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Philadelphia's Pulse InfoFrame brings its cloud-based platform to patient care

Alice Solomon, senior director of Pulse InfoFrame, has some questions: "Is it a problem that Starbucks is using the latest in analytics to get you a better cup of coffee, but we aren’t doing it to save your life? Is it a problem that the oncologist treating your mother may be totally unaware of how other doctors around the country and around the world are successfully treating different types of cancer? Is it a problem that your doctor diagnoses high blood pressure, prescribes meds, and sends you on your way to change your diet and sedentary lifestyle? Yes, yes, yes."

Pulse, a health care technology startup at Philadelphia's University City Science Center Digital Health Accelerator, is aiming to solve those challenges with its clinical and research platform, providing data, management and integration systems targeted at the highly detailed requirements of medical specialists. Physicians, hospitals, researchers, and medical device and pharmaceutical companies can use the cloud-based platform to capture, organize, model, store and share detailed administrative and medical data with patients and other health care stakeholders. 

The company was founded in 2011 in Canada, where it is providing the platform for a national melanoma registry, and has an office in India. Pulse originally came to Philadelphia as a participant in the Canadian Technology Accelerator and is committed to launching its U.S. operations in the region. Pulse already has its local first client, Simon’s Fund, a Lafayette Hill-based nonprofit focused on research and awareness of sudden cardiac arrest and death in young athletes and children.

According to Solomon, electronic medical records "are administrative and billing tools…they were never intended to solve patient care problems. The Pulse platform focuses on improving patient care by looking at what we call ‘little data,’ which is customizing data collection to pull what is relevant to the clinician with the goal of solving real big questions. We support 22 diseases globally (including cancer, diabetes and heart disease), provide mobile access and promote patient engagement in their own health. We find out why things happen."

Source: Alice Solomon, Pulse InfoFrame
Writer: Elise Vider

Architrep hatches DIY dinosaur kits in Allentown

At age five, Lisa Glover had a dinosaur-themed birthday party. Years later, inspired by a dinosaur-at-a-mall video, she went full Jurassic Park for an assignment at Lehigh University’s Technical Entrepreneurship Master’s Degree Program

"The dino kits were part of a homework assignment back in October of 2013 called 'Making It’ -- we had to explore a manufacturing process and demonstrate it in a unique and interesting way,” she recalls. “I chose a process called Industrial Origami, which involves taking sheet metal, making special types of cuts in it, and folding it up into various, useful objects. I thought that making something fanciful -- a costume -- would be a great use for this manufacturing process. I demonstrated it using cardboard, since sheet metal is really heavy! People really were fascinated by this 15-foot-long creation of mine, and I had a ton of fun building it, so I decided to bring a smaller version of the creature to life."

Last March, Glover hatched Architrep at Ben Franklin Tech Ventures. Soon after, she launched a flat-pack Velociraptor kit on the crowdfunding site Kickstarter. She expected to raise enough funds to make and sell a few hundred kits. Instead, she sold nearly 5,500. In December, Architrep was accepted into the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center business incubation program. 

The startup's latest product, a Pterodactyl kit with a three-foot wingspan and Glover’s signature googly eyes, has already exceeded its Kickstarter goal. Glover also has plans for a Triceratops kit, as well as a variety of other dinosaurs, animals and mythical creatures. 

"I'm also developing some mini kits of the same creatures," she says. "The current kits take a few hours to build and are intended for ages 9-plus. I'd like to create some simpler ones that can be built by ages 6-plus and only take half-an-hour to build. Also, I'm developing partial-costumes: just the head and arms of creatures, that people can build and wear. Some day, I hope to bring full-body costumes to the world, but right now that just isn't feasible." 

Source: Lisa Glover, Architrep
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Philadelphia's BioBots prints living tissue

In the sounds-like-science-fiction department comes BioBots, a Philadelphia startup developing high-resolution, desktop 3D printers that generate living tissue.

"BioBots is like a 3D printer, but instead of using plastic filament to create 3D structures, it uses mixtures of biocompatible materials (like collagen) and living cells to create 3D tissues," explains CEO Danny Cabrera. "The finished product that comes out of the BioBot is alive."

