Allentown Economic Development Corporation

Monthly Archives: February 2016

Bridgeworks Entrepreneur-in-Residence brings love of business creation and development to startups in Incubation Program

Karen M Campbell

When Karen Campbell was a child, her father nurtured in her a young entrepreneur. He taught her at an early age how to run her own business, collect payments, manage her money, and find new clients.

“Dad owned investment properties and I would help him with renovations and clean up,” she explained. “After taking piano lessons for a few years he said I was good enough to teach others to play and suggested I start doing it for money. So from fourth grade through college I taught children and adults to play the piano.”

Her father’s encouragement and mentorship was key to her success and it instilled in her a love for developing, creating, and growing businesses. Now she is sharing that knowledge and passion with other entrepreneurs as the first Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in Allentown. For the next six months on a volunteer basis, Campbell will offer consulting services to the clients in Bridgeworks’ Business Incubation Program.

Campbell graduated from the University of Minnesota with a degree in chemical engineering and then moved to the Lehigh Valley for a job with Air Products. During her 30-year tenure with the company she worked in business development focusing on new markets and technologies such as the hydrogen fuel cell business.

After leaving Air Products she began volunteering with Lehigh Valley SCORE, which connected her to the local business community as she started her own business, Strix Insights Consulting, LLC. AEDC invited SCORE to use the Coworking space for its client meetings, and it was there she met Bridgeworks Program Manager Anthony Durante. After getting to know each other they started a conversation about the entrepreneur-in-residence concept that Durante had seen at other successful incubation programs around the country; something he’d wanted to bring to Bridgeworks.

“I’m excited to help AEDC clients be more successful by sharing my experience from working in over a dozen start-up operations and consulting on hundreds of business projects over the past eight years. I have learned and applied many marketing and innovation tools and processes to these venture opportunities that most entrepreneurs don’t have experience with or the time to investigate.”

Campbell wants to help the startups in Bridgeworks by leveraging those skills to achieve their goals. “I enjoy the creativity that goes into building something brand new from the ground up as well as helping others building their own creations.”

“As the first EIR at AEDC, it will take time to determine how I can best help these companies, and for the companies to determine how to leverage my knowledge to meet their needs. As EIR I can do things like answer day-to-day questions, help them adopt business process to improve efficiency, or provide an outside perspective on their business they may be too close to see.”

“I want to help these companies to help themselves,” she explained. “I can be that outside observer that sees all aspects of their business and can help focus them and get them be more disciplined with their program development, their financial approach. I can remove the emotional element that often comes with being too close to your own business to see it objectively.”

And Campbell practices what she preaches; she and her husband started their own business last May, a real estate investment company, and have purchased a 10-unit apartment building in Quakertown. They hope to purchase more properties throughout the year.

Durante plans to steadily introduce Campbell to the clients at Bridgeworks through various general education opportunities and speaking engagements in the coming weeks. She is already actively working one-on-one with two incubator clients in order to help implement long-term growth strategies that will be key drivers in their success.

Enterprise Zone Loan for Terra Group allows water filtration company to bring metalworking in-house

We tend not to think too much about each time we turn on a faucet in our homes or at work and clean drinking water runs free from the tap. But for the members of the armed forces who are operating in a variety of conditions in foreign countries, clean water can often be hard to come by.

That’s where Terra Group in Allentown comes in. The company’s TECWAR water purification and wastewater treatment systems create potable and utility water from any water source, such as a pond, lake, river or even floodwaters, no matter how contaminated. The systems are portable, scalable, and modular, and can be used in standalone situations in war zones, emergency response scenarios, and disaster relief situations.

TerraGroup recently closed on an Enterprise Zone Loan for $45,700 to be used for the purchase and installation of a walk-in dust control booth that is used in the metal grinding process. A Business Outreach visit by AEDC Economic Development Specialist Michelle Rifkin with TerraGroup President Primo Acernese last year led to a discussion on possible expansion and improvements for the business. The need for the specialized booth arose and Rifkin suggested he apply for an Enterprise Zone Loan.

The Enterprise Zone Revolving Loan Fund allows companies located in the Allentown Enterprise Zone to receive low interest rate loans between $35,000 and $100,000 to be used toward the purchase of machinery or equipment, to modernize existing equipment, to make improvements to real estate, and even for working capital in special cases. The fund was started in October 1995 with a $368,000 state grant. Today it has a $968,900 balance with $623,800 in active loans.

