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Lehigh Valley Business Incubators Share Expertise on an International Stage

By LVEDC Staff on June 3, 2014

Wayne Barz, Manager of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania Ben Franklin TechVentures, Bethlehem, and Anthony Durante, Manager of the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, Allentown, co-presented at the National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) 28th International Conference on Business Incubation. Their presentation, Innovative Ways to Involve Your Incubator in the Start-Up Community, addressed ways in which a business incubator can foster and encourage growth in the startup community by supporting the creation of a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Among the first business incubators nationwide, both TechVentures and Bridgeworks have doing this in the Lehigh Valley for decades.

“The successes that TechVentures and Bridgeworks have had, especially where they have integrated with local grassroots efforts, makes for a great story,” explained Durante, who proposed the session to conference organizers. “Collectively, our two business incubation programs have more than 60 years of expertise in the industry. It’s important for us to share our lessons learned with the greater business incubation community.”

Barz noted, “The Ben Franklin incubator program earned the 2001 NBIA Incubator of the Year Award, and won this same top worldwide incubator award again in 2012. As the leader of our 10-member Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network, we’ve worked to share and support NBIA incubation best practices throughout northeastern Pennsylvania.”

Barz and Durante addressed a variety of topics, including fostering university relationships, creating new ways to tailor business services within incubation programs and supporting such grassroots activities as tech meet-ups, hackathons, Startup Weekends, podcasts and co-working spaces.

The NBIA Conference was held May 18 through 21 in New Orleans. More than 600 business incubation and entrepreneur support professionals from more than 40 countries attended.

The session led by Barz and Durante was one of the first held at the conference. It was highly attended and very well-received by attendees.

“The session presented by AEDC and Ben Franklin TechVentures was exceptional,” said Rob Griffin, Executive Director of Adams Hub for Innovation, a new business incubator launching in Carson City, Nev. “It was by far the most informative and instructive session, providing best-practices strategies that our incubator can implement to foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem in our community.”

Krista Covey, Program Director of the SMARTStart Business Incubator in Dade City, Fla. added, “Anthony Durante and Wayne Barz were fantastic. The discussion about the importance of entrepreneurial-led programs being a catalyst for successful incubation programs was right on!”

Durante said he amazed by the positive response the session received.

“It was interesting to see how the things that we do here in the Lehigh Valley to grow our entrepreneurial ecosystem are considered very innovative to other communities,” he said. “Wayne and I are excited to share our stories and experiences at future events.”

About the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania creates and retains highly paid, sustainable jobs by linking early-stage technology-based firms and established manufacturers with experts, universities, funding, and other resources to help them prosper through innovation. It is part of an award-winning, four-center economic development initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and is funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority. The Ben Franklin Technology Partners has returned $3.60 to the Pennsylvania treasury for every $1.00 invested in the program.

About Ben Franklin TechVentures
Ben Franklin TechVentures (BFTV) is an award-winning technology-based incubator/post incubator facility that is owned and managed by BFTP. BFTV provides resident companies with the support of an experienced incubator staff, the synergy of working in proximity to other early-stage companies, rental costs lower than market rates, flexible floor planning to accommodate specific needs, and access to Lehigh’s facilities, equipment, faculty, and student resources. These factors combine to greatly enhance incubator resident companies’ probability of success.

Just the Facts
Thirty early-stage firms, employing 171 people, are currently located in Ben Franklin TechVentures. Since 1983, the Ben Franklin Business Incubator/Ben Franklin TechVentures results include:

  •  Graduated 55 successful companies
  • Incubator graduates grossed more than $984 million in annual revenue last year
  • Companies created more than 6,400 jobs

About the Allentown Economic Development Corporation
Allentown Economic Development Corporation is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to a mission of identifying, encouraging, developing and managing strategic business opportunities for the benefit of Allentown, its citizens, and the Lehigh Valley. Its goal is to improve vacant and underutilized properties by assisting manufacturers, business owners and entrepreneurs in obtaining the resources and opportunities they require for success in the City of Allentown. Its Bridgeworks Enterprise Center business incubator, established in a refurbished former Mack Trucks plant, has helped entrepreneurs launch more than 50 companies and created more than 450 jobs since its founding in 1989.

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