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Monthly Archives: August 2016

Jim Fisher discovers the artistic side of facilities management at AEDC

A blank canvas. That’s what Jim Fisher sees when he looks at an empty suite in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center at Allentown Economic Development Corporation in South Allentown. For the past 2.5 years the facilities manager has been the artist painting on the blank canvas whenever he helps new clients fit out their space.

Depending on what they manufacture, the space might need a lot of build out, or very little. But either way, Fisher likes that it lets him create something new. “I have always liked to work with my hands. I am good at teaching myself whatever I don’t already know. I love classic cars and in my spare time I work on them, so I’m also a mechanic.”

Fisher joined the AEDC staff in December 2013 after a career transition from civil engineering where he was a project manager for 22 years. After a layoff in 2010 he found himself getting a CDL license and driving trucks to Newark every day for three years. Then in November 2013 a call from AEDC Executive Director and former co-worker Scott Unger lead to a job opportunity with the organization as its new facilities manager.

As fun as creating new spaces may be, Fisher is also the staff member that everyone calls when something goes wrong in the building. “We have 24/7 maintenance here,” he said. “If there is a leak, or a broken pipe, or the power goes out, I’m the first call all of our clients make, and often the first one on the scene to solve the problem.”

Bridgeworks isn’t the only facility Fisher oversees. He manages over 2 million square feet of real estate for AEDC, including properties downtown, and buildings on the parcel of land next door to Bridgeworks, among others.

And because AEDC is a nonprofit organization, Fisher is sensitive to all expenses. “I watch the budget closely and try to save money where and when I can,” he explained. “Whenever I can I like to recycle what we already have, what’s been used before. I did that a few years ago when I re-purposed old light fixtures from the basement for the renovated Flex Launch and Coworking Space. They were from back in the day when this building was a Mack Trucks manufacturing facility. They still worked fine and just needed a bit of cleaning up.”

Last year’s Flex Launch and Coworking Space renovation is among Fisher’s favorite projects during his short tenure. He’s currently involved with the build-out of the largest unit in Bridgeworks where a current incubator client will be expanding into.

Who to know at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center: JHPlastics, LLC

This post was contributed by Karen Campbell. Ms. Campbell serves as the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center where she assists incubator clients with taking strategic goals and developing tactical plans to execute upon.

 

JH Plastics is in its 5th year of operation at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, the business incubation program managed by the Allentown Economic Development Corporation. The company provides custom plastic fabrication and services, specializing in plastic welding and machining in order to create solutions-based products for its customers. Founder Jim Heacock has been a small business owner for 16 years.

Plastic fabrication: A melting pot of disciplines

Jim HeacockHeacock describes plastic fabrication as a melding of woodworking and metalworking. It is like woodworking in the sense of design and technique with shape and aesthetic flexibility, but with even tighter tolerances. It is also similar to metalworking in the sense of fabrication techniques like welding, machining, and assembly. His broad experience and skills are fundamental to his specialized services, and his ability to design and troubleshoot solutions for his clients has been the key to his success. He began training as a woodworker, but his knowledge and experience with plastics was shaped through his early career, which included semiconductor wet bench manufacturing.

JH Plastics’ services attract a diverse range of applications and clients. Local customers range including manufacturing companies, restaurants, laboratories, the Allentown Art Museum, and ArtsQuest SteelStacks. Large clients such as Merck, GE, and Air Products have engaged on projects for specialty products that leverage the benefits that plastics bring over other materials.  Some examples of custom fabrication applications include chemical enclosures, commercial kitchen cutting boards, building design components, museum cases, component displays, safety guards, and lab chambers.

The choice for plastics

“Plastic offers many advantages including reduced component weight, improved strength and chemical resistance, as well as cost,” explains Heacock. “It also adds greater design flexibility and better aesthetics over metal and glass options for certain applications. We start by understanding what the end-use application requirements are for the customer including environment, forces, shielding, and contact. Some projects simply require conceptualization and execution. For more challenging projects, we can specify and design the final product.”

Fabrication-2-250x250There are many application areas that local companies can benefit from by converting to plastics. A simple application to illustrate this is commercial kitchen cutting boards. Customers can select FDA-compliant plastics that also incorporate food application colors. This color system provides a basis for improved sanitation by preventing cross-contamination, and Heacock’s materials offering lowers the cost for upkeep to ensure safety and inspection adherence. JH Plastics can also provide custom cuts to fit the unique spaces local kitchens have available for their workstations.

JHPlastics typically serves businesses in the Lehigh Valley and surrounding regions, although Heacock does some field services and specialty work for clients beyond that. As a local provider, his customers value the personal aspects of working directly with the owner, particularly when design or material selection is involved. JH Plastics provides short turnaround times and flexible arrangements, combined with customer pick-up in order to outweigh other alternatives.

Life at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center

Every one of the Bridgeworks companies, including AEDC, has collaborated with JH Plastics in some fashion over the past five years. Heacock has helped some of the startups to build out their manufacturing spaces utilizing materials or cut parts. He has also shared tools, materials, and other hardware. In return, he has benefited from collaborating on customer projects with his peers in the program.

