.
Panda says that each project translates to about 500 construction jobs. When the plants go online in 2016, each will create about 27 skilled jobs (to operate the facilities) and an additional 45 indirect jobs in the respective communities. 
Each plant is being "specifically developed to take a advantage of its proximity to the Marcellus Shale," says Panda. Each will power up to one million homes and be cooled with air, rather than water, protecting the Susquehanna watershed by neither drawing nor discharging water into the river. The Liberty plant also incorporates special blade designs, low-output motors and building enclosures to minimize sound.
Panda acquired the planned Liberty plant in August from Moxie Energy, a Virginia-based power plant developer. In December, it announced its second acquisition from Moxie, this time for the Patriot plant.
Source: Panda Power Funds
Writer: Elise Vider

Itís always sunny for Philadelphia's growing Solar Grid Storage

A young Philadelphia company is growing fast with an innovative technology and business model. 
Solar Grid Storage, established in 2011, brought its solar photovoltaic energy storage system to market a year ago, says CEO Thomas Leyden, with help from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania.  So far it has installed its "batteries" at four large-scale, commercial projects: two in New Jersey, one in Maryland and one at the microgrid at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, where the company is located.
Solar Grid's batteries serve as a source of emergency power when electricity fails, reduce the cost of photovoltaic systems by eliminating the need for solar inverters and help maintain grid stability by allowing grid operators to temporarily charge or discharge the batteries as needed. That last feature is a built-in revenue source.
Under its proprietary business model, the company can retain ownership and maintenance of its batteries, financing their installation through investors and from revenue streams including grid operators. That, says Leyden, "lowers the overall cost of solar dramatically. This is a financial model to get this asset in place that benefits multiple partners."
With the cost of solar nearly equal to utility-generated power and projections of 30% annual growth for solar, Leyden anticipates strong demand. "Large power plants are not being built much. That model is in the past," he says. "For new power generation, solar is the cheapest, fastest and best way to do it."
Solar Grid just added three employees, bringing its workforce to nine, and continues to hire. Leyden expects his staff to triple by the end of the year, with most of the employees in Philadelphia. (The company also has offices in New Jersey and Maryland.)
Source: Thomas Leyden, Solar Grid Storage
Writer: Elise Vider

Philly's Urban Outfitters' huge expansion means 1000s of jobs in PA

From hippies to hipsters, Urban Outfitters has capitalized on the style proclivities of youth. Now the Philadelphia-based retail behemoth has announced a series of expansion projects worth hundreds of millions in investment and, eventually, thousands of new jobs in Pennsylvania.
Urban will build a new East Coast, direct-to-consumer fulfillment center in Gap, creating "at least 500 new jobs." Press reports indicated that the company will break ground in November for the 1.2 million-square-foot distribution facility, with completion in summer 2015.
Urban is also planning to expand its multi-building Philadelphia Navy Yard headquarters with the refurbishment of a 250,000-square foot building that will eventually bring 2,000 new jobs. The company is investing more than $200 million for both. And both projects will be eligible to receive Keystone Opportunity Zone tax breaks.
Separately, the company has unveiled plans to develop a large "lifestyle center" on the site of a former nursery in Devon. Main Line Suburban Life  reported that the company has leased 6.5 acres for the planned "Devon Yard" project to include a Terrain garden center and Anthropologie retail store (both Urban brands), along with a boutique hotel, restaurants and other shops and amenities. 
Urban Outfitters started in 1970 as a small retailer on the edge of the University of Pennsylvania campus. Today the company describes itself as "an innovative specialty retail company which offers a variety of lifestyle merchandise to highly defined customer niches." Its bricks-and-mortar and online brands include Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, Free People, Terrain and BHLDN. The company has 20,000 employees worldwide, 2,400 of them in Pennsylvania.
Source: Team PA
Writer: Elise Vider

A new food distribution center is on its way in Imperial, bringing 300 jobs

Gordon Food Service, a giant, Michigan-based foodservice distributor, is bringing a large new distribution center and 300 jobs to Allegheny County.
The company broke ground in September on a 470,000-square-foot facility at the Findley Industrial Park  in Imperial. It will go into operation in spring 2015 and Gordon expects to employ about 300 there within three to five years. The new jobs will include warehousing, transportation, sales and administration.
"The Greater Pittsburgh market was the right place to be for Gordon Food Service to meet our customer needs," says spokesman Andy Maier. "Imperial was the location of choice due to its proximity to Pittsburgh, the great road network and the people in the area."
The new center represents a significant expansion of Gordon's presence in Pennsylvania. The company already has a distribution center in Pottsville, where it employs about 100. And it runs four GFS Marketplace retail stores in the western part of the state. 
Gordon was founded in 1897 as a butter and egg delivery service. Today the company employs 14,000 in North America and claims to be the largest family-owned broadline foodservice distributor in North America—and one of the largest privately held companies in the United States.
Altogether, Gordon has 22 centers, distributing food through the Midwest, Northeast and Southeastern United States and coast-to-coast in Canada.
Source: Andy Maier, Gordon Food Service
Writer: Elise Vider

