It’s been an exciting month for the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in South Allentown. That is, a month that’s been 26 years in the making.
In late-October the Pennsylvania Economic Development Association, at its fall conference in Altoona, honored Bridgeworks as the 2015 Economic Development Program of the Year. It was recognized for its considerable impact and effect on the region.
Bridgeworks was founded in 1989 in the former Mack Trucks Plant 4A with a goal of bringing new companies to the Queen City to support economic development through a business incubation program. Since then it has been home to 59 companies that have created or retained 286 jobs in the region.
But Bridgeworks has always been about more than a place where companies can rent space. “Startup companies come here because they are looking for an environment where they can thrive and grow into profitable self-sustaining organizations,” said Anthony Durante, Program Manager.
Today the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is home to 11 startup companies that span a range of industries and generate more than $4.3 million in sales and employ 38 full-time, part-time employees and contractors. And while the companies might come for the business space, they stay for the value that Bridgeworks provides to them through the incubation program.
A new training series called “Growing Your Business” teaches business owners about marketing, branding, and sales. A Peer-to-Peer Mentoring program that is lead by a certified business coach teaches executive team members how to work together to address challenges facing their business.
In the mid-1990s, following a national trend, AEDC started the Home Office Alternative with seven offices that could be rented by small businesses. These one or two-person entities needed affordable yet professional places at which they could work.
In late-2010 the Hive 4A coworking space was added to the mix to lure professionals out of their home offices and into a common work space with other professionals where ideas could be shared and collaboration could develop. But despite the vision behind these spaces, they never realized their potential and were overdue to be re-envisioned.
Enter the SBA Growth Accelerator Challenge, which was discovered by AEDC intern Vincent Daily from DeSales University in summer 2014. The AEDC staff submitted an application for a $50,000 challenge grant last summer to renovate and update the coworking space and offices into a flexible launchpad space for technology-based companies.
It was one of 50 winners selected by the SBA and was awarded the grant last November. Renovations took place over the course of this year and were recently completed. On November 13 the space was officially re-launched as the Flex Launch & Coworking Space. AEDC held a daylong event with an opening ceremony, speakers, lunch, and a happy hour.
These two recent events combined with $1.6 million investment in physical improvements to the building, primarily spent on a new roof, has culminated an exciting year for Bridgeworks and AEDC.