Electronics recycler opens Lehigh Valley facility

ATR’s new facility in Whitehall Township. PHOTO/SUBMITTED


Advanced Technology Recycling, a certified woman-owned national recycling company, opened a new facility in the Lehigh Valley.

Brody Ehresman, director of marketing for ATR, said the new 30,000-square-foot facility in Whitehall Township is part of its growing network of R2 Certified facilities and is one of the largest independent sites to date.

“We work in a hub and spoke model, this would be one of the spokes,” he said.

The company specializes in the secure recycling of computer and electronic equipment and has federal contracts to dispose of such devices for the U.S. Military and Aerospace customers.

The new site will help expand its portfolio of IT Asset Disposition and electronics recycling to the Northeast U.S.

The location will give ATR a better opportunity to work with new regional clients in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York City and Baltimore.

Brody said ATR will be the first company in the region to have U.S. State Department authorized ITAR (International Traffic and Arms Regulations) compliant destruction programs and, GSA (General Service Administration) approved pricing discounts for all levels of governmental agencies that seek responsible and sustainable recycling and ITAD services.

ATR also has business to business recycling programs.

Work that will be conducted at the new Whitehall facility will include processing loads of IT and other electronic scrap, metal and plastics recovery and electronics recovery including the resale of tech assets.

“We’ll have everything from server equipment to laptops and touch pads,” Ehresman said.

ATR is currently hiring at the site. It will initially need five to 10 people and expects to have a staff of 20 in the long term.

First Commonwealth opens new headquarters in Lower Macungie

First Commonwealth’s new corporate headquarter campus on Hamilton Blvd in Lower Macungie Township boasts an 81,000 sq ft headquarters facility and new flagship 5,000 sq ft two-story financial center featuring a dedicated small business center. PHOTO/SUBMITTED


The new corporate headquarters for First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union is now open on Hamilton Boulevard in Lower Macungie Township.

The corporate campus features an 81,000-square-foot headquarters facility and a new flagship 5,000-square-foot, two-story, full-service financial center, which features a dedicated business center.

The credit union said the building, dubbed the “Trexlertown Financial Center” is the largest of its 11 financial centers in the Greater Lehigh Valley.

“We’re proud to continue to invest in the Lehigh Valley and enhance our presence in the communities we serve and where our employees live, work, and play. Our new corporate headquarters allows us to offer an exceptional work environment for our growing workforce,” said Donna LoStocco, president and CEO of First Commonwealth in a release. “Our project is unique in that every aspect of our new headquarters came from input from our employees. We wanted the facility to be ‘for employees, by employees’ and that’s the approach we took through every phase of the project.”

She said the new headquarters was designed to be a high-functioning, friendly, and safe environment that offers an enjoyable and healthy “home at work” experience for its 220 employees.

The credit union consolidated two corporate operations centers in Bethlehem and Allentown into the Lower Macungie facility.

Both of those properties were sold in 2020.

The corporate campus was designed by MKSD Architects of Allentown and was constructed by Boyle Construction of Allentown.

FCFCU owns the 81,000-square-foot mixed-use building, occupying 61,000 square feet of the space.

The building also includes a 13,000-square-foot and a 7,000-square-foot commercial/retail tenant space, which both have exterior first floor entrances. FCFCU has already secured tenants for both spaces.

A Conversation With: Girish Sud Chair of SCORE Lehigh Valley

Girish Sud


Girish Sud is a retired project management professional with extensive international experience in multi-million dollar projects in the cement and minerals industry. For the past four years he has been the chapter chair and a Certified Business Mentor at SCORE Lehigh Valley.

LVB: For those not familiar with SCORE of the Lehigh Valley, please tell me a little more about what the organization does

Sud: SCORE is the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors who help current and aspiring entrepreneurs, through mentoring, and business educational services. There are over 250 chapters nationwide, operating as a non- profit resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The Lehigh Valley chapter, started in 1965, serves the Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon counties, build, grow and expand a vibrant small business community. Our basic product is individual mentoring delivered by one of our 25 volunteer experts – all at no charge to the client.

In 2020 we worked with over 400 clients, held 2,200 mentoring sessions and 80 workshops on all aspects of starting, operating and even exiting a business.

LVB: Why did you get involved with SCORE?

