‘What’s So Cool About Manufacturing’ winners announced

The Outstanding Overall Program award went to Lower Macungie Middle School, which profiled B. Braun Medical Inc.
The Outstanding Overall Program award went to Lower Macungie Middle School, which profiled B. Braun Medical Inc. –

The Manufacturers Resource Center has announced the winners of this year’s What’s So Cool About Manufacturing” Lehigh Valley Student Video Contest awards. 

A total of 33 middle schools and manufacturers from Carbon, Lehigh, Monroe, and Northampton counties partnered to create videos that answer the question “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing.” 

More than1,000 people attended the awards event Tuesday at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem. 

Over a three-day voting period, the contest, which featured two-minute videos produced by each student team, received 339,663 votes.  

The video with the most votes received the “Viewers Choice Award.”  

The winner was J.T. Lambert Intermediate School, which profiled Ultra-Poly Corp. 

Student videos were also reviewed by a panel of judges for awards in ten other categories, including Outstanding Videography and Outstanding Creativity. 

The Outstanding Overall Program award went to Lower Macungie Middle School, which profiled B. Braun Medical Inc. 

This was the tenth year for the program, which began in the Lehigh Valley and has since expanded throughout the state. 

“Ten years ago, we started work on What’s So Cool about Manufacturing. We hoped to engage and inspire Lehigh Valley students, but could not have imagined that millions would be interested in middle school videos of manufacturing facilities,” says Karen Buck, director of Workforce Initiatives at MRC. “The community has come to expect the information about careers and technology the student teams so diligently spotlight in their educational and creative media messages. We applaud the efforts of the 33 student teams who raised awareness about cool career opportunities and broke all previous voting records.” 

 Other winners were:  

Outstanding Editing: Springhouse Middle School – BlueTriton Brands 

Outstanding Creativity: Bangor Area Middle School – Victaulic Company 

Outstanding Cool: East Hills Middle School – ProtoCAM 

Outstanding Team Spirit: Orefield Middle School – Precision Roll Grinders 

Outstanding Educational Value: Nitschmann Middle School – ABEC 

Outstanding Videography: Northeast Middle School – Stanley Black & Decker 

Outstanding Outreach Plan: Saucon Valley Middle School – Kitchen Magic 

 Outstanding Career Pathway: Trexler Middle School – Lutron Electronics Co., Inc. 

 Outstanding CTE Story: J.T. Lambert Intermediate School – Ultra-Poly Corporation 



B. Braun unveils e-university for health care providers

Bethlehem-based B. Braun Medical Inc., a self-described leader in smart infusion therapy and pain management, has launched B. Braun e-University, an online education platform for health care providers designed to improve clinical practice and patient care.

This user-friendly, web-based platform, accessible across devices, complements B. Braun’s offering of value-added live and virtual clinical and technical training. B. Braun e-University helps providers stay current with education, even during changeover and shortages.

The e-university hosts over 50 on-demand and microlearning video courses covering Infusion Systems, IV Fluids and Irrigation, IV Sets and Access Devices, Vascular Access, Closed System Drug Transfer Devices, Compounding, Drug Preparation and Pain Control. The open platform allows the user a customized learning experience.

Continuing education courses are also accessible through B. Braun e-University.

In addition to the e-university, which focuses on hospital and outpatient markets, B. Braun has collaborated with the Association for Vascular Access to provide free online education on improving Peripheral Intravenous Catheter Insertion for health care schools.

“An ecosystem of robust and continuous online clinical education and training for health care residents, fellows and clinical providers is critically important to improving patient care and experience,” Steve Withers, director of clinical support and services at B. Braun, said in a release. “With our courses, hands-on and virtual trainings and dedicated field-based clinical team, we are committed to supporting the providers who serve patients.”

“Now, more than ever, we need industry partners who can help us close the gaps in education and training,” said Judy Thompson, director of clinical education at the Association for Vascular Access. “B. Braun shows a continuous commitment to this by re-investing in the clinical personnel, tools and technology to deliver best-in-class education.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

We must protect, grow state’s life sciences innovation assets

Imagine a new and improved way to treat glaucoma, or a device that enables heart valve repair without invasive surgery. These are just two of the many life-changing technologies being developed by Pennsylvania life science companies. For residents of the Commonwealth, the positive impact of life sciences companies doesn’t stop there: life sciences innovation is a key economic driver in the Commonwealth.  

More than 3,000 life sciences establishments across Pennsylvania are developing groundbreaking technologies that can solve our most pressing healthcare challenges. They include established companies like GlaxoSmithKline in Philadelphia and B. Braun in the Lehigh Valley as well as smaller startups like Indigo Biosciences in State College and Chromatan in Lower Gwynedd.  

