Ryan E. Glenn
A Future-Proof Economy: How Investing in Innovation Can Ensure Pa. is Prepared for Future Challenges
Updated: May 11, 2021
By Ryan E. Glenn, Director of Statewide Initiatives
Ben Franklin Technology Partners
As communities everywhere ramp up COVID-19 vaccination efforts and take the necessary steps to re-open for business, a race between states to grow their respective economies is already taking shape across the country.
States are going full steam ahead with economic development to not only generate much needed tax revenue, but also to grow their economies and safeguard as much as possible against future economic downturns or potential crises. Our neighbors in Ohio and New Jersey have already committed to a combined investment of more than a billion dollars in innovation-based economic development. They are making those investments because they recognize that supporting technology and the creation of 21st century careers represent their best chance at increasing tax dollars to shore up their budgets and gives them better odds to “future-proof” their economies.
The concept of future-proofing state economies is not necessarily new. For decades, states have actively sought ways to ensure that their residents could benefit from well-paying jobs in emerging industries with long-term, sustainable growth. After all, that’s how Ben Franklin Technology Partners got its starts more than 35 years ago, as Pennsylvania sought to diversify its economy in the wake of many decades-old industries leaving the state or shrinking at an alarming rate.
The decision by our state leaders to create Ben Franklin was a brilliant strategic choice and has provided an excellent return on investment for Pennsylvania over the years. Since its inception, Ben Franklin has invested in more than 4,500 technology-based companies, boosted the state’s economy by more than $25 billion and helped to generate 148,000 jobs through investments in client firms and spinoff companies. Not only are these jobs in-demand and sustainable, they also pay an average of $79,364 annually, which is 52 percent more than the average non-farm wage in our state.
The state’s continued support of innovation further proved beneficial as Ben Franklin clients worked around the clock to address public health issue in various ways, from testing and treatments to essential logistics and other support mechanisms. Our clients supported those on the front lines and kept Pennsylvanians employed during one of the most trying times in recent memory. Time and again Ben Franklin proved why investing in technology and innovation makes sense.
So how do we build upon the growth we have seen in Pennsylvania and ensure our state’s economy is future-proof?
We start by making the types of investments that Gov. Tom Wolf proposed his 2021-22 General Fund budget.
Recognizing the power of Pennsylvania’s ability to harness innovation and elite talent, the governor proposed $14.5 million in funding to the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority (BFTDA). The governor’s proposal for the upcoming fiscal year would keep Ben Franklin’s base appropriation level with the previous fiscal year, but it also serves as an important first step in Pennsylvania’s post-COVID recovery.
Startups and innovative established manufacturers seek fertile ecosystems and Ben Franklin has done an outstanding job of creating an ecosystem where companies in Pennsylvania can thrive and bring their ideas to market. In partnership with the Department of Community and Economic Development, we have made Pennsylvania more attractive for businesses, while supporting and nurturing the types of jobs and opportunities that young people seek.
Ben Franklin invests more than money alone. We surround clients with internal and external experts in accounting and finance, marketing, intellectual property protection, supply chain management, and other disciplines. This process is Ben Franklin’s “secret sauce,” developed and customized over more than three decades of experience, which is why many clients cite these high-value support services as being key factors in their eventual success.
Now more than ever, Pennsylvania is facing renewed competition to attract businesses and retain brainpower. The stark reality is that if we do not make investing in innovation a priority, there are plenty of other states who will. We need the General Assembly to approve Gov. Wolf’s appropriation for Ben Franklin. We need our elected leaders to support job growth, expanding tax revenue and the business that serve as the backbone of our communities.
We cannot afford to let Pennsylvania’s economy fall behind other states who are pulling from the very same playbook that made Ben Franklin the national leader for innovation-based economic development. We strongly urge the General Assembly to support the proposed funding for Ben Franklin and all the clients we serve in Pennsylvania’s 67 counties. With $3.90 in revenue generated for every dollar invested by the state in Ben Franklin, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that our approach works. Ben Franklin’s clients were happy to support Pennsylvania’s call to action during the most difficult moments of the pandemic. Now it is time for the state to act again, this time to ensure Ben Franklin’s clients receive the continued support they need.