First Commonwealth announces plans to merge withBellco Federal Credit Union

Trexlertown-based First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union has announced that it has plans to merge with Bellco Federal Credit Union in Wyomissing. 

First Commonwealth serves members throughout the Lehigh Valley, Bellco has locations throughout Central Pennsylvania. 

The two credit unions have agreed to the merger pending the approval of the National Credit Union and Bellco’s Membership. 

The credit unions, when merged, will do business as First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union, and will have combined assets of more than $1.3 billion and over 92,000 members across 14 branch locations.  

“As a member-owned community financial cooperative, our members are our top priority. By joining forces with First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union, our members will have access to additional products and services, and a growing network of financial centers and ATMs/ITMs across the Lehigh Valley, Warren County, New Jersey and Berks County,” said Tom Gosling, Bellco Federal Credit Union’s president and CEO. “Bellco’s community impact will be amplified through First Commonwealth’s ‘We Thrive Foundation’, Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives, and volunteerism.” 

It’s expected that, with approval, the merger will be complete in the first half of 2024. 


Bed Bath & Beyond stores closing in Lehigh Valley, central Pa.

Bed Bath & Beyond store locations in the Lehigh Valley and central Pennsylvania have commenced closing. 

The liquidation event for 11 Pennsylvania locations and 360 stores nationally is being handled by Hilco Merchant Resources, Gordon Brothers, Tiger Capital Group, and B. Riley Retail Solutions in connection with the commencement of chapter 11 bankruptcy petitions and wind down of Bed Bath & Beyond, Inc. 

Store locations closing in Pennsylvania include Easton, Exton, Harrisburg, and Lancaster. 

Hilco Merchant Resources is a division of Hilco Global, and the company announced in a press release that buybuy Baby store locations in Lansdale and Whitehall are among 120 locations across the U.S. that are closing. 

A spokesperson for the liquidation event said in a statement that it is “an opportunity to save on household items or to stock up on baby essentials at discounted prices.” 

Shoppers can take advantage of discounts ranging from 10% to 30% off the lowest ticketed prices on a variety of home, baby, beauty, and wellness products at Bed Bath & Beyond and buybuy Baby stores. 

The Bed Bath & Beyond sales event offers a selection of home goods with discounts across all household items, including bedding, bath, décor, window curtains, furniture, kitchenware, cookware, small appliances, cleaning tools, storage, and organization solutions in addition to personal care items, luggage, and additional items. 

The buybuy BABY sale provides infant and toddler essentials from leading brands, including nursery furniture, cribs, bassinets, play yards, activity sets, strollers, car seats, travel gear, bouncers, swings, nursing and feeding supplies, clothing and accessories, bath products, diaper solutions, health and safety products, toys, and more. 

Select fixtures, furnishings and equipment will also be available for sale in closing locations. Gift cards, merchandise credits, and loyalty rewards will be honored through May 8. 

Hilco Global noted on it site that all sales are final during the store closing event. Returns and exchanges for items purchased prior to April 26, will be accepted in accordance with usual policies through close of business on Wednesday, May 24.

Coldwell Banker Realty president extends leadership position

Extending his leadership position as president of Coldwell Banker Realty in Central Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Del., Richard Fleischer is overseeing the daily operations of the company’s 11 offices which support approximately 850 affiliated agents in nine counties. 

Fleischer’s responsibilities also include overseeing 27 offices and 2,500 affiliated agents as president for Coldwell Banker Realty in the Mid-Atlantic region. 

Coldwell Banker Realty in Central Pennsylvania serves Berks, Cumberland, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lebanon, York, Franklin, and Perry counties. The company’s corporate offices are based in Conshohocken. 

“Rich is an outstanding leader with a strong history of supporting top-producing agents while also growing operations and sales volume,” said Marie Gayo, executive vice president of the Mid-Atlantic Region for Coldwell Banker Realty’s company-owned operations. 

“Coldwell Banker Realty in Central Pennsylvania and Wilmington, Delaware is well positioned for continued growth under Rich’s leadership.” 

Fleischer previously served as the regional vice president of Coldwell Banker Realty in Florida, the state’s largest residential brokerage. He managed operations for the East Central region, overseeing 25 branch and satellite offices in the Orlando metro and on the Atlantic coast. Fleischer doubled the productivity of the sales offices, grew the region organically and increased profitability. 

