• Ben Franklin 4 PA

The Daily Item: Without funding innovation, we risk falling behind


April 18, 2019


By Nicholas Gilson


This article was originally posted in The Daily Item.


Gilson Snow is a snowboard, ski, and apparel manufacturer. We design bases in an innovative and proprietary way to provide an enhanced and unique “feel” on the mountain. Applying aeronautical engineering concepts, our snowboards and skis have a three-dimensional base that is faster, stronger, and more flexible than traditional products, storing more energy for the “pop” that is sought by snowboarders.


As a recognized worldwide industry leader, we’re proud to call Winfield home. Our unique company merges the woodworking heritage of rural Pennsylvania with the precision of modern technology — all with a demonstrated commitment to environmental sustainability. Reddyyeti ranks Gilson as the #1 snowboard brand and Wired ranked it Snowboard Gear of the Year in 2015. Our company has also earned accolades from Snowboard, Outside, and Bloomberg Businessweek.


We recently worked with the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania to complete manufacturing improvements and expand sales and marketing efforts at Gilson Snow. Ben Franklin did more than invest in our success; they surrounded us with internal and external experts in a variety of disciplines. These high-value services are instrumental in helping entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality and to create the type of jobs that keep residents here in Pennsylvania.


We are not alone in receiving Ben Franklin’s help. 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 their Pennsylvania spinoff companies.


In fact, the most recent independent economic analysis shows that for every dollar Pennsylvania invests in Ben Franklin, $3.90 is generated in additional state taxes. As Pennsylvania seeks new streams of revenue to meet fiscal challenges, investing in Ben Franklin makes sense.


But all of this success is fragile and depends on adequate state funding.


Since 2007-08, funding for Ben Franklin has dropped approximately 50% percent, from $28 million to $14.5 million per year among the four statewide centers. The state’s 2019-20 draft budget would perpetuate that reduced funding level.


This means significant lost opportunities and less support for companies on the threshold of success. And, because of this underfunding, many of the support services that Ben Franklin provides to early-stage companies like Gilson Snow are at risk. I can tell you that Ben Franklin’s investment and support were crucial to Gilson Snow.


Pennsylvania must invest aggressively in innovation to compete and excel. What we lose by not properly funding Ben Franklin is potentially lost forever, and generations of Pennsylvanians will feel the impact of that loss for decades to come.


Gilson Snow is a perfect example of why Ben Franklin funding should be restored. Ben Franklin worked for us, and it works for Pennsylvania. As technology continues to play an increasing role in our economy, the state needs to expand its investment in our future, not curtail it.


The economic tomorrows of the Commonwealth depend on building an environment that fosters innovation and the creation of high-paying, sustainable jobs needed to grow the state’s tax base and economy. That is what the Ben Franklin Technology Partners was created to do, and that is why our legislators should restore Ben Franklin’s funding in the 2019-20 budget.


Nicholas Gilson is the CEO of Gilson Snow, based in Winfield.

© 2020 Ben Franklin Technology Partners