A COMMUNITY OF MAKERS: Allentown’s Bridgeworks Enterprise Center a help to smaller manufacturers

Founded in 1989 in a 64,000-square-foot building on Harrison Street in Allentown that formerly housed Mack Truck operations, the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center is continuing the manufacturing legacy of the property by helping the next generation of manufacturers get up and running.

The only incubator in the Lehigh Valley that primarily concentrates on manufacturing, Bridgeworks is a program of the Allentown Economic Development Corp., that is charged with bolstering manufacturing in the Lehigh Valley and particularly in Allentown.

“We are not only space. We are an entire program,” said Britttany Butkowski, program manager at Bridgeworks. “We provide a lot of services.”

But that doesn’t mean the below-market rent that they offer clients isn’t a major benefit for manufacturers that are just getting off the ground.

And even after they’ve established themselves, space is still a valuable commodity.

Cold Edge Technologies is one example of the value of that space.

The company started at Bridgeworks 15 years ago with what Vice President Jeff Romig described as “a laptop and a card table.”

“We started in a small space and as we grew, we went across the hall. Then when we grew again, we grabbed back some space from our original spot,” he said.

The manufacturer of cryogenic systems has very specific needs for the high-tech equipment it uses so moving operations is a major challenge.

He said that while even moving across the hall can be tough on a manufacturer like Cold Edge, it is certainly a lot easier than moving to a whole other location, and the staff at Bridgeworks’ willingness to help accommodate their needs was an invaluable resource.

Romig said the space is so important to the company they have stayed on as an anchor tenant even though they have graduated from the incubator program.

Space was also a big boost for TRuCapSol LLC, said particle engineer, Jiten Dihora.

Specializing in microencapsulation and controlled release products, the company began as a tech startup in the Ben Franklin Tech Ventures program in Bethlehem.

As the company grew to the point it was ready to commercialize the manufacturing process, which is aimed at creating a biodegradable membrane to compete with microplastics.

But Tech Ventures wasn’t large enough to accommodate the kind of manufacturing equipment TRuCapSol needed.

“If we were going to scale up to manufacturing, we needed something a little bit larger,” Dihora said.

Bridgeworks offered that space, while maintaining the lower rent of an incubator, which helped the company’s bottom line.

But space is just part of the picture, said Butkowski.

She said Bridgeworks also helps manufactures gain access to capital for operating expenses and can help equip them with forklifts or palate jacks that they might not be able to afford on their own as a startup.

For TRuCapSol, Bridgeworks helped the company get a loan to fit out the space with the equipment it needed to manufacture the micro capsules.

“They gave us the capacity to move from R&D to manufacturing,” he said.

While Bridgeworks has experts on staff that can help with issues from financing to marketing, Butkowski said the environment there is also very conducive to learning and support.

Romig noted that as they moved through the incubator program, they were working alongside other manufacturers that were in similar stages of development as Cold Edge and had similar challenges.

“When you have similar problems, you can talk to each other and help solve them,’ he said.

In fact, Romig said, some of the other companies located in Bridgeworks have become suppliers for their own operations, so they’re helping each other out financially as well.

Of course, Bridgeworks isn’t just about high-tech companies. The incubator hosts a wide range of manufacturers, including those in the beverage space.

Bridgeworks is home to distiller County Seat Spirits; High Point Kombucha, a brewer of kombucha; Hijinx Brewing Company, a micro brewer and Binah Winery, which makes kosher wine.

Butkowski noted that companies need to apply to become part of the incubator program and locate at Bridgeworks.

And while supporting the manufacturers is an important goal at Bridgeworks, being a long-term landlord isn’t.

“The goal isn’t to stay here,” she said. Part of the AEDC’s mission is to help the companies grow to the point that they can move into their own market-rate manufacturing space – preferably in Allentown.

Unfortunately, she said that is currently a chink in the system. With the lack of available manufacturing space to move into in the city, many tenants have been staying in Bridgeworks for longer than originally intended because they can’t find a place to go.

She said other departments within the AEDC are tasked with helping to open up space for manufacturing in the city to meet the demand.