The first-generation BioBots 1 printer can generate a dozen different cell types. 
  
With over 120,000 patients in the United States on organ-transfer waiting lists, building replacement organs is a long-term goal for the company. For now, the printers are primarily used for research.

"Biofabrication technology is definitely becoming more and more accessible in functionality, ease of use and cost, and that is going to greatly accelerate the pace of development," says Cabrera. "We are currently focusing on making the best research tool for our customers, taking structures out of lab note books and onto lab benches. It’s only a matter of time before those same structures start leaking out of the lab and into the clinic." 

Co-founder Ricardo Solorzano started working on printing 3D tissues -- and built the first prototype -- in his University of Pennsylvania dorm room. In August, he and Penn classmates Cabrera and Sohaib Hashmi launched the company. The startup initially grew at the DreamIt Health incubator and recently received funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania

BiotBots is also opening a seed round of funding; actively promoting its beta program; offering testers a bioprinter and support for $5,000; and recruiting for its R&D team.

"The BioBot 1 is exciting, but it’s definitely not all we have up our sleeves," insists Cabrera. "Look out for a radical change in a few healthcare-related industries and new industries being created by our technology."

Source: Danny Cabrera, BioBots
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Whitehall's Dynalene helps industry keep its cool

Even in the coldest of winters, industrial processes generate a lot of heat  -- and that's not a good thing.

Dynalene, headquartered in Whitehall, specializes in industrial heat transfer fluids or, as president and CEO Satish Mohapatra explains, "something that carries heat from one place to another, similar to the antifreeze in your car engine."

The company's products are used in a wide range of applications: pharmaceutical (reactor cooling), food and beverage process cooling, climactic chambers (wind tunnels), ice rinks, heating and air-conditioning of buildings, solar thermal and electronics cooling.

Dynalene's roots go back to a 1993 research grant from Ben Franklin Technology Partners that went towards development of ultra-low temperature heat transfer fluids that work efficiently below -80°C (-112°F). The resulting products were commercialized and sold under the Dynalene name by several antecedent corporations until 2005 when the company changed its name to Dynalene Inc. 

Today, the enterprise has more than 50 products, offers a wide range of analytical testing through its laboratory services division, and fields an active R&D group.  
 
"Looking ahead, we are developing several products to go into solar thermal, fuel-cell cooling and flushing fluid applications," adds Mohapatra.

Dynalene works closely with Lehigh University and has won a number of grants from the federal Small Business Innovation Research program and the Pennsylvania Infrastructure Technology Alliance.  

The company made its first expansion in 2013 with a new production facility in Chicago to serve midwest customers and is currently planning another such facility in the west.

Source: Satish Mohapatra, Dynalene
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Pittsburgh startup NetBeez monitors networks in real time

The enterprise networks that healthcare organizations, university campuses and big retailers rely upon are complex and notoriously difficult to build, operate, monitor and troubleshoot.

Pittsburgh's NetBeez has developed a network-monitoring tool that tests and validates enterprise networks from an end-user perspective. The company uses small and low-cost sensors to verify that users can connect to the network and have good performance from the applications. Data is collected in real-time. When a problem occurs in the network, it is immediately detected and reported to the network support group so it can be corrected before users have to call the help desk.

Stefano Gridelli, Panickos Neophytou and Panos Vouzis founded the company in 2013 at Innovation Work's AlphaLab incubator. Neophytou is credited as the main developer of the central server that provides the "swarm intelligence" of the system. Vouzis developed the network sensors -- called BEEZ -- that collect and process network and application performance.

"The solution can be deployed in any network environment: from small remote offices to large corporate locations, from data centers to cloud environments," explains Gridelli. "The development team puts considerable effort into making the solution easy to use and deploy so our customers can start monitoring with NetBeez from day one, without requiring too much effort, skill or training for its adoption."

NetBeez recently released new wireless monitoring agents -- "a killer product that is [generating] strong demand from universities and from retail customers," says Gridelli -- and will be showcasing its wares next month at Interop Las Vegas, a mega IT industry event. 

