Discover why the business amenities that make the region an attractive choice for startups.
Entrepreneurs are the driving force in today’s knowledge economy. They create jobs, introduce new technologies and encourage innovation and an exchange of ideas. In the Pocono Mountains, a host of supportive resources – from highly skilled talent to access to research and development institutions – has helped lure a growing list of entrepreneurs positively impacting the region’s economy.
Smart Start for Startups
The Pocono Mountains boasts a number of Small Business Development Centers that offer affordable work space, access to markets and managerial and technical support, but perhaps one of the region’s greatest assets for attracting creatives is East Stroudsburg University. The university sponsors programs, such as the Entrepreneurship Leadership Center, which uses university-driven research to help entrepreneurs with business planning, and the ESU Business Accelerator.
The accelerator has spawned a host of innovative companies, including Marathon Studios, which manages a network of web properties, apps and services used by more than 2.5 million people around the world, and Lyme-Aid, a student-faculty research project that resulted in the production of a tick testing kit for humans and animals. Lyme-Aid represents the first student- faculty research project commercialized in the university’s history and the first in the 30-year history of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
“I think being located at a university makes a big difference,” says retired ESU professor and co-founder of Lyme-Aid Dr. Jane Huffman. We have an MBA program, a Masters in Public Health Program, and they’ve done the research to know what the needs are of the people. Whenever you start a business, you want to provide a product that solves problems.”
Culture of Collaboration
The university’s Business Accelerator program provides an entrepreneurial environment that supports business startups, encourages innovation and enhances the economic vitality of the region, says Mary Frances Postupack, Vice President of Economic Development and Research Support at ESU.
“Companies have access to management and technical resources including faculty and students,” she says.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of State approved ESU to issue J-1 Visas to international companies interested in locating here for business. To date, ESU is the only university in the country approved to issue the J-1 Visa for this purpose.”
The accelerator also encourages a spirit of collaboration and idea exchange between companies in different industries. Lyme-Aid worked with Marathon Studios to develop a mobile app that will help users of the tick-testing kit to “identify the ticks right from their phones,” Huffman says.
ESU works to find investment capital for budding businesses. The university’s Center for Research and Economic Development formed the Pocono Mountains Angel Network, which works in collaboration with the ESU Business Accelerator and the Pocono Mountains Keystone Innovation Zone to secure investment opportunities for early stage companies including student and faculty companies. The university also launched the Made in the Poconos campaign in cooperation with the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, Pennsylvania CareerLink, and the Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corporation to showcase the unique products made in the Pocono Mountains region and to inspire university students to pursue their business goals and bring new products to fruition.
“I think having a small university is really important for [fostering entrepreneurship],” Huffman says. “We’re not Penn State or Ohio State, but we have a lot more freedom to be creative and to pursue ideas. I think that’s really important to have in place.”
Huffman says the region’s quality of life is also an attraction for entrepreneurs.
“Besides the university, we have a quality medical center, affordable housing and great recreational opportunities. All these things combine to make the region attractive,” she says.