Innovation Ecosystems Remain PA’s Best Opportunity to Recover and Grow. We Must Invest Accordingly.
By RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, President and CEO
When most people think ecosystems, they imagine plants and animals sharing a physical environment like a forest or a lake. However, when Ben Franklin Technology Partners thinks of ecosystems, we think of environments that attract startups, foster innovation and drive entrepreneurial success. In other words, the work Ben Franklin conducts in all 67 Pennsylvania counties through four regionally based centers in Pittsburgh, State College, Bethlehem and Philadelphia, as well as our work at several satellite offices spread across the commonwealth.
For more than 35 years, Ben Franklin has supported hundreds of entrepreneurs in our quest to drive Pennsylvania’s innovation economy. We’ve been incredibly successful in our efforts, with independent analyses finding that every dollar invested by the state into Ben Franklin generates $3.90 in additional state taxes. We’ve been, and remain, an incredibly smart investment for the commonwealth.
Ben Franklin’s return on investment is precisely why supporting innovation ecosystems represents Pennsylvania’s best chance to recover from the economic damage inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, and represent a great opportunity to elevate our economy to bold new heights.
Like everyone else, we are watching intently as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a cascading affect throughout the world. We fully recognize this ongoing situation has everyone anxious and are doing our part to help. Everything we are doing right now, in conjunction with our clients, is about innovating against COVID-19. Innovation has proven to be key component in our response to this pandemic and it will remain central to our recovery. That’s why now is the ideal time to invest heavily in innovation and start-up businesses in Pennsylvania.
Since its inception, Ben Franklin has invested in more than 4,500 technology-based companies and boosted the state economy by more than $25 billion – helping to generate 148,000 jobs through investments in client firms and spinoff companies in Pennsylvania. These aren’t just average paying jobs either. In fact, the jobs created by Ben Franklin’s client industries pay an average of $79,364 annually, which is 52 percent more than the average non-farm wage in Pennsylvania. Not only are these are jobs that pay, these are jobs that can help us attract and keep talent here and jumpstart Pennsylvania’s economy.
As we combat a crisis that has resulted in higher unemployment than the Great Recession, we must find avenues to get Pennsylvanians working and ways to support growth industries that have the best chance to generate revenue for our state today, tomorrow and beyond.
We need investments like the one announced by Gov. Tom Wolf in January as part of his proposed 2020-21 General Fund budget. As part of that announcement, the governor included a $5 million increase for the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority (BFTDA), which funds the statewide Ben Franklin Technology Partners initiative. Gov. Wolf fully recognized that smart investments in innovation drive economic growth and ensure
Pennsylvania continues to capture its share of emerging high-tech developments.
At the time of his announcement, Pennsylvania faced the challenge of remaining competitive in a global economy. While we now find ourselves in a very different looking world, Gov. Wolf’s proposed initiative makes even more sense.
We need to invest in growth and Ben Franklin has a proven track record of being able to deliver results. The governor’s proposed $5 million investment is not only a major stepping stone for ensuring Pennsylvania continues to foster and grow the innovation ecosystem that startups and entrepreneurs crave; it’s also come to represent an important first step in Pennsylvania’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. If ever there was an ideal time to invest in innovation, it’s now.