And their contributions to our quality of life extend beyond healthcare. Together the Commonwealth’s life sciences ecosystem has created meaningful jobs for more than 100,000 Pennsylvanians.  

When it comes to life sciences employment, Pennsylvania is punching above its weight. According to a study by KPMG for Life Sciences PA, employment in the sector grew by more than 20% between 2015 and 2020 – outpacing the U.S. average. When you zoom out to include indirect and induced jobs, that number grows by an additional 230,000 jobs. 

Indeed, when you look at key indicators of the strength of the life sciences sector – academic spending on bioscience research, funding from the National Institutes of Health, bioscience-related patents, and venture capital – Pennsylvania ranks in the top quintile nationwide.    

Pennsylvania’s strength in the life sciences is no accident and should not be taken for granted. Advancing health care innovation and capturing the economic benefits is a collaborative effort that requires an active ecosystem of talented individuals, respected research institutions, and a diverse array of companies that vary in scope and size.  

Established life sciences companies are anchors in the ecosystem, but mid-sized firms and startups also merit our attention. Great strides in health care innovation often occur when scientific discovery meets entrepreneurship and a supportive environment.  Any number of Pennsylvania’s emerging companies have the potential to scale and grow to become tomorrow’s life sciences stars. It’s imperative we nurture that spark to innovate and address unmet medical needs, because like human beings, young companies are especially vulnerable during their infancy.  

Fortunately, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has support organizations and programs that do just that – these include groundbreaking programs like the Life Sciences Greenhouses, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and the Keystone Innovation Zones – as well as R&D tax credits. Incubators and entrepreneurship support programs across the state are connecting scientists with the real-world business advice they need. Together, these resources are making a difference.  

As we enter a new year and welcome a new administration and new legislators to Harrisburg, it is critical that Pennsylvania’s longstanding support of the life sciences sector continues. We must protect – and grow – our valuable life sciences innovation assets. As our policy makers and legislators address the challenges and opportunities ahead, it is critical they prioritize life sciences innovation – and its benefits for patients and for the Commonwealth’s economy. 


Michele Washko is President & CEO of Life Sciences Greenhouse Investments, an evergreen venture fund that advances healthcare with early investments in life science technologies.  


LVEDC reports the tale of two Lehigh Valley economies at annual meeting

Don Cunningham, left, president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., Speaks with Jean-Claude Dubacher, CEO and chairman of B Braun during the LVEDC’s annual meeting.


More than 20 area corporate, government and economic development leaders told a tale of two different Lehigh Valley economies over a year that was dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The speakers were part of this year’s virtual LVEDC annual meeting Tuesday,

On one hand, said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., coming off the region’s record-high gross domestic product of $43.3 billion in 2019, “the economic renaissance of the Lehigh Valley continues.”

He said online retailers, manufacturers, food and beverage producers, health care, and other parts of the nation’s supply chain based here boomed, with some reaching sales growth of 30%.

There were 41 major expansion and new development projects in 2020. Among them was the expansion of EchoTech Marine with a new facility in Bethlehem and Bowery Farms building an indoor vertical farm.

Life science research and manufacturing was among the sectors to experience growth over the past 12 months. The year 2020 marked the highest employment in the sector over the last two decades with about 6,300 workers with an average wage of $94,000 per year.

Lehigh Valley life sciences companies kept busy creating products to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, and the LVEDC helped those regional businesses with emergency financing applications, Cunningham said.

Sam Niedbala, founder & CEO of CryoConcepts, was among those who spoke with Cunningham during the annual report. The Lehigh Valley is an appealing location for companies in his sector due to the quality of the workforce and the community’s close connection to the many high-quality colleges and universities in the region, he said.

“We really have become this medical device area with a lot of people who were young when I was young (are now) growing up, becoming experts and now teaching other generations,” Niedbala said. “We’re starting to see the children of our first employees coming on board as employees.”

But while those industries prospered, the hospitality and entertainment industries were stymied by closures and reduced capacity throughout much of 2020.

Many restaurants failed to survive the pandemic and capacity restrictions left many workers on unemployment.

Despite that, industries involved in ecommerce had a difficult time finding enough help even with jobs advertised at $20-plus per hour for low-skilled, new hires.

“The whirlwind of economic headwinds and tailwinds has lifted some, deflated others, and held many in place,” he said. “The dust has yet to settle. If there’s any certainty, it’s that economic life will forever be changed,” Cunningham said.

He said that employment, overall, was a roller coaster ride in 2020.

Total employment in the Lehigh Valley dropped to a low of 322,100 in April, and unemployment reached a historic high of 16.6% that same month, according to the report. By the end of the year, employment had risen to 368,300 and the unemployment rate had dropped to 6.5%.

“The whirlwind of economic headwinds and tailwinds has lifted some, deflated others, and held many in place,” he said. “The dust has yet to settle. If there’s any certainty, it’s that economic life will forever be changed,” Cunningham said.

