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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 

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

State College's KCF Technologies perfects wireless industrial monitoring

Just as your car's dashboard tells you when something is wrong under the hood, wireless monitoring from KCF Technologies in State College provides reliable information on machinery across a number of industries. KCF detects vibrations that can be an early sign of something amiss with pumps, motors, fans, compressors and similar equipment.
Jeremy Frank and Gary Koopmann founded KCF in 2000 as a spinoff of research done at Penn State. For most of its existence, the company has grown thanks to federal research and development contracts from the departments of energy and defense. Three years ago, KCF made a strategic pivot to focus on industrial and commercial sales of its technology. Market sectors include industrial HVAC and refrigeration, power generation, pulp and paper, and water. 
Most recently, KCF has turned its attention to a new and potentially huge market -- shale gas and oil drilling. As reported in Keystone Edge, the company won the first grant awarded by the Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation & Commercial Center through the state's "Discovered in PA, Developed in PA" program. 
Frank says the $20,000 grant is going towards field demonstrations; the technology is already deployed at four shale gas sites, two of them used for training. As a young industry, the kind of "predictive maintenance" that KCF offers (as opposed to scheduled maintenance or, worse, emergency repairs) is not yet widely embraced, and drill sites offer their own special challenges, including terrain and weather. But KCF is convinced that shale opens a potential market of hundreds of millions for wireless monitoring. The company is currently doing R&D to further its presence in the market with wireless air quality monitoring at well sites. Another project in the pipeline involves a medical device to monitor the function of prosthetic limbs for military amputees.
KCF employs 35 and Frank expects to add five to 10 jobs this year as its shale business grows. The company, he adds, has doubled its workforce five times in the past eight years.
Source: Jeremy Frank, KCF Technologies
Writer: Elise Vider

State offers boost to shale-gas-related innovations and technologies

Good news for emerging shale-gas-related technologies that need a boost to get to commercialization: A new state project will offer grants to Pennsylvania-based small companies to support testing and market launch of innovative technologies. 
Bill Hall, director of Ben Franklin's Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center, says the funds are aimed at companies that are past the proof-of-concept phase and ready to demonstrate market acceptance. The Center received a $750,000 Discovered in PA-Developed in PA grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to support the one-year project, which also includes preparation of white papers on ways to further grow the shale gas industry. 
"The thing that makes this incredibly important is that in Pennsylvania, we have a whole host of small companies trying to break into the shale gas industry," says Hall. "But it’s hard to get that first customer. [They say] ‘Tell me when you’ve sold 65 and I’ll buy 100’."
KCF Technologies of State College is the first grant recipient. KCF makes sensors to monitor vibration in machinery that can signal problems. This sort of safeguard is essential in the shale gas industry, says Hall, where "downtime is very expensive." The funds will support demonstration projects and Hall says he is "100 percent confident that once these are complete, they will have orders and create jobs."

Another three to four companies are under consideration for funding. For maximum impact, the SGICC plans to spread the funds in grants of $20,000 to $50,000. Companies are required to match the grant, he adds, preferably at a three-to-one rate. 
Source: Bill Hall, SGICC
Writer: Elise Vider

New York's SIGNa Chemistry sets up shop in York

Recognizing the potential applications of its core technology for the oil and gas industry, SIGNa Chemistry, a New York City-based company, has a new presence in York.

SIGNa has established its Oil and Gas Recovery unit at the J.D. Brown Center for Entrepreneurship West Lab Facility at York College in order to pursue expanded uses of its technology at oil and gas fields.

Michael Lefenfeld founded SIGNa in 2005; he developed a technology to transform reactive alkali metals into safe, non-combustible, sand-like powders that can be used in a variety of chemical processing operations.

According to Lefenfeld, the company is now focused on the oil and gas industries. A small team began work in York in August, exploring how the company's core product, known as ActiveSand, can be used to enhance, speed and green hydraulic fracturing and oil recovery. Using ActiveSand, producers can potentially recover up to 50 percent of residual oil and accelerate the start of enhanced production by as much as 20 percent, all with minimal environmental impact. In shale gas formations, the technology also boosts productivity and addresses environmental concerns by reducing water needs and producing cleaner wastewater.

Lefenfeld says SIGNa expects to begin testing its new applications in Pennsylvania wells by the end of the year and that the J.D.Brown Center is just a starting point for operations in the Commonwealth. The company is already looking for expanded physical space in the region.