Fleischer’s career with Coldwell Banker began in 2004 and he has held various leadership roles with the company. He has managed numerous teams and divisions in various real estate sectors throughout the U.S.

Lehigh Valley, Central Pa. projects receive new funding for clean transportation

Lehigh Valley  and central Pennsylvania are among the regions hosting projects that were awarded funding Tuesday from the Shapiro Administration for clean transportation. 

In Dauphin County, Aero Corp. is receiving $300,000 for six DC fast chargers at Harrisburg International Airpoirt for Aero’s fleet of rental electric vehicles. The chargers will also be available to other car rental companies. 

In Northampton County, Bethlehem Parking Authority has been awarded $15,000 for two electric cars for parking enforcement. 

The state’s Highland Electric Fleets has been granted $75,000 for 10 electric vans and $225,000 for 20 DC fast chargers. 

In all, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) awarded a total of $1.5 million in 2022 Alternative Fuels Incentive Grant (AFIG) funding to help the state’s businesses, municipalities, and schools switch to clean transportation and improve air quality. 

DEP Acting Secretary Rich Negrin said in a statement that the Shapiro Administration is committed to growing Pennsylvania’s economy while protecting the state’s constitutional right to clean air and pure water. 

“A growing number of organizations and businesses in Pennsylvania want to lower their transportation emissions,” said Negrin. “Today’s announcement demonstrates a shared commitment between the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and our local communities and businesses to improve air quality, address climate change, and increase the use of renewable energy across the Commonwealth.” 

The AFIG program aids businesses, municipalities, and nonprofit organizations in the use of clean transportation to replace older gasoline or diesel fueled vehicles. Recipients of this grant will replace 88 old gas or diesel vehicles with 78 electric and 10 renewable natural gas vehicles and install 36 chargers for electric vehicles. 

Gasoline and diesel vehicles currently generate 47% of nitrogen oxides emissions in Pennsylvania, contributing to ground-level ozone that affects the health of children, older people, people who work or are active outdoors, and people with asthma, emphysema, or other lung conditions. 

In all, the transportation sector comprises 22% of Pennsylvania’s greenhouse gas emissions. 

Putting additional zero- and low-emission vehicles on Pennsylvania roads is aimed at reducing harmful air pollutants and lowering the level of carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases heating the climate. 

Pa. Senate bills focus on firefighter shortage, Lemon Law, farmers

The Pennsylvania Senate Wednesday passed key legislation, which will now move to the House of Representatives for consideration. 

The approved bills target the state’s volunteer firefighter shortage, update the state’s Automobile Lemon Law, and make it easier for farmers to deliver products to homes and businesses. 

Senate Bill 114, sponsored by Sen. Michelle Brooks (R-Crawford/Lawrence/Mercer) addresses the severe shortage of firefighters by creating a pilot program for community colleges and universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to provide training in firefighting to interested high school students. 

Pennsylvania currently has fewer than 37,000 volunteer firefighters, a severe drop from the 300,000 the state listed in the 1970s. 

The bill is aimed at awarding three grants of $150,000 each to three community colleges of PASSHE schools. One grant would be for the eastern part of the state, another for Central Pennsylvania, and the third for the state’s western part.  

Brooks said in a statement she added the regional components to the bill to ensure equal access to the pilot program. Having grants covering three regions also eases the time burden and expense Pennsylvanians would face by having to travel across the state to participate in the program. 

“Our volunteer firefighter community is struggling with both recruitment and retention of the heroes who respond at a moment’s notice to protect our families and communities,” said Brooks. “There are more demands on our firefighters than ever before, and this legislation builds on my continued efforts to help address the challenges our emergency responders are facing.” 

Brooks also reintroduced Senate Bill 155, which seeks to add motorcycles to vehicles protected by the state’s Automobile Lemon Law. The bill passed through the Senate Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure committee and heads to the Senate floor for consideration. 

The Lemon Law protects against manufacturer defects that diminish the safety, use, or value of a newly purchased vehicle. Under the law, defects must have occurred within warranty terms, 12 months from the date the vehicle is delivered to the purchaser, or within 12,000 miles driven. 

