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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

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Saint Francis University SBDC to Honor Small Business Award Winners

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The Saint Francis University Small Business Development Center will honor the winners of their 2014 Small Business Awards at their annual Awards Luncheon at noon on Thursday, October 2 in the JFK Center on the Saint Francis University campus.

The awards recognize the outstanding achievements of the Southern Alleghenies Region’s most successful entrepreneurs and small business advocates. The winners are as follows:

Small Business Person of the Year
Timothy W. Bergstresser
Geochemical Testing
Somerset, PA (Somerset County)

Geochemical Testing is a privately owned analytical laboratory that provides coal and environmental testing.  Geochemical Testing is NELAP accredited (National Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program) for over 1,000 parameters for drinking water, non-potable water, and solid/chemical analysis categories. This broad scope of certified testing allows them to test coal, water, soil, residual waste, oil and gas drill cuttings, production and frack water, and numerous other substances for a large number of contaminants and chemical properties.  Geochemical Testing’s clients include coal producers, utilities, local, state, and federal government agencies, and from small and medium businesses to Fortune 500 companies.

Geochemical Testing was formed in 1975 as a coal analysis laboratory with only a few employees.  The company grew quickly to become a highly respected provider of sampling and analytical services to the coal industry. After many environmental laws and regulations were passed in the late 1970’s, Geochemical Testing branched out into environmental testing. By the early 1990s, environmental testing started to grow rapidly and now represents 75% of the company’s business activity. 

In 2008, Timothy and Jean Bergstresser purchased the business and over the past six years have aggressively expanded capabilities; adding over 2000 sq. ft. of new space and remodeling and repurposing much of the original lab.  Geochemical Testing is now one of the largest employers of scientists graduating from local colleges and universities.   Since the purchase of the business, Timothy has added 31 full-time positions with benefits.  The company now employs 99 people.

Many of the customers have been with Geochemical Testing for decades but they have also sought out new avenues of growth in industries such as the oil and gas exploration and production in the Marcellus gas region. They have continued to expand their technical range to include more methods of analysis and lower limits of detection, giving them an advantage over much of their competition. The business’s geographical range continues to expand and now encompasses 15 states in the eastern United States.   

Since 2009 sales have grown steadily, increasing by 70%.  The growth over the past five years is directly related to their ability to foresee opportunities and to invest properly in order to take advantage of those opportunities.  The long term goal of Geochemical Testing is to be one the largest independent environmental laboratories in the United States by 2025.   

Women in Business Advocate
Brandi J. Hershey
Law Office of Brandi J. Hershey
Bedford, PA (Bedford County)

Attorney Brandi Hershey is a Bedford County native with fifteen plus years of experience in various areas of the law. Attorney Hershey served as an Assistant District Attorney in both Blair and Bedford Counties.  She has been appointed by the Pennsylvania Attorney General to serve as a Special Deputy Attorney General in order to prosecute high level drug offenders in grand jury proceedings.

After several years with the Blair County District Attorney's Office, Attorney Hershey returned home to Bedford County and became the First Assistant District Attorney. She is admitted to practice in both State and Federal Court.  In 2012, Attorney Hershey entered into private practice and opened the Law Office of Brandi Hershey, located in Bedford, Pennsylvania.  Attorney Hershey is active in the Community. She is currently the President of the Bedford County Bar Association and is a past Vice President and Treasurer of that organization.  She is president-elect of the Bedford Sunrise Rotary Club and a member of the Bedford Lions Club. She is a 2005 graduate of Leadership Bedford County. Attorney Hershey serves as a Trustee on the Bedford Heritage Trust and is a board member of Personal Solutions, Inc. She is a past Treasurer and a member of the Board of Directors for Camp Cadet of Bedford County.  The majority of Attorney Hershey’s legal career has been focused on serving the needs of the community. 

As a prosecutor, Attorney Hershey routinely advocated and gave a voice to crime victims, many of which were women.  She is a past recipient of the Angel Award, which recognizes excellence in public service in the area of domestic violence. She has previously coordinated a Women's Self Defense class for the community, which taught women how to not be a victim.

Since opening her private law practice in 2012, Attorney Hershey has continued to help women in the community advance their business interests. She has assisted countless business women in forming and managing new businesses. In her role as an attorney, she is especially proud of the work she does for Downtown Bedford, Inc., a revitalization effort that has garnered both state and nationwide recognition.

She stated that “I am hopeful that I can serve as an example to other women in the community and more importantly, serve as a positive example to my two young children.”

The Richard Crawford Award
Representative Jerry Stern

80th District –PA House of Representatives

Representative Jerry Stern has had a long career in public service both locally and to the state of Pennsylvania.  Currently, Representative Stern is completing his eleventh term in the state House of Representatives.  It will be his last as he is retiring after the completion of his term at the end of the year.

First elected to the House in 1992, Representative Stern has served in a variety of capacities.  Currently, he serves as chair of the Tourism and Recreational Development Committee.  As such, he helps to oversee the second largest economic sector for the state.  In the past, the Representative has served as House Republican Caucus Secretary as well as having been a member of the House Appropriations Committee.  In addition to his interest in tourism, he has also been a member of the House Agricultural and Rural Affairs Committee. 

Throughout his time in the House, Representative Stern has had a strong interest in small business and economic development.  Prior to his service in the state House, he was an elected official in Blair County where he served as Deputy Prothonotary and then Prothonotary/Clerk of Courts.  Representative Stern is a life-long resident of Blair County where he currently lives in the Martinsburg area.