Liberty Environmental, Pocono Mountains Association of Realtors and more name new hires

Jonathan Wickstrom, Heather Schierloh, Lisa A. Shearman, Melanie A. Strange, Marc Singer and Raymon Williams. PHOTOS/PROVIDED
Jonathan Wickstrom, Heather Schierloh, Lisa A. Shearman, Melanie A. Strange, Marc Singer and Raymon Williams. PHOTOS/PROVIDED


Architecture and engineering

Reading, Berks County-based Liberty Environmental Inc. named Jonathan Wickstrom a principal. Wickstrom is a senior project manager and a regulatory compliance specialist, with primary subject matter expertise in air quality permitting and general industrial regulatory compliance.


Stroud Township, Monroe County-based Pocono Mountains Association of Realtors named Heather Schierloh a member of its short term rental committee and its diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. Schierloh is a realtor and sales associate with Tredyffrin Township, Chester County-based Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Fox & Roach, Realtors and specializes in negotiation.

Montgomery Bar Association named Lisa A. Shearman president-elect. Shearman is a principal and a trust and estates and business lawyer with Upper Gwynedd Township, Montgomery County-based Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin. Shearman has more than 30 years of experience.

Banking and finance

Allentown, Lehigh County-based Morton Brown Family Wealth named Melanie A. Strange a client service associate. She will manage client account requests, process paperwork and provide operational support to the advisory team.


Northampton Community College named Marc Singer provost and vice president of academic and student affairs, effective May 1. Singer will be the chief academic officer, leading the college’s four schools as well student life and student affairs.


Allentown, Lehigh County-based Gross McGinley LLP named attorney Zachary R. Fowler a partner. He will practice with the litigation and medical malpractice defense teams.

Perkasie, Bucks County-based Grim, Biehn & Thatcher named Daniel P. Martin a full-time associate in the municipal law department.


Emmaus, Lehigh County-based Altitude Marketing named Beth Balch and Alex Hernandez directors of client operations. They will plan and manage integrated marketing strategies for all client accounts, help refine production team operations and help manage and develop the firm’s client engagement management team.


North Whitehall Township, Lehigh County-based KidsPeace Foundation named Robert A. Oster a trustee. Oster is a certified public accountant and retired as CEO of Concannon, Miller & Co. P.C.

Bethlehem, Northampton County-based Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley named Meghan Baumer director of strategic initiatives. She will continue to be at the center of the organization’s programs, initiatives and events and help with its strategic planning and direction.

Communities In Schools of Eastern Pennsylvania named Michelle Schmidt chair, Karianne Gelinas vice chair, Raymon Williams secretary, Michael Zile treasurer and Tyler Papaz immediate past chair. Schmidt is a psychology professor with Moravian University and director of its academic leadership programs. Gelinas is vice president of strategic initiatives and research at Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. Williams is deputy director of green hydrogen projects at Air Products. Zile is a commercial senior relationship manager and senior vice president with M&T Bank. Papaz is a senior consultant at Cornerstone Advisors Asset Management LLC.

Compiled by Amy DiNunzio


Strategic financial management is critical for AEC firm success

Architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) firms are designing, planning, constructing and leading projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars. These firms provide professional services that impact the quality and success of those projects. There is a public misconception that these types of businesses are highly profitable, but that is not always true. Some AEC firms maintain a decent profit margin, while many others struggle financially. 

There are many reasons why AEC firms are not profitable enough, but one main reason is poor financial management. Strategic financial management is essential for any business to be successful and sustainable. Strategically managed finances can result in a great success story or in a fatal nightmare if finances are not controlled.  

Architects, engineers and construction professionals do not get much business education relative to running a business while working on their professional degrees. And that is one of the major challenges these professionals face in running their business. 

Slow paying clients are one major challenge in the AEC industry in today’s economy. The problem of not being paid on time is a very serious issue for small and large firms. The issue is exacerbated because it is occurring when AEC firms are having significant difficulty staffing up to meet demands of their existing and new clients.  

Strategic thinking is critical to determine what strategies need to be considered for financial profitability. Strategies are needed to diversify clients and professional services to ensure a stable flow of income for firm growth and pricing projects accordingly.  

