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Bold Optimism is the Theme of the Ben Franklin iXchange

By Colin McEvoy on May 18, 2016

Byron Reese was the keynote speaker at the Ben Franklin iXchange event, held at Lehigh University's Zoellner Arts Center. (photo by Ryan Hulvat)

Byron Reese was the keynote speaker at the Ben Franklin iXchange event, held at Lehigh University’s Zoellner Arts Center. (photo by Ryan Hulvat)

“Bold Optimism” was the theme of the night at the 2016 Ben Franklin iXchange, and for the organization that has helped start 482 new companies over the last 33 years, they say that theme couldn’t be more appropriate.

“Few endeavors require more optimism than starting a new company,” said R. Chadwick Paul, Jr., President and CEO of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP). “It’s exciting and challenging, and also fraught with tribulations.”

More than 450 people attend the 22nd annual iXchange on May 17, held at the Zoellner Arts Center on the Lehigh University campus in Bethlehem. The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) was among the event’s sponsors.

During the program, Paul shared the results of a study that found the Ben Franklin Technology Partners program, which serves 21 counties across the state, has returned $3.60 in state tax revenue for every $1 invested in the program.

Since 2007, BFTP/NEP clients have generated more than $1.424 billion in follow-on funding, Paul said. Since 1983, the program has created 16,986 new jobs for Pennsylvania workers, retained 23,761 existing jobs, and developed 1,433 new products and processes.

Paul also discussed an initiative to expand the Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network. The Ben Franklin TechVentures incubator in Bethlehem, was expanded in 2011 and the organization is currently seeking funding to expand it again.

“Over three decades, we’ve seen first-hand the enormous difference that business incubation can make to the success of early-stage firms,” he said. “We’re leveraging that achievement and synergy to grow our network. These efforts fuel innovation, catalyze the regional technology economy, and create the jobs of the future.”

There are currently 41 firms located at Ben Franklin TechVentures, employing more than 170 people. BFTP/NEP has won two National Business Incubator of the Year awards, and its 10-member business incubator network in northeastern Pennsylvania is among the largest in the nation, Paul said.

Ben Franklin’s 22nd annual Innovation Award winners were also announced at the iXchange, including:

Catherine Bailey, Chief Operating Officer with Rea.deeming Beautym, accepted the Innovation Award for Entrepreneurial Achievement on the company's behalf. (photo by Ryan Hulvat)

Catherine Bailey, Chief Operating Officer with Rea.deeming Beauty, accepted the Innovation Award for Entrepreneurial Achievement on the company’s behalf. (photo by Ryan Hulvat)

Rea.deeming Beauty, Inc., a Bethlehem-based cosmetics company whose brand “beautyblender” is the world’s first elliptically shaped, non-disposable, high-definition cosmetic sponge applicator. It employs more than 76 employees in the region, and was named the 2015 Fastest Growing Company by Lehigh Valley Business.

Rea.deeming Beauty has more than tripled its revenue over the past three years, and recently completed work with BFTP/NFP and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center to enhance its production and fulfillment capabilities to meet a steep increase in demand, resulting in a productivity increase of more than 28 percent, Paul said.

“We are excited to be here in the Lehigh Valley, and we plan to stay here in the Lehigh Valley,” said Catherine Bailey, Chief Operating Officer with Rea.deeming Beauty. “We love being part of this business community, and we anticipate the future with tremendous hope.”

The iXchange also featured Byron Reese as its keynote speaker. An accomplished author, inventor, entrepreneur and “eternal optimist,” Reese employs his understanding of technical data to illuminate how the technology of today can solve some of our most daunting global challenges.

Reese believes technology will create a dramatically better world for everyone on earth, and that technology is advancing so quickly in such fields as genetics, nanotechnology, and robotics that it will some day solve all the world’s “technical problems,” including poverty, hunger, scarcity, war, and even death itself.

Reese added that he is particularly impressed by the Lehigh Valley and the degree to which educational institutions, private sector, and public organizations in the region work together to promote innovation and create jobs.

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