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Pennsylvania wins a Silver Shovel Award for the second year in a row

For the second time in two years, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has been honored with a Silver Shovel Award from Area Development magazine, a site selection trade publication that annually recognizes the most economically significantly industrial development projects in the nation.
Two of the 10 Pennsylvania-based projects recognized this year are located in the state's southeastern corner.
Included in the magazine's 2014 list was the upcoming expansion of Urban Outfitters' corporate headquarters in South Philadelphia's Navy Yard and the direct-to-consumer fulfillment center the company is developing in the Lancaster County town of Gap.
Along with the 2,500 jobs those two projects will create -- 2,000 of them in Philadelphia -- the capital investment outlay from Urban Outfitters is expected to exceed $200,000,000.     
Also recognized were two new development projects from Axalta, a liquid and powder coatings enterprise. The company broke ground on a new manufacturing facility in Glen Mills and recently moved into a new global headquarters building in Center City. An investment of approximately $11,000,000 and 332 new jobs are the expected results of those projects.
According to Steven Kratz of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development, Governor Corbett's office is especially pleased that a total of 11 different counties are represented in the 10 industrial and commercial development projects that led to the state's Silver Shovel Award.

"That shows that it's not just one area of Pennsylvania that's seeing growth," he says. "But really, at the end of the day, this means our economy is growing and it means new jobs are being created. And that's more significant than any award."
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Steven Kratz, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development

CultureWorks offers R-Health's direct primary care plans to its coworking members

Ask just about any self-employed professional to discuss the benefit they miss most from their salaried days and you're likely to get an earful about the trials and tribulations of individual health insurance plans.  
The data from Pew Charitable Trusts' most recent "State of the City" report pegs the number of freelancing Philadelphians at just north of 46,000. That's a fairly sizable group of workers, many of whom have had to navigate the frustrating world of health coverage all on their own.   
But for the self-employed pros who rent coworking space from CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia, the individual health coverage maze has become much simpler. Those members can now take advantage of a collaboration between CultureWorks and R-Health, a direct primary care provider Flying Kite covered this past February. In March, the Center City coworking space Benjamin's Desk also began offering R-Health plans to its members.  
Simply put, the main benefits of the increasingly popular direct primary care model -- in which insurance plans aren't accepted -- involve lengthier doctor-patient interactions and, in many cases, lower fees. CultureWorks' coworking members who sign up with the care provider will receive one free month of R-Health membership and a reduced ongoing rate.   
"We try to work with local organizations that have something to offer that would be helpful to our membership," says CultureWorks coworking manager Zach Lifton, "things that make people's lives easy."

Other perks for coworkers include discounted ZipCar rentals, and health club and farm share memberships.     
"The idea is that we're here to support people and not overcomplicate what they actually want to be doing," explains Lifton. "R-Health is one of those things that's easily understood, and it has the potential to work very well with the types of people who are here."
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Zach Lifton, CultureWorks Greater Philadelphia

Philadelphia's Biomeme has growth in its DNA

Growth appears to be in the DNA of Biomeme, a Philadelphia startup. In only a year, the company has raised significant funding, tripled its staff and is moving to larger offices. 

Biomeme "enables anyone to do mobile real-time DNA analysis on a smartphone," explains co-founder Max Perelman. The company makes kits, hardware and software allowing users to easily isolate DNA from a variety of sample types (including blood, water and urine) without the need for lab equipment, and to look for unique DNA signatures of specific targets of interest such as Flu A, E. coli 0157 or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

Perelman, Jesse vanWestrienen and Marc DeJohn moved to Philadelphia last spring from New Mexico and California to participate in the DreamIt Health accelerator. From there, Biomeme went to Philadelphia’s NextFab to participate in its residency program and ramp up prototyping and low-volume manufacturing; they were the first company to utilize the partnership between Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP) and NextFab. 

Now, with a workforce of 14 (including full-timers, interns and co-op students), Biomeme is moving again into a larger facility featuring lab and manufacturing space on North 3rd Street, a burgeoning tech hub officially dubbed N3RD -- pronounced "Nerd" -- Street by the city.

Markets include test developers and consumers, "anyone," explains Perelman, "who wants a DNA lab in the palm of their hand." Biomeme has successfully completed a number of validation studies with third party laboratories and is preparing a number of developer tools for limited release this year with plans to roll out its STI test panel internationally in 2015. 

Biomeme has raised $1.9 million in seed financing, including $400,000 from BFTP/SEP.