Source: Michael Lefenfeld, SIGNa
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

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

Contest offers $100K for shale innovation

The Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center is looking for the four best shale gas-oriented innovations, new product ideas or service concepts. The 2014 Shale Gas Innovation Competition is offering cash awards totaling $100,000, along with exposure to investors, potential partners and industry sponsors. The contest is open to researchers, entrepreneurs or small company innovators in Pennsylvania or West Virginia, or those willing to locate to either state.
"We are constantly amazed at the creativity we see from entrepreneurs who want to provide products or services," says Bill Hall, SGICC director. "What’s great about this competition is that a simple online summary is all that’s required to get started. Basically any idea related to the shale energy space is eligible -- even if it has already been commercially developed. In the past, we’ve seen applications related to natural gas utilization products/services, remote site monitoring, well-pad EH&S products or services, natural gas or NGL conversion technologies, and water management or remediation technologies.”
The deadline for applications is February 1. Finalists will be chosen by a panel of industry experts at an event in May 2014. 
Traditionally a Pennsylvania-focused event, the contest has been expanded to include West Virginia through a grant from the Benedum Foundation. This year the competition is co-sponsored by Ben Franklin Technology Partners and a wide range of partners. 
Source: Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center 
Writer: Elise Vider

Ben Franklin Technology Partners invests in 6 NE firms

Christmas came early for six northeast Pennsylvania companies with the announcement of more than $340,000 in new investments from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
BFTP/NEP is making loans to these four early-stage tech companies:
Bison Analytics, LLC, Lewisburg, $100,000 to continue developing and provide marketing support to the company’s planning and business intelligence software for small businesses. Bison will implement software enhancements, develop a sales strategy for its cloud-based product and analyze follow-on funding tactics.   
Cerora Inc., Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, $100,000 to finalize software and hardware and commercialize a cloud-based, medical-grade, neuro-diagnostic solution. Cerora is developing a portable EEG brain wave biosensor for use by non-specialists in the field. Rapid diagnosis of brain injuries and disease can lead to early and more effective interventions- yielding cost savings, improved clinical outcomes, and increased patient satisfaction for people with concussions/traumatic brain Injury, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurologic and psychiatric conditions. 
CEWA Technologies, Inc., Wyomissing, $75,000 to complete design, construct and test prototypes of a new kind of point-concentrated solar power dish that will deliver power for industrial and institutional applications at a lower cost due to its innovative shape and construction. The dish is capable of providing thermal power for HVAC, power generation, desalination and process heat applications at a cost comparable to fossil fuel-based sources of energy without government subsidy. 
Skaffl, LLC, Allentown, 50,000 to complete development of Braket, a new mobile application through which teachers and students can exchange class materials, assignments, completed homework, assessments and grades. This digital application capitalizes on the exponentially growing use of iPads in K-12 classrooms and the needs of teachers as they develop tools and curricula to enhance real-time educational interaction. 
Ben Franklin also will provided matching funds for these partnerships between higher ed institutions and established manufacturers.
Crispin Valve, Berwick and Utah State University, $8,740, to determine the flow characteristics of a new plug valve for the wastewater industry. Building on its success in the butterfly valve market for the municipal water industry, Crispin Valve is expanding into this new product line.
GenPore, Reading and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center, $8,638 to complete work to expand and optimize operating space, including construction of new clean rooms and addition of new warehouse space, at this manufacturer of porous plastic filters. GenPore specializes in innovative and cost-effective solutions for a broad range of filtration, controlled flow, and separation applications for liquids and gases.

Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Wanted: shale gas innovators; Reward: $25,000-plus

The Ben Franklin Shale Gas Innovation and Commercialization Center is looking for researchers, entrepreneur or innovators with great ideas in the shale gas space in Pennsylvania or West Virginia.
SGICC announced the 3rd annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest, with a purse of $25,000 in cash prizes for each of the four best shale gas-oriented innovations, new product ideas or service concepts that are either in the development stage or recently launched. Besides cash, the winners are also promised exposure to investors, potential partners and industry sponsors.
"Any idea related to the shale gas space is eligible - even if the product or service has already been commercially developed," said SGICC Director Bill Hall in a statement. "Examples include natural gas utilization products/services, remote site monitoring, well pad EH&S products or services, natural gas or NGL conversion technologies and water management or remediation technologies."
Applications are due February 1, 2014; a panel of industry experts will choose finalists.
This year's contest has been expanded to include West Virginia through a grant from the Benedum Foundation. The 3rd Annual Shale Gas Innovation Contest is co-sponsored by Ben Franklin Technology Partners, ANGA, Acorn Energy, AquaTech, Baker Hughes, Cabot Oil & Gas Corporation, Chevron Technology Ventures, CONSOL Energy, Chesapeake Energy, First National Bank, GE Oil & Gas, Little Pine Resources, the Marcellus Shale Coalition, Praxair, Range Resources and Seneca Resources Corporation.
Source: SGICC
Writer: Elise Vider

