The Ben Franklin Technology Partners honors the legacy of Governor Dick Thornburgh, who created the statewide Ben Franklin program and guided the Commonwealth and its residents toward economic prosperity and renewed opportunity. His efforts resulted in a dynamic, flexible foundation for innovation that has earned bipartisan support since its inception. That work continues today, stronger than ever.
Thirty-eight years ago, Gov. Thornburgh rose to the challenge of one of the most precarious economic periods in Pennsylvania history. After years of decline, the industries and jobs synonymous with our communities were rapidly disappearing and the state unemployment rate loomed at nearly 15 percent. Pennsylvania’s economy was uncertain, and there was great concern about where jobs were going to come from in the future. The Commonwealth needed a path forward.
Fortunately, Gov. Thornburgh understood emerging economic trends and had a vision for Pennsylvania. His idea embraced the promise of high-paying, sustainable jobs created because of technological advances and breakthroughs achieved by the Commonwealth’s tech-based entrepreneurs and innovative manufacturers.
Gov. Thornburgh took stock of Pennsylvania’s numerous resources – four of the top 50 research universities in the country and a substantial workforce of engineers produced by universities across the state – and formulated an action plan that would eventually become a national standard for innovation-based economic development.
To harness the power of our state’s brightest minds and create a platform to provide Pennsylvania’s most promising early-stage technology firms and established manufacturers with the necessary support to grow and thrive, Gov. Thornburgh strongly advocated for the creation of the Ben Franklin Partnership. He had a clear goal – to drive the transformation and growth of Pennsylvania’s economy through the application of science and technology to catalyze innovation and entrepreneurship – all to Pennsylvania’s economic advantage.
Gov. Thornburgh named the partnership after one of Pennsylvania’s most influential residents, reasoning that Benjamin Franklin evidenced the exact skills that would make the program work – merging science, innovation, business acumen and statesmanship to serve the greater good.
Today, the Ben Franklin Technology Partners is recognized internationally as the gold standard for technology-based economic development, supporting the creation of more than 148,000 jobs and boosting the state economy by more than $25 billion since 1989. According to independent research, Ben Franklin generates a $3.90-to-$1 return on investment and has allowed the Commonwealth to develop a diversified and resilient economy that contributes to the quality of life we all enjoy. For his insight and unwavering support, Gov. Thornburgh received BFTP/NEP’s Partnership Innovation Award in 2014.
We join with our friends, neighbors, and colleagues across Pennsylvania to celebrate Gov. Thornburgh’s life and legacy by giving thanks for his commitment to the economic wellbeing of our communities. His enduring vision continues to benefit generations of Pennsylvanians now and for decades to come.