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EFE Labs boosts local startups through Ben Franklin Technology Partners alliance

For many aspiring entrepreneurs and small businesses, finding the money to design and prototype their ideas can be a tremendous challenge.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners (BFTP) helps bridge that gap through its various programs and grant offerings, and a new alliance with EFE Laboratories will provide young companies with even more of the connections, technical expertise and financial capital they need to bring their products to market.

Led by majority owner and engineer Kip Anthony, EFE is a leading manufacturer of controllers, communication tools, medical devices, and other electrical and mechanical engineering solutions.

With 35 employees and growing, the Horsham-based lab has already helped clients obtain matching Ben Franklin FabNet (BFFN) prototyping grants.

For example, its work with SureShade has allowed founder Dana Russikoff to both expand the company's market reach, and move the design and manufacturing of its retractable boat shades back to the Philadelphia area.

Not content to simply refer clients to the BFFN program, EFE actively reaches out to growing companies facing various developmental challenges and a lack of R&D capital.

"I’m trying to make sure that, through the network and connections I have, clients receive the help they need to move their manufacturing process forward," says Anthony.

An established engineer with an MBA, Anthony understands the vital role manufacturing plays in the economy, and is passionate about sharing EFE's capabilities and experience with the larger entrepreneurial community.

"There are a lot of good people behind this," he insists, discussing how EFE's new alliance might help bring manufacturing jobs back to the region. "[There’s] a lot of shared passion, and a lot of drive and desire to succeed."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Kip Anthony, EFE Laboratories

 

Mr. Milkman, an organic dairy delivery service, is now available in Philly

All it took was a single taste of Trickling Springs Creamery's premium ice cream to convince Dan Crump he had to leave his job at FedEx and follow his passion of supporting local farms and healthy organic eating.

Shortly thereafter, he purchased the Lancaster County-based organic dairy delivery service known as Mr. Milkman.

At the time, Mr. Milkman had a limited delivery area and only a few customers -- it was really more of a hobby than a business for its previous owner.

"I knew it would mean a pay cut," recalls Crump. "But I also knew I could use my FedEx [logistics] knowledge to make [the business] work."

Almost immediately after purchasing Mr. Milkman, Crump began to wonder whether or not he should expand services to Philadelphia. Without an advertising budget or established customer base, he figured the costs would be prohibitive. Fortunately, a fruitful visit to Reading Terminal Market convinced Crump to add Philadelphia-area delivery services a few months back.

Now, thanks to the airing of a spotlight piece on Lancaster County’s WGAL last week, Mr. Milkman’s business in Philadelphia has taken off.

Due to the spike in orders, the company has added new Philly-area routes. It delivers each Saturday, and is poised to continue its growth with a hiring push. Crump is also working with a gluten-free bakery and will be offering fruit and veggie boxes this spring.

In addition to Trickling Springs Creamery dairy products, Danda Farms organic meats, artisan cheeses, raw honey and a number of other organic goodies, Mr. Milkman also delivers raw milk from Swiss Villa.

"We’re dedicated to supporting our local organic farmers and their workers," says Crump, "while ensuring that busy moms, families, and other [Philadelphia] residents have access to healthy food."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Dan Crump, Mr. Milkman

 

Germantown United CDC hiring its first commercial corridor manager

In a neighborhood as historic as Philadelphia's Germantown, the Germantown United CDC (GUCDC) is an anomaly: The organization isn't yet three years old.
 
When it formed in late 2011, the community was still reeling from allegations of severe mismanagement on the part of Germantown Settlement, a social services agency. During its formative months, Germantown United's main goal involved becoming known as a trusted and transparent community partner.
 
To a large degree, that goal has been accomplished. GUCDC regularly hosts well-attended events and forums, and recently undertook a business district tree-planting campaign.
 
Now, according to Executive Director Andrew Trackman, the organization is hiring its first commercial corridor manager. The position's first-year salary will be covered as part of a reimbursable $75,000 grant from the Commerce Department.
 
The corridor manager's responsibilities will mainly involve working as a liaison to the business and property owners of the Germantown and Chelten Avenue business districts. They might listen to retailers' complaints, for instance, or help them apply for development grants such as the Commerce Department's Storefront Improvement Program (SIP).    
 
"We're looking for this corridor manager to be kind of a defacto business association head," explains Trackman. The new employee will also be heavily involved in business corridor cleanup efforts in coordination with the Germantown Special Services District.
 