Source: Max Perelman, Biomeme
Writer: Elise Vider

ArtWell's influence grows thanks to an Impact100 grant

ArtWell, a relatively unknown but extremely high-impact arts education organization, has been awarded a $100,000 grant to expand its Art of Growing Leaders curriculum, which will be offered in dozens of Philadelphia-area public schools. The grant came from Impact100, a charitable group that funds programs reaching underserved populations.    
Founded in 2001 by executive director and ordained minister Susan Teegen-Case, ArtWell was launched in an effort to battle chronic community violence in the city through arts-oriented educational programs. The organization’s highly-regarded Art of Growing Up curriculum was created eight years ago by program director Julia Terry, who had studied rites of passage traditions in Ghana when she was a study-abroad student.   
During her research, Terry became intrigued by the fact that so many of the world’s cultures have traditions meant to guide young people through the transition from childhood to young adulthood. After joining Artwell, she created The Art of Growing Up as a means to expose Philadelphia’s students to the lessons a rite of passage tradition teaches. The semester-long program includes anti-violence curriculum, poetry and drama workshops, and visual arts classes.  
"We've had the experience of schools wanting us to stay longer, and students wanting to do [the program] again," explains Terry. "But we've never had the funding to extend our relationships and deepen our impact."
Thanks to the Impact100 grant, the program will evolve into a year-long experience known as the Art of Growing Leaders. The expanded curriculum will give students an expansive definition of what it means to be a leader, "so that kids can identify all the possibilities for themselves to be leaders," says Terry.
According to Teegen-Case, community leaders in Chester and in Camden, N.J., have also expressed interest in bringing the program to schools in their areas.
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Susan Teegen-Case and Julia Terry, ArtWell

Next City launches a job listings site for the urban affairs crowd

Originally a highly-regarded print magazine for the city planning and urban issues set known as The Next American City, the Philadelphia-based publication Next City has grown its influence substantially since becoming an online-only outlet three years ago.
Today, Next City features daily coverage of international public policy, infrastructure and economic development. It also publishes Forefront, a news and analysis newsletter. And for five years Next City has produced a popular annual conference, Vanguard, which attracts young urban leaders from around the country.
In mid-June, the site’s editorial staff announced its latest project: a national job search engine, Next City Jobs, which lists open positions in the urban development and civic engagement sectors.  
"I think Next City has always informally served as a convener for people in the urban affairs field," says Executive Director and Editor-in-Chief Diana Lind. "We've decided to take on more of a role as a professional development leader within the field, so the jobs page is one step in that direction."
Though it went live just weeks ago, Next City Jobs is already displaying more than 6,600 available positions. And while many of those listings were aggregated from other sites, Lind says her staff is taking steps to increase the percentage of jobs exclusive to Next City’s portal.  
Lind also hopes to increase the diversity of positions offered.

"The idea is to reflect the cross-discipline approach that Next City has in its content," says Lind. "So you'll have everything from a job for a transportation planner to a public policy expert at a for-profit [company]. Our hope is that it'll become a site people will be looking at every single day, or every week, depending on how [seriously] they’re looking for a job."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Diana Lind, Next City


Conshohocken's Zuppler changes the way we order from restaurants

When Conshohocken entrepreneur and former IT consultant Shiva Srinivasan founded the mobile-based technology company Zuppler back in 2009, the practice of ordering food from restaurants online was still in its infancy.
Nevertheless, Zuppler's service, which allows restaurants to customize their online ordering menus, was a fast success. It wasn't long, in fact, before the company was servicing some 4,500 restaurants worldwide, and thousands of hotels in the United States began using the Zuppler platform to expedite room service ordering.
But in the all-mobile, all-the-time retail environment of 2014, tech-savvy restaurateurs want something more than just a customizable and fully-integrated online ordering solution. They also want a way for their customers to pay online, preferably through a mobile interface.
So Zuppler recently joined forces with LevelUp, a Boston-based tech firm. The self-described "largest mobile payment network in the nation" offers extensively trackable marketing campaigns along with its payment-processing system.
Now restaurants using the Zuppler interface can access extensive customer reporting analytics, "so it's a way for them to take control of their online business, and to take advantage of it," explains Srinivasan.
Zuppler's analytics interface even provides users with a heat map showing exactly where its customer base is grouped. And along with 24-7 customer service and support, Zuppler's beefed-up system can offer coupons and loyalty rewards, which customers can redeem while paying for food on a restaurant's website, all of which are mobile responsive.
Together, Zuppler and LevelUp now service "more than 18,000 restaurants and over 2 million customers combined," according to a release.
"But the most important fact," says Srinivasan, "is that for restaurants that use our service, they own their customers."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Shiva Srinivasan, Zuppler

A Dutch art duo use GPS and digital audio to document the spirit of the city

Here's a little-known fact about Philadelphia's history as an urban innovator: The Percent for Art program, in which developers building on municipally-acquired land are required to spend at least 1 percent of their construction costs on public art, was pioneered by the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority back in 1959.
In the years since, nearly every major U.S. city has adopted a similar policy.    
Philly has become home to roughly 400 public art projects since the program's inception, and one more -- the six-month residency of a Dutch artist duo known as PolakVanBekkum -- is currently underway.