Sud: I spent my corporate career spanning 43 years in the Lehigh Valley, including extensive worldwide travel for business. Upon retiring, I felt strongly that I had to find a way to share my knowledge and management expertise nearer to home, to help small businesses who do not have the resources of large corporations at their disposal. SCORE was the natural answer.

There is a profound satisfaction in the knowledge that you’ve personally helped others succeed – in knowing that with a little bit of time, encouragement and wisdom you may have changed the course of a life.  Being part of an organization that measures its success on our clients’ success, through mentoring, teaching, speaking and participating in community events, is personally enriching.

LVB: What are the areas where you see small businesses and startups needing the most help?

Sud: Entrepreneurs or small business owners often have a concept or idea but find it daunting to implement, don’t know how and where to get started and soon are caught up in a jumble of activities without much progress. Small businesses need help in establishing the viability of their idea, developing market strategies, writing a business plan, making financial projections and ultimately seeking funding. SCORE’s mentors offer a step-by-step plan, a roadmap to success whether starting out anew or managing an existing business.

LVB: Has the pandemic changed the dynamics of what these businesses need?

Sud: Yes. The indefinite and uncertain nature of the pandemic has created its own kind of stress, so it’s more important than ever for every business to reevaluate and redefine itself consistent with the realities of the changing marketplace. History has shown that following catastrophes and downturns there is a business resurgence coupled with incredible feats of creativity and ingenuity.

Understanding what and how customers will seek out, buy and pay for a product is of vital importance. Adjusting and adapting to these new requirements will be the difference between mere survival and successful growth.  As an example, every business today must have an online presence to send out clear, brief and accurate messages to consumers.  A business today, cannot afford not to be online.

Secondly cash flow is the lifeline – the oxygen of any business – so maintaining a positive cash flow takes away an all too common a stumbling block.

LVB: Heading into 2021, what do you see as the issues with which small businesses will need SCORE’S help?

Sud: The pandemic has not only changed human experiences, outlooks and behaviors but the crisis has brought about shifts in how and what consumers buy. SCORE is now focusing on helping small business owners engage and educate their customers even if it does not hit the bottom line today. Small businesses will need to get to know their customers all over again, overcome loss of revenue and relationships and load up on resources and planning to survive this new low in the future.

SCORE has established a special Resilience Hub to let small business owners connect with a mentor and help them navigate to specific COVID resources, discounts, grants, training materials and guides for industries.  We believe that the obstacles being experienced now are an opportunity to grow stronger, more agile and more successful than ever.


Growing health care provider opening facility, hiring 120 in Lehigh Valley

NeurAbilities staff work with a child while wearing protective equipment. PHOTO/SUBMITTED


NeurAbilities Healthcare, a New Jersey-based provider of health care services for people with autism and other neurological conditions is opening a new treatment center in the Lehigh Valley next month, creating 120 jobs in the field.

The company will be hiring people to work with children in both clinic and home-based settings, including behavior technicians, behavior consultants, behavior analysts, and mobile therapists. NeurAbilities will also be hiring for administrative roles.

The new facility will offer diagnostic services as well as treatment rooms. NeurAbilities specializes in providing applied behavior analysis for children with autism. Besides clinical and home treatment, telehealth services are also available.

The new NeurAbilities center is located at 1405 Cedar Crest Blvd, Suite 109, in South Whitehall Township and will feature an amusement park design to accommodate children with autism and developmental delays.

It will include special lighting and temperature controls to address sensory sensitivities; flooring in the gym to provided protection and absorb sound and individual and group treatment rooms where children can practice social skills with trained therapists

The healthcare provider, which is based in Voorhees, New Jersey, said it is currently in a period of rapid growth and has recently opened treatment clinics in King of Prussia and Bala Cynwyd, as well as in Freehold and Cherry Hill, New Jersey.

It also has medical diagnostic centers in King of Prussia, Voorhees and Wall Township.

COVID-19 drives 2020 passenger traffic to record low at LVIA

With the COVID-19 pandemic keeping the world shut down for most of 2020, travel was at a minimum. The story was no different in the Lehigh Valley where the Lehigh Valley International Airport saw the biggest passenger traffic drop in its history.

At the same time, with people stuck at home and ordering goods online, e-commerce drove cargo volume at the airport to a record high.