Founded in 1991, the company has been located in the Bridgeworks Industrial Center in since 2009. Since then it has expanded several times into spaces next door to its original one and presently takes up over 146,000 square feet. TerraGroup’s primary client is the United States Department of Defense who purchases the units for the Marine Corp.

His contract with DOD began in 2008 and by May 2009 the first prototypes were completed, followed by 10 months of military testing. When that was completed, DOD placed its official order for $50 million worth of the water filtration machines, which cost approximately $200,000 each. Then DOD placed a second order for another $50 million.

“Marines are the expeditionary branch of the military and they need to be light on their feet,” explained Acernese. “So the water filtration systems we make need to be lightweight, easily portable, durable and easy to set up. The current models we manufacture can be set up in 30 minutes or less by a highly trained water support technician.” Acernese has secured patents for his inventions in over 60 countries and hopes to sell the units abroad in the near future.

The water filtration units run on diesel fuel, which the Marines were already using to power their vehicles, so an additional fuel source is not needed. An entire water filtration unit fits on 4 ft. x 6ft. pallet and can easily be air lifted into a remote location.

Up until now the aluminum frames that hold the filtration systems were made by welders and fabricators offsite who would send the frames to another offsite contractor for metal grinding. Once the piece was done it would be sent to TerraGroup for powder coat painting.

Bringing the metal grinding in-house allows the company to speed up the process, saving them money and time, while getting each frame to the exact military specifications, a problem the outside contractors often had trouble achieving. But since the metal grinding process involves health and safety issues, a special dust control booth first had to be constructed with proper ventilation.

Now that the loan has closed, work will soon begin on the construction of the booth and is expected to last for four to six weeks. The project will also create two new full-time permanent jobs done by skilled laborers. Terra Group has already started the hiring process and should be bringing the new personnel on board soon.

Acernese prides himself on hiring military veterans. Of the 36 full-time employees at his Lehigh Valley location, roughly one in three is a veteran, mostly former Marine Corp and Army personnel. “These are the guys that know what’s important in the field because they have the hands-on experience,” he explained. “So when I have a question about something related to the military or how one of my systems might work in the field, I can ask them for input and know I will get valuable advice.”


Lehigh Valley Manufacturing Summit will “Show You the Money”

This is a guest post by Colin McEvoy, Director of Communications for LVEDC. The post also appears on the LVEDC website blog.


It was 1996 when Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. first shouted “Show me the money!” in the film “Jerry Maguire,” and two decades later, it couldn’t be more appropriate as the title for the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce’s upcoming Manufacturing Council Summit.

The summit will spotlight the financial resources available to help manufacturers grow in the Lehigh Valley, as well as feature existing manufacturing companies from the region who will share how they utilized such those resources.

“It’s going to be an extremely valuable event,” said John Kingsley, Vice President of Finance for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), who will moderate a panel discussion. “Expertise from the state will be on display, and visitors will hear from real manufacturers about how they have used these available resources to benefit their company and grow.”

“Show Me the Money” will be held on March 3 from 4 – 6 p.m. at the Blast Furnace Room of the ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem. The cost is $20. Please RSVP with Danielle Bodnar, the Chamber’s vice president of business and diversity councils, at 610-739-1642 or at or register online here.

The summit will focus on local, state, and federal programs of grant, loans, and tax credits for manufacturers, according to Michelle Griffin Young, the Lehigh Valley Chamber’s vice president of government and external affairs.

During the panel discussion, Lehigh Valley manufacturers will discuss how those programs can assist with such projects as for new facilities, upgraded infrastructure, and improvements to research, development, and training.

Jack Pfunder, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Resource Center (MRC) and chairman of the Chamber’s manufacturing council, said this will be invaluable in sharing best practices with manufacturers and helping them make sense of the ever-changing resources available to them.

“They key right now is there are so many changes in the world these days that it’s easy to lose track of what’s still around, what’s changed, and how to get from A to B,” Pfunder said. “That’s the main thing we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to get as many of the financial resources available to manufacturers as possible together in one room so they can get their questions answered.”

The moderated panel will include Steve and Rich Follett from the Follett Company, Daniel Loikits from Dynalene, Catherine Bailey of Rea.Deeming Beauty, and Gary Bender from SISD, Inc.

Additionally, Sherri Collins, deputy secretary with the Office of Technology & Innovation at the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, will be delivering a keynote speech.

After the program, several organizations, experts and advisers will be available during a reception to answer questions and provide additional information. This includes LVEDC, MRC, the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC), the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board (LVWIB), Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and the Lehigh Valley Lending Network.