"[Local businesses] need help with capacity and technical assistance," he adds. "We're just trying to improve the overall business climate of the district."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Andrew Trackman, Germantown United CDC
 

Calling Local Artists: Frankford Avenue First Friday Fracas wants your work

In the riverward districts of Fishtown and Kensington, Frankford Avenue First Friday events have been showcasing the area's increasingly extensive creative output for some years. And it's not just the boulevard's art galleries, but also its cafes, eateries and boutiques.
 
According to Joanna Winchester of the New Kensington Community Development Corporation (NKCDC), that creative and economic energy has been steadily inching its way northward along Frankford Avenue over the past few years.

"We've been wanting to put a highlight on some of the newer businesses that are coming in on the northern side of avenue," she says.
 
At the same time, NKCDC has been keen for local artists to become more involved with the avenue's monthly First Friday events. In an effort to satisfy both those goals, a new-and-improved event was born: the Frankford Avenue First Friday Fracas, which Winchester describes as a fairly typical "art stroll-style event, but with a really energetic twist to it."
 
On September 5 from 6 to 10 p.m., Frankford Avenue between Susquehanna and Cumberland will be closed to traffic for the street party. "We're hoping to have performers, and food trucks, and artists selling their wares," adds Winchester.
 
NKCDC is currently soliciting applications from artists who may want to perform or sell their work at the Fracas. And while priority will be given to those from the 19125 and 19134 ZIP codes, anyone is welcome to apply, as long as they meet the August 20 submission deadline.

Applications can be found online at NKCDC.org and FrankfordAveArts.org

Source: 
Joanna Winchester, NKCDC
Writer: Dan Eldridge

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

 

Nab tickets for the 2014 Filadelfia Latin American Film Festival

Thirteen percent of Philadelphia's population is now of Hispanic or Latino descent -- that's nearly 200,000 people within the city limits alone. The organizers of the third annual Filadelfia Latin American Film Festival (FLAFF) -- the only annual festival of its sort in the Greater Philadelphia area -- have released the scheduled lineup for this three-day event, which runs April 25-27 at The University of the Arts, the Kimmel Center and International House Philadelphia. This year's films represent a diverse range of Latin countries and include full-length features, documentaries, shorts and even a family-friendly animated film from Uruguay.

Standouts include Cesar's Last Fast, a film about a one-man hunger strike held by Cesar Chavez in an effort to shine a light on the negative effects of pesticides, and Yo, Indocumentada, an exploration of the Venezuelan transgender community.    
 
According to FLAFF co-organizer Beatriz Vieira, "part of what we want to do [with FLAFF] is to make sure the audiences are being built very, very carefully." To that end, a fair amount of community engagement has been baked into the festival, she says, "to make sure [it] has a lot of relevance for the region."
 
For example, a student member of the Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians will discuss the struggles of learning to read and write as an adult following the screening of Las Analfabetas, a Chilean film about a middle-aged illiterate woman. FLAFF is also partnering with The Food Trust and Fair Food; representatives from both groups will discuss their work with the audience after the screening of Cesar's Last Fast.   
 
Click here to view film trailers or purchase tickets.
 
Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Beatriz Vieira, FLAFF

 

State of Young Philly 2013 offers new opportunities for young activists

Narcissistic. Apathetic. Cynical. State of Young Philly (SOYP), the annual, week-long activist celebration from Young Involved Philadelphia (YIP), rails against the unfortunate descriptors often associated with generation Y. This year, events run from Friday, October 25 through Saturday, November 2.
 
"There are a lot of articles out there stereotyping young people as the 'me' generation," says Mike Kaiser, Events Chair for YIP. “When you come out to YIP events, it's a totally different picture. We're trying to challenge that [perception]."
 
The week focuses on civic skill-building. Highlights include an opening night reception and civic engagement fair featuring Campus Philly, Groundswell, Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia, Need in Deed, Impact HUB Philly, the People's Emergency Center, and many others; Navigate Philly, a series of short presentations by local leaders on topics such as politics, media and education; Sustainability Night, an instructional event on recycling, composting and waste disposal; Get a Job, featuring advice from human resource professionals; and a "Welcome to Philly" happy hour featuring a "minimalist" Halloween costume contest.
 
Then, on November 2, YIP will host their first civic engagement un-conference. Participants will be encouraged to share ideas and best-practices.
 
"We know there are people out there making progress and positive change in Philly," says Kaiser. "This is a chance to bring everyone together to share that knowledge. We're trying to accelerate ideas and connections."
 
