The Chester County Retirement Board voted at this week’s Retirement Board Meeting to enter into a partnership with Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP), to invest $4 million in emerging and growing companies located in, or willing to locate to Chester County.
The partnership, Venture Chesco, will see $2 million in County funds matched by $2 million in Ben Franklin funds that will be used to invest in new technology companies and existing companies looking to apply new technologies to their business operations.
Chester County Commissioners’ Chair Michelle Kichline, one of the five members of the Chester County Retirement Board commented: “Chester County has a long and positive history of supporting young companies that become major employers and significant contributors to the tax base of our County. But the competition to attract these young companies has become intense, so we must find innovative ways to support the companies that are here, and those who are looking to be here.
We are pleased and excited that we have reached an agreement with BFTP which will double the impact of our County funds and allow us to invest even more in growing Chester County companies.”
The Chester County Retirement Board’s decision to enter into this partnership with Ben Franklin is led by the goals of the County’s 10-year economic development strategy, VISTA 2025, specifically to “Improve access to capital for start-ups and early-stage business ventures.” The funds allocated by Chester County represent a small percentage of the overall pension fund, valued at $420 million in October 2017 – an investment deemed worthwhile to all members of the Retirement Board.
“An entrepreneurial ecosystem is typically considered to have three elements: a physical place for young companies to locate; access to mentorship and technical assistance; and access to capital,” said Chester County Commissioner and Retirement Board member Kathi Cozzone. “Chester County has a number of locations within incubator/accelerator settings and we have many options for technical assistance, but access to capital for young, start-up companies continues to be a real challenge. Venture Chesco will help respond to this challenge.”
Terence Farrell, Chester County Commissioner and Retirement Board Member, noted: “The use of a small percentage of the County’s pension fund for investment in Chester County companies that have a chance for significant growth gives us an ‘alternative investment’ asset class for our pension fund. Venture Chesco combines potential return on investment with helping to grow the next generation of strong local companies.”
Under the terms of the partnership agreement, Ben Franklin will use its proven experience to help identify companies and technologies suitable and appropriate for funding, and will manage the process of assessing the companies and the technologies for possible investment from the Venture Chesco fund.
Speaking on behalf of Ben Franklin, President and CEO RoseAnn Rosenthal stated: “Ben Franklin is all about building partnerships and we are very pleased to join with Chester County on this new fund. Venture Chesco will fill a critical early-stage funding gap in the growth cycle of Chester County’s young companies and companies looking to apply technology to improve business performance – which will help add to the growing innovation culture in the county.”