Thanks to the construction of two new University City Science Center structures and a $168,000 grant, PolakVanBekkum will be working throughout the summer and into the fall to create an audio-enhanced Google Earth documentary and an interactive online map, both of which will attempt to explore the spatial and sensory experience of traveling through the city.
The project, which may also have a physical component, will be built with data collected from volunteers outfitted with GPS transponders and digital audio devices. Those volunteers -- who are currently being identified by the artists -- will wander for weeks in the urban environment, their every movement and sound simultaneously geo-located in space.

Come November, when the final interactive and online results are unveiled, the artists hope to share an entirely new story -- a mix of anthropology, place-making and technology -- about the various ways in which Philadelphians interact with their surroundings.
"I think the artists laid out a very good plan for what they want to do," says David Clayton of the Science Center's STEAM Initiative, which is spearheading the residency. "And we want to have them use the project as a process to engage communities. We liked that this type of thing has never really been done before."
To stay up-to-date on the project's evolution, visit 250miles.net.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: David Clayton, University City Science Center

Philadelphia Fashion Incubator launches a five-day pop-up shop in Manayunk

The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator at Macy's Center City (PFI), an intensive year-long business boot camp for early-career fashion entrepreneurs, will be launching a pop-up shop in an empty Manayunk storefront from June 25 through 29.
Launched in March 2012 as a collaboration between Macy's Center City, the City of Philadelphia and Center City District, PFI is helmed by executive director Elissa Bloom, who previously taught fashion entrepreneurship at both Drexel University and Moore College of Art.
Prior to her Philly relocation, Bloom spent roughly eight years living the entrepreneurial lifestyle in New York, launching a successful accessories business.

"I basically created this program out of the needs that I had as an entrepreneur and a designer in the market," says Bloom. "It's kind of like a five-year fast-forward for these designers."  
The six entrepreneurs enrolled in this year's residency are offered legal advice from local volunteer lawyers; receive business plan reviews and professional advice from a Wharton research director; are introduced to industry insiders; and meet regularly with mentors.
"But in addition to the curriculum, I thought, 'Well, the designers also need opportunities to sell and showcase their collections,'" recalls Bloom. "Hence, the pop-up."
Scheduled to run from 11 a.m. on June 25 through 8 p.m. on June 29 at 4347 Main Street in Manayunk, the pop-up shop will kick-off with a party on the evening of the 25th. Roughly a dozen designers will be showcasing and selling their work, including three graduates from the program's first two graduating classes.
To learn more about the stainless steel accessories, utility design handbags, women's evening wear and patterned garments that will be on offer at the shop, click here.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Elissa Bloom, Philadelphia Fashion Incubator

A pop-up park blooms at the Destination Frankford pop-up gallery project

The art-centric Destination Frankford initiative has been active since early spring with a mission of reclaiming, rediscovering and reanimating the formerly industrial Northeast Philadelphia neighborhood of Frankford, primarily through a process known as creative placemaking.
Thanks to a grant from ArtPlace America -- a national association that supports placemaking projects -- Destination Frankford was able to transform a vacant and dilapidated neighborhood storefront into the Destination Frankford Gallery.      
Two of the three exhibitions scheduled to take place in the pop-up gallery have already happened. The first, Reclaim, featured art constructed from items reclaimed by the Dumpster Divers of Philadelphia. The second, Rediscover, was a photography show featuring work exploring the city's often overlooked urban terrain.  
According to Ian Litwin of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, the Frankford CDC "wanted to keep the energy we built around the gallery going," so the opening reception of the gallery's third and final show might prove to be the project's most important event yet.
That reception will kick off at noon on June 28 and feature the unveiling ceremony for a pop-up park in the vacant city-owned lot adjacent to the gallery. The temporary space will host film screenings, art shows and live music events.  
The show itself, appropriately dubbed Reanimate, will run every Saturday through July 26, and feature work from the Philadelphia Sculptors organization.
Unfortunately, Destination Frankford's previously announced plan to install a trio of sculptures by artist Christine Rojek in Womrath Park won't be happening, but Litwin promises "we are exploring ways to keep the gallery or some sort of community in the building going."
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Ian Litwin, Philadelphia City Planning Commission

