EcoTech Marine LLC

EcoTech Marine LLC began in the science labs, where Lehigh University engineering students Patrick Clasen and Tim Marks and University of Oklahoma physics major Justin Lawyer observed a deficiency in reef aquarium propeller pumps. The three noted serious differences between the native aquatic ecosystems in nature and the terrestrial habitats created in aquariums. In entrepreneur-speak, that’s a gap in the marketplace.

The students developed a solution with their invention of the VorTech pump. While propeller-style pumps are on the market, their iteration offers a few unique features that differentiate it from the competition.

First, VorTech uses magnetic induction, which enables the pump to sit outside the tank and magnetically drive the propeller on the inside of the tank. This helps to reduce the amount of heat entering the system as the pump is not in the water. The VorTech also offers multiple ways to control water flow, enabling aquarium hobbyists to create a more authentic habitat by introducing speed variations such as lagoon random reef, crest random, and pulse to alter the current.

EchoTech Marine LLC was officially founded in 2003, and the principals spent much of the next three years capturing national and local grants to finance the research, development and ramp-up of the VorTech pump. It found ample start-up support in the National Collegiate Inventor and Innovator Alliance, the Southside Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone, and the PA Agile Manufacturing program administered through Lehigh’s College of Engineering. Funds from these sources were used to finance production runs of 1,500 units.

EcoTech soon found it needed more robust financing to ramp up the business. When the inventors sought assistance from the City of Bethlehem to secure a $100,000 line of credit from a local bank, they were referred to the local experts at the Lehigh University Small Business Development Center (SBDC). Consultants at the SBDC helped EcoTech explore financing options needed to commercialize their technology, developing the financial and technical aspects of loan request presentations made to a local bank and a federally-funded economic development agency.

In 2006, the company received approval for a $100,000 line of credit from a local bank and a $45,000 low interest loan from the City of Bethlehem. Its sister corporation, EcoTech NanoSystems, Inc., was also awarded a $27,000 loan from the Lehigh-based Ben Franklin Technology Center and another $100,000 international line of credit is in the works. The SBDC also helped the company evaluate the feasibility of expanding its distribution to foreign markets. By 2007, the Vortech pump was reporting success in international sales.

EcoTech has since returned to the SBDC for yet more assistance in uncovering new funding to grow the business further. With their continued success in securing various sources for cash flow, these innovators are set to make a splash.

In 2012, Governor Corbett lauded EcoTech Marine saying companies like them are a great example of what can be done with entrepreneurship programs such as those offered by Lehigh.

The event also highlighted the company's growth citing the lease it signed for a 36,465-square-foot warehouse space at 999 Postal Road in Hanover Township.  The new site is much larger than the 4,000-square-foot facility the company previously occupied on Bethlehem's South Side.

Governor Corbett praised EcoTech Marine for staying in Pennsylvania. “We want to keep you here. It's important to keep you here,” he said.

EcoTech Marine also was also awarded Business of the Year in the 26-100 employee category by Lehigh Valley Business in 2012.

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EcoTech Marine's Vortech product is the smallest propeller pump on the market.