Developers to celebrate half-way point of Boyd redevelopment

The redevelopment of one of Bethlehem’s most iconic sites is getting a party to help give the community an update on its progress. 

The public is invited to a party celebrating the Boyd Theater construction project on Broad Street on Sunday, Sept. 10. 

Bethlehem business owners hope the event will give them a boost while construction crews complete the construction project.  

“While we are thrilled to see the Boyd project come together and look forward to its opening, the process has been challenging for Broad Street business owners. Some people say the construction makes it look like the area is closed, but Broad Street and its businesses are very much open,” said Tammy Wendling the senior vice president of Bethlehem initiatives for the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.  

The event will include musical entertainment and nearby businesses including Joe’s Tavern, Luxurious Seduction Spa and La Casa Del Sandwich will be offering specials. 

Representatives from Monacacy Builders will also be at the event to talk about the project.  

“It’s such an exciting opportunity for the public to meet the people bringing the Boyd back to life,” said Wendling. 

Developers said construction is nearing its midway point and now is a good time to celebrate. 

They plan to soon hoist up the theater’s iconic red marquis to pay tribute to the property’s former Boyd Theater, which served as a symbol of Bethlehem’s cultural heritage for more than 80 years. 

While the façade of the six-story building will reflect the city’s industrial heritage, theater memorabilia will be presented among interior public spaces, such as a vintage projector and chandelier, theater seats, photos, and more.  

When completed, the building will have 204 apartments and will feature underground parking, a pool, courtyard, and 5,000 square feet of commercial space.  

Construction is expected to be complete in the fall of 2024. 

The event at 30 Broad St., Bethlehem will be held from 11a.m.-3 p.m., with live music from 12-2 p.m. 

Luxury dog resort opening in Bethlehem Township

Families that like to pamper their pooch have a new boarding and day care option in the Lehigh Valley. 

Deb and Costas Hrousis have opened a franchise location of K9 Resorts Luxury Pet Hotel of Bethlehem at 3986 Township Line Road in Bethlehem Township. 

“There really is nothing else around like this,” said Deb Hrousis, who is holding a grand opening at the doggie hotel on Saturday. She said it provides a level of luxury one doesn’t normally find in pet care facilities. 

Walking into the Canine Resort it’s easy to spot the difference. The décor looks more like a fancy hotel than a dog boarding facility. 

From the crown molding and chandeliers to the gold accent décor, pet owners will know they’re taking their dog to a place of luxury. 

Hrousis admitted that part of the luxury amenities may be lost on the dogs that are staying there. 

“The dogs don’t notice the decor, but they definitely notice the pampering,” she said. 

She said beyond looking like a fancy hotel, the Canine Resort offers spa-like treatments like gourmet treats, baths and perfume. 

She said any dog staying more than two nights will get the full bath experience. 

“You don’t want to come back to a stinky dog. And they will be stinky because they’re going to play,” she said. 

There are also more play options offered at the Canine Resort. Besides the normal group play, they also offer one-on-one play for dogs who prefer human friends over dog friends. 

She said this is ideal for dogs that may not be spayed or neutered, shy dogs, or service dogs, like police K-9s. 

“Some dogs would just rather play with humans than other dogs,” she said. 

Hrousis said the Canine Resort also boasts hospital-level cleanliness including contestant sanitizing and a hospital level air-filtration system to make sure the dogs staying there stay healthy. 

As one might expect, the luxury resort does cost a bit more than a standard dog day care and boarding facility, but Hrousis said they aren’t catering exclusively to the rich pet pamperers. 

“It is a luxury experience and environment, but we are really just slightly higher in price than other facilities,” she said. “We’re not just for high income families, but for families that want to take exceptional care for their pet.” 

Musikfest attendance sets record with 1.33M visitors

With 457 performers from 26 states and eight countries Musikfest managed to set a record for attendance as it celebrated its 40th year. 

The music and arts festival, which spans Bethlehem, attracted 1.33 million people to the city. 

“The biggest news for Musikfest 2023 is of course record-setting attendance numbers,” said Kassie Hilgert, president and CEO of ArtsQuest.  

She said those 1.33 million people came from 46 states including the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and ten countries including Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Cuba, Germany, Mexico, Spain, Senegal, Sweden and The United Kingdom.  

“We celebrated with residents and visitors from near and far for this annual event that just keeps getting better year after year. I’m honored to be a part of such an amazing organization that includes just over 1,0000 Musikfest volunteers, who without their help, Musikfest wouldn’t happen.”   

While Hilgert didn’t have totals yet on how much revenue the festival brought to the Lehigh Valley this year, the event was expected to generate more than $70 million in direct and indirect revenue for the region. 

Lehigh Valley hospital claims top ranking in Pa.

Bethlehem-based St. Luke’s Hospital is No. 1 in Pennsylvania for social responsibility, according to the 2023-24 Lown Institute Hospitals Index. 