Using art to open a dialogue between both sides of the corner store glass

Many low-income Philadelphia neighborhood are spotted with Latin- and Asian-owned corner stores; often, they can feel disconnected from the surrounding community. An upcoming collaboration between the Asian Arts Initiative and Amber Art and Design seeks to address that divide.
Titled "Corner Store (Take-Out Stories)," the multi-disciplinary art project takes an up-close-and-personal look at this racially and culturally charged aspect of urban living -- namely, the ubiquitous immigrant-owned corner store and its prevalence in largely black communities.  
"We use art to look in a deeper manner at a lot of social issues," says Amber Art's Keir Johnston, who adds that because immigrant-owned corner stores are the reality of commerce in many marginalized communities, there's an extreme social dynamic that takes place within them daily.
And yet, as Amber Art's Ernel Martinez explains, due to "an underlying tension that's been building for many decades" between black communities and the immigrants who serve them, the opportunity for social interaction between cultural groups is often an afterthought.      
Running June 6 through August 22 at Asian Arts Initiative (1219 Vine Street), "Corner Store" is a multimedia exhibition featuring video interviews with corner-store owners, still photos and mixed-media work. Pop-up performances will take place in mock corner-store structures where handmade currency and merchandise will trade hands. And ultimately, the artists hope, a dialogue will begin to emerge within the city's real-life corner stores.  

"One of the major points of this project is to collect the stories from one community and share them with another," explains Johnston.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Keir Johnston and Ernel Martinez, Amber Art and Design

Can selfies influence the outcome of Philadelphia's primary elections?

If you're the politically active type, you're well aware that Philadelphia County's primary elections are being held on Tuesday, May 20.
But according to Ben Stango of Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP), an organization working to increase civic engagement among young people, many millenials are hearing about the primaries for the first time right now.        
Stango and YIP launched a Get Out the Vote-style marketing campaign on May 8, the results of which you may have seen in one of your social media streams. The concept is basic: Young voters post a selfie to Facebook, Twitter or Instagram declaring their intention to vote. Most are displaying handmade signs decorated with the #YoungPHLVotes hashtag.
"This is the first time we've done a voting push," explains Stango. "And for the primary, we wanted to do something that was pretty simple and straightforward."
Over the past year, YIP has started to focus more of its efforts on advocacy -- specifically on finding ways to connect millennials with politics and policy. And as Stango explains, "There's a lot of good research showing that if your friends are voting, and if there's peer pressure to vote, you're more likely to vote yourself."
While Stango describes the selfie campaign as "an important push," he's also quick to admit that it's really a practice run for a more aggressive effort YIP plans to launch prior to the upcoming general and mayoral elections. The group hopes to target the city's under-voting millennials with a series of interactive education projects this fall.
"We want young people voting," he insists. "We want them talking about voting. And we want them thinking about voting."
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Ben Stango, Young Involved Philadelphia 

The Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby turns to Indiegogo to raise funds

It's a perfect example of an organization hampered by its own success: In the early days, the Kensington Kinetic Sculpture Derby -- a beloved annual parade of unusual human-powered floats -- attracted less than 10 teams of sculpture riders and maybe a few hundred spectators. But that was eight years ago. When the annual Derby kicks off this Saturday, May 17, the hosts expect upwards of 10,000 fans.

For the event's organizers at the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC), that means more street barricades, more fences, more portable toilets -- the works. Or, as NKCDC's Joanna Winchester puts it, "as [the event] has gotten bigger, the costs have gotten a lot bigger."    
In an effort to tackle those costs while still preserving the Derby's authenticity and local vibe, NKCDC has embraced crowdfunding. On April 22 -- Earth Day -- their Indiegogo campaign went live, with the goal of raising $5,000.
Kensington-based Philadelphia Brewing Company, long one of the Derby's most ardent supporters, is matching every dollar donated up to $5,000. And for a $500 Indiegogo donation, PBC is also offering one of the campaign's quirkiest reward perks: an opportunity to work the bottling line at the brewery, and to take home a case of your spoils come shift's end. Other perks include Derby T-shirts and Pizza Brain gift certificates.
The campaign ends at 11:59 p.m. EST on Friday, May 16, which means you have just a few more days to kick in. The real perk, of course, will arrive when the Sculpture Derby kicks off on Saturday, and when once again, the entire city has the opportunity to witness the artistic brilliance your largess made possible.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Joanna Winchester, NKCDC


