Mack begins electric truck manufacturing at Lehigh Valley Operations

The Mack LR Electric model, Mack Trucks’ first fully electric Class 8 vehicle, is now in serial production at Mack’s Lehigh Valley Operations facility in Macungie, where all Class 8 Mack vehicles for North America and export are assembled. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

Mack Trucks has begun manufacturing its new Mack LR Electric Model, its first fully electric Class 8 vehicle, at its Lehigh Valley Operations in Macungie. All Mack Class 8 vehicles for North America and export are assembled at this location. 

“Mack has long been a leader in the refuse segment, and we couldn’t be more pleased to now be producing Mack LR Electric vehicles to help our customers meet their sustainability goals,” said Jonathan Randall, Mack Trucks senior vice president of sales and commercial operations. “Customer response to the LR Electric has been overwhelmingly positive, and we look forward to putting more into fleet operations now that we are in production.” 

Equipped with four NMC (Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide) lithium-ion batteries, the batteries provide vehicle propulsion and power for all onboard accessories driven through 12V, 24V and 600V electric circuits. A three-mode regenerative braking system helps recapture the energy from the hundreds of stops the vehicle makes each day as a result of increasing payload throughout the day. 

“We are successfully producing the LR Electric at LVO, and we are fulfilling customer orders as we speak,” said Gunnar Brunius, vice president and general manager at LVO. “I’d like to recognize the hard work and dedication of LVO employees who have been eagerly preparing for this moment.” 

Farms in Lehigh Valley and Central Pa. are among 30 new entities preserved by state

Farms in the Lehigh Valley and the Central Pa. region are among those in 18 counties preserved by the state from future development today, investing more than $7.2 million in state, county and township dollars.

“Preserving farmland is an investment in feeding all of our families in the future,” Agriculture Secretary Russell Redding said. “It is one of the most important investments we make together, at every level of government, to ensure the security of our economy, our jobs, our communities and our environment.”

This year, Pennsylvania’s Farmland Preservation Program, which leads the nation, approved 166 conservation easements covering 14,397 acres that will permanently remain productive farms. Today’s addition added 2,569 acres on 30 farms.

Among the farms preserved are:

Berks County  Total investment $160,420 state; $60,000 county

The Jesse R. and Jessica M. Alspaugh farm, an 80-acre crop and livestock operation

Dauphin County – Total investment $380,850 state only

The Shirley L. Weaver Farm, a 254-acre crop and livestock farm

Franklin County – Total investment $5,302 state; $113,110 county

The Jere D. Hissong, Sr. Farm, a 53-acre crop farm


Lebanon County – Total investment $554,820 state; $139,836 county

The Pauline E. Grumbine Farm, a 174-acre crop farm

The Bruce R. and Laura M. Heilinger #2 Farm, a 100-acre crop and livestock farm

Lehigh County – Total investment $285,489 state, $1,160,413 county, $7366 Weisenberg Township

The Wyatt Jonas and Leah Ellen Gehringer Farm, a 37-acre crop farm

The Michael G. Wachter Farm, a 49-acre crop farm

The Nancy A. Walbert Farm, a 78-acre crop farm

The Arlene R., James D., Mark A., Kevin L. and Lisa L. Yoachim Farm, an 80-acre crop and livestock farm

Northampton County – Total investment $484,177 state only

The Arlene Savakus Farm, a 98-acre crop farm

York County – Total investment $616,147 state only

The Thomas and Heidi A. Beck Farm, a 203-acre crop farm

By selling their land’s development value, landowners preserve their farms, protecting the land from future residential, commercial or industrial development. Pennsylvania partners with county and sometimes local governments to purchase the development value, ensuring a strong future for farming and food security, the Department of Agriculture said.



Gross McGinley co-founder, Malcolm Gross to retire

Malcolm Gross –

A well-known Lehigh Valley attorney is retiring from the practice he helped establish. 

Malcolm J. Gross, who co-founded Allentown-based Gross McGinley, has announced his retirement from legal practice.  

He plans to remain active at the firm in a mentorship role, as well as in the community as a lecturer and public speaker. 

Partners in the firm spoke of Gross’ long career in law. 

“Mal’s reputation as a great litigator is well known.” said Gross McGinley Managing Director Deb Faulkinberry. “He took on causes that weren’t attractive or very profitable, because he believed wholeheartedly in them. If he believed in it, he fought for it.” 

Gross may be best known in the Lehigh Valley for his counsel and defense of the Morning Call newspaper. 

“Mal was responsible for pre-publication clearance of articles,” recalled Paul McGinley co-founder of Gross McGinley. “He would review a journalist’s content prior to publishing, to ensure it complied with the law, and spent many nights in the newsroom, checking facts and helping get articles ready for the next day. Mal was passionate about fair and accurate publishing. He was deeply and intellectually involved with First Amendment Law, as well as Right-to-Know requests, making sure the community had the information it needed.” 

Gross has served as a mentor to many lawyers and was an inspiration for his son Jack Gross, the firm’s managing partner, to become an attorney. 