Pharma and Biotech keep Ambler's Precis Engineering growing

Like the little engineering firm that could, Precis Engineering  in Ambler has seen steady growth, through bad times and now good. 
Founded in 2005 with two, the company just added five new engineering and administrative positions, bringing its workforce to 42. "Our backlog has us busy and we foresee staying that way," says Principal Robert Dick, making more hiring likely. He anticipates adding another three jobs in the next six months and possibly another five or six within the next year.
Precis' focus on the pharmaceutical, biotech, university, utility and research and development markets helped keep the firm busy, even through the worst of the economic downturn in 2008 and 2009, says Dick. "Whether they're growing, shrinking or consolidating, [these clients] need engineering services," he says, for maintenance, physical plant and equipment upgrades. 
Looking ahead, he sees "a fair amount of still-untapped market share in the area… We see that most companies still have significant capital expenditure budgets looking forward. We think we'll be a key part of that success."
Precis offers a range of engineering services including mechanical, electrical, HVAC, plumbing, fire protection, life safety and process automation engineering and commissioning services. Its client list is populated with big names including Teva, Merck, GlaxoSmithKline, Verizon Wireless, the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton. 
Precis was on the team behind the award-winning Morphotek  pilot plant in Exton. That project, which included brownfield reclamation and a highly sustainable design, was awarded LEED Gold certification this summer and has received much recognition. "That was a great project for us," says Dick. 
Source: Robert Dick, Precis Engineering
Writer: Elise Vider

From Kitty Hawk to Bethlehem: Curtiss-Wright lands at a new facility, adding 95 jobs

Curtiss-Wright Corporation (as in Glenn Curtiss, the father of naval aviation; Wright as in the pioneering aviation brothers) is building a new facility in Bethlehem and creating 95 jobs.
The PA Department of Community & Economic Development  (DCED) says the company will move its Engineered Pump Division from Phillipsburg, NJ to a new 179,000-square-foot facility in Bethlehem, a more than $7 million capital investment. The division provides a wide range of highly engineered, mission-critical and general-service products for the Navy, Coast Guard and related maritime customers.
"We … look forward to supplying our mission-critical products and services from our new, modern manufacturing, testing, warehousing and office facility," Todd Schurra, the division's general manager, said in a statement.
Curtiss-Wright received a funding offer from DCED including a $200,000 PA First Program grant, a $42,750 Guaranteed Free Training grant to train its new workforce, and a $2.3 million loan from the Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund.
The company was created in 1929 as a merger between Curtiss Aeroplane and Wright Aeronautical Corporation. Based in Parsippany, NJ, Curtiss-Wright is today a global engineering and manufacturing company with 10,000 employees worldwide.  The company already has about 760 employees in Pennsylvania, according to DCED.
Source: Lyndsay Frank, DCED
Writer: Elise Vider

GE and Dow make mega investments in PA

Two global giants – GE and Dow – have made significant investments in Pennsylvania, with major physical expansions, retaining and possibly creating new jobs. 
Dow opened its new, 800,000-square-foot Northeast Technology Center in Collegeville last month. By the end of next year, about 800 employees and contractors, most transferred from Dow's Spring House location, will work at what will be one of Dow’s three largest R&D campuses. The facility has room for growth and can accommodate up to 1,300, says Dow spokesman Justin M. Land. Dow has a large presence in the Delaware Valley with about 2,000 employees and four of its 13 global businesses headquartered in the region. 
"The NTC will play a pivotal role as an innovation hub for many businesses in Dow’s Advanced Materials portfolio – a business unit headquartered in Philadelphia, which brings differentiated solutions to customers in key end-markets including electronics, consumer and lifestyle, infrastructure and transportation and energy," Dow said in a statement.
Nearly 500 miles away, in Lewistown, GE has opened a $10 million, 52,000-square-foot Customer Solutions Center  "to meet the growing demand for industrial and infrastructure inspection technology solutions worldwide." The center, which opened in June, is the North American hub for GE's Inspection Academy, which trains GE employees and customers in non-destructive testing (NDT). Critical in supporting safe operation and quality control, NDT enables the detection and evaluation of flaws in materials or structural properties, without producing harmful effects on the subjects being tested.
Jill Queenan, a GE spokeswoman, says the company does not disclose its hiring numbers, but that "GE has already significantly grown its workforce in Lewistown [currently above 250] to better support the world’s growing need for non-destructive testing solutions." 
Sources: Justin Land, Dow Chemical; Jill Queenan, GE
Writer: Elise Vider
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