Gov. Tom Corbett visited the Navy Yard last week to trump the Innovate in PA legislation he signed this summer aimed at bringing more than $75 million in early stage investment to the state as soon as next year.
He was hosted by the Ben Franklin Technology Partners, which will help administer the money, which will come from selling off tax credits. The governor mingled with entrepreneurs, ranging from InfraScan CEO Baruch Ben Dor, the Ph.D. who used Drexel research to develop a portable medical device that screens patients for intercranial bleeding, to Paul Stoult of SFW, which provides visual surveillance for companies and portable surveillance for events.
“It’s exciting to meet with these people who are vibrant, who are innovative, and continue to create economic opportunity in this state,” said Corbett, who boasted the program will bring 1,850 technology jobs and 3,500 indirect jobs to the state.
“These companies are an example of the really wide diversity of growth opportunities here in Penn. that need risk capital,” said BFTP CEO Roseanne Rosenthal.
Artisan CEO and tech event mainstay Bob Moul grounded the entrepreneur’s perspective on the opportunity, stressing the importance of capital in closing rounds fast before the competition can get ahead, and the instrumental role legislation can play.
While Dean Miller, president of PACT, the trade association that lobbied for the effort, echoed: “Speed to market is important, but on the capital side we can be a little slow to market.”
Originated as a partnership between Ben Franklin Technology Partners and PACT, the bill is designed to raise risk capital, by offering $100 million in deferred tax credits to insurance companies whose bids for those credits are expected to net at least $75 million. Ben Franklin Technology Partners, its venture capital program, and Life Sciences Greenhouses are in charge of investing the funds generated.
“Pennsylvania is a place where people are beginning to come to make bold dreams a reality,” said Corbett, referring to “a group from Cornell” that included Dr. Bernardo Cordovez of Optofluidics, a medical device company now based at the Science Center. That firm’s relocation trek to Pennsylvania can help shake out this region’s strengths: life sciences companies come, and some fashion tech firms leave.
“In the past five years, we’ve had a stunning $1 billion of value leave Pennsylvania in search of funding,” said Moul.
A model like that of life sciences investment firm BioAdvance, with University City and Radnor offices, demonstrates a good argument for the power of early stage funding to deal with the dilemma, said Shahram Hejazi. Established 10 years ago, BioAdvance has invested in 50 companies, resulting in seven FDA approved products in the marketplace and an estimate of 2,000 new jobs, he said.
“Innovative implies the creation of new jobs. I don’t like the term ‘bringing jobs,’ we need more total,” said Roberta Ginsberg, a spokeswoman for state Rep. Rosita Youngblood, whose district includes Germantown. It can’t just be about attracting existing firms but building new jobs.
Ginsberg was there with an interest in how the growing technology and life sciences communities could be opportunities for more Philadelphia residents. While the thought of new white-collar jobs in the region is exciting, Youngblood is unclear on how we are going to replace middle class manufacturing jobs.
“We know the technology is out there, we just don’t know how to apply it,” she said.
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