Working capital is a problem that many people in business do not understand and AEC firms need much more focus and education to deal with it. Wikipedia defines working capital as current assets less current liabilities. If current assets are less than current liabilities, an entity has a working capital deficiency, also called a working capital deficit and negative working capital.  

Positive working capital is required so an AEC firm is able to continue its operations and also have sufficient funds to satisfy short-term debt and ongoing operational expenses. An AEC firm’s current assets typically include accounts receivable. However, in reality that is not true if clients take a year to pay their bills.  

AEC firms must have enough cash to keep meeting payroll and all other overhead expenses for the time it takes clients to pay their bills for work performed by their firms. AEC firms must stop tolerating slow-paying clients and acting as a bank to finance their clients’ businesses and projects.  

Strategies that AEC firms must incorporate into their planning include: pursuing specific vertical markets and project types that are “recession resilient;” strategic focus on “Go – No Go” decisions on clients and projects; considering diversified business relationships and developing new strategic partnerships with other firms.  

Strong financial management deploys tools to achieve success. Some of those tools include:  

A management strategy for the direction of the firm. A forward look at the next quarter and the rest of the fiscal year, the next year, the next 2-3 years are important to determine that direction. The firm needs to set aside time to review and reflect on current workload and backlog, prospects in the pipeline, capacity to handle increased workload, any new skills or services needed, project management models, existing and desired clients, market trends, overall goals for the firm and other factors anticipated to impact the AEC industry.  

Agility and adaptability are two key words for the future in the AEC world. The pandemic certainly highlighted the need for each of those attributes. A successful AEC firm must be able to adapt to changes in the industry, the economy, markets and unforeseen influences that will impact their business.  

Business development is another critical tool for success in AEC firms. A firm cannot simply rely on work coming to them unsolicited and without strong ongoing relationships. Business development is a full-time task and is a “contact sport” that requires time to build and enhance relationships, research markets and forecasts, identify and qualify opportunities and work with the team to secure contracts and keep in touch periodically with clients during current projects.  

Another very critical tool relates to developing strategic and realistic pricing of professional services. There are not many resources available to help guide a person in the development of professional fees. The truth is that development of these fees is a combination of an art and a science and this skill is developed over time.  

Developing options to acquire working capital is also an important tool. One option is to secure a line-of-credit. Credit lines have been used by businesses for years to meet working capital needs. This resource provides a flexible loan from a financial institution that defines a specific amount of money the firm can access as needed and repay either immediately or over time. Lines of credit are often used to cover the gaps in irregular monthly cash flow or to finance a special purchase where it may be difficult to ascertain the exact funds needed in advance.  

AEC firms are some of the most complicated businesses to manage. Success requires a strategic thinking high level person that understands both the design process and the financial management process to oversee financial performance.  

Some important action items needed for strategic financial management include: 

  • Price: Learn from past experience to determine how many hours were spent on similar projects. 
  • Monitor: Regularly monitor projects’ profitability. 
  • Forecast: Obtain accurate projections for the firm’s projects and regularly review them.  
  • Allocate: Allocate staff and resources according to projections.  
  • Process: Create financial processes to support financial management, including project management, billing, change orders, collection, etc. 
  • Focus: Do not micro-manage. Focus on what makes a difference and helps meet financial objectives. 

Closing with great advice from George Washington: “To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones.” 

Revolutionary tech needed for architecture firms’ success

Architecture and technology have always been connected. Architecture and design are applied sciences that use research and development in technology to drive their work to new heights, creating buildings and products that are more interesting, responsible and useful.  

The speed of technological advancement in today’s world is mind-boggling. Everything people use and interact with on a day-to-day basis is being affected by breakthroughs in technology. This phenomenon can be seen by looking at the technology in an architect’s studio. Architects are doing more than designing and supervising the construction of buildings thanks to some new technology.  

New technology is revolutionizing architectural design. The process and end results of the deployment of new technology are disrupting the AEC industry and heading in unexpected and exciting directions with a new generation of innovative architecture. 

Architects today have access to data and analytics that allow them to focus more on innovation versus production while optimizing performance. The role and work of the architect continues to evolve. Technology will not be ignored, and tech savvy architects realize they are more likely to achieve long term and sustainable success than architects who resist embracing and deploying the latest technological innovations. 

Here are a few of the latest revolutionary technologies in architecture. 

