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Local entrepreneur gets a boost from Small Business Development Center

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On an average day, Trina Worrell Benjamin handles invoices, returns calls and emails, directs a team of nearly a dozen employees and manages a client roster that has included big names like Rite Aid and Toys“R”Us. She admits her first steps into entrepreneurship were not easy. But with the help of…

Local entrepreneur gets a boost from Small Business Development Center

  • SBDC: Temple University SBDC
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Pennsylvania SBDC Clean Technology Resource Center Services End, Showing Three Years of Statewide Impact

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Over the past three years, the Pennsylvania Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) has spurred the development and deployment of clean technology in Pennsylvania.  With a grant from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), the Pennsylvania SBDC established the Clean Technology Resource Center (CTRC) to provide dedicated and focused resources to promote the development, commercialization and implementation of clean technology products, goods, services and processes that use renewable energy sources.  

“Having this dedicated service available has definitely helped stimulate the clean technology market in Pennsylvania,” said Pennsylvania SBDC State Director Christian Conroy.  “Although funding for the program has ceased, we are very pleased to have made such good progress these past three years.”  

“In this short time period, the CTRC was able to raise awareness of clean technology opportunities through its educational programs and through one-on-one consulting efforts which provided the assistance small firms needed to commercialize and install energy saving technologies,” continued Conroy.  “There continues to be a large demand for these services so we are actively looking for other sources of funding to reinstate them in some fashion,” he added.

“Green Tech continues to be a growing and profitable line of business for opportunistic entrepreneurs, as well as a good way for companies to protect our environment and save money,” said SBA Mid Atlantic Regional Administrator, Natalia Olson-Urtecho.  “Even with the successful CTRC program at an end, there is much SBA and Pennsylvania SBDC have to offer small businesses in greening their business and capitalizing on a growing market.”

CTRC services successfully helped many small businesses commercialize technology products and services using renewable energy sources.  During its three years in existence, the CTRC consulted in-person with 131 small business clients, recording more than 3,000 hours on client work.  During this same time, over $2.4 million dollars in client financing was obtained by small businesses through assistance from the CTRC. Overall, the center educated a grand total of 3,765 individuals on clean technology through consulting, webinars, in-person seminars and referrals.

Small businesses statewide were assisted by the CTRC on a variety of topics ranging from resources to promote the development and commercialization of clean technology products, goods, services, and processes that use renewable energy sources; advice and technical expertise on clean technology options; support for commercializing and marketing energy products and services; and assistance identifying and obtaining financing for development and deployment of clean technologies including SBIR/STTR, angel investment and venture capital, and state and federal incentives.

Two examples of small businesses assisted by the CTRC include Windview Farm located in Trevorton and IL Fuels, LLC based in University Park.  

Clean Technology Success Story: Windview Farm - Trevorton, PA
Farmer Morrill (Mac) Curtis realized there were ways to profit from nutrient management control, pollution prevention, and energy efficiency by seeking the guidance from the CTRC.  Curtis contacted a CTRC technology consultant for assistance with funding for installing a biomass burner.  He planned to fuel the boiler with the poultry manure generated at the farm.  Installation of the boiler would reduce the amount of poultry manure that is land applied by the farm production, reduce the farm’s Pennsylvania Phosphorus Index Rate in nutrient management, and help to improve the water quality of the Chesapeake Bay Watershed.  The CTRC technology consultant guided Curtis through the grant application process and Windview Farm was awarded $165,000 in one Federal (USDA Conservation Innovation Grant) and one State (Energy Harvest) grant to install the Manure Hot Water Boiler to heat his poultry barns.  

Clean Technology Success Story: IL Fuels, LLC – University Park, PA
Paul Painter and Bruce Miller have spent the last several years researching various processes and techniques to separate oil from the very mineral rich tar sand fields in Canada and the Western United States.   Painter and Miller contacted the CTRC business consultant to discuss a plan to support the National Science Foundation (NSF) application. The CTRC business consultant assisted the team with market research and the development of a business plan/commercialization strategy which became a part of the final NSF application.  In the summer of 2011, Painter and Miller were notified that they received a $150,000 grant from NSF to support their research project.  This funding will allow the team to continue their research and develop a larger scale version of the separation unit.   

Small businesses interested in evaluating market opportunities, developing business plans and securing financing should contact their local SBDC for assistance.  The Pennsylvania SBDC is also a proud partner of Pennsylvania’s Innovation Partnership, an economic development consortium where small businesses have access to additional services to help early-stage technology companies in Pennsylvania secure federal funding opportunities.