In The News
A federal boon to grow Ben Franklin Technology Partners
The Morning Call
April 16, 2010
Vice President Joe Biden came to Lehigh University on Thursday with a message of compassion for the jobless and of hope that the economy is headed for brighter days.
He spoke to an invitation-only crowd of more than 200 people on the Mountaintop Campus in south Bethlehem, where Ben Franklin Technology Partners broke ground on a $17 million expansion that will provide more office and lab space for high-tech start-up companies.
The project received a $6 million grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a $787 billion package of tax cuts and spending programs intended to stabilize the economy and create jobs.
Biden said the project emphasized how such investments nationwide are providing jobs now and building a more stable economic future.
''We're providing the seed money to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of the American people,'' Biden said. ''Once new firms move in and develop their business plans, millions of dollars in private investment will follow.''
The project was a chance for Biden to justify President Barack Obama's economic policies, which have been subject to largely partisan criticism for spending too much and delivering too little.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Dent of the Lehigh Valley said he supports the Ben Franklin expansion, but said the Economic Recovery Act has not benefited taxpayers. Dent, a Republican, voted against the act.
''I believe far too much money has been spent and too few jobs have been delivered with this stimulus package,'' Dent said. ''It's a slap in the face to taxpayers.''
Biden also attended a fundraiser in Bethlehem Township for Democrat John Callahan's race against Dent in the 15th District. Republican Mat Benol and independent Jake Towne also want the seat.
The Ben Franklin TechVentures project includes a new parking deck that has been built and a 47,000-square-foot addition that will create more space for new companies. Ben Franklin Technology expects to complete the project in the fall of 2011. The four-story addition will connect to an old Bethlehem Steel lab that Ben Franklin Technology renovated in 2007.
Mark Granahan, general manager of Texas Instruments-Lehigh Valley, which employs about 50 people, gave a testimonial about how Ben Franklin Technology can help young businesses. Granahan and two others in 2005 founded CICLON Semiconductor Device Corp., and with the support of Ben Franklin Technology developed technology that allows portable computers, cell phones and personal music players to run longer on their batteries.
The start-up raised $24 million in venture capital, which allowed it to grow. It was acquired by Texas Instruments for an undisclosed amount last year. All local jobs were retained, Granahan said.
The support of Ben Franklin Technology Partners ''helped us develop the technology and raise the long-term funds needed to sustain the company,'' he said.
R. Chadwick Paul, chief executive officer of Ben Franklin Technology Partners, said the expansion would create 200 good-paying technology jobs in its first three years after completion. There are 118 people currently working for 23 companies supported by the agency, he said.
Scranton native Biden said such hiring gives people hope that the economy is on the mend.
''That's the stuff of hope,'' Biden said ''That's the stuff that makes the folks at kitchen tables where I grew up say, 'We've got a chance.'''