Technology and Entrepreneurship Flourish in Chester County
Chester County, Pennsylvania has received numerous recognition this year as a place where technology and entrepreneurship flourish – including topping the list of Pennsylvania’s tech hubs as determined by Find the Home and reported by the Daily Local News. Chester County also ranked #5 on the most recent list of the nation’s top ten mega-sized Fourth Economy Communities as determined by the Fourth Economy.
The Chester County Economic Development Council’s technology programs, Ideas x Innovation Network (i2n) and Innovation Technology Action Group (ITAG), have been catalysts for creating this rich environment in the region. i2n provides resources for more than 80 emerging growth companies in Chester County and Delaware County annually.
One of the key resources for emerging growth companies through i2n is access to the Keystone Innovation Zone tax credits. Mary Fuchs has managed the i2n program, and prior to that the Chester County Keystone Innovation Zone, for six years and in that time has facilitated qualified Chester County startups receiving $6,652,135 in Keystone Innovation Zone tax credits. Qualified Delaware County startups have received $1,515,294 in that same time frame.
“Without a doubt, the Keystone Innovation Zone tax credits, can provide innovative startups with the cash infusion that is critical for their growth,” say Fuchs, “Even more important for these new companies is to be part of an innovation and entrepreneurial network that supports their growth like with have here in Chester County and Delaware County.”
Jonathon Beschen, Partner at SparkNET Technologies, a technology consulting firm in Wayne that focuses on customized cutting-edge software and technology solutions, recognizes CCEDC’s and i2n’s roles in the company’s success. “The important feature of their services is a feeling of being part of the wider community of this region,” Beschen says. “We aren’t just a company on our own but part of a broader ecosystem which is enriching the employers and employees of this area.”
The ecosystem and resources through i2n and its partners includes access to guidance on funding resources; state, local, federal, venture capital, angel funding, and grants, training and workforce development assistance, real estate and facilities support, legal counsel, accounting support, risk assessment, and insurance information, access to graduate students and interns from local universities, mentoring opportunities as well as networking and opportunities for companies, partners, educational institutions, and service providers to engage in business development, technology commercialization, research, and other strategic and programmatic initiatives that foster entrepreneurship.
That ecosystem has also expanded in recent years. When i2n was formed in 2012 as the Chester County and Delaware County Keystone Innovation Zones consolidated, neither county boosted any innovation centers, accelerators or co-working spaces. Today, the two counties have more than 8 physical and virtual network resources for startups, a number of which i2n has supported with funds through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s Discovered in PA, Developed in PA program.
The focus on technology and innovation extends beyond emerging growth companies too. ITAG brings organizations that use technology together to learn, share and cultivate new ideas to form new commerce opportunities for the region. ITAG collaborates with more than 70 technology-related companies and organizations in Southeastern PA on business resources, pipeline development and workforce training with annual events such as Girl’s Exploring Tomorrow’s Technology, a one-day event for middle and high school girls and their parents that features successful women in technology, Techies Day, a ½ day onsite career experience for students, and Tech360, a full-day event focused on tech education, leadership development, innovation and networking, and others.
Gary W. Smith, President and CEO of the Chester County Economic Development Council, states that “the attention that Chester County is receiving on a national level speaks volumes about the great work so many are doing in the county to build a strong economy and community.” He added that “VISTA2025, the county’s ten-year economic development strategy has as one of its five goals, the establishment of an innovation culture that supports entrepreneurship and business growth.”