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Survey Shows Record Results at Bridgeworks Business Incubation Program

By Colin McEvoy on July 16, 2020

The exterior of Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, the Allentown Economic Development Corporation’s business incubator.

Newly-released survey results have shown record results at Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, the business incubation program of the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC).

The 10 incubators tenants at Bridgeworks earned nearly $12 million in revenue in 2019, a substantial 69% increase over 2018, according to the aggregated results of the program’s annual Incubator Client Impact Survey.

“The mission of the incubation program is being demonstrated through its results, both annually and historically,” said AEDC Executive Director Scott Unger. “Our goal is to continue to assist entrepreneurs as they launch successful, sustainable businesses that contribute to the area’s economic vitality.”

Collectively, Bridgework’s companies now employ 38 full-time employees and another 35 as either part-time or contracted employees, according to AEDC Program Manager David Dunn.

The full-time employee headcount has grown by 36% year-over-year, while total salaries, wages, and contractor fees paid to these employees totaled $2.1 million, an 11% increase over 2018.

“The Impact Survey results demonstrate the collective, positive trajectory of the incubation program,” Dunn said. “The significant increase in revenue indicates that these businesses are crossing the financial threshold into sustained profitability”.

Employee count has also increased, he said, while the use of outside contractors decreased. Clients continued to transition from 1099 positions to in-house employees.

“One of the most important indicators of economic success is an increase in employees. We are extremely pleased by the incubator’s trend regarding this component,” Dunn said.

“The decline in contracted workers is a positive sign; it proves that the incubation companies are maturing, gaining business experience, and becoming more self-sufficient,” he said. “They are continuing the successful evolution from startups into early-stage sustainable businesses.”

The annual impact survey of the client companies in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center incubator program is focused on job creation, company revenues, loans obtained, grants, and equity investment data.

Additional data collected from the survey showed a decrease in debt capital, meaning the incubation clients had a decreased need to borrow funds and sought less financing throughout the year. Dunn said this indicates that revenue is meeting their cash needs. 

“The data displayed by the incubation clients from 2019 is extremely encouraging,” Dunn said. “The results display significant growth in every measurement critical to a startup’s success.”

Several clients were able to secure $186,000 more than the previous year in grant funds in order to pursue technology-focused projects, Dunn said. They also continued the trend of pursuing new patents to protect their  newly-developed intellectual property assets.

Additionally, AEDC’s Urban Made program provided a total of $400,000 in loans between multiple incubation clients during 2019. The program combines business interaction and loan programs for emerging small businesses, helping with loans for equipment, expansion, operating costs.

In 2019, the Bridgeworks business incubation program celebrated its 30th anniversary. In 1988, AEDC purchased the former Mack Trucks Plants 4 and 4A and refurbished the latter into a multi-tenant incubator.

Bridgeworks opened its doors in 1989 with its first client-tenant Luminaire Testing Labs. Of the 64 companies that have participated in our program, 34 have graduated, and 28 are still in business. The other 6 successfully exited through mergers and acquisitions with other companies.

Bridgeworks client companies have created 626 jobs since the program launched. Current companies include Amorphic Tech Ltd, ColdEdge Technologies, The Colony Meadery, County Seat Spirits, Hijinx Brewing Company, JH Plastics LLC, LightLab International, MTS Design & Manufacture, Polymer Contours, and TRuCapSol LLC.

“The Bridgeworks incubation program is especially unique in that it focuses primarily on manufacturing startups, which lead to the creation of more high-paying jobs that generate more collateral economic activity than any other sector,” Unger said.

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