Entrepreneurs in Lancaster County with new, small tech-related businesses or business ideas soon will have a new place to get support.
The Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Central & Northern Pennsylvania will open what it calls a TechCelerator in downtown Lancaster on Thursday, March 29.
Located in The Candy Factory, 342 N. Queen St. (rear), the TechCelerator will be a one-stop shop for emerging tech-industry entrepreneurs — the first such incubator in the county.
Ben Franklin’s fourth TechCelerator statewide will provide them with mentoring, training, networking opportunities, access to financing, professional services and other supports.
“People have a lot of ideas. But sometimes people don’t know exactly the direction to take, or don’t have access to certain resources, that can help accelerate those ideas,” said Steve Fafel, director of business development and portfolio manager for Ben Franklin.
And because Lancaster County "is becoming a hotbed" for tech-related startups, Ben Franklin chose the county for a TechCelerator, he explained.
The local TechCelerator is being made possible by a $350,000 grant over three years from the BB&T Economic Growth Fund.
The TechCelerator’s March 29 grand opening will be from 6 to 8 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is requested. To register, visit https://tccp.wildapricot.org/event-2822187/Registration.
Co-sponsoring the event is the Technology Council of Central PA.
Candy Factory founder Anne Kirby sees a natural fit between her co-working space and the TechCelerator, which will occupy 2,000 square feet on the second floor.
Kirby estimates that 60 percent of The Candy Factory’s 150 members are tech-related, from software developers to internet security experts.
“We by nature are a draw for small businesses and startups,” she said. “We have a handful of startups in our space right now who I think are potentially ideal clients” for the TechCelerator.
Fafel and Kirby said that The Candy Factory will be more than a landlord for the TechCelerator.
Fafel described The Candy Factory as "a full partner" in the venture, welcoming the TechCelerator into its community and providing advice on how the TechCelerator can benefit and connect to the county.
(The cost to use the TechCelerator will vary, depending on the status of the startup. However, participating entrepreneurs need not be a Candy Factory member to use the TechCelerator.)
The TechCelerator will be “a safe space” for aspiring and newly launched entrepreneurs in all fields, said Fafel.
However, since the TechCelerator’s specialty is tech-related businesses, it might refer entrepreneurs in non-tech fields to other organizations that are better suited to provide assistance, he said.
The TechCelerator will be a co-working space, complete with Wi-Fi, that’s open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It will come with access to conference rooms with large-screen TVs and whiteboards, and other amenities.
A Ben Franklin staffer will be on site two days a week; those days remain to be determined.
The Ben Franklin Technology Partners is an initiative of the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The other TechCelerators are in State College, Altoona and Carlisle.