“I never wanted to be a lawyer,” said Jack Gross. “After college, I started working at the firm and my dad had me involved in two big trials and when I saw what he actually did and the way he did, that’s when I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. He’s interested and caring, and his clients know how much he cares about them. He’s always recognized the key to success is having a relationship with his clients, so even if he didn’t know the answer, he would find out and provide the best counsel he could. He’s the best lawyer I know.” 

Within the legal community, Mal was an active member in the Pennsylvania Bar Association, Bar Association of Lehigh County, Lehigh County Court Mediation Panel, Donald E. Wie and Barristers Inn, and Supreme Court of Pennsylvania, including past member of the Hearing Committee and Disciplinary Board. In addition to several milestone cases, he won two of three appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court.  

Throughout his career, he was named multiple times to the Pennsylvania Super Lawyers lists, as well as selected for inclusion in Best Lawyers in America. He was also honored by The Legal Intelligencer with a Lifetime Achievement Award for his dedication and work in First Amendment and Media Law. 

Outside of his legal practice, Gross was also active within the nonprofit community in the Lehigh Valley. 

In 2000, he was court appointed to serve as a trustee of the Harry C. Trexler Trust. He completed two 10-year terms before stepping down in 2020. He’s also served in a leadership capacity with Lehigh County Historical Society, Da Vinci Science Center, United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, Sacred Heart Hospital, Muhlenberg College Board of Associates and Lehigh Valley Business Partnership Coalition on Health Care. He and his wife Janet continue to support The Baum School of Art. 

Gross graduated from Muhlenberg College in 1962 and earned his J.D. from Villanova University School of Law.  

He served as a law clerk for Justice Egan from 1965 to1966, then completed his post-law school preceptorship with Allentown attorney Ray Brennan for two years. 

He started the law firm Gross & Brown, where he brought on Paul McGinley as an associate attorney. A few years later, Mal and Paul partnered to form the law firm of Gross McGinley & McGinley in downtown Allentown in 1976 with now Judge Carol McGinley.  

In 1985, they moved to the firm’s current location in Crown Tower on Seventh Street in Allentown, where he has continued to practice as a counselor and litigator to hundreds of businesses and individuals. 

In his retirement, Gross will stay on as a mentor at Gross McGinley and will continue to lecture at tri-country bar events, as well as the Lehigh County Historical Society.  

He also plans to spend more time in his personal library, which contains a collection of approximately 5,000 books. 

“One of the best things about retirement is not having an alarm clock anymore,” said Gross. “I look forward to spending time with my family and giving lectures.” 


Baker Federal Credit Union to merge with First Commonwealth

Baker Federal Credit Union of Phillipsburg, New Jersey has announced its intent to merge with First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union of Trexlertown. 

 The merged credit unions will do business as First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union, with combined total assets of more than $1 Billion. 

 “The Baker Federal Credit Union board of directors was both passionate and insistent that a merger be good for all stakeholders – members, employees and the communities we serve. It became clear when I reached out to First Commonwealth, and through our due diligence process, that this merger was exactly what we were looking for and would indeed benefit everyone. We are thrilled to become part of the First Commonwealth family. By joining forces, we will be able to offer products, services, and conveniences that we could not offer on our own while continuing to serve the Phillipsburg and Warren County, New Jersey

communities.” said Sue Rodriguez, president and CEO of Baker Federal Credit Union. 

 This merger will bring First Commonwealth’s first New Jersey financial center, and its 12th retail location, with the opening of the Phillipsburg Financial Center in 2022. 

The merger is pending approval from Baker Federal Credit Union members in a special meeting Feb. 7. 

Capital Blue Cross honored by Leukemia society

Capital Blue Cross Lehigh Valley President Anne Baum, center, receives the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Chairman’s Award at Teamsters Local 773 in Whitehall. Presenting the award is Bob Yarnall, left, LLS Lehigh Valley Board Of trustees’ chair, and Jana Boyer, LLS executive director of the New Jersey region. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of the Lehigh Valley has awarded Capital Blue Cross with the society’s Board of Trustees Chairman’s Award for Capital’s support over the past 11 years. 

Each year, the trustees recognize an individual, group or corporation for a steadfast commitment to, and impact on, the organization, which it said in a release “far surpasses the scope of what is typical to elevate the success of an event, initiative, or campaign.”  

Capital’s support began when LLS asked it to launch a new Lehigh Valley campaign in 2010. 

 “Capital Blue Cross is honored to be recognized by the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. We are pleased to support the excellent work it does in research and support for those battling blood cancer. It truly makes a difference and that’s why we have been committed to supporting its efforts,” said Anne Baum, Capital Blue Cross Lehigh Valley president in accepting the award. 

Lehigh Valley SCORE seeks to expand its DEI efforts

Louis Allegra –

Lehigh Valley SCORE, the Service Corps of Retired Executives, is following the national organization’s lead in increasing its Diversity Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts, and volunteer mentor Lou Allegra is spearheading the effort. 