And space is dear there as well. Butkowski said Bridgeworks is currently 96% occupied and there is just one space currently available for potential clients and there are at least two parties currently interested in the space.

There is a reason for the demand, Butkowski said.

“The value is almost indescribable. There’s equipment, staff and mentoring above and beyond the lower cost space,” she said. “It really is its own community of makers.”

Truffle Bar goes from pop up to full-time shop

The Western end of the Lehigh Valley just got a little sweeter. 

The Truffle Bar has opened at 5831 Tilghman St. in Allentown. 

Owner Brooke Dietrich began making truffles from a family recipe and bringing them into work as a school counselor in Allentown. 

The treats were always a hit with her friends and coworkers so she looked to see if there might be a business opportunity there. 

“I’ve always loved taking simple recipes and adding that special twist to them. So, when co-workers of mine started calling these truffles “little balls of heaven”, I knew I had something special,” Dietrich said. 

She started selling her truffles in a pop-up shop at Barre 3, a local fitness studio, and after finding success there tried more long-term pop ups at a few different locations around the area. 

A big challenge for her, though, was commercial kitchen space. She had been allowed to use the commercial kitchen at a local country club, but when the club changed owners, she no longer had access to it. 

She knew she had reached a point where she had to give up or find a place of her own and she decided to take a leap and open up her own shop full-time. 

The Truffle Bar has 18 different flavors of truffles with seasonal additions being added in. 

For example, she’ll have pumpkin spice truffles for October and peppermint truffles for December. 

The Truffle Bar is open Wednesday through Thursday for retail sales, but she also takes party and event orders and delivers orders nationwide. 

Allentown Graze Craze opening Friday

The Lehigh Valley is getting a new retailer that is capitalizing on the popularity of charcuterie. 

Graze Craze is opening Friday at 4612 Broadway Road in the Tilghman Square in Allentown. 

Graze Craze is a growing charcuterie concept retailer that offers a range of grazing options curated by what the franchise refers to as its “Grazologists.” 

Staff make arrangements that include options ranging from fresh fruit and vegetables to gourmet meats and cheeses, artisanal sweets and nuts. 

They have collections ranging from smaller options geared for snacking to larger ornate boards for events.  

The new charcuterie store is family owned and operated by Rusty and Jeanne Kuchta, a husband-wife team and pharmacists who have lived in the area for more than 20 years.   

“We have been making our own charcuterie boards for years, so it’s only fitting that we share our love for graze-style eating with the community,” said Jeanne Kuchta. “Rusty and I are thrilled to embark upon this new journey with our family and share this special concept with locals.” 

The Kuchtas plan to donate a portion of their store’s sales to support MollySTRONG Foundation, a non-profit organization, named after their daughter who battled Leukemia, that raises funds for research at St. Jude Hospital’s Mullighan Lab. 

 The Allentown Graze Craze is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. 


Sophistique moves into Jay’s Local for full-time fall collaboration

Sometimes a pop up just really pops. 

That was the case when West End Allentown eatery Jay’s Local brought in Sophistique French Bistro to sell authentic French food and pastries on Saturdays. 

The croissants and baguettes turned out to be a hit with the neighbors and Muhlenberg College students that patronize the eatery, with owner Lyell Scherline saying a few times pastry chef Sophie Vandecasteele had a line out the door of people looking to buy her treats. 

The French native said she was surprised by the success of the pop-up concept. 

“At first I was not prepared for this, but this is very exciting,” she said. 

Jay’s Local has been offering pop up opportunities to cooks and retailers since the fall of 2019, but Vandecasteele’s creations were one of his biggest hits. 

She said it did take a little bit for the idea to catch on. 

She originally brought her baked goods to Jay’s Local after having a stand at the nearby Allentown Farmers Market. 

Her original pop up was a one-day event, but it didn’t do as well as she hoped. 

“People didn’t really get it at the beginning,” she said. 

But Scherline convinced her to try it again and she held her Saturday pop ups over the summer. 

Once it was her food and Scherline’s beverages, rather than a slightly confusing combination of both, sales took off. 

