National Energy Improvement Fund looking for small investors

The Allentown-based National Energy Improvement Fund has launched the fifth round of its Climate-Action Investment Opportunity program, but this latest round is bigger and slightly different than the previous offerings. 

The NEIF is looking to raise $2 million to support its loan program. 

The company provides fixed-rate loans to homeowners and smaller commercial businesses to make improvements such as adding insulation, or new more energy-efficient heating systems to properties. It also provides loans to make homes and other properties more resilient to harsh weather conditions such as hurricanes. 

“This isn’t a sexy solar thing,” said Peter Krajsa, NEIF co-chair and founder. “These are things that people need to do to their homes to make them more sustainable and resilient.” 

What’s different about the investment opportunity offered by the Certified B Corp., is that it’s looking for smaller retail investors to support the fund, versus a larger institutional investor, which typically back such funds. 

In this round, the NEIF is accepting investments of as little as $1,000 to attract smaller investors who want to “do good” with their money. 

Investors will receive a 7% annual return with twenty-eight scheduled quarterly payments.  Unlike previous offerings, principal will be paid back over the course of the payments, so investors don’t have to wait seven years to get their original investment back, a change that Krajsa said he hopes will make investing more attractive. 

“We are excited to be able to continue to broaden the audience for investment in clean energy and building resilience,” said  Krajsa.  

“It’s an opportunity for investors to take direct action improving local resilience and sparking economic growth at a crucial moment in our political and social economy,” added Matthew Brown, who is also a co-chair and founder of the company. 

Krajsa said the attractiveness of the offering is that it is a stable, fixed investment versus the risk that an individual would make in some speculative investments. People investing in the program also know that the money is going to help people just like them afford home and building improvements that will be more sustainable and resilient. 

“It’s for someone who says ‘I’m not investing in something speculative, and I want my money going to the right places,’” Krajsa said. 

He noted that the previous four offerings, which were smaller than this national offering, all exceeded their targets. 

The investment opportunity is being managed by RaiseGreen Inc, an SEC and FINRA licensed Funding Portal, which specializes in helping companies, like the NEIF, raise money for sustainable projects.   

Full details of the offering can be found at www.climateactioninvestmentnotes.org. 

Schaedler Yesco finds growth in changing marketplace

Schaedler Yesco’s new Allentown distribution facility on East Highland Street. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

For 50 years an electrical products distributor has called 256 West Walnut St. in Allentown home.

Known as Queen City Electric until it was purchased by Harrisburg-based Schaedler Yesco in 2015, the distributor is now making a big move over to the city’s East Side as the company ramps up its operations to respond to a changing and growing market.

The company is opening a new, larger facility near the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs stadium at 601 E. Highland St., a move that will also make its operations easier to access for customers.

But the big move is just part of the growth the company is experiencing right now.

“We have lots going on throughout our footprint,” said Greg Schaedler, CEO of the company.

The company, which has 22 locations throughout Pennsylvania and one in New York, is also in the process of completing a 40,000-square-foot addition to its central distribution center in Harrisburg, increasing its space to over 200,000 square feet.

“We’re excited that construction is complete, and we can start utilizing this new space,” said Dean Krout, vice president of operations. “After eight months of construction, we have over 3000 new pallet storage locations, more receiving space and eight new dock doors. We now have room to grow with the needs of our customers.”.

This comes on the heels of the company launching a new ecommerce website in April, which has helped the company adapt to the changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the supply chain and workforce.

“It’s about growing in our service business and storing materials for our contractors,” Schaedler said.

He explained the skills gap that is currently affecting the industry has slowed down many of the projects that electrical contractors are working on. They simply don’t have the skilled workers to meet the demand for all of the work that’s out there.

At the same time, disruptions in the supply chain have made it important for these contractors to have the materials they need close at hand.

Many contractors don’t have the space to store a large volume of inventory at their own locations, so they rely on Schaedler Yesco to house those products for them.

“Supply line issues have dictated that we bring in product while it’s available and offer stage and store services to our customers so they can maintain their project schedules,” said Farrah Mittel, president of Schaedler Yesco. “Having more space gives us flexibility to add new SKUs and new categories to our line up.”

That helps the company help its customers.

“What we recommend to our customers is that they order ahead of time to make sure they have the materials they need and then we release it to them when they need it,” said Kim Downs, director of marketing and business development.

Josh Holly, Lehigh Valley territory manager, said the new Allentown facility will bring Schaedler Yesco up to 30,000 square feet, much more space than the 20,000 square feet the company has in its current facility.

