On behalf of the statewide Ben Franklin Technology Partners network, we want to express our unified support for the swift measures our Commonwealth has taken to address the business impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and respond to this pandemic. Gov. Tom Wolf, his administration, and the entire General Assembly have showed tremendous leadership during these trying times.
We fully recognize that this unfolding situation has everyone anxious. Our team continues to monitor the situation, relying on state and federal updates, while employing the most effective measures to keep our portfolio clients, partners, and employees informed. The health and safety of the individuals we serve and who work for us in coordination with the state to drive innovation is paramount.
Like the rest of the country, we are watching with deep concern as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect a world already brought to a standstill. Projections show the impact getting worse before things get better, as our state and nation scramble for ways to deal with this both medically and economically. The consequences have reached every community and every business.
We commend the steps already taken by the Wolf administration and General Assembly to try to help those individuals and wage earners who are suffering economically right now, including waivers for unemployment compensation, and in identifying ways to inject additional resources into our economy to shore up large and small businesses that are being decimated by this shutdown. What is happening today truly is unprecedented, so the response must be equally unprecedented.
As the administration and General Assembly consider all available options and potential stimulus packages to jumpstart the economy in response to this crisis, we believe that the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, as one of the most widely known and emulated state technology-based economic development programs in the nation, plays an important role in implementing solutions. Our network serves all 67 counties through four regionally based centers in Pittsburgh, State College, Bethlehem and Philadelphia, with several satellite offices spread across the state.
Please keep in mind, as the state prepares its potential economic recovery packages, most programs only provide access to capital for larger corporations and more established businesses that suffered heavy losses. Or, programs are typically narrowly targeted at qualified small businesses to help them overcome the temporary loss of revenue to help them pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable, and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact.
All of these programs are critical and essential to get the economy back on track, and we applaud the administration and General Assembly for moving quickly. But Pennsylvania also has a robust innovation economy, fueled by entrepreneurs and startups — many of which can be or already are contributing to the efforts to address this public health issue in various ways, from treatments to testing to logistics to other support mechanisms. Innovation will be key to our recovery.
Yet, most of these entrepreneurs and startups would be entirely exempt from accessing support through existing programs available to most established businesses. Although some stimulus money could help Ben Franklin keep staff and continue delivery services, it will not provide the direct capital that technology-based startups need to stay afloat, as many early-stage firms are at their most vulnerable point — the early stages of commercialization and market development — making the crisis even more impactful.
In partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners has developed business technology ecosystems that make our Commonwealth more attractive to tech-based startups and innovative manufacturers. Our work supports the jobs and technologies that will fuel our economy by improving the human condition and addressing critical challenges now and in the future. As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, we will continue to do all we can in partnership with the state to ensure our Commonwealth and its economy recover and put our residents back to work.