Neffs National Bank honored for PPP loan work

Neffs National Bank’s Michail Georgevic, commercial loan portfolio manager; Greta Mast, vice president of commercial lending; and Marianne Eisenhauer, vice president of commercial lending & credit administration at the Pennsylvania Association of Community Banker’s Inspire Awards. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

When the COVID-19 pandemic started, Neffs National Bank wasn’t an active Small Business Administration lender.

But, after a short learning curve that quickly changed and now the bank has been honored for its work in helping people obtain SBA Payroll Protection Program (PPP) loans by the Pennsylvania Association of Community Bankers.

The bank received the organization’s Inspire Award for coming to the aid of the small businesses it serves in the community.

Marianne Eisenhauer, vice president of commercial lending & credit administration for Neffs, said the bank is proud of the way it was able to help so many small businesses, and gain customers in the process.

“Our phones were ringing off the hook with current customers asking us to help them with the PPP,” she  said.

The problem was that bank’s staff wasn’t familiar with the SBA lending process used for the forgivable loans. “It was challenging because we had to learn the process,” she said. “We had to find a way to get up and running and provide those loans to our customers.”

Once they were able to figure the process out, the bank’s lenders worked directly with small-business owners to help them to obtain the loans and make it an easier process.

She said many of the bigger banks weren’t offering such hands on service, so some of their current customers recommended Neffs to other business owners to get the help they needed. Because the bank was working directly with the SBA and not a third party vendor, they were able to get the money to their customers quickly.

“It was a lot of work, but in the end we got a lot of new customers because of it,” Eisenhauer said.

In all, Neffs helped obtain 370 loans for community businesses to help them maintain payroll and stay in business during the shutdown. One of those companies was a community pharmacy that used its PPP loan to keep its employees on payroll and a few months later were providing COVID vaccines in community.

A Conversation With: Loren Speziale of Gross McKinley LLP in Allentown

Loren Speziale –

Gross McKinley Attorney Loren Speziale serves diverse clients across many sectors including nonprofit, banking, manufacturing, wedding & entertainment and the equine industry. 

LVB: Many companies and governmental agencies are talking about vaccine mandates. What are the legal implications of that?

Speziale: It’s the same type of issues we’ve seen since this discussion started. You’re going to have some persons within the organization that have health issues or seriously held religious issues that would seek an accommodation. You have to see whether you can accommodate them or not, whether that’s having them work from home or some other type of arrangement where they’re out of your workplace.

However, if you feel you have to terminate them you will have to consider the implications of a discrimination lawsuit.

LVB: With the COVID-19 infection rates going back up again, what are some of the legal liabilities companies should be concerned about?

Speziale: We know that OSHA came out with specific recommendations on how employers are handling employees within the workplace between both vaccinated and unvaccinated employees, giving a safe space especially for those who are immunocompromised or are not yet vaccinated.

Workers compensation is also a consideration, because if the virus is contracted by an employee in the workplace then that’s an issue.

LVB: What is your best advice to make sure a company is meeting the legal requirements to keep employees and clients safe from infection?

Speziale: Look at your specific work place and what you are capable of doing based on your type of business and the interactions between your staff and customers. Implement any safety protocols you can put in place to protect them.

It’s important to enforce those protocols uniformly and employees should be able to come to you to talk about any concerns they may have.

The most important thing is keeping on top of the recommendations. They’re changing quickly. Yesterday [July 27] the CDC made changes to its recommendation on wearing a mask indoors.

Pennsylvania lifted its mask mandate in June but that could change. This is going to be an ongoing process.

LVB: With the constantly changing infection rates and variants, how often do you think a company should review its policies on COVID-19 safety?

Speziale: I think that a company needs to first and foremost stay up to date on a daily basis with regards to recommendations from the CDC and local departments of health. As they see changes occurring or as they see changes or updates that indicate further restrictions may be coming down the road they need start making policy changes so they’re not scrambling at the last minute.

Just Born shares impact of $100k COVID-19 donation

Just Born’s headquarters in Bethlehem. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

Just Born Quality Confections of Bethlehem donated $100,000 to local charities that helped at-risk communities with food, shelter and education in addition to its normal annual charitable giving, the company announced.

Half of the money went to the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s COVID-19 Community Response Fund, used to strengthen safety-net services for those impacted by the pandemic. The fund, supported by 22 other corporate partners and many individual donors, focused on strengthening food access, housing, income support and mental health services.