Generative Design 

Generative design simulates nature’s evolutionary approach to design and uses the power of computation to explore thousands of design options, rather than a single solution. Designers input design goals and specifications such as materials, manufacturing methods and budget into generative design software. The software then uses cloud computing to explore potential solutions and generates numerous design alternatives. It tests and learns what works and what does not work. 

Architectural Apps and Cloud Services 

Technology in architecture takes many forms. The smartphone is one form that is forever getting smarter and more indispensable. Architecture software developers will deploy apps for use during every project stage—from conception to completion—and architects are learning to rely on them to provide greater service to their clients. 

Touchscreen technology allows architects to sketch directly into software that can be translated into 3D modeling apps. Building information modeling (BIM) saves time, increases transparency, enhances details, records revisions and encourages collaboration. Architects can streamline their processes, quickly iterate, explore and deliver solutions using visual scripting tools such as Grasshopper and Revit,  

Virtual, Augmented and Mixed Realities 

Virtual reality offers architects an exciting, dynamic way to collaborate with each other and present ideas to clients. Use of virtual reality technology in architecture is expected to grow as architecture firms, virtual reality companies and BIM software developers collaborate to create more seamless virtual reality workflows. Virtual reality allows clients to “walk” through projects before these are built and architects are leveraging this to engage clients in the design process. 

Augmented reality use is accelerating due to advancements in products that facilitate a greater connection between the physical and digital realms of architectural design. Augmented reality applications allow users to overlay building plans, marketing materials and other 2D collateral on a 3D BIM model. 

Mixed reality or hybrid reality merges real, physical environments and virtual, digital environments to produce new environments and visualizations where physical and digital objects co-exist and interact in real time. Clients can use mixed reality to see a physical location transformed with virtual architectural modifications and interact with those virtual elements in the physical space where they are. 

3D Printing 

Designers are making use of advancements in 3D printing and rapid prototyping to build better, more accurate design models to full scale representations of their work. It is anticipated that in the future entire buildings or installations will be the product of 3D printing.  

3D Rendering and Architectural Visualization 

Advancements in 3D modeling and 3D rendering technology are having a tremendous effect on the products people use and the buildings they inhabit. Rendering artists are able to produce clearer-than-real-life images pulled directly from the digital realm into a person’s vision. This is changing the way architects design in a manner that was impossible 10 years ago.  

Modeling software and 3D rendering software such as Rhino, SketchUp, and Maya are revolutionizing the digital world, providing vital design information to architects, city planners and interior designers. Google Earth is becoming so detailed and comprehensive that users are able to pan and orbit around the globe in full 3D.  

Architects will soon be able to fully construct 3D representations of their work and use VR to put their clients into the experience before the first brick is laid. The ability to do this has been available for quite some time now. However, it is now possible to actually put on a headset and envelop your senses with sound and space that will make the spaces and materials instantly relatable and understandable.  


Drones have begun to be used by realtors, architects and designers to get people into real interior space before a building has been constructed. The crew will take a drone to an urban or rural job site and fly the drone around to capture the most interesting and important views via an on-board camera.  

The architect can then take this image data and superimpose it into renderings for the project, giving prospective clients and buyers an accurate picture of what the living room will look like when viewing the cityscape beyond. It has become a valuable tool for 3d renderers who are looking to produce the most accurate design drawings outside of real life. 

Closing Thought 

Architecture firms must harness emerging technologies and use them for strategic advantages to survive and thrive in this new digital world. 

Glenn Ebersole is a registered professional engineer and the Director of Business Development at JL Architects, a nationally licensed commercial architecture firm based in West Chester. He can be contacted by [email protected] or 717-575-8572. 






Newsmakers: MKSD architects, Iron Hill Brewery and more


South Whitehall Township-based MKSD architects named Jessica Klocek associate partner. She is also project manager for the Da Vinci Science Center project in downtown Allentown. She was director of healthcare design. She has a degree from Lehigh University and a bachelor’s degree from Drexel University.






Allentown City Council in Lehigh County confirmed Mayor Matt Tuerk’s appointment of Vicky Kistler as community and economic development director. She will oversee the bureaus of health, building standards and safety, planning and zoning, and special events, along with the offices of business development, housing and federal grants and human relations. She also will be the city’s liaison with business, educational and health care organizations that influence social determinants of health. She was interim community and economic development director and, before that, managed Allentown’s health bureau. She has a bachelor’s degree from Bloomsburg University and a master’s degree from Lehigh University.



U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, which includes Reading and the Lehigh Valley, named Kiandra D. Steffy to a merit selection panel for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania to help fill a federal magistrate judge vacancy. The panel will review applications, interview potential candidates and recommend the applicants whom it considers best qualified for the position. She is an attorney with Manheim Township, Lancaster County-based Saxton & Stump and practices in the labor and employment, Title IX, commercial litigation and internal investigations groups. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a law degree from Drexel University’s Thomas R. Kline School of Law.




Uwchlan Township, Chester County-based Iron Hill Brewery named Joyce Polsenberg Cremin vice president of marketing. She will handle strategic marketing efforts throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions. Most recently, she was senior director of restaurant and bar marketing at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. She has a bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and a master’s degree from Cornell University.






Upper Gwynedd Township, Montgomery County-based Hamburg, Rubin, Mullin, Maxwell & Lupin named Annie L. Neamand an associate in its real estate and zoning department. She will focus her practice on assisting public and private entities and individuals with the sale or purchase of residential and commercial property. She was a staff attorney in the regional housing unit with Legal Aid of Southeastern Pennsylvania. She has a bachelor’s degree from Temple University and a law degree from Villanova University School of Law.




Florio Perrucci Steinhardt Cappelli Tipton & Taylor LLC named Staci Sabetti a partner in its Bethlehem office. She concentrates her practice on real estate development, commercial loans and business law. She has practiced law for more than 20 years and was in-house counsel for a real estate development company. She has a bachelor’s degree from Villanova University and a law degree from Touro Law School. Kody Hines was named an associate in the Bethlehem office. He will focus on litigation. He was a judicial law clerk to Northampton County Court of Common Pleas Judge Samuel P. Murray. He has a bachelor’s degree from East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from Vermont Law School.

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. 

Alvernia chooses RLPS Architects and Warfel Construction for CollegeTowne project in Reading

Artist’s rendering of Alvernia University’s CollegeTowne campus at Forth and Penn streets in Reading. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


Alvernia University moved a step closer to making its ambitious CollegeTowne project in downtown Reading a reality.

University officials selected the Lancaster County-based firms RLPS Architects and Warfel Construction to design and renovate a property at 401 Penn Street in downtown Reading.

The five-story building, which formerly was home to CNA Insurance and more recently to I-LEAD Charter School, will include classrooms and labs, loft-style student housing, dining facilities, retail outlets and other operations, and serve as the centerpiece of the CollegeTowne initiative.

Alvernia plans to base its business, e-sports, communications and engineering programs there. It also will be home to a student-centered business incubator to be run by the university’s rebranded O’Pake Institute for Economic Development and Entrepreneurship.

Dr. Rodney Ridley, associate provost and vice president and chief executive officer for the O’Pake Institute, said the business incubator will partner with various economic groups that will work together to promote entrepreneurship and business growth.

The idea, Ridley said, is to help jump-start the downtown economy.

“What happens is that now you have college students living downtown, and you need restaurants and coffee shops and entertainment,” Ridley said. “And you begin to make this economic engine start happening.”

Acela Architects and Engineers to move into former Girl Scouts property

Acela Architects and Engineers will move into an Allentown property long occupied by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania. PHOTO/SUBMITTED) –

A local architect and engineering firm will move into an Allentown property long occupied by the Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania.

Acela Architects and Engineers, which has a location at 4969 Hamilton St. in Lower Macungie Township, will occupy the building.

Feinberg Real Estate Advisors LLC represented the Girl Scouts in the $610,000 sale of 2619 Moravian Ave., a 7,500-square-foot property in Allentown.

Cindy McDonnell Feinberg, principal of Feinberg Real Estate Advisors in South Whitehall Township, who represented the seller, said the transaction was completed last week.

James Balliet of KW Commercial of South Whitehall Township represented the buyer, HIWT LLC, an investment group that plans to redevelop the property for Acela Architects and Engineers, she said.

The firm plans to move into the new building within the next four weeks and use it for its new corporate headquarters in the Lehigh Valley, said Daniel Witczak, president of Acela Architects and Engineers.

“It’s a beautiful facility, it gives us a lot of room to grow,” Witczak said. “It’s an easy access on and off highway, it’s convenient for our clients.”

The property on Moravian Avenue was originally developed in 1977 as the headquarters for the Great Valley Girl Scouts and later became a service center with the merger of county-based programs, which led to the creation of Girl Scouts of Eastern Pennsylvania with headquarters in Miquon, Montgomery County, Feinberg said.

For now, Girls Scout employees are working remotely in different Girl Scouts locations, Feinberg said.

Acela has 18 employees and plans to add three more people at the  new location once the pandemic ends, Witczak said.

“We’ve been set up to work from home from the beginning,” he said. “Everybody has a laptop and docking station. That’s the way we started our company.”

Employees have the ability to work from home and take laptops home as needed.

Acela has been at its Lower Macungie office for three years and has three other locations in Ohio, New York and New Jersey.



Business owner seeks to fill work-space void in West End Allentown

Joel Krieger, a broker and owner of Krieger Real Estate of Allentown, recently bought a building in West End Allentown that he transformed into office suites and coworking space. (PHOTO/BRIAN PEDERSEN) –

After discovering a need for more office suites and co-working space in West End Allentown, a local real estate exec decided to fill the need.

Joel Krieger, a broker and owner of Krieger Real Estate of Allentown, recently bought an office building that once served a law firm at 1908 W. Allen in Allentown. He transformed the interior of the 6,000-square-foot building to create 18 offices and space for people to share desks and workplaces.

Krieger said eight of the 18 offices rented.

“We bought 1600 Hamilton last year and were able to lease that up within three months,” he said. “The first building we bought on Hamilton, I wasn’t sure what the market would be.”

He said the market is strong for small office spaces, for both small startups and established companies looking for a satellite office.

He kept getting requests for space, particularly in West End Allentown, which includes many small and independently owned businesses close to a quiet, residential community a short drive from Route 22.

The space at the 1908 W. Allen property, which Krieger is calling The Office Co., includes a combination of private spaces and co-working space, with common areas that include a kitchen, lobby and conference room.

“Some people like the co-working space and open feel, some people like the private office with a door that locks,” Krieger said.

The spaces come in different sizes, with 90 square feet renting for $450 per month and 180 to 200-square-foot spaces for $750 per month, he said.

So far, Krieger has had a number of small businesses filling up the space, including Approved Mortgage, Effrain Home Care, Drabenstott Communications Group, Krieger Real Estate, a logistics company and a few doctors.

The property had been on the market for a while when Krieger went to see it, and he was pleasantly surprised that it had all the individual suites. “We just did minor improvements,” he said.

A local firm, 4/4 Architecture of Bethlehem, served as the architect, he said.

The property includes on-site parking and offers some flexibility, he added.

Those who have a private office can rent additional desk space. Leases are one year for offices and three months for desks.

Krieger, who lives in Bethlehem, said he is looking for another property and is hoping to connect to local businesses. His office property at 1908 W. Allen could potentially accommodate 30 workers. With more people there, they could potentially patronize the smaller businesses nearby, he added.

Coworking space debuts in Easton

A multi-story building that’s been vacant for several years is now home to new coworking space in downtown Easton.

Mark Calafatello and his wife, Maryanne Russell, two former New Yorkers who live in Williams Township near Easton, completed the transformation of the six-story building at 403 Northampton St. into high-end co-working space and had a soft opening last week.

They plan to have an official ribbon cutting on March 2 and will begin their advertising campaign in mid-March.

The property, Reeds403 Co-working Lounge, has 3,000 square feet available on the first and second floors, and another 3,000 square feet on the upper floors if needed.

So far, the feedback they’ve received is positive, he said. Users have 24-hour access to the building via a key on the member’s smartphone. Members pay $100 per month to use the space.

“The range of age and industry has been great, everything from professors at Lafayette to people who are newly displaced and looking for places to work,” Calafatello said.

People are also showing interest in using the space as a gathering place, including women’s groups who want to use it for potluck dinners, he added.

The space as not just serving office workers but people in the community looking for a place with a relaxing, yet high-end vibe.

He’s seeing different types of people getting together in the space, “bridging communities with like-minded ideas.”

“For me, diversity is what keeps it exciting and interesting,” Calafatello said. “So far, all the feedback has been great.”