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Ben Franklin Technology Partners Gives COVID-19 Funding to Lehigh Valley Startups

By Colin McEvoy on June 24, 2020

Ben Franklin Technology Partners operates the Ben Franklin TechVentures business incubator in Bethlehem

Ben Franklin Technology Partners operates the Ben Franklin TechVentures business incubator in Bethlehem

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania has recently announced financial investments in multiple start-up companies and established manufacturers in Lehigh Valley, including emergency funding that will help these businesses during the economic challenges caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“As we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is clear that Ben Franklin’s nimble and creative early-stage firm and innovative manufacturer clients are key to addressing this and future crises,” said Laura Eppler, Chief Marketing Officer of the BFTP/NEP. “Ben Franklin clients create and retain highly paid, sustainable jobs, and they also innovate against COVID-19.”

BFTP/NEP announced two separate rounds of funding this month, including $547,500 in regular investments and a total of $1,839,870 in Return to Health Funding. The following Lehigh Valley companies received support as part of BFTP/NEP’s regular investment in regional economic development:

  • Thread Bioscience (Bethlehem) received $100,000 to support the development of a prototype production facility and R&D laboratory for a new urinary tract infection diagnostic test called CultureStat.
  • MDS Link, Inc. (Bethlehem) received $40,000 in support of a continued project to increase data transport capacity using existing coax cable.
  • Custom Laminating Corporation (Mt. Bethel) received $10,500. The company is working on an analysis of two laminating processes to improve overall operational efficiencies.
  • Straight Arrow Products (Bethlehem) received $10,000. The manufacturer of hair and skin products is implementing an enhanced warehouse management system.
  • PMA-13, Inc. (Allentown) received $12,000. The producer of signage for government organizations, hospitals, and companies is implementing a new Enterprise Resource Planning system.

BFTP/NEP developed a Return to Health funding program including various types of company investments. Return to Health funds were provided through a $1 million disbursement from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) that was matched by BFTP/NEP. Ben Franklin made 35 emergency investments in regional start-ups and established manufacturers, totaling $1,435,500, to support clients during the economic crisis caused by COVID-19.

Portfolio Protection Investments will help secure BFTP/NEP’s existing investments in pre-COVID-19 viable and growing early-stage clients. These 18 clients were performing strongly in job and revenue growth, loan performance, and/or were developing promising product or patent portfolios.

Investments are provided as zero-percent loans. Lehigh Valley start-ups receiving Portfolio Protection Investments include:

  • LifeAire Systems (Upper Macungie Township) received $100,000. The company has developed a new product that uses the company’s air purification technology to disinfect and decontaminate N95 masks.
  • Orbweaver Sourcing (Bethlehem) received $100,000. The company is the first and only provider of complete, real-time supply chain integration solutions for the electronics manufacturing industry.
  • Rocket Cloud (Bethlehem) received $100,000. Rocket Cloud helps industrial wholesalers successfully sell online, creating visibility for clients’ inventory on marketplaces such as Amazon, eBay, and Walmart.
  • Saladax Biomedical (Bethlehem) received $100,000. The company develops rapid blood tests for point-of-care and for laboratory analyzers, and is currently awaiting FDA emergency use authorization for a blood test for coronavirus antibodies.
  • S. Specialty Formulations (Bethlehem) received $75,000. The funding will support the logistics and purchase of equipment to expand an analytical lab to meet steep demand for pre-clinical materials for use in a COVID-19 vaccine.

BFTP/NEP also invested in small- to medium-sized manufacturers with Return to Health funds. The 17 Rebuilding Northeastern PA Manufacturers clients were partway through the development of innovative production and process enhancements, and failing to complete them would hinder their recovery and growth. These clients will facilitate job retention and creation during the recovery.

The following Lehigh Valley companies received Rebuilding Northeastern PA Manufacturers Investments, which are provided as matching funding.

  • BRD Noise and Vibration Control, Inc. (Wind Gap) received $25,000. The company allows for a more touch-free workplace by implementing 3D scanning and modeling technology for noise-reducing HVAC acoustic design and manufacturing.
  • Effort Foundry, Inc. (Bath) received $25,000 to implement product and process improvements to its manufacture of high-integrity steel castings for the pump, valve, power generation, and military industries.
  • Nazareth Pallet Co., Inc. (Northampton) received $25,000 to improve processes to reduce costs in the production and recycling of wooden pallets, while continuing to be compliant with COVID-19 restrictions.
  • Tower Products (Easton), a manufacturer of environmentally sensitive offset and flexographic pressroom chemistry products, received $25,000 to perform a workflow and process review to streamline operations while remaining COVID-19 compliant.
  • Vastex International, Inc. (Bethlehem), a manufacturer of screen printing machinery, received $16,720 to retain legal assistance as part of adjusting to the company’s new operating environment as a result of COVID-19.
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