Second StartUp Lehigh Valley to be virtual

Richard Thompson, managing partner at Factory LLC and former CEO of Freshpet pitches StartUp Lehigh Valley in a video. PHOTO/PROVIDED –


Organizers are gearing up for the second annual StartUp Lehigh Valley, which will be hosted – virtually –by Bethlehem-based food, beverage and pet industry incubator, The Factory LLC.

Entrepreneurs from throughout Pennsylvania are being invited to submit entries for their business ideas to compete in a virtual pitch competition.

The purpose of the event is to continue to position the Lehigh Valley as the innovation hub of the East Coast by bringing together local business leaders, angel investors, industry experts, merchants, higher education representatives, students, community members and entrepreneurs.

“With the support of the local community, we believe that the Lehigh Valley is positioned to be in alignment with Austin, TX or Boulder, CO—cities that are currently hotbeds for entrepreneurial start-ups,” said Richard Thompson, managing partner at Factory LLC and former CEO of Freshpet. “We chose the name StartUp Lehigh Valley for this event to signify that it is truly inclusive of everyone in the Lehigh Valley community.”

The event will include a virtual pitch competition in which Lehigh Valley entrepreneurs, and start-up founders will present their business ideas to the local community and panel of judges.

Ten finalists will be chosen out of the submissions.

“We are looking for the 10 most exciting Lehigh Valley entrepreneurs,” said Thompson.

The finalists will have the opportunity to pitch for two minutes at StartUp Lehigh Valley Virtual.

A total of $10,000 will be awarded by Penn State Lehigh Valley Launchbox.

The virtual audience will be judging the pitches via a smartphone application and will decide the “Audience Award” for the best entrepreneur pitch.

“The Lehigh Valley is situated in a wonderful location to be a center of innovation. We have easy access to major airports in New York and Philadelphia, great distribution centers, good manufacturing opportunities and wonderful local colleges and universities where we’ve found a lot of bright talent to intern at Factory,” Thompson said. “What we need to do is organize all of these local assets into attracting more and more entrepreneurs and angel investors to grow the entrepreneurial ecosystem of the Lehigh Valley.”

The virtual event, which will be held Nov. 18, is being organized by the Factory, Penn State Lehigh Valley Launchbox and JPMorgan Chase & Co.

All interested entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply by October 28th. For more information visit startuplehighvalley.com.

Dave & Buster’s Whitehall nearly ready to open, now hiring

Dave & Buster’s will soon be opening in its newest location at the Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall. PHOTO/STACY WESCOE


Dave & Buster’s Whitehall is now hiring 120 people to work at the food and entertainment destination.

Recently constructed at the entrance to the Lehigh Valley Mall, it is the first Dave & Buster’s in the Lehigh Valley.

The closest location has been in King of Prussia.

The highly anticipated restaurant will feature 30,000 square feet of arcade games – including state-of-the-art simulators and games of skill, chef-crafted food, innovative drinks and sports viewing at the D&B Sports Bar surrounded with dozens of HDTVs.

The location is looking to hire people for positions in front and back-of-house capacities including managers, servers, bartenders, hosts, line cooks and game techs.

“We are thankful that Dave & Buster’s is able to provide an opportunity to those looking for work at this time. We are looking for team players that are motivated and thrive in a fast-paced work environment,” said Jeff Hartwyk, general manager of the Lehigh Valley location. “We are looking forward to meeting individuals that can be part of our Dave & Buster’s family, and we can’t wait to bring good, clean fun to the Lehigh Valley community.”

When the Dave & Buster’s opens, a spokeswoman assured that all of the games and other features will be up and running, just with social distancing protocols in place.

The first day of operations for the new Dave & Busters is scheduled for Oct. 26.

Summer travel season ends down at LVIA

As expected, as the summer travel season at Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE) ended it was still down from 2019 because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lehigh Northampton Airport Authority reported this week that 25,116 passengers traveled out of the airport during the month of August.

