The Chester County Keystone Innovation Zone has expanded geographically and now has four additional educational institutions involved in the program.
West Chester University, Cheyney University, the Franklin Commons education and enterprise facility in Phoenixville, and Tredyffrin’s Evolve IP Corporate Center are now participants in the KIZ, a program that supports young life science, biotechnology and information technology companies in the county.
The new boundaries will include both West Chester University’s main campus and its Graduate Business Center at 1160 McDermott Drive near Route 202.
“Given all the layoffs, having a KIZ with people starting new companies is absolutely critical at this time,” said Mary Fuchs, project consultant for the Chester County Keystone Innovation Zone.
According to the organization’s annual report, CCKIZ companies in 2009:
received their full requested awards in KIZ tax credits for a total amount of $693,251 for seven companies in the zone
reported increased revenue of more than $19 million from the previous year
created 53 jobs
retained 255 jobs
leveraged more than $6.6 million in funding
Prior to its latest expansion, the county had seven KIZ areas, all located in office parks in the Route 202, Route 100/Turnpike, Exton, Goshen, Downingtown, Great Valley and Chesterbrook areas.
State Sen. Andrew Dinniman, D-19th, of West Whiteland, said expanding the zone is good economic policy.
“Chester County’s KIZ is one of the most successful in Pennsylvania,” Dinniman said. “We have had an incredible numer of companies grow and move from research and development to commercial enterprises. By expanding the zone, you are expanding the opportunities. It’s a step in the right direction.”
Fuchs said there are 21 companies that have received services or support from the Keystone Innovation Zone in Chester County.
To qualify for assistance, companies must be in high-tech industries, be physically located within the zone and be eight years old or less.
Those currently listed as Chester County KIZ companies are: Alliance Pharma, Bythezip.com, Carbon Nanoprobes, Epcot Crenshaw Corp., Evolve IP, Frontage Laboratories, GreenPointe Energy, Level One, Melior Discovery, Momentum Dynamics, Nanopack, Neuronetics, Nuron Biotech, Pharmatrope, Progenra, Promedior, Reaction Biology, Shifa Biomedical, Syan
dus, Tetralogic Pharmaceuticals and Y-Prime.
Companies within the zone get a variety of services, from help in finding interns, to training programs for existing employees and connections to venture capital firms. The companies are also eligible to sell tax credits of up to $100,000 a year, giving them access to much-needed working capital, Fuchs said.
Now in its third year, the program is administered through the Chester County Economic Development Council and is funded through a declining state grant. It received $225,000 in 2008, $187,500 in 2009 and $125,000 this year to do so.
Attracting and keeping life science companies is important to the county’s future, Dinniman said.
According to a May 2009, Milken Institute report, after accounting for the ripple effects, the life sciences sector in Greater Philadelphia was responsible for generating 380,800 jobs, $20.2 billion in earnings, and $39.7 billion in output in 2007.
“One of the reasons why Forbes Magazine ranked Montgomery and Chester counties as the ninth- and 10th-best places to live in the country is the many excellent jobs provided by local cutting-edge companies both large and small,” Dinniman said. “But we cannot rest on our laurels. The challenge in this new economy is not only to keep great jobs here but also to create new ones by attracting and supporting entrepreneurs looking to launch new companies — companies that could eventually become the next Siemens Medical Systems or Cephalon.”
Becoming part of the zone is a good fit for Franklin Commons, which now can offer educational opportunities for residents from pre-kindergarten into adulthood, said Dave Moskowitz, a partner in the effort to bring various schools under one roof in Phoenixville.
Within the 225,000-square-foot former industrial building in north Phoenixville is a daycare, a preschool, a Renaissance Academy with 1,000 students from kindergarten through 12th grades, a Lansdale School of Business campus and a Neumann University location, as well as an after-school rock and roll school, a performing arts school, a language center and a number of private businesses.
“It’s the only building in the United States in which you can start at 3 months and finish at a university,” Moscowitz said. “We thought, why not allow small businesses to innovate here and see what would come of that. We have a lot of small businesses already here and lots of professors and teachers here who could take advantage of it.”