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Pennsylvania’s I-99 Corridor Breeds Innovative Companies

By Emily McMackin on June 30, 2015

Innovative companies on the leading edge of industries from advanced manufacturing to bioscience to information technology are finding Pennsylvania’s I-99 Corridor fertile ground for success.
The leading software developer for the home health industry, the top maker of composites for cooling towers and other industrial structures, and the primary developer of lab tools for monitoring the quality of air, water, soil, food and other essentials not only launched in the region, but are committed to growing there.
“Our ability to quickly draw on scientific talent in the area has helped us take advantage of market opportunities in ways that might be harder in another location,” says Robert Harshbarger, vice president of sales and marketing for Restek.
Restek launched from a State College incubator nearly 30 years ago, and has grown to include 250 local employees, a 128,000-square-foot facility in Bellefonte, and subsidiaries in China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom. The company designs and produces chromatography equipment used by scientific labs worldwide, and has received numerous patents and awards for its products.
Through its evolution, Restek, 100-percent employee-owned, has leaned on the entrepreneurial resources of the area and the technology and learning resources of Penn State, whose flagship campus is in State College and second-largest campus in Altoona.
The location has also provided Restek with easy access to its largest markets in the Northeast and an abundance of well-educated workers known for their craftsmanship and hard work.
“As we have grown, we have been able to expand our plant, build a fitness facility for employees and provide world-class benefits with resources and support found primarily within Centre County,” Harshbarger says.
Foundation for Growth
Location has also been an asset for Bedford Reinforced Plastics, which supplies pultruded and molded fiberglass-reinforced plastics (FRP) to industries that need strong, lightweight, corrosion-resistant and dimensionally stable building materials for structures. Proximity to four interstates, including the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Interstate 70/76), makes it easy to transport large materials that must be trucked to their destinations.
“We do projects for people all over the world and ship materials for those projects all over the place,” says Eric Kidd, marketing director. “Because of our location, we have access to north, south, east and west routes and major highways.”
Since its launch 40 years ago by dairy farmer Melvin Stahl, the family-owned company has grown from a small shop producing agricultural equipment into a global producer of FRP. The company has 200 employees and more than 200,000 square feet of manufacturing space, including a state-of-the-art fabrication center. Bedford makes the framework for most cooling towers nationwide, but its materials are also used in everything from folding ladders to troop carriers to an underwater structure at the Bellagio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas that enables its famed fountains to rise and fall during water shows.
Kidd says Bedford County officials worked closely with the manufacturer to develop the industrial park where its operation is housed, and the company also utilizes workforce development provided by the Bedford County Technical Center and the Bedford County Development Association to train employees.
Access to the Best
Access to major markets, customers and resources give companies in the I-99 Corridor region an edge over competitors, but its tremendous talent pool is its best-kept secret, industry leaders say.
“We have access to thousands of newly minted graduates who want to stay in the area and are looking for employment with innovative companies,” says Keith Crownover, president and CEO of Delta Health Technologies, the leading software developer for home health, hospice and private-duty agencies caring for patients at home.
Founded in Altoona in 1968, Delta Health Technologies has evolved from processing customer data submitted via paper forms to developing scheduling, billing and point-of-care applications that health workers can access through their smartphones.
Rated as the top software provider in its field, the firm has doubled its market share over the past five years and recently doubled its employment to 83. Crownover attributes the company’s successful transition to the commitment, expertise and enterprise of employees.
“The key to the strength of our company is our workforce,” he says.

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