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Entrepreneurship Council of the Lehigh Valley Has New Name, New Focus

By Colin McEvoy on January 20, 2015

Chris Kauzmann, director of the newly reorganized Entrepreneurship Council of the Lehigh Valley.

Chris Kauzmann, director of the newly reorganized Entrepreneurship Council of the Lehigh Valley.

New name, new mission, new focus on improving the entrepreneurial environment of the Lehigh Valley.

Thursday marked the first meeting of the newly reorganized Entrepreneurship Council of the Lehigh Valley (ECLV), a Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) council dedicated to listening to the region’s entrepreneurial community and identifying its unmet needs.

The LVEDC has long been committed to promoting entrepreneurs and start-up businesses, and previously did so through the Innovation, Talent and Entrepreneurship (ITE) Council, established six years ago under a different name, which also focused on workforce issues and the general advancement of innovation in the Lehigh Valley. But the ITE Council has now evolved into the ECLV, which has a newly renewed and more narrowly defined focus on entrepreneurship.

“For a long time, we were wrestling with the question of ‘Who are we? What is our mission?’” said Chris Kauzmann, chairman of the council and managing director of multiple programs at the Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation at Lehigh University. “Now we’ve answered those questions, and we can focus on identifying needs, communicating our initiatives between council members, and making recommendations to LVEDC on how we can make the biggest impact.”

Dawn Ferrante, LVEDC director of regional competitiveness, who is the LVEDC staff liaison on the ECLV, believes the council has very clearly identified its mission, the people responsible for delivering that mission, and the people who will ultimately benefit from it.

“Those things are crystal clear, and it can act as a template for other councils of LVEDC, and will benefit the rest of the organization as well,” Ferrante said. “I think the council’s clearly-defined mission stems from LVEDC itself also having a clear mission and strategic plan. The result of all the work that’s been done in the organization has had a positive trickle-down effect.”

The council’s new mission is to improve the entrepreneurial environment of the Lehigh Valley by listening to the region’s entrepreneurs, identifying their unmet needs, communicating regional entrepreneurship initiatives between council members, and connecting local resources to continue the development of new entrepreneurial support initiatives.

The council includes representatives from such organizations as the Lehigh University’s Baker Institute, Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Startup Digest, the Greater Easton Development Partnership, Lehigh Valley Tech and Lehigh Valley Angel Investors.

Thursday’s inaugural meeting has already generated new discussion about the possible needs of Lehigh Valley’s entrepreneurs. For example, Anthony Durante, program manager with AEDC, which operates the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center business incubator, expressed the need for more space for growing companies that are leaving incubators.

Along those same lines, some council members discussed the need for space for aspiring entrepreneurs who have graduated college, but have not yet reached the stage where they are ready for an incubator. The council discussed the possibility of more space like Pi: Partnership for Innovation, a Bethlehem facility providing affordable office space for technology companies.

The council hopes discussions like this will lead to a list of the highest-priority needs for the entrepreneurial community, which could be passed along LVEDC for further study and possible action. Kauzmann said the discussion is a good example of how different practitioners working to advance entrepreneurship can identify different needs in the community, and who is best suited to address those needs.

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