However, similar protections are not offered to those who purchase motorcycles, leaving the owner to either pay out of pocket to repair potentially dangerous manufacturing defects or fix the problem themselves,” Brooks said. “Last session, this legislation was revised and strengthened, thanks to the combined efforts of ABATE, motorcycle manufacturers and dealers, and other important stakeholders.” 

Currently, Pennsylvania’s Lemon Law applies to personal vehicles and not to motorcycles, motorhomes, commercial vehicles, or off-road vehicles. Motorcycles would be added as protected vehicles in Brooks’ bill. They would be eligible for refund or replacement within the warranty terms or 12 months of delivery, whichever occurred first. 

The Senate also approved Bill 95 to enable farmers who have a farm vehicle registration plate to deliver milk and agricultural products to residents’ homes or businesses. 

The legislation was introduced by Sen. Wayne Langerholc (R-Cambria/Centre/Clearfield), who emphasized that farmers are essential to the state’s economy and livelihood. 

“With the growing demand for at-home delivery services, farmers deserve our support – not bureaucratic red tape,” said Langerholc. “This bill will help farmers meet the rising demand for farm products delivered to homes and businesses, while giving consumers the opportunity to enjoy our state’s agricultural products with a more convenient method.” 

Current law limits farmers from transporting products from their farm to a home residence. While the vehicle code allows for home deliveries via a commercial vehicle registration, it also prevents the commercial vehicle from being registered as a farm vehicle. 

Farmers are thus required to purchase, register, and maintain a separate commercial vehicle for at-home delivery, while also maintaining a farm vehicle to deliver agricultural commodities to places of business. 

Langerholc’s legislation streamlines the home delivery of milk and other agricultural products and has the support of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau. 

“With one less burdensome requirement, farmers can focus on what matters most – feeding Pennsylvania,” Pennsylvania Farm Bureau said in a statement.

CTCs in Lehigh Valley, Central Pa. awarded grants to purchase new equipment

Career Technical Centers in the Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania are among the 33 CTCs and two school districts to receive competitive grants to purchase new equipment aligned to training students in high-demand occupations. 

Awarded by the Wolf Administration, the grants total $1.2 million in career and technical education equipment. The funding was announced Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). 

CTCs in the Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania received approximately $300,000 in grants. 

“Career and technical centers continually provide excellent educational and professional opportunities for students across the commonwealth,” Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty said in a statement. “Investing in career readiness and career exploration is a priority for PDE, and we encourage recipients to utilize this funding to enhance and expand these learning programs, which will help students excel in their chosen fields.” 

More than 80 CTCs in Pennsylvania offer a combination of classes and hands-on learning in programs approved by the PDE. Students can earn industry credentials or certifications for local jobs in high demand. 

Area awardees and their funding amounts include the following: 

  • Adams County – Adams County Technical Institute, $47,500. 
  • Berks County – Berks CTC, $23,229. 
  • Cumberland County – Cumberland Perry Area Career & Technical Center, $26,935. 
  • Dauphin County – Dauphin County Technical School, $50,000. 
  • Lancaster County – Lancaster County Technical School, $50,000. 
  • Lehigh County – Lehigh Career & Technical School, $50,000. 
  • York County – York Co. School of Technology, $50,000. 

The maximum grant under the program is $50,000, and every grant must be matched dollar-for-dollar from a local source, which can include local school funds or contributions from business and industry partners. 

CBRE names Beares to lead regional market

Rija Beares –

CBRE has named Rija Beares to lead its Greater Philadelphia Region, which includes both the Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania in addition to downtown and suburban Philadelphia, Delaware and Southern New Jersey.

In her new role as advisory services market leader, Beares will be responsible for driving the company’s growth strategy in the region and leading the company’s advisory services business including leasing, sales, valuations, debt and structured finance and property management.

“After a thorough review process, Rija emerged as the clear choice to take the Philadelphia business into the future,” said Michael Caffey, regional president for CBRE’s North Region. “Not only is she highly regarded as a leasing professional by her peers and clients, she is also well respected for her leadership qualities, work ethic and her ability to manage complex situations with aplomb.”