According to Tom Stoudt, executive director of the Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority, 390,764 passengers traveled through the airport in 2020. That’s a more than 57% decline from 2019.

On the air cargo side, Stoudt said the airport processed more than 210 million pounds of cargo, the highest volume the airport has ever handled and nearly 15% higher than in 2019.

Even the holidays were slow for air travel.

Passenger traffic during Thanksgiving week declined approximately 53% and Christmas followed with only 27,631 passengers traveling through the airport in December, a 61.7% decrease from December of last year.

Despite the pandemic and the resulting reduction in service, the airport did have some good news on the travel end including the arrival of a two-aircraft Allegiant Crew Base.

That brought more than 60 new jobs to the region as well as new air service to Sarasota and Chicago-Midway.

Also, United Airlines expanded services with daily non-stop service to Washington-Dulles International Airport.

“Adding three new routes during a time of great uncertainty surrounding commercial air service reflects the strong commitment by our airline partners to ensure options for the Lehigh Valley and surrounding communities,” said Stoudt.

Overall, however, each of the airlines at LVIA did see a decline in December. United reported a total passenger decrease of 67.4%, Delta dropped 65.6%, American declined 63.6%, and Allegiant was down 56.1%.

St. Luke’s releases plans for community COVID-19 vaccinations

St. Luke’s University Health Network released its plans to expand its COVID-19 vaccination efforts to the general population.

The health network said it has been following the state Department of Health directive to concentrate its vaccination efforts on Phase 1a priority groups, which include health care providers and first responders.

As St. Luke’s prepares to move into the next phase of vaccinations it has developed a process to allow individuals to sign up for notifications regarding the vaccine.

As of today, anyone can pre-register for vaccination through the St. Luke’s MyChart portal at www.sluhn.org/vaccine. Those who do not have a MyChart account may create one.

After completing a brief questionnaire, MyChart users will be notified when it is their turn to schedule an appointment for the vaccine, which they will be able to do online.

“We are proceeding in a thoughtful, orderly and safe way,” said Dr. Jeffrey Jahre, St. Luke’s senior vice president. “As per the state, we are opening scheduling to individuals age 65+ and those with medical conditions. To avoid lines and chaos, we are prioritizing individuals at the highest risk starting with individuals 75+ and rapidly working down the list as we have supplies.  We anticipate that with increased supplies in manufacturing and the addition of other vaccines, like Johnson & Johnson’s, that there will be rapid increase in our ability to accommodate the entire population.”

St. Luke’s receives a weekly allotment of vaccine from the state, which distributes to all health systems across Pennsylvania. The exact allotment is subject to change.

So far, St. Luke’s said it has achieved a vaccination rate of 55 people per hour, or nearly one person a minute.

Currently, vaccinations are taking place at 11 of St. Luke’s dozen hospital campuses.

Because the vaccinations are taking place in a hospital setting, patients can be monitored for adverse reactions and provided appropriate treatment if necessary.

Those who are already in a group eligible to receive the vaccine, such as health care providers, nursing home staff and first responders, can call 1-866-STLUKES (785-8537) option 7.

Lehigh Valley Dixie Cup plant to close by year’s end

The iconic Dixie Cup on top of the former manufacturing plant in Easton. PHOTO/FILE


Georgia-Pacific has announced that it is closing its Lehigh Valley Dixie Cup manufacturing facility in Forks Township by the end of the year.

Around 190 jobs at the facility will be lost by the closure starting in late March.

The location will continue to manufacture cups for the next several months as some of its equipment is relocated to the company’s manufacturing operations in Lexington, Kentucky.

After this year, all Dixie to Go/PerfecTouch cups will be made at the Lexington plant.

This reverses plans the company had to expand operations at the Forks plant.

In January of last year the company had announced it would be moving some of its cup manufacturing operations from its cup plant in Darlington, South Carolina with operations being split between the Lehigh Valley operations in Forks and the Lexington plant.

That did not occur.

“The market conditions this year have been incredibly difficult,” said Tom Strother, public affairs and communications manager for Georgia-Pacific. “The decision was made to transition to one location.”

The company chose to move all of the manufacturing to Lexington.

Dixie Cups have been manufactured in the Easton area since the early 1920s. The original plant with the iconic Dixie Cup on its roof closed in 1982 with operations continuing in Forks Township.