That’s down 72.2% over August 2019 when there were 90,524 passengers.

“While certainly disappointing, we are keeping everything in perspective. Airport staff remain focused on serving the region proudly and maintaining our highest priority which is keeping passengers safe when using your neighborhood airport,” said Tom Stoudt, executive director of the authority.

He said the lower August numbers reflected an overall depressed summer travel season.

“During last summer (June to August), nearly 275,000 people chose ABE as their takeoff point. Just a year later, with obvious extenuating circumstances, only 78,851 people traveled through ABE during the same time period,” said Stoudt.

United reported a significant passenger traffic decrease of 94.3%, Delta dropped 83.4%, Allegiant was down 67.2%, and American declined by 59.6%.

On the horizon, however, the airport is looking forward to the October return of Delta service to Atlanta and United service to Chicago.

Cargo continues to be a strong area for the airport, but even that was down over last year.

Stoudt said 14,818,293 pounds of air cargo processed through the airport in August – a slight decrease of 5.7% from Aug 2019.

Looking ahead he said the passenger drop should be quite as dramatic.

“Higher summer travel numbers create large variances when there is a decrease. Typically, the fall season isn’t as busy at ABE, so the expectation is for a somewhat smaller divergence in the coming months,” said Stoudt.

Still, he said the future is uncertain as the pandemic remains a problem.

“There’s no crystal ball for us to foreshadow trends in passenger traffic as the landscape of this pandemic is everchanging. One of ABE’s biggest challenges remains that many of our nonstop destination states (Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Illinois) are still subject to the PA Department of Health travel recommendation which calls for a 14-day quarantine upon return,” said Stoudt.

Grand opening held for Venture X Bethlehem

CEO Terry Wallace, with scissors, cuts the ribbon on his new Venture X office in Bethlehem. PHOTO SUBMITTED


Hoping it will be the future of modern offices in a post COVID-19 world, a real estate investor has officially launched Venture X in Bethlehem, with a grand opening Tuesday.

“I took the initiative to bring Venture X to the Lehigh Valley and to showcase our first opening in Bethlehem, because we believe that exceptional people, with exceptional careers, deserve an exceptional space to grow,” said Terry Wallace, Venture X Bethlehem CEO.  “From years of commuting to NYC, I wanted the same benefits of a NYC office space here in the Lehigh Valley.”

Venture X is part of a professional co-working franchise that offers private office space and shared office space with flexible month to month agreements. A membership in Venture X provides access to facilities it has across the country and internationally.

The Bethlehem Venture X, which was designed by Spillman Farmer Architects, is at 306 S. New St. in Bethlehem in the recently built gateway building,.

The 13,000-square-foot facility has 40 office spaces of varying sizes and was designed around new COVID-19 health requirements including contactless entry and sign in.

The concept began in Naples, Florida and spread to other states, including New York, Boston, California and Texas.

This office is the first Venture X in Pennsylvania.

Wallace said he hopes to grow the concept in the Lehigh Valley.

“The City of Bethlehem has proven to be the best place for our first office. I look forward to Venture X becoming a strong economic partner in all three of the major Lehigh Valley cities, by providing world-class office space, amenities, and services,” he said.

Mack to begin commercial production of electric refuse truck

Mack Trucks today announced plans to commercialize the Mack LR Electric refuse model, which will be manufactured in Lower Macungie. PHOTO/SUBMITTED


Mack Truck has announced that it will commercialize the Mack LR Electric refuse truck it has been testing, and the trucks will be manufactured in the Lehigh Valley.

The company said it plans to begin production on the trucks at Mack Lehigh Valley in Lower Macungie Township in 2021. It will begin taking orders for the new trucks in the fourth quarter of this year.

After being introduced as a prototype in 2018, the company had been testing the truck with the New York City Department of Sanitation earlier this year.