Metrics such as community benefit and racial inclusivity are utilized by Lown to rank institutions across the country. St. Luke’s ranked sixth nationally. 

St. Luke’s University Health Network earned an ‘A’ in social responsibility, ranking 12th nationally out of nearly 300 health systems, and each of the Network’s hospitals also earned an ‘A.’ 

“These recognitions are a credit to St. Luke’s 19,000 employees, reflecting the unique St. Luke’s culture and our employee’s unwavering commitment to our communities St. Luke’s serves,” St. Luke’s President and CEO Rick Anderson said in a statement. 

The Lown Hospitals Index for Social Responsibility is the only ranking to include metrics of health equity and value of care alongside patient outcomes, creating a holistic view of hospitals as total community partners. The 2023-24 Lown Index evaluated hospitals on over 50 measures for more than 3,600 hospitals nationwide. Data sources include Medicare fee-for-service and Medicare Advantage claims, CMS patient safety data and hospital cost reports, and IRS 990 forms, among others. 

Lown named St. Luke’s Bethlehem and Monroe campuses to its Honor Roll hospitals. Only 54 hospitals nationwide earned Honor Roll status. Honor Roll hospitals are those that earn straight ‘A’ grades across all categories in the index’s top measures – social responsibility, health equity, value of care, and patient outcomes. 

St. Luke’s established a Community Health Department more than 25 years ago. Since then, the department has developed long-term partnerships with community-based organizations, government, and business partners. Initiatives include early childhood education, school-based programming, adolescent career development, workforce development and food security as well as physical and mental health care. 

“When communities have access to socially responsible healthcare, our nation grows stronger,” said Vikas Saini, president of the Lown Institute. “That’s why it’s so important to hold up these high-performing hospitals as examples for others to follow.” 

In April, Lown ranked St. Luke’s the No. 1 health system in Pennsylvania for charitable giving. The institute reported that St. Luke’s is the only health system in the Lehigh Valley with a “fair share” surplus, meaning it spends more on charity and community investment than it receives in tax breaks.

Ben Franklin announces latest investments

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania has announced its latest round of investments.

It is investing $675,000 in support of regional economic development. Seven companies, including six technology startups and one established manufacturer, received funding.

Among the investments Ben Franklin is making are a number of early-stage company investments including $50,000 to Cemboo of Reading.

Cemboo is a Software-as-a-Service distribution platform that provides digital library owners with the ability. To control, monetize and distribute their content while maintaining ad revenue.

OptoVibronex, which is located in Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem, is receiving $100,000.

OptoVibronex is a life science startup developing a non-invasive technique that will offer physicians a faster way to diagnose diseases and track the effectiveness of treatments in fields such as skin cancer, ophthalmology, breast cancer, wound healing, dermatology, orthopedics, neurology, and vascular surgery. The investment supports completing clinical trials, publishing findings, and applying for Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval.

Ben Franklin Northeast announced $300,000 in early-stage company investments as part of the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI). These projects were financed [in part] from Pennsylvania Small Business Credit Initiative funds from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Community and Economic Development.

Among the recipients is UBMe of Bethlehem, which is receiving $100,000.

UBMe is a web and mobile application that provides end-to-end experience management for events. The platform incorporates event discovery, ticketing, food and merchandise sales, and a social media element to keep people engaged while at the event. The investment supports product development and customer acquisition among restaurants, event organizers, and higher education.

Ben Franklin Northeast announces $25,000 in investments in established manufacturers, which is provided in 1:1 matching funding for work with a college or university partner.

Follett of Easton, a manufacturer of ice storage bins, ice storage and transport systems, ice machines, ice and water dispensers, ice and beverage dispensers, will use the funds for reparation for an Enterprise Resource System (ERP) system upgrade by analyzing current processes, establishing system level requirements, identifying opportunities to implement digital process improvement, and helping to build a foundation for change management.

Follett will partner with Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Research on this project.

Easton to serve as site for new four-story hotel

Staff Reports

CMG of Easton, Inc. along with Steel Hospitality, will host a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday at 3 p.m. for the construction of a new Woodspring Suites hotel.

The 122-room, four-story hotel at 300 Trolley Line Drive will be the next project in the development of the Charles Chrin Interchange off Routh 33 in Easton. CMG will construct the 11-month project with the expectation of a summer 2024 ribbon cutting.

CMG celebrated its 45th anniversary last February. In 2018 CMG completed the Candlewood Suites near Bethlehem’s Wind Creek Casino, also for Steel Hospitality.

Lehigh Valley’s economic development impresses Silicon Valley leadership

Ranking second in the U.S. in 2022 for new economic development projects among mid-sized regions helps make the Lehigh Valley a unique and inspirational story, according to U.S. Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif. 

The Philadelphia native and Silicon Valley congressman visited the Lehigh Valley recently to learn more about its economic transformation, and its developing of a diverse manufacturing sector making food and beverages, technology, medical equipment, and consumer goods. 

