CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — Imagine a workplace that offers delicious food daily, open modern workspaces, visits from a sweet Labrador named Pot Roast and a rock-climbing wall. For two Penn State Lehigh Valley (PSU-LV) alumni, this is their everyday reality working at Factory LLC.
Factory is an operating company with $250 million of investable capital that acquires meaningful equity stakes in food, beverage and pet companies to innovate and scale their business in a one-of-a-kind facility in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and in the United States. The facility houses the resources and expertise needed to help companies scale up and grow faster with less mistakes. The Factory team includes experts in sales, distribution, marketing, product development and more.
Two Factory team members, Tyler Gehris and Maria Amenta, are recent Penn State Lehigh Valley alumni.
Representing Penn State at Factory
Gehris graduated from Penn State Lehigh Valley in December 2018 but still needed to complete an internship to finish his project and supply chain management degree. Maung Min, director of business programs at Penn State Lehigh Valley, suggested Gehris apply to Factory for a logistics internship.
“At first I was nervous, but it was a great experience and led to a full-time job offer after a few months, so I owe a lot to Dr. Min,” said Gehris, who was hired as a logistics specialist in May after interning at Factory for four months. “Factory is almost like the food version of Google. It’s such a cool setting. I have the freedom to learn about different departments from logistics to operations, from sourcing to marketing, and so on. There are no silos or bureaucracy.”
Gehris works under William Negron, director of logistics and transportation at Factory. Gehris fulfills orders and handles data entry and purchase orders.
“Will is a great mentor and I have learned a lot about logistics,” Gehris said. “The eventual goal is to have me handling all inventory control and fulfillment as well as production planning for one of the companies at Factory. The room for growth here is amazing.”
When debating a major, Gehris looked around the Lehigh Valley for inspiration.
“I saw the Lehigh Valley was a prime spot for project and supply chain management. It’s a very employable degree,” Gehris said.
Amenta, class of 2014, was a psychology major at Penn State Lehigh Valley and has worked in human resources for the last five years. She was recruited to work at Factory earlier this year and is pleased with the move.
“I benefited from the one-on-one interaction with my professors. The leadership courses I took with Dr. Livert helped me decide on pursuing a career in HR. Penn State Lehigh Valley offers students a great Penn State experience. It’s a tight community and the education is world class and affordable.”
— Maria Amenta, a Penn State alumna and human resources manager at Factory
“People love working here. The environment is very unique. Everyone is great to work with. It’s been fantastic to get to help build it from the ground up. It’s something different every day. I provide HR services for 40 Factory employees and 15 interns,” said Amenta, human resources manager at Factory.
Amenta is still involved with Penn State Lehigh Valley and keeps in touch with her psychology professors.
“I benefited from the one-on-one interaction with my professors. The leadership courses I took with Dr. Livert helped me decide on pursuing a career in HR,” Amenta said. “Penn State Lehigh Valley offers students a great Penn State experience. It’s a tight community and the education is world class and affordable.”
Besides handling Factory’s onboarding, payroll, recruiting, benefits and more, Amenta is now taking the lead on the company’s paid internship program.
“We have a solid relationship with Penn State Lehigh Valley. They have provided us with some terrific interns, two who have become full-time team members. We are happy to have Penn State Lehigh Valley as part of the Factory family,” said Rich Thompson, Factory’s founder and managing partner.
Factory and PSU-LV
Penn State Lehigh Valley’s innovation hub, Lehigh Valley LaunchBox, has established a partnership with Factory through Thompson.
The partnership grants Factory and its member companies access to Penn State resources — such as faculty expertise, student interns, and the network of 21 LaunchBoxes through the Invent Penn State initiative. The partnership gives Penn State students opportunities to obtain internships directly aligned with their majors, like Gehris.
“The facility really feels like a living classroom — a learning laboratory where our students can gain amazing experience,” said Donna Reed, business partner liaison from Penn State Lehigh Valley.
“This partnership reflects Penn State Lehigh Valley's sustained support for entrepreneurial endeavors; robust investment in students across the University through internships with a range of national companies that are housed at Factory; commitment to build new pathways for a skilled workforce; and positions our campus as a leader in how higher education must contribute to economic development.
— Tina Q. Richardson, Penn State Lehigh Valley chancellor
Penn State Lehigh Valley opened an extension of Lehigh Valley LaunchBox at the Factory with Reed working on-site as the partnership continues to grow. Reed will work to maintain relationships with the network of Penn State LaunchBoxes, coordinate on-site internships and capstone projects with companies at Factory, and assist with onsite Council for Retail and Sales activities and social innovation partnerships related to food insecurity at Factory.
“This partnership reflects Penn State Lehigh Valley's sustained support for entrepreneurial endeavors; robust investment in students across the University through internships with a range of national companies that are housed at Factory; commitment to build new pathways for a skilled workforce; and positions our campus as a leader in how higher education must contribute to economic development,” said Tina Q. Richardson, Penn State Lehigh Valley chancellor.
Overseeing the partnership with Factory as well as Lehigh Valley LaunchBox initiatives is Teri Haddad, Penn State Lehigh Valley’s new business development director.
Haddad comes to the Lehigh Valley campus from PBS39, where she served as the chief learning officer. She earned a doctorate in educational leadership and change from Fielding Graduate University, as well as a master of education in English and a bachelor of arts in politics from DeSales University.
“This multifaceted partnership with Factory even included us facilitating one of our recent graduates, Walter Roland, taking part in a student project that included students from other area colleges. They did a comparative analysis of other cities and drafted a report about making the Lehigh Valley an entrepreneurial hub,” Haddad said. “It has been an exciting journey so far working with Factory on finding mutually beneficial ways to leverage our collective resources.”
For example, one of Lehigh Valley LaunchBox’s programs, the Council for Retail and Sales, has already hosted its first Meet the Experts event at Factory called “The Changing Landscape of Food: What Consumers are Demanding” on April 25 that featured experts from the food industry. More events at Factory are in the planning stages.