Four Reasons Why: Pennsylvania is a Great Place to Start and Grow a Tech Company
Updated: Jul 22, 2020
By Ryan E. Glenn, Director of Statewide Initiatives
One of my roles as Director of Statewide Initiatives for Ben Franklin Technology Partners (Ben Franklin) is to keep abreast of trends in entrepreneurship, innovation, economic development and unique programs to support early stage innovation companies and established manufacturers. I have had the privilege of traveling to some incredible places to see unique programs run by truly exceptional and forward-thinking business leaders. From the largest incubator in the world, Station F in Paris, France, to the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, entrepreneurship and innovation are on the rise.
I also have the responsibility to represent Ben Franklin and the Pennsylvania ecosystem on a broader scale to outside programs, other states across the nation and countries throughout the world. One of the things I’ve learned in my five years with Ben Franklin might surprise my fellow Pennsylvanians: business leaders from almost all of the other programs, states and nations I’ve visited are jealous of us!
Pennsylvania is a great place to start and grow a technology company, scale a manufacturing operation, or create solutions that truly improve the human condition. I’m proud to boast that our state is home to a world-class ecosystem that supports and nurtures innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit like no other. Here are four reasons why:
Pennsylvania has world-class resources: Pennsylvania is home to hundreds of colleges and universities, including many world-class research universities. From Carnegie Mellon to the University of Pennsylvania, and from Penn State University to Lehigh University, and many more, we have unparalleled research and development capabilities in every field and industry.
Our universities create knowledge. They create solutions. They drive innovation. From the polio vaccine to cable television, Pennsylvania has the resources to discover and develop solutions that can be turned into market opportunities.
Pennsylvania has world-class talent: Entrepreneurs and businesses need many resources to succeed, but perhaps the most important resource is people. Pennsylvania has the right people to create and grow successful innovation companies. We are home to 21 of the Fortune 500 companies and we have several hundred private and public colleges and universities. We have industry clusters in energy, biotech, robotics, manufacturing, education, materials and many more. We have centuries of hard work, innovation and ingenuity.
This unique combination produces world-class talent. From engineers to accountants, and from marketing specialists to design, Pennsylvania has the talent start-ups need to survive and scale.
Pennsylvania has world-class amenities: Having all the right resources isn’t worth very much, if no one wants to live here. Fortunately, Pennsylvania has incredible amenities that create rich opportunities for virtually anything you could want. From big city living in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, to phenomenal hiking, skiing, fishing and hunting in the Pennsylvania Wilds, it’s all here. World-class art: we got it! World-class sports: yep! World-class travel: of course!
Best of all, you actually have the time and money to enjoy all of these amenities. With a cost of living that’s just about the national average, and easy travel to big cities, big mountains and big forests, Pennsylvanians like to get out and play.
Pennsylvania has world-class support for innovation entrepreneurs: That’s right. We have Ben Franklin Technology Partners. I frequently get requests from other regions, states and other countries to talk about how Ben Franklin is so successful in supporting early stage technology companies. Many programs throughout the country are modeled off the Ben Franklin program, and for good reason --- it works.
For more than 35 years, we have been supporting innovation and entrepreneurs to help grow the Pennsylvania economy, create jobs for Pennsylvanians and develop solutions to significant market challenges. We’ve invested in more than 4,500 companies, helped to create nearly 150,000 jobs and grown the Pennsylvania economy by approximately $25 billion. And we’ve done all of this while generating a nice $3.90 return on each $1.00 of the taxpayers’ investment, according to our most recent independent analysis.
Pennsylvania is a great place to start and grow a company and Ben Franklin works to help those companies succeed. But all of this success is fragile and at risk if we don’t properly fund innovation in our commonwealth. Neighboring states are following our example and investing in robust, tech-based economic development. What we lose by underfunding Ben Franklin Technology Partners is lost forever.
When you find something that works, you double down. Lawmakers must come together in a bipartisan fashion, just as they did in creating Ben Franklin more than three decades ago, and restore funding to put the program back on track. It’s time to double down on both Pennsylvania and Ben Franklin Technology Partners.