Northeastern PA is a Leading Innovation Hub Thanks to Talent, Support Network, and Location, But More Investments are Needed to Succeed Against Increasing Competition
By Angelo J. Valletta, President and CEO, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania
I have worn many hats in my career and I have enjoyed leading organizations that generate transformational impacts throughout Pennsylvania. Despite the diversity of my work experiences, many of the organizations at which I have worked share a focus on the greater good and a passion to improve Pennsylvania’s future.
I am honored and humbled to serve as the new president and CEO of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP). I have long admired how the four regional Ben Franklin centers have collaborated to lead Pennsylvania’s emergence as one of the nation’s top organizational ecosystems for technology-based economic development. Ben Franklin’s impact has benefitted generations of Pennsylvanians and has served as the gold standard against which other states gauge the success of their development efforts. I am privileged to work for an organization that, for nearly 40 years, has transformed communities and impacted the lives of countless residents.
Since its inception, Ben Franklin has invested in more than 4,500 companies and generated 148,000 jobs through its support of client firms and spinoff companies. These companies and careers are vital economic drivers for our communities and pay employees an average annual salary of close to $80,000 – 52 percent higher than the average non-farm wage in our state. That incremental income difference is enormous, and elevates families as they become able to create generational wealth that improves the lives of workers as well as their children and grandchildren.
In all, Ben Franklin has boosted the state’s economy by more than $25 billion and provided a return of $3.90 for every dollar invested by the great state of Pennsylvania. Talk about transformational impact – THANK YOU PA!
Not only do I share Ben Franklin’s passion for driving Pennsylvania’s economic prosperity through innovation and technology, but I also firmly believe it has never been more important to the future of our Commonwealth.
If there was any question about Ben Franklin’s significant role in Pennsylvania’s economy, COVID-19 provided a resounding answer. Over the past 15 months, our clients helped keep Pennsylvanians employed, generated essential tax revenue, and played a critical role in sustaining Pennsylvania’s economy. Furthermore, our clients did so while developing solutions that helped us turn the tide in the battle for solutions to the pandemic. Our clients innovated against COVID-19, thanks to investments by our state lawmakers and the wonderful work of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners.
Even before COVID-19 was part of the public lexicon, Ben Franklin was diligently working to help inoculate Pennsylvania’s economy from devastating economic downturns. Now, more than ever, that work must continu
To catalyze the growth that is essential to Pennsylvania’s economy, we must continue to address a broad spectrum of business needs. We must provide expert-driven guidance and support to early-stage technology-based firms, as well as help established manufacturers innovate to meet changing consumer and industry expectations and remain globally competitive. To steer Pennsylvania to its full economic potential, we must ensure that we not only help companies create new jobs, but also retain and refresh existing jobs.
Ben Franklin’s award-winning economic development work includes financial investments and comprehensive support to promising early-stage technology firms, matching funding to innovative manufacturers to work in partnership with a Pennsylvania college or university, and connections with a well-developed and proven network of business and technical experts. BFTP/NEPA owns and manages two business incubators and leads one of the largest incubator networks in the world. Together, we bring together some of Pennsylvania’s best minds; work with young companies to develop and commercialize their products and processes; create highly paid, sustainable technology-based jobs; and help retain good jobs at established manufacturers by supporting them in innovation.
Pennsylvania has made a nearly 40-year commitment to tech-based startups and regional manufacturers. I sincerely appreciate the trust state leaders have placed in Ben Franklin to be responsible stewards of public dollars. Our results have demonstrated that their trust was well placed. But past success does not ensure future success without active support.
Other states want what we have – the ability to attract and nurture top entrepreneurial talent and the companies and jobs that those leaders create and nurture. Our neighbors in New Jersey, New York, and Ohio are aware of Pennsylvania’s achievements and are investing in programs to compete with us. It is understandable that they see our success and want to emulate our approach. We can’t afford to become complacent.
To maintain and strengthen our lead position in technology-based economic development, we must ensure that Ben Franklin Technology Partners has the resources that it needs. Northeastern Pennsylvania is strategically located proximate to several major markets, including Philadelphia, New York City, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. Our location and affordability, combined with the expertise, mentorship, and network links provided by Ben Franklin, make northeastern Pennsylvania one of the most advantageous locations in the country.
Despite the uncertainty of the last 15 months, Pennsylvania has remained committed to Ben Franklin, our clients, and the cutting-edge ideas produced by the state’s innovation ecosystem. We applaud the vision and unwavering commitment shown by our state leaders. Ben Franklin and the citizens we serve are resilient. If Pennsylvania wants to remain competitive and see its economy thrive, it must take the next steps to leverage federal dollars and combine those funds with state investments that match, if not exceed, previous funding levels that were established more than a decade ago.
Ben Franklin has demonstrated its ability to help build an ecosystem that fosters success and puts Pennsylvanians to work. It is time for Pennsylvania to amplify that competitive advantage and commit additional resources to one of the best economic drivers that our great state of Pennsylvania ever created.
Ben Franklin has an established and documented record of accomplishment, generating $3.90 in incremental state tax revenue for every $1.00 that the state invests in the program. When I see the investments being by made by neighboring states to attract the kinds of companies that we develop and retain, it is clear that the race for promising companies is going to be more hotly contested than ever before.
Ben Franklin could return even more to Pennsylvania with higher funding. We are missing chances to support strong companies, opportunities that could be realized if we could restore the funding levels that we had in the early 2000s. With that level of state support, Ben Franklin could magnify its work in transforming northeastern Pennsylvania communities by creating even more jobs that pay enough to create generational change for entire families.
My job as president and CEO for Ben Franklin NEP is enabling our talented team to identify the best opportunities in our 21-county service area, surrounding companies with the tools they need to grow and thrive, and working with state leaders to ensure our clients have the resources they need to effectively compete on a national and global level.
The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania does great work. Now it is time to ensure that Ben Franklin can also have the greatest impact possible.