“Mack’s leadership in the refuse segment goes back more than a century, and we’re pleased to build on that heritage today by announcing the commercialization of the LR Electric model,” said company president Martin Weissburg. “This clean, quiet and powerful truck demonstrates the very best of Mack innovation and our people, and I couldn’t be more proud to announce our plans to build it.”

The company said the new zero-emissions truck will help customers reach their own environmental goals as well as local emissions regulations.

It will also benefit customers working in an urban setting who are seeking to cut noise pollution and operate quietly at night.

“The LR Electric is paving the way toward widespread acceptance of zero-emissions refuse trucks,” Weissburg said. “As we begin delivering them to customers in the coming year, we remain committed to ensuring these trucks are built to meet the unique needs of the refuse industry.”

A Conversation With: Michael Fisher, president and CEO of Client 1st Financial

Michael J. Fischer –


Client 1st Financial was established in 2011, has over 637 clients and manages $177M in assets. Client 1st is located in Fogelsville and serves clients in 23 states. Michael J. Fischer, president and CEO is a lifelong resident of the Lehigh Valley who has been in the financial services field for over 32 years.

LVB: It’s been a crazy year for the economy. Have things settled down at all for investors?

Fischer: Most clients have recovered what was lost and some are slightly ahead of where they started the year.

LVB: What has been your biggest challenge?

Fischer: Keeping clients’ focus on their long-term goals and corresponding long-term investment strategies, versus overreacting to near term events like the second wave of Covid-19 the upcoming election, etc.

LVB: What areas are the strongest for investment right now?

Fischer: The US stock market, particularly the technology driven Nasdaq, has performed very well over the last couple of months.

LVB: The weakest?

Fischer: Certain sectors within the Global stock markets continue to struggle like airlines, hospitality, and energy.

LVB: How do you see the rest of 2020 playing out for investors?

Fischer: As an investor, you have to be smart.  Different sectors of the economy — and as a result their stocks — will perform differently as we move to the end of the year.  Be careful not to chase high returns from certain sectors in hopes that they will continue to rise. Finally, do not let an emotional reaction to the results of the election, change your focus on long-term investing and success.

Hiring sprees bringing thousands of jobs to the region

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that has rocked the world economy, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate was still at a hefty 13.7% in July, but it looks like jobs may be on the way.

Amazon and the Giant Co. have announced they’ll be hiring thousands in the region and even a Lehigh Valley shopping center, The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley is hosting a job fair next week to meet the demand for workers.

Amazon, of course, is the news getting the most attention.

Monday, the company announced it would be hiring 100,000 workers nationwide to meet the growing demand for ecommerce.

“We’re excited to be able to continue to create jobs and this is a huge time for us,” said Shone Jemmot, a spokesperson for Amazon.

She noted that Pennsylvania is among the states that has the greatest need for new workers and they are looking to fill positions in areas such as fulfilment, sorting and delivery.

In the Lehigh Valley, Amazon is looking to fill 600 jobs that are full- and part-time positions.

She said that while the company normally does have a hiring spree this time of year for seasonal help to assist with holiday shopping demand, these jobs are permanent hires.

They are looking to fill 500 jobs in the Harrisburg area as well.

Amazon facilities in both regions are offering starting salaries of $15.50 an hour as well as a sign on bonus.

These new hires are on top of the more than 1,000 workers that Amazon already said it was looking to hire in the Berks County region where it is opening two new facilities.

Throughout Pennsylvania Amazon currently has around 16,000 full- and part-time employees so the increase in positions is a significant boost to its ranks.

Grocery stores were one of the few areas that saw a boost in business during the COVID-19 pandemic and the Carlisle-based Giant Co. now finds it needs even more staff and is hiring 4,000 full- and part-time employees for permanent and seasonal positions.

While the grocer is hiring across its store footprint, many of the jobs are in Central Pennsylvania.

The Giant Co.’s hiring includes jobs for its new store in Harrisburg slated to open Oct. 23.