“The goal for us in business is always to recognize that there is diversity in the world and in our businesses,” Allegra said. “What do we do to bring together those with diverse backgrounds?” 

For the Lehigh Valley, Allegra said a major focus will be to increase outreach to the Spanish-speaking community. 

To start, the Chapter will begin sending its outreach marketing emails in both Spanish and English to reach a wider audience. 

But still, there’s a problem. 

He noted that while the Lehigh Valley has a growing Hispanic population, none of the volunteer mentors in the Lehigh Valley SCORE chapter speak Spanish as their first language. 

He said that makes it difficult to follow through on those Spanish-speaking people the organization reaches. 

“It makes no sense to put the word out to the Spanish-speaking community and not have access to Spanish speakers. It’s like we’re saying ‘we’ve invited you to come, but now we can’t help you,’” he said. 

So, another part of the local effort is to increase diversity in its own ranks, recruiting volunteers, who will work with clients on establishing businesses in their native tongue, with an emphasis on recruiting individuals for whom Spanish is their primary language. 

Allegra said networking is a very important part of that effort, and by recruiting a more diverse group of volunteers, the organization will also be able to tap into a larger market for clients in need of their services. 

He said it will also help to have people from the same community as the people they may be working with because they would be more familiar with the challenges different groups of people may face. 

For example, many low-income urban people are unbanked, making it more difficult for them to obtain credit or loans they may need to start a business. 

Someone who is more familiar with the concerns different groups have with banking and finance may make clients more comfortable in sharing their needs and goals. 

SCORE works with those looking to start their own business, or who need other small business support, through one-on-one counseling, events and webinars. All volunteers are retired executives who receive training on ways they can use their skills to help others get started, but many volunteers each come with their own specialties, and a knowledge of ethnic, religious, language, neighborhood or gender issues is a needed skill. 

SCORE’s services are offered at no cost to clients. 

As CFO of Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group, Nikki Bloom has learned to adapt

Nikki Bloom –

The new chief financial officer at Lehigh Valley Restaurant Group didn’t start out looking to be in charge of a company’s finances. Nikki Bloom entered the business world with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology.

She started out as a credit counselor, but when an administrative position opened at the restaurant group 17 years ago, she saw a company she had a chance to grow with.

Eventually, she landed in the accounting department for the company, which runs 21 Red Robin franchises throughout the Lehigh Valley, Harrisburg, Northeast Pennsylvania and Southeast Pennsylvania regions.

Accounting wasn’t her specialty, so she went back to school and earned associate degrees in accounting and business management, and used those skills to build her career.

Her coworkers are glad she did.

Mike Axiotis, CEO of the restaurant group, gives Bloom a lot of credit for keeping the company going during the pandemic and the ongoing worker shortage, supply chain issues and increasing food prices.

The challenges of most of the last two years wasn’t something Bloom, or anyone, was really expecting. She said it has been a delicate dance keeping the company going through such trying times.

“Our goal was not just to survive, but to thrive through the pandemic,” she said.

She used Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) resources to keep as many people employed as she could and implemented cash preservation efforts to control costs as income declined.

“It was about looking at what do we need and what we don’t need and what can we start adding back when things started to come back,” she said.

Working with the other team members, Bloom helped the company improve efficiencies by limiting their menu, a technique many restaurants used to make things easier with a limited staff and a smaller customer base.

The company also brought in tents so they could offer outdoor seating when indoor seating was limited and put an emphasis on improving their takeout business, which they were able to offer through most of the shutdown.

“Any supplies that we could change to make it more cost effective, we changed,” she said. “We had to keep an eye on costs, but we also had to compete.”

The key was to find things they could trim without impacting the customer experience, so people would want to continue to come back.

But keeping customers coming back wasn’t the only challenge. The restaurant industry as a whole has faced massive staffing shortages, which impacted LVRG as well.

The company was trying to hire from the same smaller pool of interested workers as their competitors, and while offering more money was something everyone was doing, she tried wo work to offer other intangible benefits to workers so they would feel more engaged with the company and enjoy their work.

Even with the pandemic restrictions limited, challenges have continued throughout 2021 as the worker shortage lingered, and more recently food prices began to skyrocket.

While LVRG has had to raise prices like most restaurants, prices can only be raised so much before it’s too much for the consumer even if their costs continue to rise, she said. That’s where the company had to get creative.

“We have a great food and beverage guy who worked with our vendors to manage our supply chain to deal with those rising costs and not price ourselves out,” she said.

Depending on how long the supply chain issues last, she expects her job isn’t going to get easier any time soon, but she said she is up to the challenge of keeping those Red Robin franchises in the black.

And Axiotis said the company is lucky to have her.

“Nikki values integrity, ethical behavior, lifelong learning for her and her team, building relationships with team members and our vendor partners, and time with her family and friends,” he said. “She is a true brand ambassador of LVRG, and her many accomplishments are a great example of how passion, empathy, commitment, and continued education are a pathway to leadership and success. I am truly proud and honored to have her on our team.”