Creative Mornings, a monthly breakfast lecture series, arrives in Philadelphia

Josh Goldblum is founder and creative director of Bluecadet, a respected local design agency. He's also pretty keyed-in to the local creative community.
Recently, a couple of Goldblum's friends relocated from New York City to Philadelphia, and asked the same question: "Where's the Creative Mornings chapter here?" They were surprised to find that he didn't have an answer.
"In New York, [Creative Mornings] is a huge thing," explains Goldblum. "It's like a part of the local fabric there."
Launched in 2008 by designer Tina Roth Eisenberg, Creative Mornings is often referred to as "TED for the rest of us." More simply, it's a breakfast lecture series specifically geared towards the creative community. Each early-morning event features one speaker speaking for roughly an hour on a pre-chosen topic.
And while the events now take place monthly in nearly 70 cities worldwide, Philadelphia's chapter is brand new. Goldblum is the city's host -- he applied after fielding those inquiries from his two friends. At 8:30 a.m. on May 16, he'll be hosting Philadelphia's second Creative Mornings speaker at Drexel's URBN Center. Game designer Will Stallwood of the video game studio Cipher Prime will be riffing on the topic of freedom.
"I think he's going to be talking about creative freedom," says Goldblum, "because he has complete creative freedom himself."
Creative Mornings events are free, and as for the 8:30 a.m. call time? "Basically, the whole idea is that it's always early in the morning, so you can go and get your inspiration, and then get to work on time for your first meeting," explains Goldblum.
Sign up here to receive announcements about future events and to reserve tickets. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Josh Goldblum, Bluecadet


Camden is now home to New Jersey's second small-scale distillery

"It's definitely a long saga," says James Yoakum, sharing the story of how the three-week-old Cooper River Distillers, the first legal distillery to be based in Camden, N.J., since Prohibition, came to be. The gist features a mix of plucky entrepreneurial acumen and plain ole career dissatisfaction -- the same recipe that has given birth to so many creative endeavors before it.
After finishing the Wharton School's undergrad program and spending a few years in real estate brokerage, "I decided that I didn't want to do that for the rest of my life," says Yoakum. "And I've always been kind of entrepreneurial."

He'd also been brewing beer at home on the side, and about four years ago, he stumbled onto the concept of craft distilling, a growing trend that's now represented in all 50 states.
After finding a mentor in Paul Tomaszewski of MB Roland Distillery, he realized it was actually doable. And thanks to the three years Yoakum spent in business-building mode -- during which he acquired four silent partners and enrolled in Cornell's Artisan Distilling Workshop -- Cooper River's first product, the retro-tinged Petty's Island Rum, should be available in South Jersey bars and liquor stores by the end of May.
According to Yoakum, it was New Jersey's relatively liberal liquor regulations -- which allow small distillers to legally self-distribute -- that led to him choosing the state for his distillery's home.

"I love the idea of making a product one day," he says, "and then the next day taking it down the street to a bar and giving them a sample, and saying, 'Would you like the carry this?'"
For details about the availability of Petty's Island Rum, which Yoakum also plans to sell from his headquarters on Fourth Street in downtown Camden, visit CooperRiverDistillers.com.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: James Yoakum, Cooper River Distillers


Comcast and PEC team up to boost digital literacy

If you're a regular subway commuter, you've probably spotted one of the poster-sized Comcast advertisements touting Internet Essentials, the company's heavily discounted broadband Internet service for low-income Philadelphians.
From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 26, as part of Comcast's 13th annual day of employee community service, the multimedia juggernaut will attempt to take its broadband-for-all philosophy one step further by hosting an entirely free computer education event, the Digital Resources Fair, in a temporary pop-up location at 3846 Lancaster Avenue in West Philly's Mantua neighborhood. 
According to Bob Smith, Comcast's VP of Community Investment, the company has been hosting digital literacy classes for low-income locals throughout the city for years now. The upcoming Digital Resource Fair is an opportunity for Comcast, along with volunteers from the People's Emergency Center (PEC), which is co-hosting the event, to bundle together a series of basic computer and Internet education workshops with one-on-one assistance from specially-trained volunteers.  
"The backbone of the day," explains Smith, will involve a number of "short, very easy to succeed at workshops" on topics that include search engines and email, and finding and applying for jobs online. Attendees will also learn where low-cost computers are available for purchase, and how to access free and low-cost Internet service throughout the city.  
Smith points out that the Digital Resources Fair is a no-strings-attached event. No appointments are required and participants need not be Comcast customers.

"Relevancy has been a big barrier to Internet connections for a lot of low-income families," he says. "What we're trying to do is help people understand that there's something in it for them when they sign up for the Internet."  
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Bob Smith, Comcast; Tan Vu, People's Emergency Center

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