During the meeting, the LVEDC released its annual report detailing the development and trends in the local economy.

B. Braun receives FDA approval for Acetaminophen Injection

Bethlehem’s B. Braun has received Federal Food & Drug Administration approval for its product that is the first and only Acetaminophen Injection available in multiple doses.

Acetaminophen is used in the management of mild to moderate pain and fever reduction.

Acetaminophen Injection is available in the company’s PAB IV Bags in both 1,000 mg in 100 mL and 500 mg in 50 mL doses.

“With the approval of Acetaminophen Injection, we are pleased to offer healthcare providers a safe, effective and affordable treatment option,” said Angela Karpf, MD, corporate vice president of medical affairs. “The convenient PAB IV container, which is not made with PVC, DEHP or latex, adds another layer of safety for patients, healthcare workers and the environment.”

Braun said its Acetaminophen Injection is manufactured using dual-sourced Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients to mitigate potential supply risks.

“Acetaminophen Injection is the first of multiple injectable drugs B. Braun plans to launch in the coming years to help meet the needs of patients for medications in high demand,” said Leigh Nickens, director of marketing, fluid therapy & injectable drugs.

Braun Medical Inc., a producer of infusion therapy and pain management, develops, manufactures, and markets medical products and services to the healthcare industry.

Workforce Board says job opportunities shifting, but work is available

Nancy Dischinat, executive director of Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, leads an online panel discussion on the region’s employment situation. –


Unemployment may be above 10% in the Lehigh Valley, but there are jobs to be had, said Nancy Dischinat, executive director Workforce Board Lehigh Valley.

The region’s jobs posting site, CareerLink Lehigh Valley has more than 6,000 listings right now and there are more than 123,000 job postings on Pennsylvania’s statewide CareerLink.

“Right now the Lehigh Valley can put 6,134 people back to work, but we need workers,” Dischinat said.

So why is unemployment so high – more than double the 4.5% it was at the end of last year? Dischinat said there are many factors, and the COVID-19 pandemic is at the center of them, causing fears of working outside the home and changes in childcare availability.

The pandemic-related closing of many industries – particularly in the hospitality field – has probably had the largest impact on employment. Many jobs were lost forever because of the pandemic, she said, but more jobs are becoming available every day. The current challenge is getting the people who need jobs the skills they need to fill the jobs that are available and on the horizon.

“We may have lost some jobs for good, but we have many new opportunities that are coming ahead,” said Sara DeSantis, press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.

She said that one of the challenges those in workforce development are facing is that many of the people being displaced by COVID-19 are longtime professionals of a particular industry that aren’t used to being on the job hunt.

“This maybe the first time they’re looking for a job in 20 years,” she said.

So outreach, she said, is vital right now.

The Workforce Board is concentrating on educating those needing work about the jobs that are available, the skills they need to land them and where and how they can get those skills to build a career.

The board launched a number of initiatives – many of them online — to help displaced workers find jobs and job skills, but Dischinat said one of the major new initiatives being launched involves in-person events with area employers.

Starting Oct. 28, the board will host Workforce Wednesdays at its offices on Union Boulevard in Allentown. The first participant will be Bakerly, a French bakery company that opened a baking facility for crepes and brioche rolls in Forks Township in 2017.

“Staffing is very difficult in the Lehigh Valley right now. It’s very competitive,” said Brian Regnier, chief financial officer at Bakerly. He’s hoping the hiring event will help his company find the 40 hourly and several salaried positions his company needs to fill.

Fed Ex and Nestle Waters will be the next participants in the Workforce Wednesdays.

But finding workers is only part of the puzzle, Dischinat said. Because many of the available jobs have new skill sets to those looking for jobs, the education component is key. And that means employers are having to step up to the training table. “The employers are becoming one of the primary training vendors that we have,” she said.

Morten Rasmussen, director of operations and human resources at B. Braun, a manufacturer of medical infusion systems in Bethlehem, said his company is helping workers with potential get the skills they need for careers at the company.

“We need people to fix machines. If you come out of high school and come here we’ll skill you up,” he said. “We need technical skills and we try to grow our own.”

Another effort is to establish a library of career pathways for each employer in the Lehigh Valley that educators can use to help young people find the right direction. “Every school is asking for this,” Dischinat said.

So where are the jobs? Gina Kormanik, business relations director for the board said health care remains the industry with the highest percentage of available jobs at 19%.

She said manufacturing is second at 11% of jobs available.

Retail, an industry that has been going through turmoil in recent months, remains a strong percentage of jobs at 10 percent.

Transportation and warehousing is a growing segment of the employment picture with 10% of the overall jobs available in that area.

Kormanik noted salaries are also on the upswing because of the competition for openings.

