Annual incubator impact survey shows record results for program

The Allentown Economic Development Corporation announced the aggregated results of its annual Incubator Client Impact Survey today. In 2018, the 11 Bridgeworks client companies earned nearly $7 million in revenue, a 50 percent increase over 2017.

“We added a new company to our incubation program in 2018 and they are off to an impressive start,” explained Program Manager Anthony Durante. “Plus, several of our existing companies continue to grow steadily as their businesses mature. We are extremely pleased with the results that we are seeing from our clients.”

Collectively the companies employ 31 full-time employees and another 43 people as either part-time or contracted employees. Total salaries, wages, and contractor fees paid to these employees more than doubled to $2.83 million. In addition to the incremental growth in employment by the existing program clients, the new client added several highly technical positions that command higher salaries.

“Our clients are starting to transition more jobs from 1099 contractor positions to part-time and full-time employee positions,” said Durante. “It’s a sign that they are more confident in the strength of their companies and are willing to make these positions more permanent, which is very encouraging.”

In 2019, the Bridgeworks business incubation program celebrates the 30th anniversary of its founding. In 1988, AEDC purchased former Mack Trucks Plants 4 and 4A and refurbished the latter it into a multitenant incubator. Bridgeworks opened its doors in 1989 with its first client-tenant Luminaire Testing Labs. Of the 61 companies have participated in the program, 33 have graduated, of which 27 are still in business today, with the remaining six experiencing successful exits through mergers with other companies. Bridgeworks client companies have created 618 jobs since the program launched.

“I think that its undeniable that business incubation works,” said Durante. “We are helping entrepreneurs to create sustainable companies that employ highly skilled people and pay good wages. Both our historical data and annual impact data clearly show that.”

Bridgeworks is also 99 percent occupied for the first time in recent history. In addition to its manufacturing incubator suites, which are completely occupied, the facility boasts 10 small and three larger offices that are available to clients both within and outside the incubation program. AEDC recently welcomed six new clients to the Flex Office who are in the process of locating their companies within the facility.

“AEDC continues to excel at one of the most unique forms of business incubation by focusing on manufacturing,” explained AEDC Executive Director Scott Unger. “And apart from a small grant received through the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, we do this essentially without any operational funding support from federal, state, or university sources.”

The annual impact survey of the client companies participating in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center business incubator program gathers important data on job creation, company revenues, and obtained loans, grants, and equity investments. That data is aggregated into a report that demonstrates the economic impact that the incubator has on the Allentown and Lehigh Valley communities.