Last January, YIP's new board launched a quarterly "Learn, Grow, Do" series. It introduces Philly activists to fundamentals such as first-time home buying, networking and park cleaning. SOYP will give existing members the chance to reflect on their progress and engage new potential members.
 
"It really reaffirms that what we're doing matters," says Kaiser. "For new people it’s, 'Here’s something simple you can do to join this movement.'"
 
Source: Mike Kaiser, Young Involved Philadelphia
Writer: Dana Henry

New York City entrepreneur brings Local 215 food truck to Philadelphia

One of the advantages of operating a mobile food business is the ability to follow the market -- literally. That wisdom guided Alexander Buckner, founder of the Local 215 food truck and catering service, to Philadelphia.
 
Local 215 prepares their cuisine at Greensgrow's kitchen space and sources almost exclusively from family farms within 100 miles. The truck debuted last August at the The Food Trust's Night Market in Mt. Airy and re-launched this past spring after a winter hiatus.
 
Ironically, Local 215 was conceived while Buckner was living in New York City. The culinary entrepreneur had watched the popularity of food trucks spread from Los Angeles up the west coast. By 2011, high-concept street food had made its way east and was gaining traction in New York City -- unfortunately, the city's moratorium on vending licenses made starting a business prohibitively expensive.
 
Around that time, Buckner visited Philly and was impressed by the low startup costs and high density of young professionals and university students.
 
"It looked like Philadelphia was going to be next in line," says Buckner. "It has all the ingredients for a good food truck city."
 
Local 215 focuses on simple, "technique-driven" preparations. The menu features delicacies such as housemade Merguez lamb sausage in duck-fat gravy, braised duck, and fresh corn, slow roasted with shallots and topped with mascarpone cheese. 
 
"It's a balancing act to run a food truck or catering business that's all local," explains Buckner. "We actually do get almost everything from right here in Philly."
 
Local 215 truck stops at locations in University City, Callowhill and near the The Mann Center. Find them by checking their Twitter feed.
 
Source: Alexander Buchner, Local215
Writer: Dana Henry

Discover PHL helps launch PHLMade, a campaign to market locally-made products

Philadelphia might still be "the workshop of the world" -- only instead of manufacturing wool suits and steam engine parts, the city is producing up-cycled handbags, artisanal cheeses and smartphone apps.

PHLMade, an effort spearheaded by Discover PHL, wants to celebrate those products. They are currently offering a newsletter and plan to launch an online magazine and branding campaign around all the stuff made in Philly.
 
PHLMade has three main goals: To market Philadelphia as a "city of makers"; to appeal to outside and emerging companies who might want to make products here; and to help locavores and tourists buy products that are locally-made. Over the next year, PHLMade will create an original logo for products made in Philly and expects to hold conventions and pop-up shops for local wares.  
 
“It’s really to connect the marketing piece with the business piece and help to support the products that are coming out of Philadelphia," says Daniel Cohn, Founder of PHLMade and VP of marketing and communications at Discover PHL. “We’re really discovering stories in the city."
 
The online magazine -- featuring original content in addition to aggregated stories from local media outlets -- will focus exclusively on makers. It’s being developed by Brandon Davis, a native of Olney who publishes the national entrepreneurship magazine American Dreaming.
 
"Everyone in America is talking about American-made products and the importance of buying local," says Cohn. "PHLMade gives us additional opportunities to showcase Philadelphia as a city of innovation and of people who are still making things after all these years."
 
PHL-Made is looking to hear from makers, maker-enthusiasts and interested sponsors. They are launching a Kickstarter campaign this month to support the upcoming magazine launch.
 
Source: Daniel Cohn, Discover PHL
Writer: Dana Henry

Public Workshop completing construction on Philly's first GreenBuild Legacy Project

The Public Workshop is finishing construction on Philly's first GreenBuild Legacy Project. In the coming years, this play structure, located in Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, is expected to engage hundreds of thousands of local users.

The concept was selected by Delaware Valley Green Building Council. This November, they are hosting the international GreenBuild Expo in partnership with the City of Philadelphia. Previous legacy projects in other cities have largely focused on urban agriculture.

Alex Gilliam, founder of Public Workshop, announced plans for the project back in March. Since then, the organization's "Building Heroes" -- young adult and teenage project leaders -- have created an "adventure playground" using salvaged wood and fallen trees.

"We got excited about the potential of leaving a lasting project at Smith playground, but also engaging youth," says Fern Gookin, director of sustainability at Revolution Recovery and chair of the Legacy Project Committee.

