There’s something magical about meeting in person. Especially when it’s a meetup that includes “free beer, free food and free money,” as Todd Erdley puts it.
On August 5, Centre Region Entrepreneur Network (CREN) met up after a long COVID-induced hiatus. Gathering outside Ben Franklin Technology Partners(BFTP/CNP) offices in Innovation Park, over 100 entrepreneurs celebrated fellow Happy Valley businesses, learned about new opportunities in the region, and sparked the “happy collisions” that makes CREN such a great local resource.
“Free money:” Grants Aimed At Small Businesses and Keeping Talent in Happy Valley
Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins told the group about the Centre County Commissioner Small Business Grant Program available to small businesses that saw a decline of 25% in 2020. Applications will be accepted until the $3M in grants is allocated.
In other breaking news about funding to boost innovation and entrepreneurship in Happy Valley, BFTP/CNP CEO Steve Brawley shared that Ben Franklin has received a federal grant aimed at stopping “brain drain.”
The new program will be called Central PA's Train and Retain Initiative. “We educate and mentor all of these amazing, smart students, and then they leave,” he said. “Many of them don’t know the opportunities that they could have by staying here. With this grant, we will be focusing on helping students understand the great tech careers available in Happy Valley, and helping startups and small businesses compete for that talent.”
“Recycling is good:” Four Companies Repay BFTP Loans, So Monies Can Be Used Again
Videon, BioMagnetic Solutions, ConidioTec and Indigo Biosciences were all honored for repaying loans from Ben Franklin Technology Partners, a feat even more impressive for happening during COVID. Brawley said the money was recycling back into Ben Franklin where it could go back out to the next round of companies with great ideas. “Really amazing things have been happening over this past year,” he said.
Fred Maroni from IndigoBio said that the debt to Ben Franklin was one of the last their company was able to pay, and that Ben Franklin was very patient. “To look at that balance sheet and see zero debt is a wonderful thing,” he said.
New Home for CREN
Todd Erdley, Videon Chairperson – President and founder of CREN, announced that CREN has a new home. After nearly 10 years, the group will have a hub for all communication, events and ideas — right here at HappyValleyIndustry.com. “The partnership will amplify private industry in Happy Valley,” he says.
“Free Food, Beer and Happy Collisions”
After the speaking portion was over, CREN did what it does best — facilitate happy collisions of people and ideas as the sun started to set on a warm August day. Pennsylvania State representative Kerry Benninghoff summed it up when he said: “Kudos to all of those great, crazy ideas, the ones that change people’s lives. Keep doing what you’re doing.”