“It seems that every time manufacturers turn around they are faced with another regulation impeding their growth,” Young said. “The Chamber is proud to partner with LVEDC, LVWIB, MRC and others to provide important financial options to assist our membership.”

TD Bank will be the presenting sponsor and Capital BlueCross will be the corporate sponsor, with Concannon Miller as gold sponsor, Freshpet as a silver sponsor, and Arbor Insurance Group and Boyle Construction Management as bronze sponsors. EBC Printing will be the event’s printing sponsor.

Additional sponsorship opportunities are still available. For more information, contact Frank Facchiano at 610-739-1642 or at


Colin McEvoy is the Director of Communications for Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation. Mr. McEvoy is responsible for creating, managing and implementing the organization’s written communication agenda. He previously worked as a journalist for eight years, spending most of that time with The Express-Times, as well as The Patriot-News and the New Jersey Herald. Mr. McEvoy has also co-authored two non-fiction crime books and received four Keystone Press Awards.

Bridgeworks Enterprise Center Adds Entrepreneur-in-Residence

Allentown Business Incubator Broadens Program Offering for Startups


Allentown, Pennsylvania — On Monday, February 1st, the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) announced an Entrepreneur-in-Residence program that has been added to its business incubation program at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center. AEDC has named Karen Campbell, of Strix Insights Consulting, as the first person to fill the role in the new program.

“We are very excited to have Ms. Campbell on board as our first Entrepreneur-in-Residence,” said Scott Unger, Executive Director of AEDC. “Karen’s experience and knowledge in business development, market analysis, and team building will be invaluable to our early-stage companies.”

Karen Campbell joins the business incubation program at AEDC after a long career at Air Products and Chemicals that covered a wide variety of commercial roles. Campbell’s most recent position was managing an organization providing global business and technology analysis that supported strategic marketing and business development decisions. She spent most of her career at Air Products in new ventures where she commercialized new technologies; managed the idea pipeline evaluating research and development activities for commercial value; developed go-to-market strategies; worked with startups as key partners for acquisition, licensing and co-development; and shuttered projects not meeting expected valuation criteria.

Upon her departure from Air Products, Campbell brought her expertise to the Lehigh Valley chapter of SCORE, the SBA funded all-volunteer corps of executives that provides mentorship to small businesses and startups across the country. Through SCORE, she is helping companies to do everything from transforming ideas into business plans, to developing marketing strategies, and creating succession plans for their companies.

“I had the opportunity to meet Karen through our interactions with Lehigh Valley SCORE last year,” explains Anthony Durante, Program Manager of the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center for AEDC. “I was thoroughly impressed with her credentials and with the way she interacted with one of the clients who we had referred to SCORE for some assistance. When we decided to create the Entrepreneur-in-Residence program, Karen was the first person I thought of to fill the role.”

As the Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Campbell will assist incubator clients with taking strategic goals and developing tactical plans to execute upon. The program capitalizes on the expertise that seasoned executives, like Campbell, bring to the table in order to drive the early-stage companies towards growth. With her assistance, companies will develop detailed marketing plans, strategically grow their executive teams, and build out processes that spur revenue creation and sales growth.

“We are continuing our efforts to focus our incubation program almost exclusively on rapidly growing the sales pipeline of these companies,” says Durante. “The survival of these startups depends entirely on generating revenue and moving the company towards profitability.”

“I’m excited to be a part of the Bridgeworks incubator program and look forward to working with its entrepreneurs,” says Campbell. “I believe that in the Entrepreneur-in-Residence role I can help them accelerate their success by sharing my experience and applying some of the innovation methodologies I have used successfully.”

As a volunteer working with Bridgeworks incubator clients, Campbell will have a semi-private office in the Bridgeworks Flex Launch & Coworking space that she can also use as a base for her consulting practice. Campbell has committed to working with AEDC clients for the next six months. Durante says at that time, AEDC and/or Campbell can either choose to end the agreement or to renew.

It is also not uncommon for an entrepreneur-in-residence to launch a company of their own or join one of the existing incubator clients that they make take a particular interest in. “As we examined this type of program at other incubators, we saw examples where an entrepreneur-in-residence had stepped into the role of CEO for a portfolio company that was having leadership issues,” explains Durante. “We also saw a case where the entrepreneur-in-residence had expertise in a specific industry that the founding team was missing and that individual ultimately joined the startup, helping it grow exponentially faster than it had been.”


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 27-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, Polymer Contours and Zzyzx Polymers.

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