The Giant Co. distribution center in Carlisle, as well as the Giant Direct facilities in Camp Hill and Lancaster, are also hiring for positions that include order selectors and delivery drivers.

In other parts of the state it is looking for people to work as cashiers as well as in stocking, deli and in other fresh departments.

The company has 35,000 employees and said it has hired 7,000 people since the start of 2020.

The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley has a job fair scheduled for Sept. 28. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

While traditional retail and shopping centers have been hard hit, and many stores and restaurants have closed in recent months, they’re starting to see a demand for jobs at the Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley, where marketing manager Carol Tomaszewski is organizing a job fair for Sept. 28 to meet the hiring needs of a number of shops and restaurants at the lifestyle center.

“Many of our stores were coming to us and saying ‘We’re hiring for these positions,” said Tomaszewski.

While the mall management often helps get the word out when a tenant needs help finding workers, the volume of requests she was getting made her decide that having an official job fair would be the most efficient way for tenants to find workers and people to find the right job.

Among the stores hiring at the Promenade is Banana Republic, which has openings in the stock room, fitting room, for cashiers and on the sales floor.

Kay Jewelers is looking for full- and part-time staff for both permanent and seasonal work.

White House | Black Market is looking for sales associates and sales leads.

Restaurants White Orchids, Kome and Red Robin are looking for positions ranging from servers to dishwashers and Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa is looking for associates and massage therapists.

The Promenade also has a grocery store, the Fresh Market. It’s looking for cashiers, deli, and meat and seafood clerks.

While the job fair is a concerted effort, Tomaszewski said each tenant is handling its hiring differently. Some are accepting walk in applicants, while some are asking people to send in a resume and schedule an appointment. She suggests interested job seekers check out the center’s website for more details.

She said she sees the need for new employees as a good sign.

“Since we reopened we’ve seen a lot of good things post-COVID,” she said. “There’s really a lot of life here.”

City Center makes $1M challenge grant to United Way

J.B. and Kathleen Reilly of City Center Investment Corporation will lead the 2020 United Way campaign for United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


The United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley is kicking off its 2020 campaign with an extra boost. City Center Investment Corp., the company behind much of the development going on in downtown Allentown, pledged a $1 million matching gift through its Building Community initiative.

J.B. Reilly, president of City Center, and his wife Kathleen, are co-chairs of this year’s campaign.

“These are unprecedented times and we hope through your support of United Way, you’ll help us make an even greater impact with the City Center Match for Our Community,” Reilly said in a release.

City Center will provide a dollar-for-dollar match all new and increased gifts, up to $1 million, to United Way’s Community Building Fund or to support United Way’s work in the areas of education, food access, healthy aging and emergency services.

Building Community is the community-engagement initiative of City Center and its employees. The initiative aims to revitalize downtown Allentown and its surrounding neighborhoods by providing financial support, in-kind donations and volunteer service in three key areas: the arts, education and community development.

In 2019, CCIC donated more than $2.2 million total to 120 organizations and its 23 employees volunteered at nearly 45 organizations, donating more than 2,000 total hours.

Since CCIC launched Building Community three years ago, it has donated more than $9.8 million total, mainly to organizations in downtown Allentown.

No pumpkin PEEPS, Just Born to focus on Easter production

Because of COVID-19 production delays Just Born of Bethlehem won’t be making Halloween-themed PEEPS this year. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


Bethlehem-based candy manufacturer, Just Born, is going to put all its PEEPS in one basket this year.

Because of production delays caused by the company’s manufacturing shutdown during the COVID-19 crisis earlier this year it has decided it won’t be putting out any specialty peeps or other candies this year so it can concentrate on its biggest holiday – Easter.

“While PEEPS Marshmallow Candies, MIKE AND IKE and HOT TAMALES would typically be available in fun shapes and packaging sizes for the Halloween and holiday seasons, unfortunately, the seasonal varieties will not be in stores again until 2021,” the company said in a statement.

