Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania picked regional tech firms to receive a part of nearly $550,000 in a recent funding round.

In all 14 companies, both early stage and established manufacturers selected from across the state-funded agency’s 21-county footprint, and nine business incubators within its network received funding.

The organization creates and retains highly paid, sustainable jobs by investing in and linking companies with experts, universities, follow-on funding, and other resources to help them prosper through innovation. It is part of an economic development initiative of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development and is funded by the Ben Franklin Technology Development Authority.

In the local area, these early-stage businesses were awarded loans:

• Alive Fitness, LLC, https://www.alive.fitness/, Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County

Ben Franklin Investment: $50,000

Plan: Continue to develop the platform and initiate a launch of Alive Fitness’s Exercise Analysis System, a cloud-based software platform. The system uses inertial sensors from wearable devices, a system of algorithms, and proprietary software to analyze movements, track exercise data, and send personalized, real-time feedback.

“We’re continuing development, and at the same time, we’re working on the sales pipeline,” said Alive Fitness founder Dave Vorozilchak.

Consumers don’t buy the system, he explained. Instead, he’s building relationships with established fitness companies, those like Beachbody and Peloton, that can integrate Alive’s software into their own.

“We detect exercise movements, real-time,” Vorozilchak said. “We’re able to analyze form, count repetition, but the business model is a back-end software for these digital fitness companies.”

• Build My Team, LLC, https://buildmyteam.com/, The Stourbridge Project, Honesdale, Wayne County

Ben Franklin Investment: $100,000

Plan: Support marketing and lead generation for this Software-as-a-service job placement tool. Build My Team uses online assessments to determine an applicant’s match and aptitude for each role. This streamlines the hiring managers’ work in reviewing resumes and interviewing candidates. It also reduces turnover, which is beneficial to both the employer and the employee. The platform is initially targeted to office workers in physicians’ practices and can be used to benefit any size company.

• ConnexiCore, LLC, www.connexicore.com/, Milford, Pike County

Ben Franklin investment: $18,000 – increase on current project due to success in marketplace

Plan: Support strategic marketing and expand sales efforts while growing an elite national network of licensed drone pilots. Using its exclusive cloud-based Software-as-a-Service flight management and analysis platform, ConnexiCore’s turnkey approach manages the entire process, from aerial data collection, to image and video analysis, to delivering measurable actionable tasks to support decision making for industry. ConnexiCore helps clients leverage drone-based aerial data to create efficiencies to save time and money.

• Geri-Safe, Ltd, https://www.medi-trust.info/, The Scranton Enterprise Center, Scranton, Lackawanna County

Ben Franklin investment: $50,000

Plan: Conduct a clinical trial to measure medication adherence, health outcomes, and healthcare utilization using Medi-Trust. Medi-Trust is a medication-dispensing device with patent-pending technology that improves medication adherence among high-risk patients. The tabletop unit reminds patients to take their medicines, tracks adherence, takes a video of the individuals while taking their medications, and communicates the action to caregivers, physicians, and pharmacists. Many individuals, including some senior citizens and people with cognitive impairment, have complicated medication regimens. This complexity often leads to poor adherence, which can be life threatening to patients and difficult and costly to address. More than 125,000 patients die each year due to medication non-adherence and the annual cost to the healthcare system is estimated to be close to $200 billion.

Established manufacturers are applying new technology to help them succeed globally by producing better, faster, and/or at a lower cost. Ben Franklin provides 1:1 matching funding to established manufacturers for work with a college or university partner on technology-based innovation.

• Summit Utility Structures, www.SUSPoles.com, West Hazleton, Luzerne County

Ben Franklin investment: $17,000 – continuation project

University Partner: Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Management

Implement an Enterprise Resource Planning software solution at Summit Utility Structures (SUS), a manufacturer of tubular poles for use in the utility, lighting, transportation, and communication sectors to improve processes and costing, and to streamline operations. SUS is becoming an industry leader in the production of transmission poles, substation structures, distribution poles, high-mast lighting, wireless poles, davit arms, crossarms, and cross braces.

Ben Franklin announced the following infrastructure initiative, which is provided in the form of grants to regional incubators in the Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network.

• Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network, https://nep.benfranklin.org/ben-franklin-business-incubator/, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Monroe, and Wayne Counties

Ben Franklin investment: $45,000; 9 incubators at $5,000 each

Plan: BFTP/NEP’s leadership in business incubation is national in scope, and Ben Franklin TechVentures has earned two international Incubator of the Year Awards for best practices. The Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network is among the largest of its kind in the world. Ben Franklin staff support members through meetings, advising, and serving on incubator boards. This year, nine of the incubators received funding to support operations: Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, Allentown; East Stroudsburg University Business Accelerator; Scranton Enterprise Center; Innovation Center at Wilkes-Barre; Carbondale Technology Transfer Center; Hazleton Can BE; The Stourbridge Project, Honesdale; TekRidge, Scranton; and the Alan P. Kirby Enterprise Center at Wilkes-Barre.

