Ben Franklin Innovation awards will be presented to six recipients, companies or individuals who have achieved business success through Ben Franklin funding and assistance, have helped others to achieve success, or have improved their businesses through innovation. Each award recipient exemplifies outstanding achievement in that particular category.

The purposes of the innovation awards are to congratulate winners on their success and achievement, to highlight the effectiveness of the Ben Franklin program, and to inform entrepreneurs and established manufacturers about the resources that are available to them in northeastern Pennsylvania. The 2021 Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania Innovation Awards winners are:

The company that best exemplifies the quintessential entrepreneurial spirit: a combination of ingenuity, hard work, and innovation that has resulted in the creation of a successful and growing business venture.

Entrepreneurial Achievement Award

The company that best exemplifies the quintessential entrepreneurial spirit: a combination of ingenuity, hard work, and innovation that has resulted in the creation of a successful and growing business venture.

OPTiMO, Bloomsburg

Michael Miguelez,
Founder and Chief Executive Officer

OPTiMO delivers enterprise-level information technology solutions to legal, corporate, and government agency clients nationwide. The company provides software development services for large-scale, public facing web and mobile applications as well as eDiscovery and Digital Forensic services. Its solutions join knowledge, data, transactions, and design to enhance efficiency substantially. Ben Franklin invested a total of $125,000 in OPTiMO in 2012 and 2014. Headquartered in Ben Franklin’s Bloomsburg Regional Technology Center, the company extensively hires talented Bloomsburg University graduates. Starting with two founders a decade ago, OPTiMO now employs 68 and has more than doubled its revenue in the last five years.


Incubator Graduate Award

The company that best demonstrates successful Ben Franklin business incubation. The business has been operated skillfully and confidently, meeting all challenges, from the development of the product concept, execution of the business and technical plan, and successful start-up and operation, to graduation from the incubator.

ChannelApe, Scranton

Mike Averto, Chief Executive Officer and Jason DePietropaolo, Chief Operating Officer

ChannelApe is a modern warehousing and fulfillment company that has built a fulfillment network used by some top-direct-to-consumer brands, including Allbirds, Rothy's, Stasher Bags, and Rad Power Bikes. In addition to ChannelApe's fulfillment network, its inventory and order management software permits single-click integrations to Shopify, Amazon, and Netsuite, allowing brands to launch in hours instead of weeks or months. Ben Franklin invested several times in ChannelApe in 2013-2016, and supported the company’s sales and marketing strategy and digital security infrastructure. Founded in 2015 in TekRidge, Scranton, a member of the Ben Franklin Business Incubator Network, the company now employs 11 and revenues continue to increase month-over-month.  

Product Innovation Award

The company that best demonstrates the commercialization of a unique, innovative product that creatively and effectively meets a market need.

Signallamp Health, Inc., Scranton

Drew Kearney and Andrew Goldberg, Co-Founders

Signallamp Health (SLH) is a platform for integrated clinical services through which a distributed workforce of nurses, behavioral health professionals, and social workers utilize a proprietary system to serve as an extension of primary care physicians. For patients, Signallamp brings individualized care between doctor visits. For healthcare organizations, Signallamp expands capacity, improves quality, and generates new net revenue. SLH serves more than 25,000 patients across seven health systems, dozens of group practices, and ten states. In 2019, the company expanded its product offering to provide telehealth services to individuals with Opioid Use Disorder. Leveraging a total of $270,000 in Ben Franklin investments, the company earned follow-on funding from angel investors and venture capitalists, now employs 69, and plans for substantial growth.

Innovative Application of Technology Award

The company that strongly demonstrates a “break-the-mold” approach to integrating new or existing technology into its business.

SOLO Laboratories, Inc.. Kutztown

Lindsay Sokol Szejko, Chief Executive Officer; Jonathan Naugle Owner, R&D Engineer; and Jaimyn Sokol Westenhoefer, Owner, President

SOLO Laboratories is a second-generation family business, manufacturing custom prescription foot orthotics for podiatrists and medical professionals across the U.S. since 1983. Ben Franklin invested $44,500 in SOLO in 2019 and connected it with Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Research to increase facility capacity and identify process improvements and additional quality measures. After implementing the recommendations, SOLO enhanced fixtures, improved efficiency, and realized a reduction in lead times of 14%. With 45 employees, SOLO continues to implement new technologies like 3D printing and emphasizes the importance of a focused strategy as it grows. SOLO is expanding its markets into direct-to-consumer products with its new SOLO GO® custom insoles.


Manufacturing Achievement Award

The company that best exemplifies achievement in the manufacturing arena, showing a proven track record of success and an unbending commitment to achieving and maintaining excellence in manufacturing.

Effort Foundry, Inc., Bath

Charles D. Hamburg, Chief Executive Officer and William C. Easterly, President

Effort Foundry is a supplier of high-integrity steel castings for the pump, power generation, and military industries. Investing nearly $357,000 in the company over more than two decades, Ben Franklin has played a long-term and key role in supporting Effort’s competitiveness in a very challenging industry. In collaboration with Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center, the Strategic Early Warning Network, the Manufacturers Resource Center, and other economic development partners, Ben Franklin provided Effort with pivotal technical, manufacturing, and financial support. As a result, the company significantly increased its bottom line from 2018 to 2019. Increasing last year’s employment by 5% to 81, Effort Foundry has distinguished itself in its industry in customer retention and growth.

The Frederick J. Beste III Partnership Award

An individual whose strong vision, dedication, and commitment have helped the Ben Franklin Technology Partners accomplish its goals. This support demonstrates a sincere desire to see the region thrive.

Eugene A. Lucadamo
Director of Industry Research Engagement, retired, Lehigh University, Bethlehem

Director of Industry Research Engagement, retired, Lehigh University, Bethlehem As an outstanding university resource, Gene Lucadamo exemplifies Ben Franklin’s role in linking Pennsylvania’s higher education community to regional companies. Serving as the Director of Industry Research Engagement and Chairman of the Lehigh Emerging Technologies Network, he was a catalyst for many Ben Franklin company interactions with Lehigh University. He worked with Ben Franklin to introduce clients to technology developments and funding opportunities, and provided access to engineering and lab capabilities at Lehigh. He initiated regular meetings between Lehigh’s industry-facing research centers and Ben Franklin regional managers, and participated in meetings of the Berks Medical Device Group. During his 17 years at Lehigh, Lucadamo’s broad experience in engineering, management, industry, and with the university enabled him to help dozens of early-stage firms and established manufacturers launch product and process improvements that were crucial to their success.