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Q&A with Chad Paul, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania

Chad Paul has more than 35 years of entrepreneurial business experience and has started, secured investments for, or facilitated the merger of nearly two dozen companies. He is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, an organization that invests in early-stage technology firms and established manufacturers and has received international recognition as a model economic development program. Paul founded Chadwick Telephone while still in graduate school, and built the company from a start-up to a significant multi-state corporation. Paul serves as a Director of National Penn Bancshares and as Chairman of the Achievement Foundation, a national organization that awards college scholarships to students who have participated in U.S. Junior Achievement Programs. He earned his BS in Economics and MBA from Lehigh University.

Q: Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) is one of the nation's longest-running technology-based economic development programs -- providing both early-stage and established companies with funding, business and technical expertise and access to a network of innovative, expert resources. What are some of the organization's accomplishments that advance the region's economic ecosystem?

A: The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, which owns and operates Ben Franklin TechVentures® (BFTV), is a state-funded, technology-based economic development organization that serves 21 counties in northeastern Pennsylvania. Ben Franklin Technology Partners is widely viewed as one of the most successful technology-based economic development initiatives in the world. In 2008, the statewide program won the EDA's Excellence in Technology-led Economic Development Award. The International Economic Development Council (IEDC) named the statewide Ben Franklin Technology Partners as the winner in Excellence in Technology-Based Economic Development for its Overall Body of Work, 1983-2008. But the most important measure of Ben Franklin's success is in the companies, products, and employees that have flourished with its help. Ben Franklin has worked with hundreds of early-stage firms at their most vulnerable times, positioning them for success.

The Ben Franklin Technology Partners significantly increases the success rate of the highest-potential early-stage technology companies. We provide start-ups with access to seed capital, business and technical expertise, and a proven network of expert resources. Our job is to identify and evaluate opportunities, to select the most promising ones, and to provide client companies with crucial resources to increase their chances of success in today's highly competitive marketplace.

A long-range independent study by the Pennsylvania Economy League showed that BFTP statewide boosted the Gross State Product by $9.3 billion from 2002 through 2006, and provided more than $517 million in additional tax revenues as a direct result of its work. In 1989 through 2008, Ben Franklin created or retained more than 50,000 highly paid, sustainable Pennsylvania jobs, as well as developed hundreds of new companies and new technology-based products and processes. Ben Franklin delivers $3.50 of incremental tax revenue to Pennsylvania for every dollar of state investment in the program.

Last year, in northeastern Pennsylvania alone, the companies in the BFTP/NEP portfolio raised more than $137 million in follow-on funding. BFTP Northeast has achieved the following results:

 

2010

Cumulative

New Jobs Created

621

14,922

Existing Jobs Retained

122

21,358

New Companies Started

12

420

New Products and
Processes Developed

69

1,017


Q: In 2009, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania was awarded a $6 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grant from EDA to expand the TechVentures incubator in Lehigh Valley – which was recently selected as one of the "10 Startup Incubators You Need to Watch" by Inc.com - and to support more innovative research and cutting-edge ideas. How many jobs will be created and what is the status of this effort?

A: Ben Franklin TechVentures® (BFTV), owned and operated by BFTP, has graduated 48 successful early-stage technology companies that together gross more than $408 million in annual revenue and have created 4,500 jobs. Twenty-six early-stage firms, employing 146 people, are currently located in Ben Franklin TechVentures. Ben Franklin TechVentures2, the essential 47,000-square-foot expansion of the original building that will open in Autumn 2011, will advance BFTP's ability to provide early-stage companies with reduced operating costs, business assistance, and the synergy of a business incubator. The new facility will allow BFTP to accommodate technology-based start-up companies that create as many as 200 jobs and retain 100 more in the first three years.


Q: The work being done at BFTP is enhancing innovation clusters in Pennsylvania and helping to create the jobs of the future. Identify best practices to spur job and economic growth that can be replicated in other regions.

A: The financial investment Ben Franklin provides is typically what initially draws early-stage companies to Ben Franklin. But the business development assistance and access to a proven network of support are also key benefits. The BFTP staff applies years of experience in advising and supporting early-stage technology firms, and links entrepreneurial clients to strategic consultants who help them:

  • Develop a sound business plan
  • Devise a plan to protect intellectual property
  • Evaluate financial systems
  • Identify and focus target markets and chief competitors
  • Identify and successfully present to follow-on funders

Ben Franklin TechVentures brings together entrepreneurs, Ben Franklin staff, and Lehigh University faculty and students to accelerate the growth of the region's technology economy. The Ben Franklin team will continue to provide TechVentures resident companies with management guidance, business planning, strategic planning, and marketing counsel; connections to angel investors and venture capitalists; and assistance in preparing and perfecting funding presentations. The facility provides an entrepreneurial culture that fuels innovation and creates highly paid, sustainable technology jobs.

Q: Nearly 60 million Americans live in rural areas. President Obama has tasked U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack with leading the White House Rural Council to support efforts to build economic growth and improve the quality of life in rural America, which accounts for just over 20% of the population. What role is the Delta Regional Authority playing?

A: The Delta is home to nearly 10 million people and 75% of Delta Counties and parishes are rural. The Delta Regional Authority believes that Rural America’s success determines the Delta’s success.

As an active participant in the White House Rural Council, we are hosting a number of White House Rural Council meetings for the public in our region to seek input on ways federal, state and local officials can help improve economic conditions and create jobs in Rural America. It is my belief that the Delta Regional Authority is an advocate for the families and businesses of the Delta and that the White House Rural Council meetings will give voice to innovative economic development strategies that boost small business growth. A recent study shows that life expectancy for men and women in the Delta region, is years behind the national average. The disparities between the Delta region and the nation as a whole are stark. With the Delta Regional Authority’s investments in the health and economic prosperity of our largely rural region, we helped create and retain nearly 50,000 jobs. By keeping the spotlight on rural America’s strengths as well as needs, we can coordinate federal resources and maximize investments across agencies.

Q: Based on the work of the Delta Regional Authority, what are some of the challenges and opportunities for small business development in the areas the organization represents?

A: The Delta is a place where daily life remains a struggle for many. Some communities depend on the Delta Regional Authority to improve basic infrastructure in order to attract business and industry and improve quality of life. 17,000 families have received sewer or clean water service because of our investments in basic infrastructure. Some communities face historic difficulty gaining access to capital and the Delta Regional Authority supports the expansion of innovative solutions like CDFI funded programs and microenterprise development organizations that provide credit and services to small businesses lacking access to loans from commercial sources.

I witnessed the significant damage caused by this spring’s severe storms and floods to Delta families and businesses. As we begin the long road to recovery from these events, I am committed to supporting a coordinated response to help businesses reopen and families rebuild.

The Delta Regional Authority has advocated for the expansion of technical assistance for federal resources. In addition to moving our application process online for added convenience, we are working with several federal partners to expand technical assistance so that every Delta community has the same opportunity to access federal resources.