Pennsylvania & the Importance of Government-Funded Venture Capital

Published by RealClear Policy, 11/29/21, OpEd by Angelo J. Valletta, President and CEO, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania

In 1983, northeastern Pennsylvania confronted serious financial challenges. The regional economy, largely dependent on heavy manufacturing after the anthracite coal industry collapsed in the 1950s, had significantly declined; companies and jobs were offshoring due to cheaper foreign competition. Pennsylvanians faced double-digit unemployment.

Recognizing that economic diversity leads to growth, and that technology-based companies tend to provide jobs with higher wages, then-Governor Dick Thornburgh and the Pennsylvania General Assembly created a novel solution: Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP).

Nearly forty years since its inception, BFTP has proven a resounding success. Since beginning operations, BFTP has earned bipartisan support over multiple administrations. According to the most recent independent five-year study of BFTP’s statewide impact, new state tax revenue generated because of BFTP represented a $3.90 payback to the commonwealth for every dollar invested in the program. Moreover, Ben Franklin’s clients create jobs in industries that pay an average of 52% more than the average non-farm wage in Pennsylvania. That income difference creates generational wealth for families that had previously struggled.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/NEP) is one of BFTP’s four program partners, serving 21 counties and headquartered at Ben Franklin TechVentures, an award-winning 129,000-square-foot technology incubator located on Lehigh University’s campus in Bethlehem. BFTP/NEP is regularly counted among the top 5% of the most active investors in the U.S.

BFTP’s success clearly shows that government-funded venture capital funds work. For instance, BFTP/NEP leads the business and technology sectors in the Lehigh Valley, Scranton-Wilkes-Barre-Hazleton corridor, Greater Reading, and even parts of rural northern Pennsylvania. Thanks to BFTP/NEP, these regions fared far better than other areas when heavy manufacturing declined decades ago. Indeed, other states can learn from Ben Franklin’s success in Pennsylvania. Via The Times-Tribune


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