Baseball, energy, gaming and more: Ben Franklin funds 9 early-stage tech firms

Nine early-stage Philadelphia tech companies will receive nearly $2.2 million from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) to advance their businesses.
Cloudnexa,  $250,000
Philadelphia's Cloudnexa delivers cloud management solutions, migration, deployments and professional services, allowing clients to move and manage their applications into the cloud with streamlined managed services capabilities.
Community Energy, Inc., $400,000 (Ben Franklin previously committed $400,000)
Based in Radnor, CEI is a clean energy company uniquely positioned on both sides of the supply-demand equation, building solar and wind energy projects by engaging customers through products and services. In 2012, CEI constructed the Keystone Solar Project in Lancaster County, the largest solar project in Pennsylvania.
EyeIC, Inc., $25,000 (Ben Franklin previously committed $725,000)
West Conshohocken's EyeIC is a cutting-edge healthcare technology firm dedicated to commercializing image analysis technologies for medical applications.  EyeIC's MatchedFlicker® is a new technology for monitoring the advent and progression of retinal disease and glaucoma through change detection in time series images.
FLOWatch, LLC, $250,000
The Philadelphia's company’s flagship product of the same name, FLOWatch®, is a next-generation, data-management system focused primarily on the water utility and environmental fields.  The web-based, enterprise-wide system provides a back-end, neutral data-management solution, giving control over data definition and access directly to plant managers and operators.
Lumigent, LLC, $375,000
Lumigent in Glenside is a lighting retrofit company that offers energy efficiency products and services. The Lumigent model enables clients to participate in the lighting retrofit market with limited investment in infrastructure costs.  It offers a single-source solution, from audit through proposal, to customers competing for turnkey retrofit lighting projects.
OrthogenRx, Inc., $175,000
Doylestown's OrthogenRx is a late-stage product development and marketing organization developing generic Class III medical devices in orthopedics. The company utilizes a new business model focused on a product portfolio of generic medical devices with an emphasis on the musculoskeletal therapeutic area: rheumatology, physiatry, orthopedics and sports medicine specialties.
RxSport Corporation,  $500,000
Norristown's RxSport (Chandler Bats) originated when its founder, a furniture maker in Greensboro, NC, noticed the increased number of broken maple bats in Major League Baseball and realized flaws in how they were designed and manufactured. RxSport perfected a technologically advanced and labor-intensive process that maintains the utmost strength of materials and quality of design and has gone on to supply bats to a number of major league teams.

Shenandoah Studio, LLC, $150,000
Philly's Shenandoah is a game studio focused on turn-based strategy games for the iPad and iPhone, allowing hobby gamers to play serious board games on their mobile electronic devices. The company’s first product, an iPad simulation of the Battle of the Bulge, was released in December 2012 with great success.  Since then it released a free version of the game, and created an iPhone version.  Shenandoah is slated to release three new games: Drive on Moscow, Gettysburg: The Tide Turns, and El Alamein.
TuvaLabs, LLC, $50,000
Philly's TuvaLabs has created an online platform that takes news stories about significant events taking place around the world and transforms them into interactive math learning units for students. TuvaLabs is a member of the Project Liberty Digital Incubator, housed by the Interstate Media Group, funded by the Knight Foundation, and operated and supported by Ben Franklin. 

Source: BFTP/SEP
Writer: Elise Vider

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

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

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

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

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

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

Indiana's Arctic Blast Covers keeps bank branches toasty

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

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

Rainwear, pure air, advanced batteries and more: Innovative companies receive Ben Franklin $$$

Makers of green electrical generators, hospital air purification systems, rainproof materials and advanced batteries are among the innovative companies that have received a total of almost $325,000 in new investments from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
Four early-stage companies received loans. They are:
EthosGen LLC in Wilkes-Barre received $115,000 to continue commercialization efforts for its proprietary on-site, alternative-energy, waste-heat-to-electrical-power generator that produces electricity from sustainable and renewable sources. 
LifeAire Systems, LLC  of Allentown got $40,000 to conduct a series of test programs to validate the effectiveness of its air purification technology in a hospital setting, and expand marketing efforts for selling the units to in vitro fertilization laboratories. 
Map Decisions, a resident at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, received $13,200 to identify resources for marketing and sales support to help commercialize its field information management software system. Map Decisions’ software platform replaces outdated methods of data collection such as paper forms, cameras, video, spreadsheets and hard-to-use, expensive professional GPS units.
Zero Rain, LLC in Mildred received $50,000 to begin operations to apply a new, proprietary chemical to natural fabrics and finished apparel that makes them water-repellant and resistant to stains and odors. The treatment works on all natural fabrics, including cotton, silk, wool, and cashmere. 
In addition, these established manufacturers were awarded 1:1 matching funding for work with a college or university partner on technology-based manufacturing innovation:
Alpha Packaging of Bethlehem, a maker of plastic bottles and jars primarily for the nutritional, pharmaceutical, personal care, housewares, consumer chemical and food and beverage markets, was awarded $48,000?to work with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center to implement practices and install equipment to reduce its energy consumption by 20%.

East Penn Manufacturing Company in Lyon Station received $48,000 to develop a complete analysis of front-end considerations in support of the company’s new advanced battery products. Partnering with The Emerging Technologies Application Center at Northampton Community College, East Penn, the largest manufacturing employer in Berks County, will address packaging, transport, storage, safety and precautions in materials handling.
Precise Graphix of Emmaus, a designer, fabricator, and installer of interior décor, signage and store fixtures, was awarded $10,300 to work with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center to improve its production layout and optimize its job cost analysis process. The analysis will lead to more effective scheduling utilization and increased profitability, as well as an improved layout of the manufacturing operations to streamline process flow.
Source: Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern PA
Writer: Elise Vider
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