Since its founding, NetBeez has received funding from Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and Innovation Works via the Technology Commercialization Initiative.

"Without their support and the ecosystem that is taking place in Pittsburgh, it would have been almost impossible for the founding team to [achieve] such accomplishment in two years only," insists Gridelli.

Source: Stefano Gridelli, NetBeez
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Titusville sketches a downtown arts and crafts incubator

Officials in Titusville are taking first steps towards creating a downtown arts-and-crafts incubator.

Deb Eckelberger of the Titusville Community Development Agencies (TCDA) describes the project as "a win-win…a way to fill a vacant downtown location and to showcase the wealth of talent in this area."

A wide array of artists, crafters and artisans -- jewelry makers, photographers, alpaca wool providers, spinners of yarn, handmade soap providers, wood crafters, maple syrup makers, bead and glass artists and more -- have expressed interest in taking space at the former Angeli Winery Store.

The approximately 3,000 square foot space would house microbusinesses, giving the vendors a year-round retail presence, and freeing them from reliance on holiday and craft show sales. The incubator could also leverage the reuse of an adjacent, one-time restaurant.

"The two locations could work well together," says Eckelberger.

Establishing the incubator is a true team effort. Titusville Redevelopment Authority (TRA), TCDA’s economic development arm, owns the building.

"We are uniquely positioned to work together with the artisans and crafters, the City of Titusville, local community organizations -- Titusville Industrial Fund Inc., Titusville Council on the ArtsTitusville Chamber of Commerce and Titusville Renaissance Inc. --  and with our Northwest Partnership for Regional Economic Performance partners," explains Eckelberger.

In addition, TCDA is working with the Gannon Small Business Development Center to provide business support services to the vendors.

Source: Deb Eckelberger, TCDA
Writer: Elise Vider

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern PA names seven top innovators

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) will honor seven innovators for their ability to peer around corners at the annual Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards ceremony in May.

BFTP/NEP named Hometown’s Highwood USA as the company that best exemplifies entrepreneurial achievement. A manufacturer of extruded-plastic, synthetic-wood products for outdoor furniture, hot tubs/spas, decks and other exterior lumber uses, the company "demonstrates the successful leverage of Ben Franklin support to accelerate the growth of a young firm," said BFTP/NEP in a statement. "Founded in 2003, Highwood proactively and continuously innovates its processes, introduces new products, and identifies and develops untapped niches in the marketplace…Through thoughtful planning, bold strategy and skillful execution, the firm continues to grow, providing high-value jobs in Schuylkill County for years to come."

Slatington's Luminaire Testing Laboratory (LTL) was honored for its success as a BFTP incubator graduate. In 1989, LTL was the first company to locate in Allentown’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center. In 2010, the owners sold the company to Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the well-known international electrical testing company. The founder recently launched another new company.

"The LTL story demonstrates the importance of business incubators in providing support to early-stage firms," explained BFTP. "It portrays a successful business exit, executed by a founder who was able to attract an international business to the region that continued to create and retain good jobs. Finally, the LTL story illustrates the commitment of a serial entrepreneur who is now developing a second venture."

LifeAire Systems in Allentown will be honored for product innovation. The company’s revolutionary air purification systems "will impact a continuum of patient care, beginning with the protection of the embryo, to the infant in the neonatal intensive care unit, to the patient in the operating room, and to the elderly in long-term care facilities."
        
Wilkes-Barre's EthosGen, meanwhile, is revolutionizing the $1 billion renewable energy market with a patented and proprietary Thermal Energy to Electric Power System. The company best demonstrates "a 'break-the-mold/ approach to integrating new or existing technology into its business," said BFTP/NEP.
        
BFTP/NEP also recognized Wilkes-Barre’s Medico Industries, which produces metal parts for oil and gas drilling companies, the automotive industry and other customers, for manufacturing achievement. "A focus on constant improvement has enabled the company to establish a truly flexible manufacturing facility that has economically transitioned through many changes in industrial needs," explains BFTP/NEP.
        