“Now people really seem to like it,” she said. 

Because of the success, Scherline and Vandecasteele have decided to extend their collaboration to more of a full-time venture. 

For the fall months Vandecasteele will be the featured chef at Jay’s Local from Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. 

While they’re calling it a “fall event” there is no set end date to the collaboration. 

Scherline said he originally started with the pop ups as a way to attract new business to Jay’s Local, while helping other business owners get exposure at an established destination. 

“It’s just really good for the community,” he said. 

But his work with Sophistique has had an added benefit. 

Like every other restaurant and café in the area, Jay’s has had a bit of a struggle finding help, especially quality cooks. 

With his agreement with Vandecasteele, he now has a resident chef full time in the café that he can count on. 

“It’s really just a win/win,” he said. 


Temporary Wall Systems opens Allentown-Lancaster franchise

Temporary containment wall provider Temporary Wall Systems has opened a franchise in the Allentown/Lancaster market, expanding its reach further into Pennsylvania.

The business is owned by husband-and-wife team Randy and Winona Smith.

Temporary Wall Systems, part of HomeFront Brands, provides modular wall systems that are designed to be versatile, a release said. The company’s full-service business model simplifies construction and renovation by taking care of the entire containment process, from job site delivery to installation and removal when the project is complete.

The new franchise serves Allentown, Bethlehem, Collegeville, Dowingtown, Easton, Elizabethtown, Exton, Harrisburg, Hershey, Kennett Square, Lancaster, Lebanon, Mechanicsburg, Phoenixville, Pottstown, Quakertown, Reading, West Chester and York.

“Temporary Wall Systems is a great opportunity for us to offer a new solution in the construction and renovation space that is more sustainable, economical and environmentally friendly,” Randy Smith said. “Currently, when a business owner has to separate an area he is renovating from the occupied space, the construction crew has to use drywall and other permanent materials to build a wall. With the TWS system, we provide a reusable and sustainable option that won’t be going to waste after it’s no longer needed.”

“Winona and I love this area and have lived here most of our lives,” he added. “This area has a great combination of medium and small towns near one another. It has a mixture of very rural areas and quaint towns scattered across rolling hills and farms but with the added bonus of being near the big city of Philadelphia. We want to preserve the aesthetic of this area.”

Prior to this, Randy Smith was president of NETZSCH Premier Technologies. Winona Smith works as a pediatric nurse for Reading Hospital.

“We know our strong technical skills, experience managing a team and commitment to customer service will help us make our TWS location a success,” Randy Smith said. “… There is a lot of growth in the area and we’re here to meet the needs of the community as it builds more homes, schools, hospitals and infrastructure.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Fine art gallery joins The Shops in Allentown

The Laura Brady Gallery has completed a transaction to lease space in The Shops in Allentown from Berger-Epstein Associates, Inc. 

The Shops are located at 3900 Hamilton Center, 3900 Hamilton Boulevard in Allentown.

The gallery’s grand opening is scheduled for Sept. 23, with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 1 p.m. and a reception at 6:30 p.m.

“I am delighted to join the shops at 3900 Hamilton Center,” Brady, artist and owner of her gallery, said in a statement. “This community of shops brings a unique value to the area, and a variety of offerings for the customers it serves. This is a perfect fit for my new gallery, that will also operate as a working studio and host art-inspired workshops.”

Brady’s paintings have been exhibited and sold at galleries and fine art shows domestically and internationally. Information about her gallery can be found online at LauraBradyGallery.com.

“We are very pleased to welcome the Laura Brady Gallery to The Shops at 3900 Hamilton. Her stunning pieces will bring beauty to our center all year round,” said Jonathan Epstein of Berger-Epstein Associates, Inc., the property owner and managing agency.

Micki Tapper of Sunflower Realty Company represented the Laura Brady Gallery in the transaction and Brian Bailey of The James Balliet Property Group represented the landlord.

Air Products to power chase boats at 2024 America’s Cup

Allentown-based Air Products, through its legal entity in Spain, Carburos Metalicos, has been named the official hydrogen supplier of the 37th America’s Cup between August and October next year in Barcelona.