Portfolio Protection Investments

Additionally, the group made nearly $1.5 million in 0%-interest loans to existing Ben Franklin clients, grappling with the economic downturn wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Advanced Photonics Sciences, https://www.apslasers.com/, Friendsville, Susquehanna County

Ben Franklin Investment: $100,000

Plan: Support and improve the company’s competitiveness during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. Advanced Photonics Sciences is a premier manufacturer and supplier of lasers, optics, and photonics systems including miniaturized diode-direct and solid-state lasers, modules, and high-powered cryogenic lasers for commercial and specialized defense applications. APS is a recognized leader in photonics innovation and engineering, including the development of precision quality crystals.

• American Paper Bag, LLC, www.americanpaperbag.com, Sugar Notch, Luzerne County

Ben Franklin Investment: $50,000

Plan: Address raw material costs and improve the company’s competitiveness during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.. American Paper Bag (APB) is a leading U.S.-based producer of customizable and environmentally friendly paper bags. Currently, most retail carrier bags in the U.S. are plastic and produced in China. APB’s paper bags are greener and provide users with many distinctive branding opportunities. Its proprietary manufacturing process and new shape give APB a competitive advantage over other U.S. bag producers.

• CDC Software, LLC, https://www.cdcsoftware.com/, Bloomsburg Regional Technology Center, Bloomsburg, Columbia County

Ben Franklin Investment: $100,000

Plan: Support and improve the company’s competitiveness during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. CDC Software’s platform greatly reduces the time and cost of integrating telephony systems with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and business systems. Highly configurable and supporting all major telephony providers, the platform provides complete customer data immediately to a representative answering a customer’s call to enable a productive and satisfying customer experience.

• ConnexiCore, LLC, www.connexicore.com/, Milford, Pike County

Ben Franklin investment: $50,000

Plan: Support marketing and lead generation work to improve the company’s competitiveness during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. ConnexiCore is growing an elite national network of licensed remote drone pilots, which allow clients to engage in no-touch data collection. Using its exclusive cloud-based Software-as-a-Service flight management and analysis platform, ConnexiCore’s turnkey approach manages the entire process, from aerial telepresence and data collection, to image and video analysis, to extracting insights from that data, to delivering measurable actionable tasks to support decision making for industry. Clients leverage drone-based aerial data to create efficiencies that save time and money.

• Galaxy Brushes, http://www.galaxybrushes.com/, Moosic, Lackawanna County

Ben Franklin Investment: $100,000

Plan: Optimize workflow to address supply chain risk, manage inventory through disruptions, and improve the company’s competitiveness during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. Galaxy Brushes manufactures cleaning and inspection brushes for the oil and gas pipeline industries and a range of custom wire cutting machines to improve production capacity and efficiency. The company developed a proprietary brush that has produced superior results in cleaning pipelines and wells. Effective cleaning grows more critical with the aging pipeline infrastructure and costs associated with contamination.

• Howell Benefit Technologies, LLC, www.ratecentric.com , TekRidge, Jessup, Lackawanna County

Ben Franklin Investment: $67,500

Plan: Support staff and programming and improve the company’s competitiveness during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. Howell Benefit Technologies, LLC provides online proprietary small-group insurance platforms used by national group insurance carriers that allow agents to reduce the quoting, enrollment, and submission process from three weeks to one hour. Providing real-time rates in a highly complex industry is a paradigm shift in the way group insurance is currently sold and administered. HBT also builds and maintains group insurance premium billing platforms and offers agent license tracking and commission payments online.

• Mystic Mountaintop Productions, LLC, www.mysticmountaintop.com, Kunkletown, Monroe County

Ben Franklin investment: $38,000

Plan: Support and improve the company’s competitiveness during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. Mystic Mountaintop produces a proprietary “smart” LED lighting system for the middle- to low-end entertainment industry. The system includes a hybrid analog/digital computerized lighting console, local and wireless remote control via a smart phone or tablet, a lighting power and control distribution unit, and installation hardware. Primary clients are small venues, such as auditoriums, churches, and nightclubs, which want a lighting system that is affordable but offers the quality and functionality of systems designed for larger facilities.

• OPTiMO Information Technology, LLC, https://www.optimo-it.com/, Bloomsburg, Columbia County

Ben Franklin Investment: $62,500

Plan: Allow OPTiMO to develop a cloud-based process automation tool that will streamline business workflows and reduce operating costs for greater efficiency for major clients in the U.S Government. The company provides innovative digital-product-development services with a focus on the end-user experience. OPTiMO delivers enterprise-level information technology solutions to clients nationwide.

• planguru, LLC, www.planguru.com, Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County

Ben Franklin Investment: $100,000

Plan: Support product development, marketing, and staffing to improve the company’s competitiveness during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. The company is currently rolling out its new cloud-based Planguru app. Planguru provides businesses and business advisors with Software-as-a-System (SaaS)-based budgeting, forecasting and business analytics tools. This information enables small- and medium-sized businesses to make better, more informed decisions.