But more than that, he said the space is better used, instead of being in a 100-year-old building that is split up into different spaces, the new facility provides a single floor between two buildings. It also has higher ceilings, which will allow them to stock inventory vertically.

He said the location of the new facility is also a benefit.

“Access is just a lot better with its proximity to Airport Road and Route 22,” Holly said.

He noted that the Allentown distribution center serves customers well beyond the Lehigh Valley, so access to major highways to transport their products is important to the company’s success.

“Our goal is to offer our customers the best solutions for their needs. This expansion allows us to look at solutions a little differently than, perhaps, we could before,” said Mittel.

With the extra space and services, the company is also growing its workforce. Schaedler said the company has added 70 new employees since the beginning of the year and plans to hire more heading into 2022.

He expects the company will be moved into the new facility by mid-January.

Denver company acquires Allentown hospice provider, Arcadia

An Allentown-based hospice care provider has been acquired by a Denver-based hospice and home health care company. 

The Care Team, which operates in Michigan and Texas has acquired Arcadia Hospice of SEPA. 

Founded in 2019, Arcadia provides hospice services to patients in southeastern Pennsylvania surrounding the greater Philadelphia metro area. 

The Care Team is a portfolio company of Revelstoke Capital Partners, a private equity firm.  

This transaction marks The Care Team’s second acquisition since partnering with Revelstoke and is its first outside of the state of Michigan and is part of plans for a national expansion. 

“With the acquisition of Arcadia, The Care Team will have the ability to grow hospice and introduce its home health services in southeastern Pennsylvania. We are excited to partner with the Arcadia team to further expand access to high quality clinical care and develop deeper relationships with their strong referral partners,” said Jonny Miller, vice president at Revelstoke.   

Allentown launching Small Business Spark Program

Recognizing the need for more localized and individualized tools for small business owners to succeed during the current pandemic, the Allentown Department of Community & Economic Development is launching the new Allentown Small Business Spark Program.  

The department is collaborating with the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Lehigh University to provide technical assistance grants to Allentown businesses recovering from the impact of COVID-19. 

By allocating $250,000 of CARES Act funding, the city is seeking to bring technical assistance consulting directly to those small businesses in need.  

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees will be eligible for up to 14 hours of assistance from local experts in a number of areas, including marketing, e-commerce, website, cybersecurity, social media, financial management, legal assistance, and more. 

“This program was developed based upon direct feedback we received during our small business roundtable sessions, particularly from those industries that are feeling the greatest impact of the pandemic,” said Mayor Ray O’Connell. “They’ve shared that these are the areas of greatest need, and we’re working to meet that need in a way that supports other small businesses through the process.” 

Consulting services will be provided by other local businesses, which can become involved in the program by submitting a proposal to the SBDC.  

Starting Nov. 15, service providers can respond to the request for services on the SBDC website at: https://go.lehigh.edu/AllentownSPARK 

The center said priority will be given to small, diverse, and Allentown-based service providers. 

“We’re looking to capitalize on the strong entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Lehigh Valley,” stated Allentown DCED Director Leonard Lightner. “This program is intended to enhance that ecosystem and providing the spark to accelerate the recovery of our business community to flourish and grow.” 

Allentown small businesses may apply to receive the technical assistance grants beginning Dec. 13. Businesses are required to complete a one-page intake form available on the SBDC website at https://go.lehigh.edu/AllentownSPARK. 

The program will begin with this initial investment in the hopes of supporting more than 100 Allentown businesses.  

From there, additional funding will be assessed based on interest in the program.  

Technical assistance grants will be awarded with work to begin taking place in early January and will continue through May 31, 2022. 


Shift4 CEO honored as an Entrepreneur of the Year


Jared Isaacman in his SpaceX suit. PHOTO/FILE –

Jared Isaacman, CEO, Shift4 Payments in Allentown was one of a dozen professionals honored with the national Entrepreneur of the Year award by Ernst & Young LLP (EY US.) 

In accepting the award, he said no entrepreneur does it alone and gave credit for his company’s success to his staff. “I think it’s a great statement for everyone who works for Shift4,” he said. 

He also dedicated the award to the small business customers that have supported his company. 

Isaacman founded the company in his parents’ basement more than 20 years ago at the age of 16. It is now a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange. 

He recently received international attention when he became the commander of the Space X Inspiration 4 mission that orbited the earth for three days in mid-September.   

The candidates for the award were evaluated based on their entrepreneurial leadership, talent management, financial performance, societal impact, degree of difficulty in navigating and overcoming obstacles to make their companies successful, and originality, among other core contributions and attributes. 