The average pay for a manufacturing job is currently $19.68 an hour, but Kormanik is seeing many manufacturers offering salaries as high as $25 to $26 an hour to attract top talent.

B. Braun receives FDA product approval

B. Braun Medical Inc. of Bethlehem said it has received U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval for a new product.

The company has received 510(k) clearance for its SpaceStation MRI, which allow Space infusion pumps to continuously deliver medications to patients within an MRI suite.

The MRI is designed to shield Space infusion pumps against magnetic fields to protect the scanner and provide interference-free images.

Long infusion lines are no longer needed with the product.

“Clearance of the SpaceStation MRI represents a significant development for patients and healthcare providers,” said Angela Karpf, MD, corporate vice president for medical affairs at B. Braun Medical. “It will allow patients to be safely transitioned into the MRI suite without the interruption of infusion therapy since there is no need to switch to an alternative pump.

Complaint: B.Braun exposed neighbors to cancer risk

A class-action lawsuit alleges people living near Allentown’s B.Braun Medical Inc., plant were exposed to large amounts of harmful ethylene oxide gas, putting them at a higher risk of cancer than average.


The suit, filed on behalf of Mourad Abdelaziz and others by Morgan & Morgan, a Philadelphia-based law firm, accuses the medical equipment manufacturer of releasing the colorless, odorless gas from its plant at 901 Marcon Blvd. over several decades. The complaint says those exposed to the gas could be 18 times more likely to develop cancer than the average American.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency classifies ethylene oxide as a carcinogen.

B.Braun’s plant uses large volumes of the gas to sterilize medical equipment, according to the complaint. The gas is then released into the air.

B.Braun could not be reached for comment.

The plaintiffs, who are demanding a jury trial, are seeking compensatory damages, including the cost of a program for medical monitoring and health screenings.

2020 ‘What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?’ voting begins

Greater Lehigh Valley students are looking for your vote in the annual “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” Student Video Contest. The contest, produced by Allentown’s Manufacturers Resource Center, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting manufacturing in Eastern Pennsylvania, will begin accepting votes online on Feb. 19. Voting runs through Feb. 21.


The 2020 video contest encourages students to “explore and get excited about cool manufacturing careers” and to produce profiles of companies throughout Pennsylvania, according to the MRC. Teams of students from area middle and high schools and their teacher coaches receive camera equipment and professional guidance to learn to script, record and edit their video stories.

This year, there are 31 teams competing from the school districts in Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon Counties and the Diocese of Allentown.  Companies partnering with the school teams include Easton’s Crayola, Macungie’s Smooth-On Inc., Nazareth’s C.F. Martin & Co. Inc. and Allentown’s B. Braun Medical Inc.

The Lehigh Valley contest awards show will be broadcast live on WFMZ-TV on Tuesday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m.

To vote and learn more, visit: www.whatsocool.org/contests/lehigh-valley

B. Braun hires new CEO

B. Braun Medical Inc. of Bethlehem said it hired Jean-Claude Dubacher as chairman and CEO effective Jan. 1, 2020. (Submitted) –

B. Braun Medical Inc. of Bethlehem said it hired Jean-Claude Dubacher as chairman and CEO effective Jan. 1, 2020, in a news release.

Dubacher joined B. Braun on Aug. 1 as president. He will take over for the medical device manufacturer’s current chairman and CEO, Caroll Neubauer.

“Jean-Claude’s broad leadership experience across multiple therapy areas and business disciplines will serve us well at B. Braun,” said Neubauer in the release. “His focus on customers and supporting people to be successful in developing, manufacturing, marketing, and selling products and services that benefit patients is exactly the right approach to ensure our ongoing growth.”

Dubacher’s experience in the health care industry spans more than 15 years in consulting and corporate roles, including strategy, commercial, supply chain and manufacturing.

Before joining B. Braun, he led commercial operations for the surgical ophthalmology division of Johnson & Johnson in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Dubacher holds a Ph.D. in law from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

“I am excited to be part of the B. Braun family, and look forward to continuing our long legacy of partnering with customers and stakeholders across the health care industry to help make a difference for the millions of patients we serve across the U.S. and Canada,” Dubacher said in the release.

After living in locations including the United States, Puerto Rico, Germany, and Spain, the Dubacher family recently settled in the Lehigh Valley. Dubacher was not immediately available for comment.

Braun, a German-owned company, develops and sells infusion therapy and pain management devices, products and passive safety devices.

With operations in 60 nations, the company’s global headquarters are in Melsungen, Germany. In the United States, B. Braun’s primary manufacturing facilities are on Marcon Boulevard in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, and in Irvine, Calif.

Its North American headquarters building is in Bethlehem.

An attorney, Neubauer began with B. Braun in 1988 in Melsungen, where he was a legal assistant to the chairman, CEO and owner of the company, Ludwig Georg Braun.