Lehigh’s commitment to student entrepreneurship and economic development was praised by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett during a visit Tuesday to the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania on Lehigh’s Mountaintop Campus.
Lehigh undergraduates, alumni and the owners of businesses housed at Ben Franklin’s new TechVentures® site presented their work to Corbett during his visit.
The governor said he was impressed with the university’s student entrepreneurs. Lehigh was recently ranked among the nation’s top 25 undergraduate colleges for entrepreneurship, thanks in part to the success of the university’s Dexter F. Baker Institute for Entrepreneurship, Creativity and Innovation.
“In talking to the students, you can see how fast these young people are changing what we do,” said Corbett.
“We work to foster creative talent. Our mission is to try to encourage an entrepreneurial mindset,” said Todd A. Watkins, director of the Baker Institute and the Arthur F. Searing Professor of Economics in Lehigh’s College of Business and Economics.
“One of the things we try to emphasize is that it’s not just faculty; this is all student-generated technology.”
An impressive return on investment
“My administration,” said Corbett, “has been happy to partner with Ben Franklin and TechVentures to create the innovative, high-tech and high-wage jobs that emerge from this program. We want to bring young people to Pennsylvania’s best schools and keep them here to live out their dreams.”
The TechVentures incubator was lauded for what Corbett called an impressive return on investment. Since 1983, it has graduated 55 successful companies that support more than 5,400 jobs in Pennsylvania. During that same time period, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania has created more than 15,000 jobs in the northeastern region of the state.
Several of these companies are run by Lehigh alumni, including EcoTech Marine. Tim Marks ‘04 and Pat Clasen ‘04 helped found EcoTech while they were undergraduates in Lehigh’s Integrated Product Development (IPD) program. The company recently leased a new 35,000-square-foot facility in Allentown to accommodate its expanding business.
“EcoTech is an excellent example of Ben Franklin helping to build and grow something from an idea to a reality,” said Corbett.
Corbett was introduced by Lehigh President Alice P. Gast, who spoke about the university’s continued effort to encourage innovation and support manufacturing – including the recent conference of the Council on Competitiveness that was held here and co-sponsored by Lehigh and Air Products.
“At Lehigh, we take enormous pride both in the quality and productivity of our basic research programs, and in the attention we put on translating the fruits of those programs into practice,” said Gast.
“The commonwealth has supported our efforts to make the fruits of our work – knowledge, specialized capabilities and of course talented students and graduates – ever more powerful assets to the people of Pennsylvania.”