Ben Franklin News

Ben Franklin Announces 2011 Innovation Award Winners

Winners to be Honored at May 10th i xchange Event

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania has announced the winners of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards. Winners will be honored at the Ben Franklin i xchange event, scheduled for 5:30 PM on Tuesday, May 10th at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University.

Awards will be presented in six categories, to companies or individuals who have achieved business success through Ben Franklin funding and assistance, have helped others to achieve success, or have improved their businesses through innovation. Each award recipient represents a company or person that exemplifies achievement in that particular category.

The purposes of the innovation awards are to congratulate winners on their success and achievement, to highlight the effectiveness of the Ben Franklin program, and to inform entrepreneurs and established manufacturers about the resources that are available to them in northeastern Pennsylvania.

The 2011 Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards winners are:

Entrepreneurial Achievement

An individual who best exemplifies the quintessential entrepreneurial spirit: a combination of ingenuity, hard work, and innovation that has resulted in the creation of a successful and growing business venture.

Wade Spicer, Chief Executive Officer
Strong Pools and Spas, Northumberland

Strong Pools and Spas manufactures plastic pools, spas, saunas, and backyard ponds using rotational molding methods. Rotational molding is a cost-effective way to produce large, hollow plastic parts. Beginning as a manufacturer of pet enclosures, Strong has successfully adapted and re-invented itself over its 15-year history. CEO Wade Spicer has teamed with Ben Franklin repeatedly during Strong’s evolution for help with business operations, strategic planning and advice, technical support, plant layout planning, product and process improvements, and business planning. Ben Franklin invested a total of $468,000 in the company over several years and linked it to the Plastics Manufacturing Center at the Penn College of Technology, a Ben Franklin Center of Excellence. More recently, Strong worked with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center to implement additional operational improvements.

In 1994, Strong was a start-up with one employee. Today, Strong is one of the largest spa manufacturers in the world, with extensive distribution including retail giants Costco and Sam’s. The company is growing at an average rate of 50-100% per year due to its extensive and patented technologies. Strong now employs more than 325 people in rural Northumberland County, 75 of whom were added this year.

Incubator Graduate

The company that has best demonstrated successful Ben Franklin business incubation.  The business has been operated skillfully and confidently, meeting all challenges from the development of the product concept, execution of the business and technical plan, successful start-up and operation, to graduation from the incubator.

RCD Technology , Quakertown
Kenneth Horton, Chief Executive Officer

RCD Technology Corporation designs and manufactures passive radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags and inlays that are used by businesses and governments to overcome problems associated with tracking, security, and authentication. RCD has grown into an industry leader through design expertise and a flexible manufacturing process that enables the company to address difficult and differentiated challenges. RCD’s computer chip-driven tag solutions are implemented in a variety of applications, ranging from high-value asset tracking to access-control and identifying hospital patients, and the company has developed tag solutions for projects with Fortune 500 companies and the US government.

RCD graduated from Ben Franklin TechVentures®, Ben Franklin’s award-winning incubator/post-incubator, and has since made major investments in R & D and infrastructure, including developing automated manufacturing, expanding the patent portfolio, and creating testing and prototyping facilities. Despite a very difficult economy, the company has had repeated success in raising follow-on funding to complement the Ben Franklin investment. RCD currently employs 15 in its ISO-certified Quakertown manufacturing facility and is positioned for major growth in 2011 as the RFID market continues to expand.

Product Innovation

The company that best demonstrates the commercialization of a unique, innovative product that creatively and effectively meets a market need.

Dynalene Inc., Whitehall
Dr. Satish Mohapatra, President and Chief Executive Officer, David Arcury, Chief Operating Officer, and Daniel Loikits, Chairman of the Board

Dynalene began in 1993, when a collaboration among Loikits Technologies, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and Lehigh University initiated an R&D effort to create ultra-low-temperature heat transfer fluids using predominantly agriculturally-derived materials. Dynalene became an independent corporation in 1997, and created a product line of 27 heat transfer fluids addressing a variety of applications including fuel cells, solar panels, geothermal units, HVAC, industrial refrigeration, plastics manufacturing, chemical processing, electronics, food and beverages, and pharmaceuticals.

More recently, Dynalene has won more than $3.5 million in grants from the US Department of Energy and the US Department of Defense to develop advanced coolants for fuel cells and directed energy weapons. These coolants utilize specially designed nanoparticles and corrosion inhibitors to perform better than the current alternative technologies. Currently employing 15, Dynalene has experienced significant growth in the past four years, and the company continues to do highly innovative work. The company competes successfully with major chemical companies, and now occupies two buildings in Whitehall.

Innovative Application of Technology

The company that best demonstrates a “break the mold” approach to integrating new or existing technology into a manufacturing environment.

