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Southside Bethlehem KIZ Has Created Over 400 New Jobs (VIDEO)

By Colin McEvoy on October 24, 2016

Asher Schiavone, Bethlehem economic development coordinator, speaking at the Southside Bethlehem KIZ Annual Update.

Asher Schiavone, Bethlehem economic development coordinator, speaking at the Southside Bethlehem KIZ Annual Update.

Since its inception in 2004, the Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) has helped create more than 400 new jobs and facilitated over $6 million in investment to more than 90 eligible companies. That translates to about $75,000 of assistance per company.

“By fostering a highly-concentrated collection of students, entrepreneurs, and startup companies, South Bethlehem has effectively positioned itself as a catalyst for innovation,” Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez said.

These numbers – as well as the startups and entrepreneurs who have benefited from the program – were highlighted at the Southside Bethlehem KIZ Annual Update on Oct. 24, attended by about 200 people at the Lehigh University‘s Iacocca Hall.

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.

Over the last 12 years, the KIZ has led to $64 million in grants leveraged, and the development of 121 new products and 116 new patents, according to Asher Schiavone, Bethlehem economic development coordinator. For every $1 invested by the KIZ, there has been $10.17 in additional funding leveraged, $9.78 in increased revenue, and $6.17 in research and development expenditures.

“I know that there’s lots of students here today who are interested in starting their own companies,” Schiavone said. “If you’re going to start anywhere, Bethlehem is definitely the place, and there are people here who want to help you succeed.”

The KIZ is managed by the Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation. The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) is one of the primary sponsors of the KIZ, and sits on its advisory board.

The KIZ provides several incentives to qualified businesses, including technology transfer grants up to $15,000 per project, student internship grants of up to $5,000 per intern, and KIZ tax credits up to $100,000 annually.

The annual update highlighted several companies that have received technology transfer grants from the KIZ, including Mezzimatic, which makes a “throwable paintballs” product called Goblies. It was started by Briana Gardell, 24, and inspired by a homework assignment in a technical entrepreneurship course at Lehigh University.

Goblies was named one of the hottest toys of the New York Toy Fair by CNBC, and one of the top summertime toys by Toy Insider. Gardell received a $15,000 technology transfer grant from the KIZ to open a manufacturing facility in Bethlehem, so they could be produced and sold as pre-made items rather than kits.

“It’s not just the programs, it’s also the people that are a huge resource within the Lehigh Valley,” Gardell said. “I talked to 10 entrepreneurs effortlessly in the last month for more than an hour because of all these programs and networking events like this. It’s such a startup community.”

Other highlighted startups included Altor Locks, which makes the world’s lightest high-security bike lock; Cernostics, Inc., a cancer diagnostics company; Harbor Light Software, a provider of marine data collection software; MindMe, Inc., a mobile application for small business owners to attract new leads; and ViiHealth, Inc., a cloud-based web service that lets consumers manage their personal healthcare information.

“People say it takes a village,” said Sunny Verma, founder and president of Vii Health. “I would say it takes a city, and the city is Bethlehem.”

COLUMN: Don Cunningham Bids Adieu to the Blackberry

This column, written by LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham, originally appeared in Lehigh Valley Business on October 24, 2016. (Click here to read Cunningham’s previous co[...]

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