Lehigh's William D. Michalerya (left) receives the award from John Roberts, the 2006-07 UEDA President.
Lehigh’s commitment to and success in nurturing entrepreneurship within a revitalized Bethlehem region was recognized recently with a national award.
The University Economic Development Association presented Lehigh with its Award of Excellence in Partnership Development at the group’s annual summit in Portland, Oregon, in early November. The award recognizes the university’s work with the Southside Bethlehem Keytone Innovation Zone
to support and develop new businesses based on technologies developed or licensed through Lehigh faculty and students.
“The Keystone Innovation Zone is based on partnership and on the university being an economic development driver in the community,” said William D. Michalerya, associate vice president of government relations and economic development, who accepted the award.
“If Southside Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley are better places, it helps us to attract the best faculty, students and staff,” said Michalerya. “And if our community is strong and growing, if it’s a more attractive place for people to live, work and play, it helps us to retain the brightest Lehigh graduates in the region to start new companies and create a thriving economic development base around the university.”
That commitment to economic revitalization is illustrated by the success of such companies as EMV Technologies, EcoTech Marine, Viddler and hField, whose founders are all Lehigh graduates involved with the university’s Integrated Product Development
program. The local success stories received KIZ grants before eventually settling in the TechVentures Incubator and Bethlehem’s Southside neighborhood, just a few blocks from Lehigh’s campus.
The other finalists for the UEDA award were Southeastern Oklahoma State University and the University of Arkansas—larger public institutions with greater resources and a more primary mission of economic development. Lehigh’s recognition reflects an influence that belies the university’s size, according to Michalerya.
Making quite an impact
“As a medium-sized, private institution, our impact on economic development is a great story,” he says. “This is a national recognition for Lehigh, one that shows how effective our partnerships have been in our community and state.”
The Southside Bethlehem KIZ is funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, administered by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) with Steve Melnick serving as director. The KIZ Board is co-chaired by Michalerya and Tony Hanna, director of community and economic development for the city of Bethlehem. In addition, the KIZ partnership represents the region’s entrepreneurial and technological infrastructure.
The partnership includes Lehigh University, the city of Bethlehem, LVEDC, Northampton Community College, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast Pennsylvania, Manufacturers Resource Center, the Small Business Development Center, Wachovia Bank, Orasure Technologies, St. Luke’s Hospital, Lehigh Valley Hospital, Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital, Team Pennsylvania Foundation, UGI Inc., and the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board.
With more than 20 entrepreneurial-related programs offered across its four colleges, Lehigh has a longstanding emphasis on community outreach and enrichment and, as such, is no stranger to spurring economic growth in and around the Lehigh Valley. Such successful partnerships with the Small Business Development Center, Life Sciences Greenhouse, the Manufacturers Resource Center and Ben Franklin Technology Partners, to name a few, have demonstrated Lehigh’s entrepreneurial commitment.
To continue encouraging economic development and actualizing the university’s entrepreneurial spirit, the university has established an Entrepreneurship Implementation team
charged with creating an internationally recognized community of educators and practitioners of entrepreneurship.
“Our most important contribution as a university to the economic development picture is our students,” says Michalerya. “We need to be talent providers for these new enterprises. The new knowledge economy is based on the development and management of that talent.”