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Southside Bethlehem KIZ Awarded $80,000 to Startups in 2019

By Colin McEvoy on January 3, 2020

The city of Bethlehem continued its tradition of supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in 2019, with the Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) awarded $80,000 in funding to early-stage startup companies over the course of the year.

“The Southside Bethlehem KIZ continues to attract entrepreneurs with great ideas and ambitions, but who are not quite ready for traditional financing,” said Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez. “Our KIZ can serve as a model for other communities across the country and thriving companies in Bethlehem today credit the KIZ with helping them launch and grow.”

Companies like UBMe, Almas Foods International, HootBoard, and Aeria Pro received $15,000 in Technology Transfer Grants from the Southside Bethlehem KIZ, while seven companies received a combined $17,500 to hire student interns from Lehigh Valley colleges and universities.

Ray Valentin and Pauline Ribau of Aeria Pro said the KIZ has been a huge benefit for their company, which will be first to market with Tiger Fins as a means to eliminate monotonous steps in the day of a window cleaning professional.

“KIZ funding is empowering Aeria Pro and helping launch next stages of our flagship product development along with a suite of related innovative solutions to the window cleaning industry,” Valentin said. “The relationships built through the grant are key to future success and scaling sales, which will in turn bring added community notoriety and employment.”

The Southside Bethlehem KIZ is now in its 15th year of operation. To date, it has invested over $8 million dollars in 100 companies since the program’s inception in 2004.

KIZs are designated areas within Pennsylvania that foster entrepreneurial growth in coordination with the efforts of institutions of higher education, offering critical financial resources and assistance to early-stage companies.

In Bethlehem, 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.

Funding is invested at the earliest stages of companies that possess promising, technology that is in the process of being commercialized, according to Asher Schiavone, Bethlehem economic development coordinator. Many of these companies are pre-revenue.

The KIZ also funded companies who used the community-accessible Fab Lab at the Northampton Community College’s Fowler Center. For example, Bonn Place Brewing used the resources at the Fab Lab to design and create new tap handles that will help market for an additional revenue stream as they partner with local establishments.

Additionally, NEATCap Medical also used the Fab Lab to further their design of an apparatus to decrease stress caused by high-frequency sounds for infants in the neonatal intensive care unit, Schiavone said.

The Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation was established in 1982 for the purpose of facilitating economic development in the City of Bethlehem. BEDCO works closely with the City of Bethlehem’s Department of Community & Economic Development to ensure a unified economic development strategy.

Technology transfer grants help support KIZ companies seeking to market and commercialize a product or service. They are crucially important to a company like UBMe, a geosocial messaging app for sending text, videos, and photos, and for discovering what’s happening around you at any given moment.

The KIZ is administered by the Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation, which was established in 1982 to help facilitate economic development in the city of Bethlehem. BEDCO works closely with Bethlehem’s Department of Community & Economic Development to ensure a unified economic development strategy.

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