Four Reasons Why: Ben Franklin is a Good Community Investment
By Stephen Brawley, President and CEO
A sense of community is the fabric that ties us together with the family, friends and neighbors we see and talk to each and every day of our lives. It’s that same sense of community that Ben Franklin Technology Partners applied to the businesses and innovative entrepreneurs we’ve served for more than 30 years. For us, it’s not just a matter of financially supporting a good idea, it’s about creating a business community and support system where Pennsylvania’s best and brightest minds can successfully build the businesses that strengthen the places we proudly call home.
Today, Ben Franklin is faced with the challenge of operating with a budget that is more than 50 percent lower than it was in 2008. While we’ve continued to demonstrate our continued work as a national leader in tech-based economic development, the reality we now face is increased competition from neighboring states and risk not being to invest in some deserving companies, while also inadequately funding others. There are many reasons why the Pennsylvania budget should restore funding to Ben Franklin, but here are four reasons why Ben Franklin is a good community investment:
1. We provide a return on our investment: An in-depth analysis from two nonpartisan research organizations, The Pennsylvania Economy League and KLIOS Consulting, found that Ben Franklin helped to create 11,407 high-paying jobs, generated $386 million in tax receipts for the state, and boosted the commonwealth’s overall economy by $4.1 billion between 2012 and 2016.
In short, every dollar invested by Pennsylvania into Ben Franklin generates $3.90 in additional state taxes. Likewise, $3.90 of future tax revenue for the Commonwealth disappears for every dollar cut from Ben Franklin’s budget. Like any state, Pennsylvania is always looking for new revenue streams to meet the needs of residents. Whereas a lot of investments require funding but don’t generate money for the state, Ben Franklin’s efforts help pay for the services we enjoy in our communities.
2. We keep good jobs in Pennsylvania: It’s a relatively straight forward concept, but work populations tend to go where there are good job opportunities and room for growth. Ben Franklin’s focus is on local, innovative tech-based companies and small manufacturers, and the entrepreneurs who lead those companies. With the right mix of support and expertise, we work actively help startups survive their higher-risk, formative years and lay a stable foundation to build upon.
In turn, the companies we support attract and retain employees from throughout the regions they serve, including recent college graduates. In total, Ben Franklin investments generated 4,182 jobs in client firms. These jobs are in industries that pay average annual salaries of $79,364 per year, 52 percent higher than the average private nonfarm salary in Pennsylvania. Those are the kinds of jobs young people seek in order to keep working here in Pennsylvania.
3. We understand the local economy: With four regional centers and offices throughout the state, Ben Franklin is an active participant in the communities we serve. We’ve built 30 years of relationships, and established strong local business networks all with an eye toward building bridges to connect our innovative, local residents with nearby by business partners and organizations.
We live with our investments beyond the concept stage, until they are established. That requires more than just an initial loan or an occasional visit; it requires coaching, resources, planning, and more. Our clients can always find us, because we’re never far away and we actively engage with them on a regular basis. Despite being a nationally recognized leader, and respected statewide economic driver, the heart of what we do remains at the local, grassroots level.
4. We reflect the local community: As a local economic driver, our staff, clients and partners reflect the unique communities we serve. Whether it’s entrepreneurs and innovative leaders in industry clusters such as energy, biotech, robotics, manufacturing, education or materials, our clients form a diverse group featuring skilled professionals from an array of backgrounds, with different areas of expertise, representing multiple generations and points of view.
This diversity isn’t an accident; it represents Ben Franklin embracing Pennsylvania’s rich history and continued economic potential. We’ve helped launch companies recognized the world over for their quality products and expertise, and that’s helped put thousands of Pennsylvanians to work. Many of these companies would have faced long survival odds without the support and services we provide to them. But we know the more vibrant an entrepreneurial ecosystem we have, the more likely we are to attract talent to our state and keep the talent we already have.
Even though Ben Franklin remains committed to the success of our local communities, neighboring states want the level of success we’ve enjoyed in Pennsylvania. They’re not afraid invest heavily in efforts to attract our local talent and our local businesses, and they’re emulating our approach and attention to detail.
Pennsylvania ranks 13th behind other Mid-Atlantic neighbors like Delaware, Maryland and Ohio, as well as competitive states such as Indiana and Utah in funding tech-based economic development on a per capita level for 2019. These states will continue to directly compete with our state and local communities for the economic viability in the 21st century. We cannot afford to lose our inside edge and watch new opportunities take hold elsewhere. Pennsylvania must ensure proper funding support in the state budget for Ben Franklin so that we can continue to invest in the local companies and the local workforces that form the backbone of our identity.