The collaborative fund provided 65 nonprofits much-needed funding in the earliest days of the pandemic.

The remaining $50,000 was donated to a variety of additional nonprofit organizations who provided access to food, housing and education. They included:

  • The Northeast Community Center, which purchased an industrial freezer and refrigerator, increasing the amount of food they’re able to distribute by 191%.
  • The Bethlehem Branch of the Greater Valley YMCA, which served more than 50,000 free meals to children, families and seniors through its Family Emergency Meal Program.

All totaled, the $100,000 contribution provided more than a million meals to nearly 16,000 families throughout the Lehigh Valley.

“As a family-owned company that has been part of the Lehigh Valley for decades, Just Born knows it can only thrive if our community thrives as well,” said Meg Dowd, corporate affairs manager for Just Born. “It’s important for us to shine a light on the work done by local non-profits during this time. By sharing their efforts, we amplify their missions as well as the voices of those they serve.”

LifeAire Systems sees staggering growth with COVID-19 demand for air purification

One of two LifeAire Systems air purification systems made for Stanford University Medical Center in California back in 2016. PHOTO/FILE –

When Kathryn Worrilow, founder and CEO of LifeAire Systems LLC, began research to create her company, her focus was very specific – in vitro fertilization.

It was a very small market, but one she saw as important to families trying to have children.

But with the arrival of COVID-19, she found herself in the position many in the biotech industry have: a need to focus on the war on viruses. And the impact the demand has had on what was once a small startup is a story any entrepreneur or inventor would dream of.

About a decade ago, Worrilow was a reproductive physiologist working as scientific director of Lehigh Valley Health Network’s in vitro fertilization laboratory when she came up with the idea for LifeAire. She wanted to come up with an air purification system that would bolster the success rate of IVF.

The LifeAire System would kill viruses as small as Anthrax, the smallest of the viruses, to ensure the protection of the delicate, newly created embryos.

Her original LifeAire system was created for that purpose, but she soon saw the benefit of having a higher quality air purification system for overall hospital use, and in long-term care facilities where the residents can be as fragile as those embryos.

She began research and development on ways to take that IVF-specific system and integrate it into HVAC systems for larger health care facilities.

There proved to be a market.

In 2017 St. Luke’s University Health Network added a LifeAire system to its Allentown campus, one of a growing number of health centers to do so.

When pandemic hit in early 2020, demand for air purification was everywhere. The company went from three verticals, IVF, hospitals and long term care facilities to more than 10. LifeAire now has customers ranging from police stations and schools to Broadway theaters, and a large volume of corporate offices.

The growth she has seen by expanding LifeAire’s customer base has been staggering.

Kathryn Worrilow –

“The number of locations in which we now have the LifeAire technology increased 350% from the pre-pandemic time to the current time,” Worrilow said.  “The number of LifeAire products installed increased 700% from the pre-pandemic time to the current time.”

Interestingly, the expansion wasn’t Worrilow’s idea. She was thinking about LifeAire in a wider setting, concentrating her efforts on serving health care providers.

The expansion came from demand. When the pandemic hit she got calls from worried building owners wondering if LifeAire could help protect their employees and customers.

“We weren’t thinking beyond our core verticals,” Worrilow said.  But when asked if it would work, she knew it would based on the research they had already done on the technology. So her answer became “yes.”

“We responded because we wanted to help in any way we could,” she said. “It has been nonstop since a year ago February.”

One of those new corporate customers is Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s TechVentures building in Bethlehem, the place where LifeAire got its start.

Laura Eppler, chief marketing officer for BFTPNEP, said there are many other biotech companies working out of TechVentures that need that protection and the organization wanted to make sure it was offering a safe environment for its clients moving forward.

“Everyone wants to think that this [COVID-19] is a one off, but it probably isn’t,” Eppler said.

The LifeAire system wasn’t chosen because of its relationship with TechVentures.

“We researched to make sure it was the best product for us,” she said.

Knowing the science that went into the development of the system, Eppler said they were confident the LifeAire system was the most effective of the available air purification systems out there.

“COVID-19 is so small it doesn’t always respond to standard preventative technology, but if it can kill Anthrax it can kill COVID-19,” she said.

As with LifeAire’s other clients, the system was retrofitted into TechVenture’s existing HVAC system and is now eliminating 99.9% of pathogens in the air.

Much of Worrilow’s time has been speaking with business and building owners about viral control and steering them to a system that might be smaller or less complicated, but will still suit their needs.

Offering options isn’t slowing demand, however. LifeAire has added staff and outsourced some manufacturing to keep up with the demand for the product.

She’s also working on research and development of new air purification products.

COVID-19 opened the public’s eyes about the threat viruses pose around the globe. She said it is a fight that will continue and a fight she hopes LifeAire Systems can help the world win.

LVIA passenger traffic surges more than 400%

It looks like air travel is back.

The Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority is reporting a surge in passenger traffic at Lehigh Valley International Airport after months of depressed travel because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to Tom Stoudt, executive director of the LNAA, 71,512 passengers used the airport in May. That’s a 445.6% increase over May of 2020.

“Industry experts predicted a resurgence, but the pace has certainly been faster than those projections. After all the impacts airports experienced during the pandemic, the heavy volume of passengers is a welcome sight to see,” said Stoudt.

March, which marked the anniversary of the pandemic shutdown, was the first month the airport hadn’t reported a decrease in year-over-year traffic.

But the increase was relatively small.

The authority said 46,596 passengers traveled through the airport in March. That was a 4.7% increase over March 2020, which marked the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The latest numbers seem to indicate more of a return to normal, and passengers should anticipate that.

“We are anticipating an extremely busy summer travel season over the next few months as airline capacity is back to pre-pandemic levels. Passengers should allow for extra time at the TSA Checkpoint when using ABE to ensure a more enjoyable experience during this period of increased activity,” said Stoudt.

Meanwhile, cargo traffic, which surged during the pandemic, is down.

The authority reported that 18,113,022 pounds of air cargo was processed through Lehigh Valley International Airport last month – a decline of 15.34% from May 2020.



OraSure’s rapid COVID-19 antigen test receives FDA approval

It’s the news Bethlehem’s OraSure Technologies Inc. has been waiting for. It announced today that it has received three Emergency Use Authorizations from the Federal Drug Administration for its COVID-19 rapid antigen tests.

The tests, which will be branded as InteliSwab, are easy-to-use tests that are authorized for over-the-counter use without a prescription as well as for prescription use and use by a professional health care provider in a medical setting.

These are the tests that former Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine referred to as “a game changer” in the fight against COVID-19

The InteliSwab has a built-in swab that is fully integrated into the test stick, simplifying the entire testing process and making it easy to use in home, work or school settings.

To test for COVID-19 antigens, users swab their lower nostrils with the test stick and then swirl it in a pre-measured solution. The testing process takes less than a minute and people can see their result on the test stick in 30 minutes. No instruments, batteries, smartphone or laboratory analysis are needed to see the result.

The introduction of InteliSwab helps with the overall supply of tests because it does not require sourcing scarce nasal swabs.

“OraSure is on a mission to make COVID-19 testing dramatically simpler. We believe that this easy and intuitive ‘swab, swirl and see’ test will be one of the simplest COVID-19 tests on the market. We expect that InteliSwab’s simplicity and accuracy will give users peace of mind that they performed the test correctly and can rely on the results,” said OraSure President and CEO Stephen Tang.

“Simple and accessible at-home tests like InteliSwab make it easier for individuals to know if they are infectious and to quickly self-isolate if they test positive. With InteliSwab, we believe OraSure will play an even larger role in safely reopening – and keeping open – workplaces, schools and other places where people congregate.”

Tang said that in a clinical study of InteliSwab, the test had strong performance, with positive results agreeing with highly sensitive FDA-authorized PCR tests 84% of the time, and negative results agreeing 98% of the time.

In addition, 98% of consumers in the clinical trial found InteliSwab easy-to-use.

At current capacity, OraSure is able to manufacture 55 million test units annually.

The company, however, will be ramping up to a production capacity of 70 million units annually in the third quarter of this year.

Last August, Tang announced the company planned a more than $7 million expansion to increase production.

He also said the company planned to add 177 employees to its payroll, largely in manufacturing, quality control and regulatory affairs. That nearly doubles the number of employees the company had pre-pandemic.

The pan-SARS-coronavirus antigen rapid in-home self-test project has been funded with federal funds from the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response; Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.