Snake Creek Lasers, LLC, Hallstead
Martin Sukle, Chief Executive Officer

Whether in sunlight or darkness, green is the optimal wave length for human eye interaction. Snake Creek Lasers has achieved worldwide recognition as the provider of the world’s smallest and most powerful mini and micro green laser products for both commercial and military applications. These include laser-based projectors and presentation pointers, heads-up displays, laser flashlights, hand-held weaponry, and bio-flourescence. The lasers range in size from as small as a watch battery to as large as a dime. The company has also set records in its industry for average output power, brightness, and cryogenic laser amplification.

Snake Creek Lasers worked with Ben Franklin to develop its strategic business plan, decrease manufacturing costs, identify secondary suppliers for critical components, and advance designs to improve output power over long ranges. The company improved its quality control, inventory management systems, and manufacturing processes with help from Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center. The company has increased revenue year after year, and today sells worldwide and employs 17.

Manufacturing Achievement

The company that best exemplifies achievement in the manufacturing arena, showing a proven track record of success and an unbending commitment to achieving and maintaining excellence in manufacturing.

Effort Foundry, Inc., Bath
Charles Hamburg, Chief Executive Officer and William Easterly, President

Effort Foundry is a supplier of high-integrity steel castings for the pump, valve, nuclear, power generation, and military industries, as well as other manufacturing applications. With more than three decades of experience, the Effort team’s commitment is enabling the transformation of the facility into a state-of-the art foundry that has assimilated 330% growth in four years. Ben Franklin helped Effort establish a new banking relationship that enables Effort’s continued extraordinary growth.

With in-house engineering and patternmaking facilities, expertise with steel alloys, and the ability to create castings across a wide range of sizes, Effort has moved far beyond the reach of its remaining competitors. Effort’s comprehensive management information system includes job costing and pricing capabilities that allow for accurate and timely decision-making. Effort Foundry has distinguished itself in its industry as measured by its record in customer retention and growth. The company increased its employment to 69 in 2010, and anticipates further increases in revenue.


An individual or organization whose strong vision, dedication, and commitment have helped the Ben Franklin Technology Partners accomplish its goals. This support demonstrates a sincere desire to see the region thrive.

Schuylkill Economic Development Corporation, Pottsville
Frank J. Zukas, President

Through connections generated by the Schuylkill Economic Development Corporation (SEDCO) team, Ben Franklin has supported a number of Schuylkill County-based companies with several others under consideration. SEDCO focuses on building partnerships to benefit Schuylkill area companies and the greater community. With more than 55 years of experience in assisting businesses with locating or expanding in the area, SEDCO is key to regional growth and economic development. They have done extensive work in financing business expansion projects, and have successfully collaborated with both industry and government.

In addition to presiding over SEDCO, Frank Zukas serves as the executive director to the Schuylkill County Industrial Development Authority and provides managment services to Greater Tamaqua Industrial Development Enterprise, Inc. He is a member of the Ben Franklin Regional Advisory Board, the Luzerne Schuylkill Workforce Investment Board, and the Schuylkill Conservation District Advisory Board; and a past officer and board member of the Pennsylvania Economic Develpment Association, the Pottsville Schuylkill Technology Incubator, and the Schuylkill County Municipal Authority. He is also a member of Corenet, the International Economic Development Council, the International Asset Managment Council, and the Northeast Economic Development Association.The SEDCO team, under the leadership of Frank Zukas, has brought resources to local industries, support to the regional economy and jobs to the people of Schuylkill County.

About the i xchange

The i xchange is the premier business technology networking event in northeastern Pennsylvania. Last year, more than 600 technology entrepreneurs, business people, economic developers, venture capitalists, political leaders, educators, students, bankers, lawyers, and accountants from Ben Franklin’s 21-county service area attended, and even more are expected this year.

The i xchange will combine the presentation of Ben Franklin’s sixteenth annual Innovation Awards with a keynote address by Jack Uldrich. An expert on future trends, emerging technologies, innovation, change management, and leadership, Jack Uldrich is a leading authority on helping businesses to adapt. He has served as an advisor to Fortune 1000 companies and is noted for his ability to deliver provocative, new perspectives on creating competitive advantage during rapid change. During his keynote address, Mr. Uldrich will share practical tools and methods for implementing innovation in organizations.
The entrance fee for the i xchange is $65 in advance or $75 the day of the event. To learn more or to register, go to, e-mail, or call 610-758-5200.

About the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania links companies with experts, universities, funding, and other resources to help them prosper through innovation.  The Center strategy encompasses three key areas: developing early-stage, technology-based companies; helping established manufacturers creatively apply new technologies and business practices; and promoting an innovative community-wide infrastructure that fosters a favorable business environment for high-growth companies. The northeastern center is headquartered on the campus of Lehigh University in Bethlehem and is part of a four-center, state-funded economic development initiative.