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A New Home for a Long Standing Philadelphia Business Unlocks New Opportunities

In West Philadelphia, a new warehouse and office building is helping a local business grow and deepen its roots within the community

SUPRA Office Solutions and EMSCO Scientific Enterprises’ new warehouse is set to open its doors in summer of 2022. A tour of its current 20,000 square foot office space quickly shows visitors just how fast SUPRA and EMSCO are outgrowing their current building. Limited and disjointed supply storage coupled with cramped office space became a growing source of concern as the business closed deals and built new partnerships. The new home, supported by Reinvestment Fund, which will occupy over nine acres, will provide space for the company to not only consolidate its warehouse, loading docks, and offices in one location, but also unlock new opportunities as they look to expand their reach in the biotech field.

SUPRA, which was started in 2011 by four partners who previously worked for a family owned and -operated office products distribution company, acquired EMSCO in 2013, creating new lines of business and ample opportunity for growth. While SUPRA provides office supplies, furniture, and total office solutions, EMSCO specializes in laboratory and research supplies in the medical and pharmaceutical industry. Through EMSCO, they are well positioned to take advantage of the quickly growing genetic medicine and testing research that is concentrated in Philadelphia.

The new home that Reinvestment Fund is helping to finance includes a new office, warehouse, and cryopreservation building in Philadelphia’s West Parkside neighborhood. The facility will also provide storage for cell and tissue samples that are used in gene and cell therapy as well as research. Additionally, as the business serves accounts both locally and nationally, the larger space will enable them to store and ship more office supplies.

The new 70,000 square foot warehouse and office building will also help SUPRA and EMSCO deepen their roots within the community through jobs and internship opportunities, in addition to continuing to help facilitate back to school and food drives–initiatives that are important to their staff. SUPRA aims to increase the number of full-time positions to 65, all at living wages, by 2025 and a total of 80 over the duration of the project.

Thomas, Ismail Shahid, Derrick Suswell, and the late Ken Carter, collectively have a multi-decade history of working in this area. Located in a HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) in West Philadelphia for many years, they formed a partnership to leverage their experience and relationships with larger distributors. As natives of West Philadelphia themselves, Thomas, Shahid, and Suswell want to open doors for young students and jobseekers throughout the neighborhood and beyond. While they went away to college (Thomas to Morgan State University and Suswell and Shahid to Pierce College), each chose to return to West Philadelphia area to become entrepreneurs and pillars of their community.

Acutely aware of the lack of quality jobs, positive mentorship, and exposure opportunities, Thomas, Shahid, and Suswell see the new location as central to their commitment to giving back and helping raise awareness about jobs in the office supply and biotechnology sector. The business has a history of building relationships with middle and high school aged students to showcase how a small business operates as well as emphasize the different career possibilities. Being in the community will enable them to continue to provide mentorship opportunities as well as a space for Black youth to gain exposure to the science and technology fields.

“We want to be able to tell our story and show that this is something that can be achieved through hard work and dedication. Being able to do that and show that is an incredible feeling.” – Ismail Shahid

Despite several barriers such as low building appraisals, a lack of Philadelphia-based experts, and supply chain issues, the owners are excited about this brand-new structure built from the ground up and look forward to becoming an example for small businesses and entrepreneurs alike. As you walk through the new space, it is apparent that not only are the owners proud of this next chapter but have put extreme thought and care into each detail of the building. From full bathrooms in the executive suite to a small gym space and even a rooftop deck, the owners not only acknowledge the continued commitment of long hours but also the desire for work-life balance.

 
 

“We want to be able to tell our story and show that this is something that can be achieved through hard work and dedication. Being able to do that and show that is an incredible feeling.”

While SUPRA and EMSCO currently have several partnerships, which includes Jefferson University, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania, Merck, Dow Chemical, and more, they are looking forward to developing new relationships and continuing to grow. During the COVID-19 pandemic, SUPRA prided itself on being a steadfast resource for local businesses, research facilities, and hospitals throughout Philadelphia. This new warehouse will enable them to do even more as they create a name for themselves in the medical and pharmaceutical supply fields.

As construction is nearing its finish, Thomas, Suswell, and Shahid reflected on their relationship with Reinvestment Fund during this process. “Reinvestment Fund has been extremely easy to work with. Everyone that we’ve touched within the Reinvestment Fund has been professional, understanding, and helpful along the entire way.”

This project is financed through a $20 million New Markets Tax Credit transaction with Reinvestment Fund and PIDC providing the NMTC allocation and Wells Fargo is the equity investor. This project represents one of PIDC’s largest NMTC allocations and the largest allocation that PIDC has provided in the last ten years. Reinvestment Fund financing is also supporting the leverage loan for the transaction, a portion of which is being participated to LISC.

 

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