Georgia-Pacific said it will be working with employees to receive job placement services and will share available opportunities within Georgia-Pacific or other Koch companies.

ESSA names new management team for Lehigh Valley region

Stephen Bowers, left, and James Gorman, Sr.


Stroudsburg-based ESSA Bank & Trust has made some management changes to its Lehigh Valley Commercial Banking team.

Stephen Bowers has been named regional president for the Lehigh Valley. Prior to joining ESSA, he served as vice president of commercial real estate lending for Penn Community bank. He has had a career of more than 22 years in multiple facets of the financial services industry.

Bowers will lead commercial banking and the retail branches within the Lehigh Valley region for ESSA.

“Steve brings a wealth of experience and extensive knowledge of the Lehigh Valley market and we look forward to his contributions leading our commercial and retail efforts as part of our customer-focused regional structure,” said Peter Gray, executive vice president and chief banking officer for ESSA.

James Gorman, Sr. has been appointed senior commercial relationship manager for the Lehigh Valley Region.

Prior to joining ESSA, Gorman served as senior vice president of community banking at BB&T. He has more than 38 years of commercial banking experience in various roles and organizations.

Bowers has a bachelor’s degree in finance from Pennsylvania State University.

He has been an active volunteer for several community and civic organizations, including the Red Mill Museum Village Board of Trustees, Rotary International Clinton Chapter Treasurer, Levitt Pavilion Board of Directors, Artsquest Governance Committee, Equi-librium Board of Trustees and, most recently, the chair of the March of Dimes Commercial and Industrial Real Estate Awards.

Gorman has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from King’s College and a master’s degree in finance from Wilkes University.

He also serves as an adjunct professor of finance at the Pennsylvania State University Scranton.  Gorman is a board member at the NEPA Council for Boy Scouts of America, American Cancer Society Ball of Hope and volunteers at several charitable organizations.

ESSA Bank & Trust has total assets of $1.9 billion and has 22 community offices throughout the Greater Pocono, Lehigh Valley, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and suburban Philadelphia markets.

Smoothie King adds Whitehall to its kingdom

A photo of a Smoothie King smoothie.


The Lehigh Valley is getting its first Smoothie King.

Billing itself as the country’s first smoothie franchise, a location was opened at 2701 MacArthur Commons Road in Whitehall last week.

The franchise is owned by Humza Tanvir, who has four other locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Originally a consultant with a computer software company, Tanvir has been a Smoothie King franchise owner since 2017.

Focused on promoting healthy and active lifestyles, Smoothie King has a menu that features 70 smoothies under the categories: Fitness, Slim, Wellness and Break Time.

“As the first Smoothie King in the Lehigh Valley, I’m very excited to show locals the healthy and delicious menu items Smoothie King offers,” said Tanvir in a release. “Each Smoothie King location matches their community, so I know the Whitehall location will be a great success.

With the COVID-19 pandemic the shop will be taking extra precautions for safe and contactless service.

The new Whitehall location will use its drive-thru window, and during particularly crowded times of the day it will send team members out to take orders on tablets for faster pickup.

Hours of operation will be Monday through Friday 7 a.m. – 9 p.m., Saturday 8 a.m. – 9 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.

A Dallas-based franchise company, Smoothie King has more than 1,000 locations worldwide. It was founded in 1973.

‘We’re going to disrupt the craft beer industry,’ says CEO of Mexican beer distributor Cerveza Rrëy

Rrey Mexican IPA Beer
One of the first beers Cerveza Rrëy USA will begin distributing in the region will be its Mexican IPA. PHOTO/SUBMITTED


Rogelio Castillo, owner and CEO of Cerveza Rrëy USA, said Lehigh Valley beer drinkers should expect something completely different when his company begins operations later this year.

The company is bringing Mexican craft beer from Monterrey, Mexico, to the United States starting with a new U.S. headquarters in the Lehigh Valley. The beer is brewed by his close friends, Federico Seyffert and Patricio Ferrara, and is currently distributed throughout Mexico.

“Bringing a Mexican craft beer of this level is quite different,” he said. “We’re going to disrupt the craft beer industry.”

The big question since he announced the company would start its U.S. distribution with a Lehigh Valley headquarters is “Where is it going to be?” But that’s an answer Castillo isn’t ready to answer.