The world’s largest producer of hydrogen and a first-mover in energy transition projects, according to a release, Air Products will supply renewable hydrogen to power zero-emission chase boats at the international sailing competition.

Hydrogen is being used for the first time to power chase boats, which follow the AC75 race yachts.

Each challenger is required to have one hydrogen-powered chase boat.

“Air Products is proud to collaborate with the America’s Cup on this innovative project to demonstrate on a world stage how renewable hydrogen can help decarbonize nautical travel,” said Air Products’ Ivo Bols, president, Europe and Africa. “As the world’s largest hydrogen producer, Air Products has made significant investments in clean hydrogen to help spur the energy transition.”

The decision to use chase boats powered by hydrogen fuel cells supports ongoing efforts by the America’s Cup to decarbonize support activities at sea.

To support the event, Air Products has installed a mobile hydrogen refueler at the Port of Barcelona where company technicians will fuel the boats.

“When we first dreamed of bringing hydrogen-powered foiling chase boats into the America’s Cup we knew we were pushing the limits of current technology and that partnering with companies like Air Products would be necessary,” said America’s Cup CEO Grant Dalton. “With the help of the Generalitat of Catalonia, the City of Barcelona and the Port of Barcelona, we are very proud to now have an established refueling station that is capable of servicing the hydrogen chase boat fleet for the 37th America’s Cup.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

PPL Electric president leaves, interim named

Allentown-based PPL Corp. named 20-year PPL veteran Christine M. Martin as interim PPL Electric Utilities president, succeeding Stephanie R. Raymond, who left her post-Sept. 1.

A release said Raymond departed the company by mutual consent. Before assuming this new post, Martin was vice president of public affairs and chief sustainability officer.

“We thank Stephanie for her service and contributions to PPL Electric Utilities over the past decade,” said Fran Sullivan, PPL executive vice president and chief operating officer. “We wish her well in her future endeavors and are fortunate to have someone of Christine’s caliber ready to step into this role as we create the utilities of the future.”

A native of Pennsylvania, Martin joined PPL in 2003. She brings extensive experience in public affairs and stakeholder engagement to her new role, including as vice president of public affairs and vice president of state government relations earlier in her PPL career.

Before coming to PPL, Martin was deputy secretary for water management in the state’s Department of Environmental Protection, where she was responsible for statewide water resources management and policy. She also served as senior policy manager for environmental, infrastructure, energy and regulatory issues for governors Tom Ridge and Mark Schweiker.

“I look forward to partnering closely with the PPL Electric leadership team and the broader organization, and I’m eager to engage with key stakeholders as we deliver on our mission to provide safe, reliable, affordable and sustainable energy,” Martin added.

PPL Electric is one of several regulated utilities in the PPL family of companies. PPL Electric delivers electricity to approximately 1.5 million homes and businesses in 29 counties across eastern and central Pennsylvania.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Governor visits Allentown to tout workforce development

Gov. Josh Shapiro was in Allentown Wednesday along with Pa. Secretary of Labor and Industry Nancy Walker to tour the Allentown Campus of the Eastern Atlantic States Carpenters Technical College. 

The visit was an effort to highlight the administration’s investment in workforce development, including spending in job training and the Commonwealth Workforce Transformation Program. 

Shapiro said his focus has been on creating opportunities for Pennsylvanians, whether that’s through college or the workforce.  

The 2023-24 budget invests $23.5 million in workforce training and vo-tech programs to prepare more students for skilled careers in the building, construction, and infrastructure industries and $6 million in pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programming. 

“My administration is getting serious about training the next generation of workers, because my vision for Pennsylvania is one where everyone has the freedom to chart their own course and the opportunity to succeed,” said Shapiro. “If Pennsylvanians want to go straight into the workforce, we should make sure they have the skills and opportunities to be successful and provide for their families.” 

He said Pennsylvania is leveraging federal dollars to train 10,000 workers and “ensure the next generation of workers has the skills and expertise to power our economy into the future.” 

