Ben Franklin TechVentures Business Incubator Opens New West Wing
By Colin McEvoy on October 19, 2017
Eleven years ago, a group of people gathered under a tent for the grand opening of the original Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, a 35,000 square-feet of rentable space that was expected to meet the business incubator’s requirements for five years.
Eighteen months later, the building was already full, and demand was so high than a second expansion was required in 2011.
Six years later, Ben Franklin TechVentures is continuing to grow. Today marked the official dedication of its third expansion project: the West Wing, a 20,000 square-foot new expansion that brings the incubator’s total size to 129,000 square-feet.
“By accommodating the accelerating needs for incubator space that fuels growth and innovation, the TechVentures West Wing will support the creation of new technology-based jobs,” said R. Chadwick Paul, Jr., President and CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP).
“These jobs create new tax revenue that pay back $3.60 for every dollar of government investment in Ben Franklin,” Paul told a crowd of more than 100 people at the dedication ceremony. “The West Wing addition will allow Ben Franklin to build on its legacy as a job-creation factory.”
The new addition was celebrated in a novel way: Ben Franklin himself (portrayed by Touchstone Theater founder Bill George) appeared in the middle of the ceremony, flying a kite with keys on them as lightning effects played in the background. He presented those keys to Paul for the opening of the West Wing, calling them the “keys to new spaces for the new generation of Ben Franklin entrepreneurs.”
“With these keys, I declare the Ben Franklin TechVentures West Wing officially open for business,” Paul said.
The new West Wing provides additional office and meeting spaces for Ben Franklin TechVentures, Located on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus, the incubator has housed 41 firms and employed as many as 170 people in 2017.
TechVentures is owned and managed by BFTP/NEP, which has graduated 69 successful companies through its incubation program since 1983. Those companies have grossed more than $1.2 billion in annual revenue and created more than 6,900 jobs.
Since beginning operations, BFTP/NEP has helped create 17,415 new jobs for Pennsylvania workers, and helped retain 27,384 existing jobs, to start 492 companies, Paul said. Since 2007, Ben Franklin clients have generated $1.5 billion in follow-on funding.
The business incubator program has won the International Business Innovation Association Incubator of the Year Award on two separate occasions, a first in the award’s history, Paul said.
The West Wing was funded in part by grants from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, and the BB&T Economic Growth Fund.
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