The group's work transforms the natural landscape through designated play areas -- "The Jungle" has bendable beams that can be woven into caves, tunnels and huts; "The Forest" offers reclaimed materials for building temporary structures; and "The Whirlpool" is a shifting deck wrapped around a large tree, begging the user to look up at the canopy.

During the design-build process, the Public Workshop engaged local community groups and citywide organizations, including Urban Blazers and Mural Arts. Final workdays and upcoming Legacy Project events are open to the public.

"During the GreenBuild Expo, the spotlight on a national and international level will be on Philadelphia," says Gookin. "The Legacy Project will live on after the conference packs up and moves away."

Source: Fern Gookin, Legacy Project Comittee; Alex Gilliam, Public Workshop
Writer: Dana Henry
 

Inventing the Future: Fifth annual RAIN conference fosters entrepreneurship in the region

The fifth annual Regional Affinity Incubation Network (RAIN) Conference, held June 24 at the University City Science Center Quorum, kicked off with a simple request. Wayne Kimmel of SeventySix Capital asked the audience -- which featured entrepreneurs, investors and thinkers from across the region -- to forget about task forces and meetings. Instead, he wanted every attendant to show one local college student a piece of Philly.

"It's about engaging young bright minds," said Kimmel. "That's the amazing opportunity."

RAIN is a network of research parks and business incubators, including the Science Center, Select Greater Philadelphia, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, the Delaware Emerging Technology Center and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority. The conference launched in 2009 with the goal of fostering support for entrepreneurship in the tri-state area. It has grown from 40 to 100 attendees, including many local entrepreneurs.

This year's event, dubbed "Supporting Startups: Capital, Community and Collaboration," featured two panel discussions. The first delved into first-round funding and crowdfunding; the second looked more broadly at startup resources such as StartUp PHL and other local support organizations.

"Every startup needs funding, funding and funding," said Jeanne Mell, VP of marketing and communications at the Science Center. "But the options that are available are changing rapidly, especially in light of crowdfunding."

At several points, speakers identified a growing number of coworking spaces, incubators and networking channels that are changing the face of Greater Philadelphia.

"These formal organizations have been joined by coworking spaces and other spaces of cohabitation for startups," explained Thomas Morr, president and CEO of Select Greater Philadelphia. "It's very exciting."

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.

Source: Wayne Kimmel, SeventySix Capital Jeanne Mell, VP of Marketing and Communications at the Science Center, Thomas Morr, President and CEO of Select Greater Philadelphia
Writer: Dana Henry

Campus Philly's Opportunity Fair plugs students into the regional economy

The Campus Philly Opportunity Fair, taking place June 20 at Penn's Houston Hall, isn't just about jobs. In addition to featuring over 40 of the region's largest and fastest growing companies -- including Bentley Systems, Monetate, Artisan and Urban Engineers -- the event will host local civic organizations and a series of workshops aimed at helping recent grads. The big picture goal: keeping students in Philadelphia.

The fair is free to anyone who graduated from college in the past five years. To develop a diverse roster, Campus Philly partnered with the City of Philadelphia and 29 local universities.

The idea for the fair was first conceived in 2008. At the height of the recession, they wanted to help graduates find local employment. The event has since evolved to meet the demands of a changing job market.

"Students often come to us not knowing where to start," says Ashlie Thornbury, director of career programs for Campus Philly. "They want to know who to talk to and how to get plugged-in."

Organizations like Generocity, Young Involved Philadelphia, the Mayor's Office of Civic Engagement and the Citizen's Planning Institute will encourage new grads to get involved with local issues. Workshops cover topics such as managing social media identity and developing career paths through volunteering. There will also be representatives from local graduate programs.

In the past five years, Philadelphia has experienced a population bump after fifty years of decline. Much of this incoming population has been under 30.  

"The Opportunity Fair a great way to showcase all that our region has to offer a recent graduate," says Thornbury. "Philadelphia has become a destination." 
 
Source: Ashlie Thornbury, Campus Philly
Writer: Dana Henry

Philly's third Vendy Awards reward mobile culinary innovation

For the culinary entrepreneur, Philly is a great testing ground. In addition to our thriving BYO culture, the city supports a growing army of food trucks. To celebrate, the New York City-based Street Vendor Project will host the third annual Philly Vendy Awards at Penn Treaty Park in Fishtown on Saturday, June 8.   

While metal boxes carting cheesesteaks, fruit salad and breakfast sandwiches are nothing new, the new generation of Philly concessions are creating portable versions of national food trends -- Korean tacos, anyone? The Vendy Award finalists, selected thanks to thousands of public nominations, pay homage to the growing diversity.