Andrew Stanten, president of Altitude Marketing in Emmaus, "an unwavering supporter of regional entrepreneurship [who] freely shares his expertise and experience widely with startups, established manufacturers and students in northeastern Pennsylvania" was named winner of the entrepreneurial advocate award. Edward J. McCann, Jr., retired COO of the Berks County Workforce Investment Board, will be honored for his "strong vision, dedication and commitment [that] have helped the Ben Franklin Technology Partners accomplish its goals."

The awards dinner is set for May 7 at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University.

Source: BFTP/NEP
Writer: Elise Vider

Out of the Office, into the Kitchen: Allentown's Sarbari provides restaurant-purchasing software

Restaurants and food service providers, from small family-owned eateries to large restaurant groups, all devote significant resources to purchasing food and supplies. 

Sarbari, based in Allentown, aims to get restaurant personnel out of the office and into the kitchen, with a software solution that organizes supplier data, streamlines the ordering process, boosts productivity, and saves money on food and labor costs.

Founder and CEO Sebastian Serra started his career as a produce supplier in the North End of Boston, eventually starting his own company.

"After selling that company to a larger competitor, I saw a need for restaurant owners to have the ability to organize the pricing and product information from all the suppliers they were using," he recalls. "By starting with an Excel spreadsheet and creating formulas that helped them shop more intelligently, the restaurants saw savings in both time and money immediately."

That spreadsheet eventually led Serra to Allentown's Trifecta Technologies, which developed Sarbari’s web-based software program, and, most recently, to a new headquarters in downtown Allentown.

"We're excited to be part the amazing revitalization going on here," he says. "With our new space we now have plenty of room to operate. We're currently working to add new members to our operations team, and the sales team will expand into New York and Boston in the coming months. We expect to add five to 10 new jobs in the next six months."

Working with its clients, Sarbari has identified several new features for the next software update, scheduled for this summer. 

Source: Sebastian Serra, Sarbari  
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Wash Cycle Laundry forges a new path for socially conscious investing

A few weeks ago, Philadelphia startup Wash Cycle Laundry (WCL) closed on a major new loan from the Distinguished Social Ventures Foundation (DSVF) which may help the company create hundreds of new jobs and nab new contracts on the way to major expansion.

According to founder and CEO Gabriel Mandujano, the $450,000 loan isn’t just important for what it will help WCL achieve, but also in the new model it will help forge for foundations who want to invest in mission-based businesses.

WCL, now operating in Austin and Washington, D.C., as well as Philly, was founded here in 2010. The company provides laundry and linen rental services for institutions, businesses and residents, with environmentally-friendly high-efficiency machines and powerful bike trailers for hauling. The company also focuses on hiring its employees from vulnerable populations such as formerly incarcerated people and longtime welfare recipients. The company currently employs almost 50 people, with a retention rate topping 80 percent in workers' first six months.

"What [this] capital allows us to do is come to the table as a ready partner," explains Mandujano. When WCL negotiates with potential clients like a hospital system or university, whether or not the company has the capacity to handle the contract in terms of staffing and inventory has always been a big question. "What this investment has allowed us to do is…go out and close more of these institutional contracts."

The terms of the loan are unique, and give WCL a powerful incentive to expand its socially conscious mission. The current interest rate on the loan is 5 percent, but WCL has five years to reduce that interest rate drastically.

"We’re talking about the net number of jobs that we create," says Mandujano of the loan’s "five-year time clock" from its January 21 closing date. If WCL can create 200 jobs with the help of the new capital, interest on the loan will drop to three percent, and if it can create 500 new jobs within five years, the interest rate will go down to just one percent.

"I’m really excited that this financing aligns our financial interests with our mission interests," he enthuses. "If we’re better at achieving our mission, we’re also financially rewarded for that."

And for both WCL and DSVF, a bigger goal is creating a model that will work for other "purpose-driven businesses" and the foundations who might be interested in similar "impact investing," but do not know how to select the right company, set the right goals, and hammer out the paperwork.

According to Mandujano, "we wanted to create an instrument that that we thought could be copied both by other foundations that want to invest in Wash Cycle, but also just by foundations interested in this type of investing in general."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Gabriel Mandujano, Wash Cycle Laundry

Eleven Southeast PA companies share $1.9 million in new funding

Eleven early-stage companies -- everything from a bagel bakery to a company that prints living tissue -- are recipients of $1.9 million in new investments from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania

Philadelphia's BioBots expects that within 20 years its 3-D bioprinters will allow patients with organ failure to receive custom replacement organs built by and constructed out of their own cells.

Another Philadelphia company, EnviroKure Inc., uses proprietary technology to produce liquid organic fertilizers. Their unique product upcycles chicken manure in a fully sustainable, highly efficient process to meet the needs of the fastest growing fertilizer markets in the United States: large-scale organic farming and natural turf management.

In Chester County, Essential Medical is developing X-SealTM and MANTATM, two innovative vascular closure devices for both small bore and large bore femoral closure. Vascular closure devices (VCDs) are used to close incisions in the leg artery after cardiac catheterizations.

Philadelphia's Fitly is a Digital Health Accelerator company. Fitly’s mission is to empower anyone who needs to eat healthy by making cooking easy, delicious and affordable. 

LifeVest, a Philadelphia company, sits at the intersection of physical and financial health. Using evidence-based science and behavioral economics, LifeVest motivates users to invest in their own wellbeing by rewarding them for learning about, tracking and improving their health.

Livegenic in Philadelphia delivers technology to enhance the customer service environment. It provides an easy way to gain a real-time video from the customer’s point of view through something most customers already have: a smartphone. Livegenic helps organizations reduce support costs, improve customer and employee satisfaction, and minimize business-related risks.

Mitochon Pharmaceuticals is a Delaware County biotech startup that focuses on developing drugs targeting the mitochondria for a host of serious diseases. The company’s development programs are primarily focused on neurodegenerative and neuromuscular diseases including Huntington’s, Batten Disease, Stroke, Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson Disease and severe burns, and secondarily on metabolic disorders due to over-nutrition (diabetes, obesity and NASH). Ongoing research has linked these diseases to various malfunctions of the mitochondria. By correcting them, Mitochon aims to open the way for a broad range of disease modifying therapies.

Montgomery County’s NETMINDER produces a unique protective coating, offering an environmentally acceptable way to protect aquatic gear such as salmon, cobia, and bluefin tuna nets; oyster cages; trays and bags; crab pots and other gear from the high costs of fouling.

Also based in Montgomery County, PAST offers its Software as a Service (SaaS) to help doctors efficiently distinguish patients who can safely use controlled substance prescription medication from those who require more complex care or additional safety considerations.
 
Locating in Philadelphia’s Manayunk neighborhood, Sweet Note Bakery is a gluten-free and allergen-free bagel manufacturer.

Montgomery County’s Zuppler is a global Internet commerce solution for restaurants and caterers. Zuppler powers millions of mobile and web food-ordering transactions using their proprietary SaaS platform. This enables consumers to order food from their preferred restaurants and caterers using any device via the restaurant’s branded website or mobile app.

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

Pittsburgh's Idea Foundry adds advanced materials to its mission

Idea Foundry, a nonprofit Pittsburgh acceleration and commercialization organization, is adding a new arm focused on advanced materials. Expected to launch its first round in May, the program joins other Idea Foundry accelerators in healthcare and life sciences, social enterprise, entertainment and education technology, and water. Participants will be eligible for financial support, hands-on business development services and market collaboration opportunities with industry players.
 
"The new accelerator’s focus is fairly broad," says Director of Innovation Nehal Bhojak. "We will consider innovations in all areas of material science."

Initially those will include bioengineered materials, advanced materials such as synthetic engineered materials or super alloys, coatings and polymers. As the accelerator becomes established, Bhojak envisions an even more expanded focus.

Concurrent with the launch announcement comes the dissolution of the PA NanoMaterials Commercialization Center.

"The PA Nano Board agreed that nanotechnology ventures were more accurately defined as part of the large advanced materials field, which led to the new program to be administered by Idea Foundry," explains Robert Kumpf, a former PA Nano board member. The organization ceased to exist as of January 1.

