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Lehigh is in the zone

Gov. Ed Rendell, right, talks with Gregory Farrington, Lehigh president, during Wednesday's event.

Less than a mile from what was once a cornerstone of the global economy, Gov. Ed Rendell stood at Campus Square Wednesday afternoon and presented a $250,000 check to Lehigh University to nurture start-up businesses in South Bethlehem and encourage partnerships between the university and the community.

Bethlehem is one of the first two municipalities in Pennsylvania to be approved as a Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ), a new state program intended to create partnerships among universities, local businesses and the community to foster innovation and incubate new businesses.

Rendell said the program will help combat the state’s “brain drain,'' in which graduates flee Pennsylvania for good-paying jobs elsewhere. Joining Bethlehem as a KIZ is the Lancaster area surrounding Franklin & Marshall College. F&M President John Fry was also present Wednesday for Rendell’s appearance.

The $250,000 Lehigh received will match a $250,000 grant from the South Bethlehem KIZ Committee made up of 10 local business and non-profit organizations, including Ben Franklin Technology Partners. The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation will use the $500,000 to administer the KIZ.

“So here at Lehigh, if a number of professors are working to get an idea or breakthrough from the science into entrepreneurship, they can bring it right here to the KIZ on campus, set up their business here, and be available for advantageous grants and tax credits,” Rendell told the audience of about 200 onlookers from the university and the community.

"The factory of the future"

Gov. Rendell speaks in Campus Square.

Rendell pointed out that Oakland, home to the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon, is currently the third highest area of economic generation in the state. “Businesses want to be near a knowledge base, a source of energy and innovation and creativity. And that’s exactly what the KIZ here at Lehigh is going to be,” he said.

Before Rendell’s speech, state Rep. T.J. Rooney applauded the governor’s leadership and persistence, which he credited with boosting the state’s economy and creating a “new Pennsylvania.”

State Sen. Lisa Boscola noted the historical significance of Lehigh and Bethlehem’s receipt of the state’s first KIZ.

“Just as Bethlehem Steel built this country, we are literally standing today on the ground floor of the factory of the future—the very first of its kind in the state of Pennsylvania, where the newest kind of technologies, the brightest ideas, the smartest minds will once again come together right here on the South Side of Bethlehem thanks to Lehigh University, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Center, and a truly innovative group of public and private partnerships,” she said.

Before accepting the $250,000 check, Gregory Farrington, Lehigh president, said: “The future of the economy of this state is going to come from smart, creative heads. But having smart, creative heads isn’t enough—you have to keep them here and give them the opportunity to thrive and create and make great things happen. I said some time ago—we’ve got the whizzes, now give us the KIZ.”

The zone in Bethlehem will incorporate seven of the city’s top eight redevelopment projects on the South Side that currently await funding from Rendell's $640 million Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program.

Also appropriately in attendance were students from the 4th annual Pennsylvania Governor’s School for Global Entrepreneurship (PGSGE), sponsored by Lehigh’s colleges of education and business and economics.

Rendell pointed out the Governor’s School students in the audience and said, “These students, who have the potential to truly be global entrepreneurs, someday will start their own businesses and will start them in a KIZ. Here at Lehigh or in the many different campus areas where KIZs will be created … This is really a landmark day.”

Among the dignitaries attending were Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, Ray Suhocki, president of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, state Rep. Steve Samuelson, state Sen. Charlie Dent, former Bethlehem Mayor and current state Secretary of General Services Don Cunningham, Northampton County Executive Glenn Riebman, Lehigh County Executive Jane Ervin, Easton Mayor Phil Mitman, Bethlehem City Council President Mike Schweder, and Councilman Gordy Mowrer.

--Elizabeth Shimer

Posted on Thursday, July 15, 2004

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