 An additional $3.5 million investment in the budget funds the Department of Labor & Industry’s (L&I) Schools-to-Work Program to develop and expand career pathways for high school students via partnerships between schools, employers, organizations, and the commonwealth.  

“Our ultimate goal for the next few years is to build a well-trained workforce that is responsive to the needs of business and prepared for the jobs of the future. To do that, we have to see the challenges and confront them deliberately by investing in the workers of Pennsylvania,” said Walker. “Under Governor Shapiro’s leadership, we secured a $3.5 million investment in this year’s budget for the Schools-To-Work program, which creates a robust system of employment and training pathways for high school students as they make decisions about entering the workforce.” 

She said that as job requirements continue to evolve, it is the administration’s duty to ensure Pennsylvania workers are well-equipped with the skills needed to be successful in the modern labor market. 

Velaspan launches managed private cellular service

An Allentown company that has been specializing in building and managing enterprise wireless networks for the past 19 years is expanding its offerings. 

Velaspan LLC has launched a managed private cellular service that is a turnkey private 4G/LTE or 5G cellular network. 

Founding Partner David Bond said that while the Wi-Fi service they’ve specialized in is often the ideal solution for companies’ connectivity needs, some customers can benefit from the type of coverage cellular service can provide with added mobility, reliability and large area coverage. 

Over the years Velaspan has worked with major enterprises, universities, manufacturers and other organizations across the U.S. to solve connectivity problems.  

“We have clients with long-standing connectivity challenges that are difficult or impossible to solve with Wi-Fi, but that are readily solved with private cellular,” Bond said. 

He gave the example of an automated fulfillment center where computers need to communicate with the autonomous guided vehicles that are dispersed throughout the facility. 

With Wi-Fi, he explained there can be delays as the vehicles move from one transmitter to another. With cellular service, the communication is much more seamless leading to speedier service. 

“The computers can tell them where to roam and when to roam more seamlessly than with Wi-Fi offering mobility improvements,” he said. 

And while the cost of cellular can be higher than Wi-Fi, Bond said there is savings in the upfront costs. 

“With this there is ubiquitous coverage throughout a large manufacturing campus where Wi-Fi could be cost prohibitive,” Bond said. 

He explained that a client would have to have numerous access points for the Wi-Fi transmitters meaning several new poles would need to be installed to have the transmitters mounted on. Not only can that be expensive, but it could be taking up space for manufacturing equipment or storage. 

With cellular there is only one radio that can be mounted on the side of a building. 

Right now, Bond said the challenge is educating potential customers on the availability and benefits of private cellular service. 

“Unfortunately, the industry has complicated the technology messaging to the point that many customers don’t know they can use private cellular to both solve practical use cases today and lay the foundation for more transformative use cases in the future,” he said. “Decades of experience have given us an understanding of the demands of wireless networks so we can work with customers to choose the right network technology, and then build and manage the network to deliver that coverage cost effectively.” 

The Velaspan MPC utilizes Citizens Broadband Radio Service (CBRS) and other public or private spectrum to provide the service. 


PPL Tower hits the market

The iconic PPL Tower in downtown Allentown is officially on the market. 

Colliers International is handling the sale of the building, which is one of the best-known properties in the Lehigh Valley. 

“We’re very pleased to be bringing the iconic PPL Tower to market,” said John Susanin, senior managing director for Colliers. 

He said an asking price has not been set for the 24-floor building, which is currently the tallest building in the Lehigh Valley. 

Instead, he said they are looking to let the market set the price and he expects there to be keen interest in the property. 

For those concerned about the future of the building which has been part of the city’s skyline for nearly 100 years, Susanin said there’s no need to worry. 

“PPL is dedicated to selling this building to a group committed to the cultural integrity of this building going forward,” he said. 

He said the desire is to have the 322-foot-tall building repurposed as modern residential space. 

Colliers is promoting the building as a good opportunity for residential as Allentown is the fasted growing city in Pennsylvania, driving the need for more housing. 

PPL is moving its corporate offices from the historic tower and moving just down the street to take over about 100,000 square feet of space at Two City Center.