A LAUNCHING PAD FOR FOOD BUSINESSES | PBS39 News Tonight

A LAUNCHING PAD FOR FOOD BUSINESSES | PBS39 News Tonight


Here in Bethlehem, work is underway to transform this space into a workspace for about twenty companies. The plan is to scale them up, and make them bigger and better than they ever dreamed. – You’ve heard of Willy Wonka’s Factory a couple times. They may not have chocolate bars or gobstoppers, but Factory in Bethlehem is giving out golden tickets in the form of opportunity. – Factory is a, its a fund. We raised 250 million dollars to invest in growing food, beverage and pet companies and we are taking a very operational focus to our investments. So, a lot of companies out there who have a lot of money to invest, but no one has the assets that the growing companies really need to help them grow and avoid making a lot of mistakes along the way. – Factory is recruiting 15 to 20 companies to relocate to the Lehigh Valley. To be eligible, a company must already be successful and bring in 2 to 20 million dollars a year. Those accepted will get to work with a team of experts in the food, beverage and pet industries. – We have everything from sales, finance, marketing… IT, legal, product development, packaging, all the services that a growing company needs to help create new products and expand their distribution. – Another such expert is Richard Thompson, the former owner and CEO of FreshPet which continues to manufacture its line of pet foods in the Bethlehem area. – Its the small companies that come up with these crazy ideas that we’ve all seen and go ‘oh my gosh, that chip is so good, that drink is so good.’ They’re not afraid to make a mistake. These guys are afraid to make the mistakes so they watch these guys grow and when they grow, they’ll buy them. – The companies will be housed inside re-purposed ocean shipping containers at the 40 thousand square foot facility on Columbia Street in South Bethlehem. – This old building is a 1950 Bethlehem Steel building, that was Bethlehem Steel number 96. So to help take this old, industrial revolution and turn it into a millennial innovation center is pretty cool to be able to do that. – The team is already hard at work in the one-of-a-kind space. There’s a snack bar, popcorn machine, and unique lounge area. The idea behind the Factory workspace is to keep it creative for employees. They even have these really cool bicycle desks where you can actually work while you work out. – I think what we hope is that people think that this is a a really interesting environment where a lot of great ideas and new innovation is coming out of. – One entrepreneur has already moved in. Mike Tierney, nationally known for signature product ‘Mikey’s Muffins’, founded his line of gluten free and paleo friendly foods in 2013. – We make decisions just as on the fly as if we were still in our garage starting these things up. Rich’s background especially is extremely entrepreneurial so he’s done so many things from the ground up, that to attach yourself to someone who has so much experience in this space is worth more than any check someone could write. – While the Factory may not be complete, the group is already getting involved in the community. In July, they invited Lehigh University students to a 48-hour ‘Hackathon’ aimed at finding solutions to food waste. – What I’m really looking for from these students is bold, unrestrained ideas and how they would use this asset. This asset of knowledge and capability to solve the problems we were not able to solve in the past. And that’s, I think, the real value of events like this, specifically this Hackathon, at Factory. – And in a world of pure imagination, the Factory team says this is a space to scale up ideas both big and small. – PBS39 has been invited back to check out this cool space once its all done. Of course, we’ll be bringing you a bird’s eye view. In Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, I’m Megan Frank, for PBS39 News Tonight.

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