• Precision POS, LLC, www.precisionpos.com, TekRidge, Jessup, Lackawanna County

Ben Franklin Investment: $35,000

Plan: Support product enhancements that address COVID-19 restrictions, including contact-less curbside pickup, additional delivery options, and an app for delivery driver management. Precision POS offers advanced tablet and cloud based point-of-sale, on-line ordering, and various other supporting products for the restaurant industry and other related food and beverage industries.

• Signallamp Health, INC, https://signallamphealth.com/, Scranton, Lackawanna County

Ben Franklin Investment: $100,000

Plan: Support and improve the company’s competitiveness during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. The use of telemedicine for healthcare during the pandemic has been pivotal to protect patients and healthcare staff, and to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Signallamp Health’s remote clinical services platform supports healthcare providers by triaging and assessing ill patients, including those affected by COVID-19, as well as patients with other conditions. Signallamp’s services are remote, engaging nurses and other clinical staff by telephone, text monitoring system, video conference, and/or other telehealth and telemedicine methods. The company’s model is plug-and-play, working alongside existing Electronic Medical Records. Trusted by a growing number of provider organizations in 10 states, Signallamp allows doctors to provide a value-added service to a larger number of patients and to achieve better health outcomes for patients.

Return to Health

Additionally, Ben Franklin announced it made emergency investments in 17 regional manufacturers totaling $404,370 to help these companies accelerate the recovery from the economic crisis caused by COVID-19. The funds were provided through a $1 million disbursement from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development that was matched by Ben Franklin.

Ben Franklin developed a Return to Health funding program including various types of company investments. Rebuilding Northeastern PA Manufacturers Investments will allow recent established manufacturer clients with 250 or fewer employees to develop and implement plans for recovery.

BFTP/NEP also invested $1,435,500 in 18 promising early-stage firms in this round with support from DCED. Ben Franklin’s total Return to Health investments in the northeastern Pennsylvania economy is $1,840,470, invested in 35 companies.

Many of these manufacturing firms were partway through the development of innovative production and process enhancements, and failing to complete them would hinder their recovery and growth. These clients will facilitate job retention and creation.

Ben Franklin announced the following Rebuilding Northeastern PA Manufacturers Investments, which are provided to manufacturers as matching funding. The companies receiving investments will engage a range of consultants to help them quickly, safely, and efficiently return to work and plan for growth.

• Heritage Sign & Display, Inc., www.popsigns.com, Nesquehoning, Carbon County

Ben Franklin investment: $25,000

Plan: Continue to implement a new sales/marketing plan, improve manufacturing processes, and respond to high demand for products related to COVID-19. Heritage Sign & Display is a full-service Point-of-Purchase (POP) display supplier serving high-profile retail brands worldwide. The company leverages a line of in-house POP display design, development, and production capabilities to enhance clients’ messaging and merchandising.

• Noble Biomaterials, Inc., http://noblebiomaterials.com/, Scranton, Lackawanna County

Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000

Test Noble’s silver-based products against relevant virus strains to characterize the products’ resistance effectiveness. A global leader in bacterial management solutions, Noble Biomaterials develops, manufactures, sells, and markets advanced antimicrobial technologies designed to manage all forms of viral and bacterial contamination for medical, defense, industrial, and consumer markets. Noble’s core technology, X-STATIC®, is a proprietary silver-based antimicrobial solution used for mission-critical applications including advanced wound care, infection control, and odor elimination. Noble has more than 200 licensees, including Johnson & Johnson, NASA, 3M, US Special Operations Command, adidas, and others.

• Production Systems Automation, LLC, https://psasystems.com/, Duryea, Luzerne County

Ben Franklin Investment: $25,000

Plan: Production Systems Automation (PSA) is seeking FDA Emergency Use Approval (EUA) and patent registration for an N95 & KN95 mask decontamination unit, The SaniPro 2000 PPE Oven. The SaniPro 2000 is developed to address the growing PPE mask shortage caused by COVID-19 by killing the virus through the use of heat and humidity, known as Moist Heat Incubation, thus allowing for safe re-use of N95/KN95 masks. The SaniPro 2000 is capable of decontaminating up to 120 masks per decontamination cycle and each mask may be decontaminated for safe re-use up to five times prior to disposal. PSA provides engineering, design and manufacturing of specialized automated equipment. The company has machining and fabrication capabilities as well as innovative design and engineering resources that allow it to respond to clients’ needs in various industries.

• United Gilsonite Laboratories, http://www.ugl.com/, Scranton, Lackawanna County

Ben Franklin investment: $25,000

Plan: Identify and implement product and process improvements to improve the company’s competitiveness during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19. United Gilsonite Laboratories manufactures innovative and industry-leading masonry waterproofing finishing products and wood stains that are used in homes and other buildings.

Contact the writer: joconnell@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9131; @jon_oc on Twitter

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