Beares joined CBRE in 2002, advising institutional and entrepreneurial owners in structuring lease transactions and developing lease-up strategies.

In 2010 she began focusing exclusively on representing corporate occupiers of real estate. She also served as the leader of CBRE’s technology and Media practice for the Greater Philadelphia region.

She will be based out of Radnor.

Pa. manufacturers cautious as coronavirus spreads

Fuling Plastics in Upper Macungie Township is owned by the China-based Fuling Global. PHOTO/FILE –

Manufacturers in the Greater Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania are keeping a close eye on China.

With ongoing production and supply chain shutdowns there due to the coronavirus, now officially named COVID19 by the World Health Organization, any company that has manufacturing facilities in China, or purchases vital components from that part of the world, could be impacted by the disease’s spread.

“Everybody is very concerned,” said Richard Hobbs, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Resource Center in Upper Macungie Township. “But, it’s not a complete story by any means. No one knows how quickly it will spread or how far it will spread.”

He noted that many manufacturers in the region have connections to China.

Fuling Plastic USA in Upper Macungie, for example, is owned by China-based Fuling Global.

Solar Technologies Inc. in Upper Macungie gets many of its component parts from China.

Bracalente Manufacturing in Trumbaursville has a manufacturing facility in China. So does Lancaster-based Armstrong Flooring Inc., which said operations have been affected in China as the company works to protect its employees from the virus.

“We’ve implemented travel restrictions to and from China,” said Steve Trapnell, communications manager for Armstrong. “We’ve been complying with government regulations, including delaying employees’ return from the Lunar New Year due to travel restrictions. Some employees are working remotely.”

The company it is also working to send additional health and safety supplies to its employees in China, he said.

Due to concern about the coronavirus, Armstrong Flooring in Lancaster County imposed travel restrictions to and from China.

Phoenix Contact USA in Lower Swatara Township, near Harrisburg, manufactures industrial connection and automation technologies. Frank Stührenberg, chairman of the company’s board of directors, said in a letter that it is keeping a close eye on the situation in China.

“It is still too early to be able to predict all the effects this may have on supply chains. We are, however, confident that these effects will initially be limited to production downtimes in China, and restrictions in the flow of goods from and to China,” he said.

Precautions include a ban in place on any Phoenix Contact employee traveling to China and employees in the Greater China region are currently banned from traveling to other countries on business.

The company also extended the closure of its facility in Nanjing, which had been closed due to the Chinese New Year celebrations, as it does each year.

Hobbs said the manufacturers he has spoken with told him that they haven’t seen any impact yet on production and supply chain delays in China. However, if the virus continues its spread, most believe it’s a matter of when, not if, the impact will be felt by manufacturers in Pennsylvania.

Stührenberg believes any effects caused by the downtimes in China, won’t become noticeable until the end of February.

Phoenix can obtain parts from other providers if needed, to prevent any supply-chain bottlenecks, he said.

The impact for most manufactures in the region that use China-made components will depend on how much they rely on a particular manufacturer, Hobbs said.

“If a company is tied to a product coming out of China and there aren’t alternate locations that can provide substitutions, that’s going to be trouble,” he said. “It can have a pretty significant trickle-down effect.”

Prologis acquires Liberty Property Trust for $12.6B

Liberty Property Trust, a major commercial real estate company with a corporate office in Bethlehem, is now officially apart of Prologis Inc. of San Francisco. (PHOTO/SUBMITTED)

Liberty Property Trust, a major commercial real estate company in the region is now a part of Prologis Inc. of San Francisco.

Liberty announced in October that it was being acquired by Prologis in a $12.6 billion all-stock deal. The transaction closed today.

Liberty, which has been operating since 1972 and has a corporate office in Bethlehem, specializes in the ownership, development, acquisition and leasing of buildings in logistics markets.

Liberty has a 26-million-square-foot industrial portfolio in Pennsylvania, many of them properties throughout Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania.

According to its website, Prologis leases modern logistics facilities to a diverse base of approximately 5,000 customers principally across two major categories: business-to-business and retail/online fulfillment.

As of Dec. 31, 2019, the company owned or had investments in, on a wholly owned basis or through co-investment ventures, properties and development projects expected to total approximately 814 million square feet in 19 countries.