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Ben Franklin COVID Recovery Investments Create, Retain 1,600 Jobs

By Colin McEvoy on August 6, 2021

Ben Franklin Technology Partners operates the Ben Franklin TechVentures business incubator in Bethlehem. It’s a key resource for life sciences research. (photo courtesy BFTP/NEP)

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) utilized COVID-19 recovery grant funding to help create or retain a total of nearly 1,600 jobs in the Lehigh Valley area and surrounding northeastern Pennsylvania counties.

BFTP/NEP was one of four Ben Franklin centers in the statewide network to be provided a one-time $1 million Technology Development Grant from Pennsylvania’s Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority, which BFTP/NEP matched with another $1 million, to invest in promising clients that were strongly affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

BFTP/NEP utilized that funding in its “Return to Health” program, with emergency investments totaling $2 million in 20 early-stage firms and 21 innovative manufacturers, according to the organization.

“If there was ever any question about Ben Franklin’s importance in supporting Pennsylvania’s economy, COVID-19 has provided a resounding answer,” said Angelo J. Valletta, President & CEO of BFTP/NEP.

“Since the early days of the pandemic, Ben Franklin clients helped keep Pennsylvanians employed,” Valletta said. “Our clients did so while developing products and services to address the crisis. Ben Franklin clients innovated against COVID-19 and helped position us for economic recovery.”

Clients reported the total impacts from the COVID-19 recovery investments included 240 jobs created, 1,324 jobs retained, $8.7 million in company matches of Ben Franklin investments, 10 new patents, and 31 new products and processes.

“COVID-19 has demonstrated that investments in innovation will help both reboot the economy and save lives,” Valletta said.

As would be expected from Ben Franklin’s diverse portfolio of early-stage firms and industries, COVID-19 had varying impacts on clients. Supply chain disruptions, customer demand declines, diminished abilities to engage in sales activities, and delayed project implementations all led to cash flow interruptions.

Some companies experienced invigorated demand, especially those that offered products or services to address the pandemic, according to the organization. Other companies were able and resilient to pivot to address new opportunities.

Many Ben Franklin manufacturer clients were partway through the development of innovative product and process enhancements prior to the pandemic, and failing to complete them would have jeopardized previous work and/or stalled the companies’ progress, according to BFTP/NEP.

BFTP/NEP’s investments in manufacturers improved safe manufacturing workflow for new marketing initiatives and improved manufacturing processes. The companies engaged consultants to help them quickly, safely, and efficiently return to work, recover, and plan for growth.

These clients implemented plans for recovery and facilitated job retention and creation, Valletta said.

BFTP/NEP is part of a state-funded economic development initiative that serves a 21-county area, which includes Lehigh and Northampton counties. It is part of a four-center economic development initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and is funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority.

Since beginning operations in 1983, BFTP/NEP has helped to create 19,740 new jobs for Pennsylvania workers and to retain 49,864 existing jobs, to start 531 new companies, and to develop 2,296 new products and processes.

Since 2007, BFTP/NEP clients have generated more than $1.6 billion in follow-on funding. The Pennsylvania Ben Franklin Technology Partners network has returned $3.90 to the state treasury for every $1.00 invested in the program. 

BFTP/NEP’s strategy encompasses developing and growing early-stage technology-oriented companies, supporting established manufacturers as they creatively apply new technology, and promoting an innovative community-wide infrastructure that supports Pennsylvania’s business technology ecosystem.

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