Bhojak says Idea Foundry will "carry forward the original mission of the PA Nano Center through our tried and tested accelerator model." Besides managing the dissolution, Idea Foundry will use its own financial and team resources towards the new accelerator.

"Idea Foundry has always supported material science innovations and we have quite a few advanced materials companies in our portfolio," she adds. "The new accelerator will enable us to continue that support with more sector-specific focus."
 
Source: Nehal Bhojak, Idea Foundry
Writer: Elise Vider
 

With a big NSF grant and new accelerator, UPenn takes technology from lab to market

The University of Pennsylvania's new Penn Center for Innovation, described as "a dedicated, one-stop shop for commercial partnering with Penn," has been awarded a National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to foster entrepreneurship and commercialization.

Under the three-year grant, Penn is launching the Penn I-Corps Site, a new business accelerator, in collaboration with Wharton's Mack Institute for Innovation Management, Penn Medicine’s Center for Healthcare InnovationBen Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) and the City of Philadelphia.

In its grant announcement, Penn said the Penn I-Corps Site will "support translation of research areas into the marketplace by providing educational programming, financial advice and strategic guidance."

The accelerator gets underway this summer with 30 faculty-student interdisciplinary teams creating commercialization plans for their early-stage technology. The goal is to help the teams launch new ventures by the end of 2015 with well-developed business models that position them to apply for further NSF funding.

The Summer Accelerator Program is open to Penn faculty and students as well as local entrepreneurs. An organizational meeting is set for 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, February 24 at the World Café Live (3025 Walnut St., Philadelphia).

A committee comprised of investors, experienced entrepreneurs and industry experts will select the participants; the program will launch in May. The teams will have access to lectures and hands-on activities, guidance on developing and testing their business models, up to $2,500 in NSF funding for prototyping and other expenses, and connections to an extensive entrepreneurial network.

"We’re excited to work together to build a network of mentors and advisors to help the teams gain real-world experience in bringing technology from the lab to the market," explains RoseAnn Rosenthal, president and CEO of BFTP/SEP, "and to build a pipeline of investable enterprises that can creative economic value in our region."

Source: The Penn Center for Innovation
Writer: Elise Vider

 

Seven BIG IDEAS compete for $200,000 in prizes from Ben Franklin Technology Parnters

Seven startups in Northwestern Pennsylvania are gearing up to pitch their innovations at the annual BIG IDEA competition sponsored by Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania (BFTP/CNP).  

"Many people don’t realize that Ben Franklin makes investments in small manufacturers," said BFTP/CNP in announcing the competition. "This year, in order to remind companies to think about Ben Franklin as a resource when planning to introduce new or improved products to the market, our BIG IDEA Contest will focus on helping small manufacturers and entrepreneurs turn their ideas into real business opportunities."

The finalists will pitch their ideas to a panel of independent judges in April, with the winner announced in May. The winner’s prize package is valued at $200,000 and includes $50,000 in cash, an Innovation Adoption Grant up to $25,000 to work with a PA-based research university, priority access to a low-interest $100,000 loan from BFTP, 60 hours of Innovation Engineering project time from the NW Industrial Resource Center as well as access to an Advanced Manufacturing Apprentice to assist in prototype development or pre-commercialization services, a one-year pass to seminars offered by BFTP's eMarketing Learning Center  and a free consult (and proposal prep) on how to access federal R&D grant money from the Innovation Partnership.

BFTP/CNP President and CEO Stephen Brawley says the response to the 2015 BIG IDEA competition was overwhelming.

"There’s a lot of entrepreneurial energy in this area," he enthuses. "We had so many great applications, it was difficult to choose just a few finalists. It takes guts to put your ideas out there to be judged by strangers, and we applaud all who did. Those who did not make it into the finals, should feel free to contact Ben Franklin's Erie office if they want to pursue other options."

This year’s finalists are:Source: Liz Wilson, BFTP/CNP
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Dynamic marketing campaign pushes innovation on the I-99 corridor

Economic development officials in Centre, Blair and Bedford counties are at work on a fresh marketing campaign touting the I-99 corridor as a prime location for business growth.

