Tech start-ups stick around

    A new report out today tracks the fates of companies that had their origins at a research park in West Philadelphia.

    A report released today looked at the 40-year economic output of the region’s oldest technology research park. 350 companies have spent some of their lives at the University City Science Center. Business leaders are surprised to hear what happened to many of them.

    Listen: [audio:090914kgbiotech.mp3]

    The Science Center in West Philadelphia boasts that it is the oldest and largest urban research park in the US. So it’s not so surprising that hundreds of small technology companies got their start on Market Street. Of the 350 companies that started there, less than half have survived. But Stephen Tang, the Science Center’s CEO, says he was pleasantly surprised by where those existing companies ended up.

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    Tang: We’ve all had this concept within Philadelphia that companies created within the city ultimately leave…but I think what we found is of the 155 companies that are still in business, 93 remain here in the region. So we’re very pleased by that.

    Gerbino: To me, it was a startling number.

    Philip Gerbino is the president of the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia, one of the founding partners of the Science Center. The report found those 93 companies employ more than 15,000 people.

    Gerbino: I’d love to see that number twice the amount. I’m not sure if that’s possible, but you’d certainly love to see it.

    Phil Hopkins, who helped prepare the report at Select Greater Philadelphia, says that number was higher than he expected.

    Hopkins: Because usually the Science Center hosts small companies starting out, but there were several notable success stories from early in the Science Center history. SEI, Bentley Systems, that have become significant employers in the region.

    The Science Center provides help for start-ups, like inexpensive laboratory space and investment contacts. Tang says the recession and a nationwide shortage of funding for start-up companies has created a difficult climate for business creation.

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