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PPL Partners with Bethlehem to Help Startup Companies

By Colin McEvoy on August 12, 2016

Carol Obando-Derstine, Regional Affairs Director for PPL Electric Utilities, presents BEDCO a $4,000 check. Also pictured (left to right) are William Michalerya, Associate Vice President for Government Relations at Lehigh University; Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez; and Asher Schiavone, Economic Development Coordinator for the city of Bethlehem.

Carol Obando-Derstine, Regional Affairs Director for PPL Electric Utilities, presents BEDCO a $4,000 check. Also pictured (left to right) are William Michalerya, Associate Vice President for Government Relations at Lehigh University; Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez; and Asher Schiavone, Economic Development Coordinator for the city of Bethlehem.

The PPL Corporation is partnering with the Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation (BEDCO) to help provide grant funding to and help facilitate growth for early-stage startup companies in the Lehigh Valley.

The PPL Foundation has become the newest Primary Partner to the Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) program, and has awarded BEDCO a $4,000 grant to help fund KIZ Technology Transfer and Student Internship Grants.

“It is exciting to add an organization of PPL’s caliber to an already impressive roster of current Primary Partners,” said Asher Schiavone, Economic Development Coordinator with the city of Bethlehem. “These investments have been and will continue to be critical as we believe that Bethlehem is one of the best places in the country to launch and grow a startup company.”

The PPL Foundation awards annual grants through a competitive application and review process. Carol Obando-Derstine, Regional Affairs Director with PPL Electric Utilities, said the PPL supports programs that focus on workforce development, community revitalization, and education.

“The Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone is a great initiative that furthers our priorities by helping start-up companies,” Obando-Derstine said. “We are pleased to be able to provide support for local entrepreneurs because we know the impact that will have on the community.”

KIZs are designated areas within Pennsylvania that foster entrepreneurial growth in coordination with the efforts of institutions of higher education. In Bethlehem’s case, the KIZ provides an incentive for graduating Lehigh University and Northampton Community College students with an idea for a startup company to locate in the city, rather than leaving the state for Silicon Valley or another technology hub.

Since its inception in 2004, the Southside Bethlehem KIZ has led to the creation of nearly 400 new jobs, over 100 new products developed, and about $6 million invested in 90 companies.

“I am excited that PPL has decided to invest in Bethlehem-based entrepreneurs and startup companies,” said Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez. “This investment will allow Bethlehem to continue to market itself as a hotbed for innovation.”

Qualified startup companies within the KIZ can seek up to $15,000 in technology transfer grants, which that help them market and commercialize a product or service, as well as student internship grants totaling $2,500 for undergraduate students and $5,000 for graduate students.

BEDCO was established in 1982 for the purpose of facilitating economic development in the City of Bethlehem. The organization works closely with the Bethlehem Department of Community & Economic Development to ensure a unified economic development strategy, and manages both the Southside Bethlehem KIZ and the Pi: Partnership for Innovation startup business incubator.

Headquartered in Allentown, PPL is one of the largest companies in the U.S. utility sector, PPL’s, with  seven high-performing, award-winning utilities serving 10 million customers in the U.S. and United Kingdom. The company and its 13,000 employees are dedicated to providing exceptional customer service and reliability and delivering superior value for shareowners.

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