Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pa.
Investing in innovation, fueling small business growth, and creating jobs
Powering innovation. Fueling growth. Creating jobs. These are the goals of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central and Northern Pennsylvania (BFTP/CNP), an initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development dedicated to economic growth and job creation in communities across the commonwealth.
Since their creation in 1983, BFTP/CNP has invested in tech-based startups and small manufacturers throughout their 32-county (of the 67 in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania) footprint. Stretching from Erie to Mercer to Venango to Centre, Lancaster, Harrisburg and Allegheny counties, there are four regional offices strategically-positioned to support the specific needs and strengths of Pennsylvania's diverse communities.
Ben Franklin's portfolio companies use individual capital investment – ranging from $10,000 to $500,000 – to develop new and innovative products and processes as well as to enter new markets. Because the staff is made up of experienced entrepreneurs who have successfully built, operated, grown, and in some cases exited their own companies, they also understand that turning an idea into a flourishing business requires more than capital. That's why portfolio companies also have access to the Central Skills Team, which provides business support services including legal, HR, finance, research, and access to other tools and personnel, all at no cost. Further, because great entrepreneurial companies are more successful with more community support, Ben Franklin personnel have spent decades cultivating an accessible and innovative entrepreneurial ecosystem throughout Central and Northern Pennsylvania.
Recent investments have included a wide variety of businesses throughout Northwestern Pennsylvania (and beyond), including those that engineer medical devices to treat vascular diseases, develop tech products to convert classic cars into electric vehicles, develop advanced power and energy solutions to address the growing need for more energy in more places, develop innovative hardware and software to help manufacturers become more energy efficient, integrate smart home devices into senior living communities, and create non-alcoholic beverages now available in more than 1,000 stores nationwide – all from Northwestern Pennsylvania communities.
In order to find more interesting companies pursuing large markets, BFTP/CNP also hosts events like the Big Idea Contest – where companies compete for a $50,000 grant and programs like the TechCelerator – a 10-week "startup boot camp" with a top prize of $15,000.
They also operate a variety of Co-Investment Funds in Mercer County and two in Erie County in partnership with the Erie County Gaming and Revenue Authority and the Erie Community Foundation. These community funds empower regional partners to invest their capital in partnership with Ben Franklin's investment expertise to capitalize and support entrepreneurial ventures that might otherwise not receive the investments needed to grow.
They also manage the Ben Franklin Learning Center, which is open to anyone desiring to expand their business knowledge and skills. It includes professional development opportunities covering topics such as digital marketing, finance, human resources, and more.
Collaboration and partnerships are vital. BFTP/CNP teams with state, county, and regional partners such as Penn State University and the Hershey Center for Applied Research, Penn Northwest Development Corporation, the Venango Chamber of Commerce, the PA Wilds, the Erie Regional Chamber and Growth Partnership, the NWPA Innovation Beehive, the Entrepreneurial Assistance Clinic, the Small Business Development Centers, Gannon's Erie Technology Incubator, the Penn State Innovation Commons, and many others to provide business incubators with a wide variety of resources.
They also have a proven track record: all of these investments into the Ben Franklin program, as well as individual companies, have generated more than $4 for every $1 invested and hundreds of thousands of jobs.
In Erie, with offices operating out of Knowledge Park, local investments have included well-known brands such as AcousticSheep, Altered State Distillery, MIDEO Medical, Blind Tiger Spirit-Free Cocktails, Whitethorn Digital, PSNergy, Sphere Brakes, and many, many more.
It all starts with an idea. Interested? Find out everything you need to know about them at cnp.benfranklin.org