“In an unprecedented era for business, all of our national winners showed an exceptional level of resilience, agility and innovation,” said AJ Jordan of EY US. “Our national winners demonstrate the true spirit of entrepreneurial leadership, pivoting as necessary to keep their commitment to society at the forefront, while also continuing to build companies rooted in uplifting their people and community stakeholders.” 

To commemorate the 35th anniversary of the Entrepreneur of the Year program, EY US commissioned an impact study to provide an analysis and survey of past program winners.  

Findings highlight the impact that the Entrepreneur of the Year community has had on the broader business community, including: 

  • On average,program winners have a growth rate that’s approximately 50% faster and create jobs nearly four times faster than the U.S. economy. 
  • On average, Entrepreneur of the Year organizations go public 100 times more than new U.S. private organizations and have outperformed the U.S. stock market in 26 of 29 years. 
  • More than 70% of winning companies self-reported outperforming their peers in 2020 and attribute this performance to decision-making speed and organizational flexibility. 
  • Entrepreneur of the Year Award winners are driven to succeed and aspire to a higher purpose of leaving the world a better place than they found it. 

Partners Personnel takes last spot in Allentown’s Plaza West Shopping Center

The Plaza West shopping center at 1602-1616 W. Allen St., Allentown. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

A full-service staffing firm is moving into the Plaza West Shopping Center at 16th and Allen Streets in Allentown.

The addition of Partners Personnel brings the urban shopping center to full occupancy. The office will take up 1,200 square feet of retail space at the shopping center, with plans to open in December.

The lease was signed by Seth Lacey of Colliers.

Partners Personnel is a full-service staffing firm focused on placements in a variety of industries ranging from production, packaging, manufacturing, logistics and distribution as well as administrative and professional services.

The firm operates in 17 states and has more than 70 locations nationwide.

This is Partners’ first location in Pennsylvania.

The now fully leased center is also home to Quest Diagnostics, New Liberty Pharmacy, Bausch Eye Associates and Wise Financial Group.

A Conversation With: Silvia Hoffman, partner at MKSD Architects in Allentown

Sylvia Hoffman –

LVB: First, tell me what kinds of architecture your firm specializes in? 

Hoffman: MKSD designs projects across every part of the built environment but our practice focus is on projects in these five sectors: Healthcare, Corporate Office & Development, Government/Municipal, Higher Education, Manufacturing & Industrial. 

 LVB: What are the current trends in those types of architecture? 

Hoffman: In healthcare, we continue to blur the line between hospital and hospitality. Healthcare Design is focused on creating spaces for patients that marry advanced technology for their treatment, seamlessly, with a welcoming and comfortable environment that enhances healing and wellness. 

In the office sector, we have had clients come to us to help them create a better environment for ‘coming back to the office’ after many people have been working at home. This includes new amenities, finishes and furniture, and designing specialized spaces that support technology and video meetings, which we believe are here to stay. In open office environments we recognize that employees still need privacy, so we are designing spaces for that as well. 

 LVB: What is keeping MSKD busy right now? 

Hoffman: We are busier than ever, working on many exciting, community enhancing projects including the new DaVinci Science Center, multiple projects for our local Healthcare Networks and beyond which include new buildings and renovations, and several new projects for local developers in the corporate sector. The Lehigh Valley’s location at a crossroads in the Northeast for logistics also continues to keep our industrial and manufacturing group busy. 

 LVB: What are the challenges your industry is facing right now? 

Hoffman: There are a few challenges that our industry faces right now. Everyone is aware that everything seems to cost more these days, that includes construction products. There are also challenges with the supply chain and getting building products in a timely manner from everything from roof insulation to steel. The industry is struggling with staffing projects both on the construction and design ends and even on the owner’s end where their support is needed through a project. Time is also a challenge with approval process, particularly for building permits and land development are taking longer than ever and holding up projects. Even with these challenges, we continue to stay positive and implement creative solutions to address them. 

LVB: Do you see any trends on the horizon that might shake up the current way architects design spaces? 

Hoffman: Technology continues to help architects push the envelope of how buildings are planned, designed and experienced with virtual reality. We also continue to advance our use of Building Information Modeling from 3-D to 5-D and to include everything from material-based information, to geospatial information, to procurement, fabrication and construction, to facility management and operation. 5-D integrates physical and functional characteristics of a project with time schedule and cost. We continue to move forward with technology that integrates the whole team, day one, from owner, to designers to constructors in the process. I believe the future of design and construction will continue to be even more collaborative and digital and BIM will play an even more important role in that process.