"Vendors are giving us more options," says Helena Tubis, event coordinator for the Street Vendor Project. "They're creating a location-based experience. There's a fun factor that's just a little different than your traditional dining experiences."

The event will showcase six sweet trucks (offering frozen yogurt, baked goods and, of course, cupcakes) and 11 savory trucks (including Asian fusion, build-your-own mac and cheese and vegan delicacies). Attendees are given unlimited samples and will vote to decide the People's Choice award, Best Dessert and Messiest Food. There's also a judges' award determined by a panel of experts, including Paul Kimport, cofounder of Johnny Brenda's and Standard Tap, and Emilio Mignucci of DiBruno Bros. Ticket proceeds benefit The Food Trust.

Street Vendor Project has held the Vendy Awards in their home city for nine years. They brought the event to Philly because the local scene was booming: Over 15 trucks serve Love Park daily and The Food Trust has organized several packed Night Markets.

"There's just a huge influx in Philadelphia," says Tubis. "A tremendous amount of new vendors are doing unique offerings."

Source: Helena Tubis, the Street Vendor Project
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Random Hacks of Kindness winner creates afterschool program wiki

As Philadelphia prepares to close dozens of schools, afterschool enrichment -- a lifeline to arts, athletics and academics -- is also in peril. That’s why Chris Alfano, CTO of JarvUs and brigade leader of Code for Philly, and Faye Anderson, founder of Tracking Change, are building a wiki-based platform that identifies available programs. The team's project, What’s Going On?, won Philly’s fifth Random Hacks of Kindness (RHOK) this past weekend at Drexel’s ExCiTe Center.

This year's RHOK joined forces with hackathons around the globe under the umbrella of National Day of Civic Hacking. The event was organized by Technically Philly through partnerships with AzaveaCode for America, Drexel and the City of Philadelphia. There were five final projects and over 20 participants.

When the Alfano and Anderson first investigated the afterschool issue, they noticed that the data is often incomplete or outdated. Some programs, like the Free Library's Literacy Enrichment Afterschool Program, are burried in individual branch sites. For families with limited internet access and know-how, the lack of an accurate, central resource is a major barrier.

"They need to find things in the community and there's no directory," says Alfano. "Someone who's researching is going to have to be making phone calls and checking up on everything they find."

Instead of creating a static app, which relies on a developer for updates, What’s Going On? is a search engine built on public wiki pages. Users and program directors can submit program pages or update existing ones, creating a more comprehensive repository.

The winning app was first conceived during February’s Tech Camp, which addressed challenges in public education. According to Brian Kirk, co-founder of Technically Philly, relationships between hackers and hackathons have become increasingly common in the civic engagement space. For example, Sheltr, the second place finisher at RHOK, was first created during a hackathon several years ago. The team that worked on it during this recent event was a completely new group.

"There's a community that has an understanding of the data ecosystem and what's being built," says Kirk. "Without any big leadership change, we've seen it coalesce and get pushed further down the road."

Source: Faye Anderson, Chris Alfano, What’s Going On?; Brian Kirk, Technically Philly
Writer: Dana Henry 

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.

Philly hosts second GameLoop, an "unconference" for the gaming industry

For Philly's burgeoning community of indie game makers and enthusiasts, GameLoop is a chance to swap ideas, learn techniques and make new contacts in a growing industry. Philly's second incarnation of this event takes place at University of the Arts' Terra Hall on Saturday, May 18.

Dubbed an "unconference," GameLoop has no set agenda. Participants propose and decide on talks and roundtables at the beginning of the day during an open floor discussion.

"[The local gaming community] has brought together programmers, artists, musicians, designers, modelers -- you name it," says organizer Ray Merkler. "A rapidly growing indie game scene needs events like this to share ideas and create new relationships."

GameLoop originated in Boston in 2008. Merkler brought the concept to Philly in 2011, after meeting founder Scott Macmillan at the PAX East gaming show in Boston. Philly's first GameLoop drew 80 people, including leaders from Boston, New York and Baltimore. Topics covered included 2-D and 3-D design, prototyping, and business models, but Merkler says GameLoop isn't just about development or the industry. For example, someone looking to build a new narrative into a classic game, such as Dungeons and Dragons, is welcome to share.

"You can attract new talent into your city, or you can take the talent you already have and let it interact in new ways," says Merkler. "GameLoop tries to do the latter."

Source: Ray Merkler, GameLoop Philly
Writer: Dana Henry
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