Khanna said in a release that he could “feel the prosperity within like a minute of coming into a town compared to other places.” 

Having authored books on the importance of U.S. manufacturing in relation to the economy and the need to create additional jobs in technology, Khanna is seeking to develop a national strategy for economic development. He joined in a 90-minute roundtable discussion on June 28 held in Bethlehem’s Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. (LVEDC). The discussion was part of Khanna’s three-day tour of Pennsylvania and Ohio. 

Citing the Lehigh Valley’s economic development, Khanna said it’s important to find how to have the same kind of economic strategy in other parts of the country. 

Rep. Susan Wild, D-Allentown/Bethlehem/Easton/Bangor, joined Khanna and leaders from business, education, labor, municipal government, regional organizations, and workforce development. The group spoke about the factors making the Lehigh Valley economy a prosperous one, and what they needed from the federal government to grow manufacturing and technology jobs. 

“I just am so proud of this area, and just how advanced we are, and how we are just really lighting the world on fire, if you ask me, when it comes to manufacturing and tech and that kind of thing,” Wild said. 

The roundtable discussion noted the correlation between economic prosperity and quality of life. A collective $8.4 billion in annual output from the region is generated by more than 750 manufacturers. That total amounts to 18% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the region. Manufacturing on a national level represents 12% of the GDP. 

Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC, said the Lehigh Valley sees economic development as a collaboration involving the public and private sectors. He said the region benefits from its close location to Philadelphia and New York City and pointed out its growing population and career and education system. 

Probably our biggest challenges today are the ramifications of success 20, 25 years ago,” Cunningham said. 

Population growth and increased business and development has led to added traffic and a demand for housing that increases prices. Wild said there are companies that would be interested in the Lehigh Valley but may be concerned about the lack of housing. 

Khanna and Wild were asked by officials from B. Braun Medical and Tyber Medical to pass legislation rescinding a tax code change that took effect in 2022. As it now stands, the cost of development must be deducted over five years, rather than being deductible in total immediately. 

“So, we spend the money all in one year to develop new products, grow and gain, and now it is not deductible, and it’s only deductible one-fifth a year. Well, that’s creating massive tax bills for us,” said Damien Sibilla, chief financial officer at Tyber Medical in Bethlehem.

To focus on ensuring that regions have an adequate and skilled workforce, Cunningham said economic development strategies must evolve, with help from policymakers. He noted that some states, cities, and regions have gotten creative and developed financial incentives for people who relocate for employment.

Cunningham said immigration policy is critical when it comes to building a labor pool.

“Every economic boom in American history has been fueled by immigration,” Cunningham said. “It seems to me, the only thing we talk about in the U.S. is the southern border and illegal immigration. We don’t talk about a broader immigration policy.”

Participants in the roundtable were: Khanna; Wild; Cunningham; Sibilla, Chief Financial Officer at Tyber Medical; Matt Tuerk, Mayor of Allentown; Sunny Ghai, Upper Macungie Township supervisor and business leader; Dan McCarthy, Lehigh Valley Partnership Secretary and LVEDC Board Member; Michael Cacace, Vice President of Corporate Tax at B. Braun Medical; Angelo Valletta, President and CEO of Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania;  Paul Anthony, business manager and financial secretary of IBEW Local Union #375 and LVEDC Board Member; Andy Hammer, Executive Director of the SkillsUSA Council for the Lehigh Valley; and Karianne Gelinas, Vice President of Regional Partnerships & Talent.

Bethlehem company Strahman Holdings sold to Ohio firm

Bethlehem-based Strahman Holdings Inc., a leading manufacturer of washdown equipment, sampling valves and valve automation products to the pharmaceutical, food and beverage, and industrial end-markets, was acquired by Flow Control Holdings.

Terms of the deal were undisclosed. Strahman will continue to operate out of its Lehigh Valley headquarters.

FCH is a portfolio company of Audax Private Equity and a leading provider of sanitary-flow components to the pharmaceutical, food and beverage end markets.

“We are thrilled to welcome the Strahman business and team to FCH,” Scott Kerns, CEO of the Cincinnati-based firm, said in a release. “Strahman has an impressive line of products and a strong track record of innovation in the U.S. dairy and washdown markets. The entire Strahman lineup is complementary to our offering of flow control components and, in particular, we are excited about adding the Strahman brand of washdown equipment to the FCH portfolio.”

Kerns added: “We are impressed with both the manufacturing capabilities at Strahman’s Bethlehem headquarters and the caliber of the team leading and operating the business,” Kerns added. “Strahman expands our already strong product portfolio in the sanitary flow control market, enhances our value proposition to customers, and aligns with our strategic growth plans.”

Strahman’s CEO, Jeff Graby, will stay on temporarily to assist with the transition. The remaining leadership team and personnel will maintain their current roles as part of the expanded FCH team. “Strahman is a great strategic fit with FCH,” Graby said. “I’m proud of what we have accomplished and excited about what’s next for our team as part of FCH.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer