Cryogenics manufacturer moving to Forks Township

A Northampton County Company is relocating and consolidating its operations with some help from the state. 

CryoConcepts, a manufacturer of portable cryosurgery and cryotherapy products, is moving from its current Bethlehem facility to a larger location in Forks Township. 

The project is expected to create at least 61 new jobs, the company said. 

Governor Tom Wolf announced the plan on Thursday. 

“Having an innovative, pioneering company like CryoConcepts chose to grow their operations in Pennsylvania speaks volumes about our business environment and how it empowers companies to succeed and thrive here,” said Wolf. “It’s also a testament to the great work that the Governor’s Action Team has done throughout my administration to attract new businesses and also help keep companies like CryoConcepts in the commonwealth.” 

CryoConcepts will move from its 7,519-square-foot Bethlehem facility to a 23,275-square-foot facility in Forks Township, consolidating operations. 

 “CryoConcepts is committed to expanding its manufacturing capabilities in the Lehigh Valley,” said Sam Niedbala, CEO of CryoConcepts. “The Governor’s Action Team helped us navigate to our new facility, along with support for training our expanding workforce. Because of their great support, we’ve been able to quickly ramp up to meet our production needs.” 

 The Department of Community and Economic Development offered the company a $400,000 Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority loan, a $183,000 Pennsylvania First grant and a $50,000 workforce development grant to train workers. 

 In addition to the new jobs that will be created in Northampton County, the state said CryoConcepts has committed to retaining 28 existing, full-time jobs statewide and investing $1.6 million into the project within the next three years. 

 “I’m glad that DCED and the Governor’s Action Team could help get this project across the finish line and keep this manufacturing company here in Pennsylvania,” said DCED Acting Secretary Neil Weaver. “CryoConcepts is a growing, trail-blazing company that will help bolster economic growth in the Lehigh Valley region.” 



PPL Foundation promoting grant opportunities

Nonprofit organizations will have an opportunity to learn more about grants available from the PPL Foundation. 

The Allentown-based foundation will be having a virtual information session at 1 p.m. on Jan. 10 to update organizations on grant opportunities 

The PPL Foundation was established by PPL Corp. in 2012 to support programs that improve lives in areas served by PPL’s utilities. Since then, it has awarded more than $20 million in grant money in the community. 

The foundation said it plans to launch three new grant programs in PPL Electric Utilities’ service territory in 2023.  

Through the programs, eligible nonprofit organizations will be able to apply for grants of between $2,500 to $50,000. Grants will support programs focused on education; diversity, equity and inclusion; and sustainable communities.  

These new grant opportunities replace the foundation’s former grants awarded in the spring and fall of each year. 

Interested nonprofit organizations may register for the virtual information session by following the registration link.  

During the information session, PPL Electric Utilities and PPL Foundation representatives will provide an overview of the foundation’s focus areas and the grant process. 

Late December storm drove up gas prices

Gas prices in Pennsylvania are almost four cents higher this week at $3.630 per gallon, according to AAA East Central’s most recent Gas Price Report. 

In the Lehigh Valley the price increased to an average of $3.506 per gallon on Jan 3., up from an average of $3.415. The numbers are steady over last year. The average price for a gallon of gas on Jan. 3, 2022 was $3.500. 

According to AAA, the late December winter storm and its frigid temperatures caused gas prices to spike, with refineries as far south as Texas and the Gulf Coast forced to shut down temporarily.  

The storm also caused holiday travelers to fuel up and hit the road early to beat the bad weather, leading to a spike in overall gas demand, AAA said.  

The national average for a gallon of gas rose 12 cents over the last week to hit $3.228. This is still almost 20 cents less than a month ago and six cents less than a year ago. 

According to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), gas demand rose from 8.7 to 9.3 million barrels per day last week.  

Meanwhile, total domestic gasoline stocks fell by 3 million barrels to 223 million barrels. More demand and less supply helped push pump prices higher. 

At the close of Friday’s formal trading session, WTI increased by $1.86 to settle at $80.26. A weaker dollar contributed to rising crude prices, AAA said.  

Crude prices rose despite the EIA reporting that total domestic commercial crude stocks increased by 800,000 barrels to 419 million barrels.  

The increase signals that oil demand may be weakening amid ongoing market concerns that a recession or economic slowdown could occur this year. 


IBEW 375 receives grant for apprenticeship training expansion

The Lehigh Valley’s electrician’s union, IBEW Local 375, is the recipient of nearly $300,000 in funding to bolster its apprenticeship program. 

The funds will be used for the local’s Joint Apprenticeship and Training Fund in Allentown and will provide 30 apprentices with training. 

 “I’m proud to announce these apprenticeship grant awards, which are crucial for Pennsylvania’s future,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf. “Investing in apprenticeship programs like this one ensures there is a strong pipeline of new talent for the construction industry for many years to come.” 

With the funding provided by Pennsylvania’s Pre-Apprentice and Apprenticeship Grant Program, IBEW Local 357 will increase the number of apprentices through their program by nearly 15% per year for the next three years. 

 The program curriculum will focus on telecommunications wiring and fiber optics to improve broadband access to rural and underserved areas of Pennsylvania as well as solar power; programmatic logic controls; power quality and power grid updates; safe job practices; and the National Electrical Code. 

Once apprentices have completed the program, the focus will be on placement with the more than 300 employers in the Lehigh Valley who have signed on with the program as partners. 

 “We are very grateful to DCED for this apprenticeship grant that will help grow our existing program and expand apprenticeship opportunities in the Lehigh Valley,” said Robert Franklin, training and safety director for IBEW Local 357. “With the ever-changing workforce and the retirement of the baby boomer generation, now is the perfect time to use these funds for outreach, registering, and training the next generation of apprentices.” 

 The Pre-Apprentice and Apprenticeship Grant program works to increase apprenticeship availability to Pennsylvania employers to assist them with their talent recruitment and development. Pre-Apprentice and Apprenticeship Program funding is provided to eligible applicants for the purpose of reaching the goal of increasing apprenticeship accessibility across the state.  

Eligible uses of funds include expenses related to instruction that complements on-the-job learning. 

Lehigh Valley projects granted funding for workforce development

Workforce development projects across Pennsylvania are receiving $5.5 million in Industry Partnership Grant funding aimed at meeting local and regional workforce needs. The announcement was made Wednesday by Gov. Tom Wolf. 

Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania projects will receive approximately $2 million combined funds in grants. 

Industry Partnership (IPs) grants are administered through the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I). The program supports businesses partnering to build a stronger, more competitive job market through training, networking, recruitment, and collaboration within targeted industries and offer Pennsylvanians opportunities for pathways into careers and jobs with wages that are family-sustaining. 

“With Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate holding steady at a record low, it is our collective responsibility to make decisions that are responsive to the needs of both Pennsylvania workers and employers in sectors where talent pipelines are tapped,” Wolf said in a statement. 

“By investing in workforce development projects, and specifically industry partnerships, we can connect hardworking Pennsylvanians wit opportunities to advance their skillsets and obtain family-sustaining jobs in booming industries.” 

Pennsylvania has invested more than $40 million since 2018 to enhance opportunities for workers through apprenticeship programs and industry partnerships via Wolf’s PAsmart initiative. This new round of funding provides grants to 25 Industry Partnerships to increase awareness and implement strategies for workforce development in the agriculture, construction, education, healthcare, manufacturing, information technology, hospitality and energy industries. 

“At L&I, we strategically use resources to connect Pennsylvania employers with a highly skilled and talented workforce who can do the jobs of tomorrow,” L&I Secretary Jennifer Berrier said. “We continue to do that, first and foremost, by investing in people and their families.” 

Following is a list of Central Pennsylvania and Lehigh Valley PAsmart grant winners and their award amounts: 

  • AgConnect (Lehigh, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia – $250,000). Grant funding for technical assistance for farm and food business partners in the region for training, management, and accounting; create youth pipeline development and provide hands on experience to high school students; implement an Innovative Workplace Solutions grant program; and provide project management for the PA Cheese Guild and Growing Roots Partners’ Good Food Fest. 
  • Lehigh Valley Healthcare Pipeline Industry Partnership (Lehigh, Northampton – $250,000). The partnership will conduct healthcare industry employer roundtables and develop a Workforce Pipeline Strategic Action Plan Committee. Projected activities to support workers include identifying strategies for recruitment of adults, youth, and those in underrepresented populations. 
  • Manufacturing Alliance of Chester and Delaware Counties (Lancaster, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, York – $250,000). Funding to recruit and retain employees for participating companies. The project will also focus on outreach efforts to youth and their parents promoting manufacturing careers and create programs to connect women and female students to careers in manufacturing. 
  • Smart Energy Initiative of Southeastern PA (Berks, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lehigh, York, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia – $250,000). Goals include consumer and business education about different energy sources. 
  • The Innovative Technology Action Group (Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia – $250,000). The partnership will use its funds for employer outreach, technology education events for IT professionals, incumbent worker training, and youth career exploration activities. 
  • South Central Construction Industry Partnership (Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon. Perry, York – $204,396.44). Funding will be used for partnership start-up and convening regional partners to develop outreach strategies. 
  • South Central Manufacturing Industry Partnership (Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, York – $250,000). Funding to build a pipeline of diverse young individuals pursuing careers in manufacturing by promoting careers in the industry via social media and connections among manufacturers in the region. 
  • South Central NextGen IT Industry Partnership (Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, York – $250,000). Funding for creating awareness and access to employers and resources to increase a skilled workforce that can meet the current IT needs of the region. Funds will be used to build a communication infrastructure for employers, educators, and job seekers. 
  • Opportunity for All Pennsylvania Construction Industry Partnership (Statewide – $250,000). Funding to hire a project manager that will research and develop education materials on best practices around apprenticeship readiness, diverse pipelines, and local hire/community benefit agreements. 

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. 

Gas prices continue dropping

Just in time for holiday travel, gas prices are dropping in Pennsylvania. 

According to AAA East Central, the state’s average gas price is down ten cents this week to $3.659 per gallon. 

Gas prices in the Lehigh Valley were even lower. 

The average price for a gallon of gas in the Lehigh Valley on Dec. 20 was $3.473 per gallon compared to $3.759 per gallon on Dec. 13. Prices are still about ten cents higher than they were a year ago. On Dec. 20, 2021 the average price for a gallon of gas in the Lehigh Valley was $3.550. 

The national average slid 12 cents over the last week to $3.123. This is almost 55 cents less than a month ago and 18.5 cents less than a year ago.  

There are now 20 states with averages below $3 per gallon, AAA said. 

According to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), gas demand decreased slightly from 8.36 to 8.26 million barrels per day last week. That coincides with the arrival of the winter driving season, when fewer people are driving because of shorter days and poor road conditions.  

Meanwhile, total domestic gasoline stocks rose significantly by 4.5 million barrels to 223.6 million barrels. Increasing supply and lower gasoline demand have helped push pump prices lower. 


Coopersburg Commons shopping center sold

Coopersburg Commons, a 95,186-square-foot shopping center in Coopersburg borough, has sold for an undisclosed price.

The retail complex is anchored by a Giant Food Store at 216 E. Fairmount St. According to an online listing, Coopersburg Commons was built in 1973 and renovated in 1995.

Announcing the sale was JRW Realty, a Pasadena-California-based commercial real estate brokerage that focuses on net-leased properties on behalf of institutional clients.

Coordinating the transaction for the undisclosed buyer was JRW Realty’s Aaron Bush. JLL represented the seller, who was also undisclosed.

“We are thrilled to have sourced another high-quality grocery-anchored asset for our client,” Bush, a real estate associate, said in a release. “The impressive performance of the Giant anchor combined with the appealing demographic trends in this market attest to the attractiveness of this property and will support its continued strong performance for the new owner.”

Bush said that JRW Realty’s institutional buyers are engaged in purchasing net-leased real estate tenanted by grocery stores like Giant, including Kroger, Market 32, Hy-Vee and Publix.

They also acquire net-leased properties occupied by high-performing, creditworthy tenants that provide pharmaceutical, medical and other necessity-based goods and services, he added.

JRW Realty has closed on more than 1,100 properties valued at more than $4.6 billion.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

More highs than lows in Lehigh Valley economy for 2022 

The 2022 economy was a wild ride in the Lehigh Valley. Still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, the region saw economic highs and lows in a year that was anything but typical. 

Overall, however, economic development officials in the Lehigh Valley said the 2022 economy is strong and has evolved greatly over the past 12 months. 

“It has been a tumultuous year,” said Rich Hobbs, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Resource Center of the Lehigh Valley. “There have been transformational changes.” 

The year began, he said, with a great number of challenges including supply chain issues, logistical and transportation problems and a significant workforce shortage. 

“At the beginning of the year there was a craze trying to hire workers which drove up wages,” he said. 

While there is still a hiring press, he said it’s not as crazed at the end of 2022 as it was in the beginning of the year and wages are starting to normalize to more stable levels. 

Don Cunningham, president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Deveopment Corp., said overall the economy was stronger in the Lehigh Valley in 2022 than in other parts of country.  

He noted that Site Selection Magazine, which tracks 350 metro regions, has named the Lehigh Valley as one of the top economic development markets for the last several years in both the Northeastern U.S and nationally among markets of its size. 

The region made the list because of the large number of new commercial developments each year, and 2022 was no exception. 

“We’re going full speed ahead in economic growth,” Cunningham said. 

He pointed to such projects as pet food manufacturer Spot & Tango moving to the Lehigh Valley as well as major expansion projects including the $200 million expansion at B Braun, a medical device manufacturer. 

According to the LVEDC, the region had a record low vacancy rate of 3.7%, and the Lehigh Valley’s real estate market grew to 145 million square feet, indicating a robust demand for space. 

“One of the biggest challenges is finding locations to open,” he said. 

Because of the low inventory and high demand, rent rose to $8.70 per square foot. The Lehigh Valley is still a bargain, however. The price is nearly half the rate of properties in nearby northern and central New Jersey.  

All totaled, 658,000 square feet of new industrial and flex space added to the market. 

For those manufacturers already doing business in the Lehigh Valley, supply chain and material costs have remained an issue, said Hobbs. 

“There’s still a lot of juggling with the supply chain,” said Hobbs. 

One bit of good news is that many companies, having learned from severe material shortages during the 2020 COVID-19 shutdown, are keeping more stock close at hand. 

“Many companies have stocked up,” he said. 

One continued weak spot in the local economy has been the professional office space sector, said Cunningham. 

He said that while elsewhere in the economy it’s been “pedal to the metal with nothing slowing down,” there is still a significant amount of vacancy in office space as many companies have allowed staffers to work from home. 

“Companies are not opening new office space right now,” he said. 

That has been a boost for the hospitality industry, however, as more companies are using hotel conference and meeting spaces as a substitute for offices when they plan meetings and conferences. 

According to Discover Lehigh Valley, which promotes tourism in Lehigh and Northampton counties, the region was top in hotel occupancy rates among communities of similar size in Pennsylvania.  

Alex Michaels, president and CEO of the authority sited a 2021-2022 report from Smith Travel Research, which showed overnight visitor stays reached 16.1 million in the Lehigh Valley for the fiscal year, that’s up 28.6% from 2020. 

The bottom line is that most economic development officials see things returning to “normal.” 

“We are continuing to measure things from a pre-pandemic perspective,” said Aaron Gantz, senior director of economic development for the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance. 

She said with a lower number of participants in the workforce, finding quality workers continues to be a struggle for employers and likely will for some time.  But, like Hobbs said, it’s not at the level it was in the beginning of the year.  

One advantage the Berks region has is its relative affordability compared to some surrounding regions. The Lower cost of living makes it more attractive for people to move to and find jobs in the area, which should help with the employment situation. 

And affordability was a big challenge across the Lehigh Valley as a whole. While, yes, housing and apartments are less expensive than nearby major metropolitan areas like New York City and Philadelphia, housing affordability is a concern. 

According to Rent Café, the average rent for an apartment in Lehigh Valley is $1,585. That varies greatly based on location, size and quality. 

And in single family homes there has also been a struggle. By year’s end the average home price in Pennsylvania was about 9.5% higher than a year prior, but the average home price was still lower than the record high of $219,154, which was set in July.   

Pennsylvania Association of Realtors President Christopher Beadling said affordability has become an issue for many potential homebuyers.  

“The number of sales has leveled out with the higher interest rates. These higher rates are primarily affecting first-time buyers who need a mortgage,” he said. 

While growth may have slowed in home sales and new commercial construction, the economy is still strong, just stabilizing in the Lehigh Valley, said Mark Chubb, senior managing director for Colliers commercial real estate. 

“There’s no reason to panic,” he said. “There’s still plenty of growth.” 

He said the Lehigh Valley remains a strong target for economic development. 

Lehigh U. program to prep Valley students on business skills

The Rauch Business center on Lehigh University’s campus. PHOTO/MARCO CALDERONE –

This summer, Lehigh Valley area high school students will have a chance to boost their business skills. 

The Lehigh University College of Business is partnering with the Iacocca Institute at the university to provide financial aid to area high school students in need for a program to help enhance their business, entrepreneurship, leadership and global citizenship skills. 

“This aid will help make the program financially accessible to eight to 10 students from the Lehigh Valley region, each summer,” said Georgette Chapman Phillips, dean of the College of Business. “We especially want to reduce the barriers for historically underrepresented students to pursue careers as entrepreneurs and business leaders.” 

The Iacocca Global Entrepreneurship Intensive is an immersive, hands-on, four-week, summer program for students ages 15 through 17 from around the world.  

“IGEI graduates will be able to evaluate the potential of ideas to become successful innovators, formulate business and marketing plans, create compelling pitches, and navigate cultural differences while collaborating to succeed as a team,” said Kira Mendez, director of the Iacocca Institute  

As part of the program, as many as 60 participants live and work together on Lehigh’s campus. The ideal student is academically sound, has an interest in business and entrepreneurship and a record of leadership and service activities.  

IGEI students will take part in entrepreneurial design challenges, business hackathons and team projects that develop solutions for U.S. or international client organizations.  

Lehigh University faculty will take the students on a week-long intensive look into an area of interest, as well as help them participate in cultural and social activities, with local and regional field trips.  

Aid from the partnership will support students opting into a new business-focused track launching in summer 2023. 

The program runs from June 25 to July 22, 2023.  


Lehigh Valley GDP hits record $47B in 2021

The Lehigh Valley economy is booming according to new data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. 

With manufacturing making up the largest part of the region’s economy in 2021, the region’s Gross Domestic Product soared to a record $47 billion. 

The GDP measures total market value of the goods and services produced in a region over a year. 

With an economic output of $8.4 billion, manufacturing has now overtaken finance, insurance and real estate as the Lehigh Valley’s top contributor to the GDP, according to the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. 

Manufacturing made up 18% of the Lehigh Valley’s private sector output compared to 12% in the nation as a whole last year. 

The GDP of the Lehigh Valley’s top four sectors were still within about $2.5 billion of each other, indicating a balanced and vibrant economy. 

“It seems that each year a new chapter is written on the economic renaissance of the Lehigh Valley,” said Don Cunningham, president & CEO of the LVEDC. “2021 was another record-setting year with the region’s GDP increasing by almost $5 billion and manufacturing taking the top spot as the Lehigh Valley’s largest economic sector.” 

The private sector economic output has recovered from the adjusted figure of $42.5 billion during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. After factoring in inflation, the GDP rose by 6.4% from 2020 to 2021, Cunningham said. 

The Lehigh Valley metro region includes Lehigh, Northampton, Carbon and Warren counties. Lehigh and Northampton County make up $40.6 billion of the metro region’s $47 billion private sector output. 

Cunningham noted that the Lehigh Valley’s private sector output is the 65th largest in the nation and is bigger than the entire states of Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming. 

If the Lehigh Valley were a country, its economy would be the 88th largest in the world, he said. 

Following manufacturing, the largest sectors in the Lehigh Valley’s GDP: 

  • Finance, insurance and real estate ($8.1 billion)
  • Educational services, health care and social assistance ($6.9 billion)
  • Professional and business services ($5.9 billion)
  • Wholesale trade ($3.7 billion)
  • Information ($3 billion)
  • Retail trade ($3 billion)
  • Transportation and warehousing ($2.7 billion)

One sector that had yet to recover from the pandemic was arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation, and food services. Among the hardest during the pandemic-induced downturn, Cunningham said that sector produced an output of $1.8 billion last year. 

He said the Lehigh Valley’s output has been steadily rising over the last five years, even when accounting for the drop during the pandemic. The Lehigh Valley’s private sector output has increased at a compound annual rate of 1.4% over the last five years.