Clean-tech focus sparks growth
Philadelphia Business Journal
January 15, 2010

Bristol, PA - partnership between Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania and Keystone Redevelopment Group to spur alternative energy companies is bringing results.

Y-Carbon Inc., a Ben Franklin-supported company that uses nanotechnology to make carbon materials that have energy, life-sciences and environmental applications, plans to launch its manufacturing and development operations at Keystone’s Bridge Business Center in Bristol next month.

Y-Carbon, which will maintain its headquarters in King of Prussia, received $150,000 in federal stimulus funds this month to help pay for the fit-out of its new space.

Federal stimulus dollars also have factored into Keystone’s overall redevelopment of the Bridge Business Center, with $1 million in funds to help pay for a $2.6 million system that uses natural gas and micro-turbines on the roof of one building to generate power for, and heat and cool, the building.

Additionally, U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Bucks, secured nearly $800,000 in federal funds for a Green Jobs Academy at the center. Its academic partners include Bucks County Community College, Bucks County Technical High School, Delaware Valley College and Drexel University. Corporate participants include Spanish windturbine maker Gamesa Corporación Tecnológica, which will train workers for its plant in nearby Fairless Hills.

The new developments have boosted Keystone’s efforts to turn a former Rohm and Haas Co. research-and-development center into a vibrant center for cutting-edge companies. Keystone has attracted nine tenants since last January, when Bucks County Community College began teaching a chemistry class in Building B, which is the first building Keystone is trying to fill.

Gregory Ventresca, a partner with Doylestown-based Keystone, said about 35 percent of the building, which has 50,000 square feet, is rented. He thinks that could increase to 50 percent by the end of March and 75 percent to 80 percent by the end of June.

Keystone bought the center from Preferred Real Estate Investments in November 2006, a year after Preferred bought it from Rohm and Haas. The firm spent $3.5 million buying the center, which has 300,000 square feet of space in its four buildings on 30 acres, getting permits and improving the land and infrastructure, Ventresca said.

The center used to be a research-and-development center for Rohm and Haas, so two of the buildings that Keystone bought have the infrastructure needed for laboratories.

Keystone, which also developed a warehouse into the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center in Doylestown, knew that kind of infrastructure is expensive to put in and that there were companies looking for buildings with it.

As a result, when Preferred showed it the Bridge Business Center, “that kind of made the light bulb go off,” Ventresca said.

Like the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center, the Bridge Business Center is in the Bucks County Keystone Innovation Zone, meaning companies that locate in it can get tax breaks and other assistance from the state of Pennsylvania.

Keystone originally marketed the Bridge Business Center to life-sciences companies, and still would be happy to have them as tenants, but last May it began working with Ben Franklin on making the center a hub for alternative energy development.

Ben Franklin, a state-funded economic-development organization based in the Philadelphia Navy Yard, is rolling out an initiative to make the area a leader in alternative-energy and clean-technology development.

Over the past year, it has been looking for partners to help it, and thought that Keystone, which it works with at the Pennsylvania Biotechnology Center, would be a good match because the Bridge Business Center is well equipped to house the types of young technology companies it advises and funds.

Keystone was happy to work with Ben Franklin because it can offer young companies expedited access to its services if they locate at the Bridge Business Center.

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