Pennsylvania Economic Development Association Bestows Honors on Allentown Business Incubator
Allentown, Pennsylvania — On Tuesday, October 27th, the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association (PEDA) recognized the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) business incubation program with its 2015 Program of the Year award. The award was accepted by Anthony Durante, Program Manager, on behalf of AEDC at the 2015 PEDA Fall Conference which took place in Altoona, Pennsylvania this week.
“We are honored that PEDA and their awards committee have recognized the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center with the 2015 Program of the Year award,” said Durante. “The award is a true testament to the hard work that our staff, advisers and board members have put into rebuilding the business incubation program.”
“Business incubation is one of the cornerstones of good economic development. It is also one of the most difficult to achieve,” said Dave Black, Awards Committee Chairperson for PEDA. “It is labor and cost intensive and return on investment is limited, while business development is slow. However for organizations like AEDC that support business incubation, it sends a message to both local and passing entrepreneurs that the community being served does have their eyes focused on the future, jobs of the future and future opportunities for the region’s emerging workforce.”
Founded in 1989, the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center was launched in the refurbished Mack Trucks Plant 4A on the south side of Allentown. Since the program began, there have been 59 companies that have been through the business incubator of which more than half are either still in business today or have been acquired by other companies. These companies have created or retained 286 jobs in the Lehigh Valley.
Durante was hired in April 2012 to manage the business incubation program. Being new to economic development, he had to rapidly build his knowledge base of business incubation best practices. Through the International Business Innovation Association (InBIA), Durante attended several conferences and training institutes, earning InBIA’s Incubator Management Certificate in October 2013. As he increased his understanding of business incubation practices, Durante began implementing changes to the program.
“We immediately began broadcasting the message that the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is a business incubation program – not just space for rent,” explains Durante. “Startup companies come to us because they are looking for an environment where they can thrive and grow into profitable self-sustaining organizations.”
Over the past two years, AEDC has also invested over $1.6 million in physical improvements to the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center. These much needed improvements were funded in part through Federal EDA, Pennsylvania RACP and SBA grants. The majority of these funds we focused on replacing the roof; a project that reduced the energy costs of the center by 54 percent. Funding was also directed at creating an industrial open-office space for early stage technology startups that includes a coworking element for independent professionals.
Today, the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is home to 11 startup companies. These companies generate more than $4.3 million is sales and employ 38 full-time, part-time or contractor positions. The companies span several industries including alcoholic beverage production, advanced plastics and polymers, cyber security, design engineering and certification laboratory services.
The business incubation program includes an in-depth entrepreneurial education track focused on driving the companies towards increasing their sales. A four-part training series entitled “Growing Your Business” was recently introduced that focuses specifically on the branding, marketing and sales strategies of these startups. Additionally, a Peer-to-Peer Mentoring program was launched in the spring. Through the group, led by a local certified business coach, the executive team members of the companies learn to work together to address challenges facing their businesses.
“Everything we do, as part of the incubation program, needs to propel these companies towards profitability and self-sustainment,” Durante emphasized. “These companies will graduate the business incubator at some point within five to seven years. When they reach that window in time, they need to be able to function independently from the incubator and continue to grow on their own ambitions.”
Although he is quick to applaud the vision Durante had for rebuilding the program and merits he has accomplished over the past few years, Scott Unger, Executive Director of AEDC knows that much of the results are because of the entrepreneurs in the program.
“Our clients companies are the real reason for our success and the basis for this award,” says Unger. “Without their hard work and passion for their industries, we at AEDC would have nothing to boast about. Their stories are what make our business incubation program such a success.”
About the Allentown Economic Development Corporation
AEDC is an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to a mission of identifying, encouraging, developing and managing strategic business opportunities for the benefit of Allentown, its citizens, and the Lehigh Valley. Its goal is to improve vacant and underutilized properties by assisting manufacturers, business owners and entrepreneurs in obtaining the resources and opportunities they require for success in the City of Allentown. AEDC offers access to financing and incentives, assistance with brownfield remediation, and support for growing businesses within the City.
Over the course of its 26-year existence, the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, founded in the refurbished Mack Trucks Plant 4A in 1989, has helped launch more than 70 companies in Allentown that have created more than 300 jobs. It is a member of the Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network. Today, the Center is home to Architrep, ColdEdge Technologies, The Colony Meadery, County Seat Spirits, HiJinx Brewing Company, JH Plastics, LightLab International Allentown, MTS Ventures, Netizen Corporation, Polymer Contours and Zzyzx Polymers.
For more information, please visit our website: http://allentownedc.com/