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Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Announces Funding for Bethlehem’s Ben Franklin TechVentures

By Colin McEvoy on October 4, 2016

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announcing a $1.5 million grant at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf announcing a $1.5 million grant at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem.

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf visited the Lehigh Valley this week to announce funding for a major expansion project at a Bethlehem business incubator for early-stage technology-oriented companies.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) will receive a $1.5 million state grant to support the construction of a 19,685 square-foot expansion to Ben Franklin TechVentures, located on Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus in Bethlehem.

“We’re doing this to make sure that organizations like this have the resources they need to help entrepreneurs get started and create jobs right here in Pennsylvania,” Wolf said during his appearance at the Ben Franklin TechVentures on Nov. 3.

Ben Franklin TechVentures currently supports 38 early-stage firms, employing 173 people, according to R. Chadwick Paul Jr., President and CEO of BFTP/NEP. The expansion will accommodate up to 20 new companies and create 39 new jobs.

“Ben Franklin has returned $3.60 for every $1 that the commonwealth has invested in it,” Wolf said. “We’re just nudging along people who really want to start businesses (and) helping people with good ideas turn them into good jobs.”

Construction at the Ben Franklin TechVentures expansion is expected to begin this week.

Construction at the Ben Franklin TechVentures expansion is expected to begin this week.

Wolf previously visited Ben Franklin TechVentures during his Jobs That Pay tour in January, and has repeatedly made economic development a cornerstone of his administration.

Rentable space at Ben Franklin TechVentures is currently at 97 percent capacity. The four-story addition – which will be called the TechVentures West Wing – will include business incubation, office, and meeting space for early-stage companies.

Construction is expected to begin this week, with a goal of completion and occupancy by September 2017, Paul said.

“I often point to this program as an example of using state dollars in partnership with the private sector to grow our economy, and the results are undeniable,” state Sen. Lisa Boscola said during Wolf’s appearance.

Since beginning operation in 1983, BFTP/NEP has created 16,986 new jobs for Pennsylvania workers and retained 23,761 existing jobs, Paul said. It has also started 482 new companies, and helped clients develop 1,433 new products and processes, and BFTP/NEP clients have generated more than $1.4 billion in follow-on funding.

Paul cited Computer Aid, Inc. as an example of a major Lehigh Valley company that began in the Ben Franklin TechVentures. Starting with just one employee in the incubator, the Allentown-based global IT services firm now has more than 4,500 employees, he said.

The total expansion project is expected to cost about $7.5 million. The $1.5 million grant from the Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP) will be joined with $1.7 million in funding from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The rest will be raised by BFTP/NEP.

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