"With the largest concentration of Keystone Innovation Zones and Penn State University’s leadership status in materials science, life sciences and information technologies, the I-99 corridor region is poised to take its marketing efforts to the next level to support local companies and attract new investment," says Lesley Kistner of the Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County.

The campaign is aimed at site selectors, corporate decision makers and economic development officials; it includes an annual print publication scheduled to launch this summer and a revamped website. Besides CBICC, the partners are the Altoona-Blair County Development Corporation and the Bedford County Development Association.

The three counties began collaborating in 2001 on economic growth along I-99, which runs north-south, linking I-76 and I-80. From the outset, a key objective was to leverage the strengths of Penn State.

“So while work to promote the economic development assets of the corridor is not new, the effort has been re-energized at a time when its most recognizable asset -- Penn State University -- has made economic development a focal point," explains Kistner. "Under President Barron, [the school] has made dramatic improvements in its intellectual property policy -- all strong selling points that make the region attractive to business."

Adding to its appeal, the I-99 corridor has 10 Keystone Innovation Zone locations designed to link technology-based companies with university faculty and research support, and numerous Keystone Opportunity Zones, which feature a greatly reduced tax burden.

The corridor also offers easy access to "Penn State University and its world-class research across many fields of study, including a leadership in metallic materials additive manufacturing," adds Kistner. "Low-cost energy, a skilled workforce, a strong entrepreneurial ecosystem, a strategic location to Marcellus and Utica natural gas shale plays, and an efficient transportation system all combine to make the corridor and this region of central Pennsylvania attractive to business and industry."

Source: Lesley Kistner, Chamber of Business & Industry of Centre County
Writer: Elise Vider

 

Second Time Around: LightLab International Allentown reunites two veteran entrepreneurs

Two of the entrepreneurs behind the first client at Allentown’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center are back a quarter-century later with a new venture, LightLab International Allentown.

Mike Grather and Tracy Silvert managed Luminaire Testing Labs (LTL) when it launched in 1989. Grather joined LTL as one of its first employees and purchased the company from its founder three years later. By the time LTL was sold 12 years later it had grown to $2 million in annual revenue with nine employees. Along the way, Grather hired Silvert to manage operations. 

Now the two are back together with an eye towards the expanding market for LED lighting.

"As we were growing LTL, we were able to fuel it by taking advantage of the expanding use of compact fluorescent lights (CFL) and the subsequent introduction of LED lamps," says Grather. "Because of their energy efficiency, we are seeing that LED bulbs are proliferating in the market much like CFL bulbs did. It’s a market that we know well and are very excited to re-enter."

LightLab International Allentown, which plans to be operational by April, will be an ISO-accredited photometric testing laboratory providing testing services for the lighting industry (primarily the North American market). Typical products for testing would include bulbs (replacement lamps) and lighting fixtures (luminaires) for use in interior, outdoor, parking-area, roadway and floodlighting applications.

"There is an industry-wide need for technical customer support to help lighting manufacturers navigate the many new standards, specifications and regulations that have arisen in the past five to 10 years," explains Grather. "We also have the experience needed to work with manufacturers’ engineering departments to help customize testing to fit their research and development needs."
 
LightLab International is based in Australia, where they manufacture testing equipment, and perform testing and calibration services. LightLab opened a testing laboratory in Phoenix, Arizona in 2011. The Allentown operation will operate under the LightLab name, but will be its own entity with its own management.

"Like any other startup, we raised our own funding, operate on our own finances, and will proceed with business without any managerial or financial involvement from the other labs," insists Grather.

Hence the location in a business incubator.

"This is the story every business incubator looks for," says Anthony Durante, program manager for Allentown Economic Development Corporation. "We are bringing back an entrepreneur who had successfully grown and exited a company that originated in our program. The team is back because they know firsthand the benefits of being part of a program like ours."

Sources: AEDC and Mike Grather, LightLab International Allentown
Writer: Elise Vider

 
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