“I enjoy the extensive support shared between Bridgeworks incubator companies,” says Heacock. “This collaboration has been allowed me to grow and develop my business.”

About JHPlastics, LLC.

JH Plastics is the premier, custom plastic fabrication job shop and plastic materials supplier in the Lehigh Valley. It provides quality workmanship, a high level of expertise, and a wide breadth of services while maintaining the flexibility and accountability of a small, entrepreneurial business. Visit their website at:  http://jhplasticsllc.com

Bridgeworks Enterprise Center Adds Advisory Services to Incubator Program Offering

Advisor-in-Residence services adds expertise for early-stage manufacturers

ALLENTOWN, Pa., August 1, 2016 – The Allentown Economic Development Corporation announced today that it was adding Advisor-in-Residence services to its business incubation program at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, and that Martin Gilligan of Martin & Associates would be the first consultant to begin assisting its incubator clients.

Mr. Gilligan will be providing guidance on drafting contract terms and conditions, non-compete agreements, warranties, and other technically intensive documents. He will be visiting Bridgeworks on a monthly basis and clients can sign-up for a one-hour appointment with him in advance of his visits. Mr. Gilligan will also provide some document review services in between visits, communicating with clients via email. Bridgeworks clients can also hire Mr. Gilligan independently for services that go beyond the scope of his contract with AEDC.

“We are very excited that we are able to continue expanding the services that we offer our clients as part of the business incubation program,” said AEDC Program Manager Anthony Durante. “Giving our clients access to experts who can advise on a variety of business and technical topics is an invaluable service for their startup.”

“Often a company will approach their legal counsel requesting to have a contract drafted,” explained Durante. “When a lawyer is charging several hundred dollars per hour and essentially starting from scratch, the legal bills can become substantial very quickly to the detriment of a startup company. By employing the services of someone like Mr. Gilligan, incubator clients get a solid draft document put together at a reasonable fee that only needs a quick review by a lawyer. Plus, some of the initial guidance is at no cost since it is part of the services that AEDC provides to its incubator clients.”

AEDC has been testing out the new Advisor-in-Residence service over the past few months to see if clients would benefit from it. So far, the clients have taken advantage of the new opportunity being afforded to them.

“Our company has benefited from the new Advisor-in-Residence services in several ways,” said Tyson Daniels, president of Polymer Contours Inc. “For instance, we were able to review the integrity of the documents that form the foundation of our customer relationships. Additionally, we were able to draft three contracts while seamlessly tying them together with our existing documents, strengthening the fabric of our organization.”

The expertise and knowledge that Mr. Gilligan brings to the incubator is impressive. His consulting firm offers guidance on contracts, business formation, documenting intellectual property, and merger and acquisition transactions. Mr. Gilligan’s industry experience spans aerospace, military, energy technology, and mining. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Juris Doctorate, both from Loyola-Marymount University in California.

“I literally came off the farm and throughout my education and business career was the beneficiary of mentors, teachers, supervisors, and professionals who spent time and energy helping me to succeed because they saw that I wanted to be good at what I did. I want to play that same role now,” explains Mr. Gilligan. “Normally being cash-challenged, early stage companies may be tempted to ignore warning signs or ignore problem areas until they are faced with a serious problem which forces them to address the problem. When I see young companies struggling with what I consider to be problems with obvious solutions, it reminds me of all the trials I went through as a company owner, manager, and professional. The solutions are only obvious after someone points them out or you learn them the hard way.”

“We already have seen how an advisor’s expertise can be beneficial to our incubator clients,” said Durante. “If we can create a platform where some of those initial conversations can happen at no cost to the client, hopefully, we can head off some challenges that startups encounter. Entrepreneurs often don’t have the know-how or funding to have these kinds of conversations at the outset; we can facilitate that as part of our programming.”

Durante added that he’d like to add a few more Advisors-in-Residence over the course of the next year. AEDC is careful with vetting potential advisors, and most come via referrals from current advisors or consultants. Mr. Gilligan was referred to AEDC though Stephanie Olexa, one of the incubator’s current advisors and a local angel investor.

“When someone we trust and hold in high esteem makes a referral, we pay attention. This has allowed us to build a pool of highly valuable advisors and mentors to assist our entrepreneurs. The growth that our client companies are experiencing proves that mentoring is the most valuable and effective piece of our program,” concluded Durante.

 

About the Allentown Economic Development Corporation

The Allentown Economic Development Corporation is an independent nonprofit organization, in a private-public partnership with the City of Allentown, whose mission is to improve vacant and underutilized properties in order to create an environment where manufacturers and other companies can flourish throughout their lifecycle, from launch, to rapid growth, and onto long-term success and profitability. By doing so, AEDC is able to advance the economic vitality of Allentown and the Lehigh Valley through job creation and business growth.

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 325 jobs. It is a member of the Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network. Today, the Center is home to ColdEdge Technologies, The Colony Meadery, County Seat Spirits, HiJinx Brewing Company, JH Plastics, LightLab International Allentown, MTS Ventures, Polymer Contours, and Zzyzx Polymers.

For more information, please visit our website: http://allentownedc.com

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