Tuesday, July 28, 2015

University City Science Center counts its hatchlings

The West Philadelphia business incubator says 45 percent of the 351 companies that started there are still in business.

University City Science Center counts its hatchlings


On one level, the University City Science Center in West Philadelphia would appear to be simply a real estate play.

Its string of office buildings stretches along Market Street between 34th and 38th Streets. But as an urban research park, owned by 32 colleges, universities, and research institutions, the science center has sought a higher calling than merely collecting rent.

Started in 1963, the science center began providing “business incubator” services before the concept was even called that. Incubators provide below-market-rate space and shared services to start-up firms that are cash-poor.

So running an incubator really won’t make an organization rich, but it can build a legacy as it has for the University City Science Center.

“It’s ironic that the business of business incubation has as many hurdles as start-up firms,” said president and chief executive officer Stephen S. Tang.

Most start-ups fail in their first two years. So how has the science center done?

Pretty well, a new survey finds. Of the 351 companies that were incubated there since 1968, 155 are still in business; 196 are gone.

That’s a 45 percent survival rate. The Economy League of Greater Philadelphia, which prepared the report, said that compares favorably with the 44 percent survival rate calculated by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for all types of businesses between 1998 and 2002.

Ninety-three of the graduating companies are still in the region, while 37 companies are current tenants in West Philadelphia. Those high-tech firms directly employ 15,686 people. Researchers calculated the average wages paid at more than $89,000, compared with the region’s average of $54,925.

While I would’ve picked Malvern or King of Prussia as the most popular destination for post-incubator graduates, the numbers show that 42 kept their 4,980 employees in Philadelphia. Montgomery County attracted 24 firms and 6,935 workers. Chester County gained eight firms and 2,965 jobs.

We’ll always wish the impact was even greater. But when you realize that the biggest for-profit employer locally - Lockheed Martin Corp. - has 13,300 employees in the region, what the science center has been able to nurture from its four-block area of the city is impressive.

Inquirer Columnist
We encourage respectful comments but reserve the right to delete anything that doesn't contribute to an engaging dialogue.
Help us moderate this thread by flagging comments that violate our guidelines.

Comment policy:

Philly.com comments are intended to be civil, friendly conversations. Please treat other participants with respect and in a way that you would want to be treated. You are responsible for what you say. And please, stay on topic. If you see an objectionable post, please report it to us using the "Report Abuse" option.

Please note that comments are monitored by Philly.com staff. We reserve the right at all times to remove any information or materials that are unlawful, threatening, abusive, libelous, defamatory, obscene, vulgar, pornographic, profane, indecent or otherwise objectionable. Personal attacks, especially on other participants, are not permitted. We reserve the right to permanently block any user who violates these terms and conditions.

Additionally comments that are long, have multiple paragraph breaks, include code, or include hyperlinks may not be posted.

Read 0 comments
comments powered by Disqus
About this blog
Mike Armstrong blogs about Philadelphia corporations and business-related topics. Contact him at 215-854-2980. Reach Mike at marmstrong@phillynews.com.

Mike Armstrong Inquirer Columnist
Also on Philly.com:
letter icon Newsletter