“This has been in the works for a while,” he said. “We’re taking steps forward now. We selected the market we’re going to be in and now we’re looking for a location to build our distribution center.”

He said Cerveza Rrëy USA is looking at a few locations for a distribution center that will be climate controlled and have an emphasis on green technology. Castillo lives in the Saucon Valley area and is looking for a site that is not only close to him, but would provide easy access for employees and the beer distributors they will serve.

The company had been considering a number of U.S. markets, including upstate New York, where it currently runs its import operations.

Depending on how quickly the company is able to expand, Cerveza Rrëy USA plans to hire 25 to 75 people in 2021. The first hires will be in administration and business development, followed by distribution center workers when the facility opens towards the end of the year. It will serve as headquarters and the distribution center for the Northeast.

Castillo noted there will be no brewing jobs as the beer will all be brewed in Mexico and imported.

However, the company plans to boost jobs and the local economy by adding such things as micro tasting taprooms throughout the region at food markets and other collective food service destinations.

The company will release three types of beer in 2021: white, Mexican IPA and Kölsch.

And while all of the beers are brewed in true Mexican tradition, they do have a bit of an international influence, Castillo said. The Kölsch beer, for example, is heavily German influenced and the Mexican IPA is influenced by American-style beers.

Initially, the beer will come in bottles sold in six packs and will be available at retailers such as grocery stores and delis as well as wholesale centers across Pennsylvania and neighboring states.

“Right now the consumer behavior is to stay home, buy you can still enjoy a bottle of beer at home,” he said.

As the company gains a foothold in the market, Castillo plans to add beer sold in cans, hopefully in time for the summer barbecue season. He will eventually make the beer available in kegs to sell in taverns and restaurants.

“We’re not a party beer,” he noted. “We’re a beer to enjoy, to pair with food. We’re gastro cool.”

He said it’s his hope that the beer will change people’s perceptions of Mexican beer. Cerveza Rrëy beers are not mass-produced beer the way Mexican beers most Americans have experienced are. It is a large and growing family-owned craft brewer.

The Lehigh Valley will be one of the first markets the beer will be sold in and it should be available soon. In the initial launch he is targeting markets in Pennsylvania, New York and Georgia. Next he plans to expand into the New Jersey and Tennessee, with the ultimate goal of going national.

Mexican beer maker opening US headquarters in Lehigh Valley

Cerveza Rrëy’s Kölsch style beer. PHOTO/SUBMITTED


A Mexican beer manufacturer announced plans to establish its headquarters in the Lehigh Valley as it prepares to rollout operations along the East Coast region of the United States.

Cerveza Rrëy Premium Craft Mexican Beer will form its core team in the area and plans to use the headquarters as a distribution center for the northeast. It will initially launch in Pennsylvania, New York and Georgia as brings its products to the U.S. market.

Rogelio Castillo, owner & CEO of Cerveza Rrëy USA, said he is hoping to bring more economic growth into the area by establishing operations in the Lehigh Valley. After the initial three-state rollout, the company will target New Jersey and Connecticut, he said.

The company will release three types of beer in 2021: White, Mexican IPA and Kölsch. The beer will come in six packs and be available through retail and wholesalers in the region.

The company has not yet identified the location of the headquarters.

Rrëy was founded in Montery, Mexico in 2015. It began exporting to the U.S. in 2019.

LVIA reports another month of decreased traffic in November

As expected, November was another down month for air travel at Lehigh Valley International Airport.

Last month the airport had 30,367 passengers compared to 71,098 in November 2019, a more than 57% decrease.

With health officials warning against holiday travel, Thanksgiving travel was also down said Tom Stoudt, executive director of the Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority.

“In comparison to last year, ABE experienced an approximate 53% decrease in Thanksgiving week travelers. We continue to anticipate that passenger traffic numbers will be driven by the ongoing pandemic and any prevention restrictions implemented for public safety,” said Stoudt.

For the month, Delta reported a passenger traffic decrease of 68.2%, United dropped 64%, American declined by 55.3%, and Allegiant was down 49%.

Air cargo continues to be higher with the pandemic-related increase in online shopping and the Lehigh Valley’s greater logistics presence.

Stoudt said 17,152,686 pounds of air cargo was processed through Lehigh Valley International Airport in October – a positive jump of 4.8% from November 2019.