Even after the company resumed operations in early May, it said production was limited because of the health and safety changes that needed to be made in the plant to help prevent the spread of the virus and help protect employees.

“This situation resulted in us having to make the difficult decision to forego production of our seasonal candies for Halloween, Christmas and Valentine’s Day in order to focus on meeting the expected overwhelming demand for PEEPS for next Easter season, as well as our everyday candies,” Just Born said.

The company said it will resume its regular seasonal PEEPs production for Halloween 2021.

Lehigh Valley firms hope to bring COVID-19 vaccine to market by next year

Two Lehigh Valley companies that have partnered to develop and manufacture a pair of COVID-19 vaccines said they may have a vaccine to market by spring of next year.

Aseptic medical manufacturer US Specialty Formulations and vaccine developer VaxForm, are currently developing two potential vaccines for the COVID-19 virus, an oral vaccine that a person would drink and a traditional injectable vaccine.

With positive clinical trials — both vaccine formulations produced antibodies in 100% of mice in pre-clinical trials—Kyle Flannigan, co-founder and CEO of USSF, said they will be ramping up production of the two vaccines in November with the goal of being able to produce around 300,000 vaccines per month by April.

Flanigan said there are many companies both large and small working on COVID-19 vaccines, but he doesn’t worry about competition.

Garry Morefield of VaxForm, left, and Kyle Flanigan of US Specialty Formulations at Ben Franklin Tech Ventures in Bethlehem. PHOTO/SUBMITTED

“There’s room for plenty of vaccines,” he said. “With around 7.5 billion people in the world no one manufacturer has the capability to produce that amount in a reasonable amount of time.”

He also said that their vaccines have a competitive advantage – especially the oral version – because of their ability to produce the needed vaccines and because of their ease of use.

He said in the industry many of the players are either vaccine developers or vaccine manufacturers.

Once a developer has a viable vaccine they need to find a manufacturer willing and capable of bringing it to market.

Since the partnership of USSF and VaxForm gives them both development and production capabilities they can skip that step.

Flanigan said one of the biggest concerns in the industry right now is the supply chain. With such an overwhelming demand for new vaccine products and so many companies producing them, there will likely be a shortage of things like syringes, vials and needles that will be needed for the vaccines.

Such a shortage would create a slowdown in the manufacturing and distribution process.

With the oral option, the raw materials are different and will be easier to source and they won’t experience the same delays as other companies.

He said once to market he expects there to be a strong demand for an oral vaccine because it is easier to use and poses less of a risk.

Rather than relying on doctors, nurses and pharmacists to give out the vaccines, a person can take it themselves.

“When you’re trying to get a vaccine out to a large population quickly, that is an advantage,” he said. “We will be able to supply vaccines to a lot more people.”

With the positive clinical trials, Flanigan said the companies will be asking the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization, which should speed the approval process from two to three years to a few months.

That is why they are beginning manufacturing soon, so they’ll have product ready to ship out when that approval comes.

USSF, which recently moved into a larger manufacturing facility in Allentown, began working with VaxForm while they were both tenants of Ben Franklin Technology Partners’ TechVentures in Bethlehem where VaxForm is still located.

VaxForm had been working on other vaccine trials, including one for Strep, when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

Wayne Barz, entrepreneurial services manager of TechVentures, said the two businesses decided to switch their focus to address the COVID-19 crisis.

As the pandemic unfolded we were information sharing with all our clients, feeding them information and helping them find resources,” Barz said.

He noted that many of the incubator’s clients began working on projects to help fight the disease, and this has been one of the more significant successes.

He pointed out that OraSure in Bethlehem, which is also a Ben Franklin graduate, is currently hiring around 170 people to help produce a rapid in-home test for COVID-19 that it hopes to have out by the end of the year.

He said stories like this are what Ben Franklin and TechVentures are all about. By helping upstarts with new ideas get off the ground they have the running start to develop novel tests and treatments to meet society’s needs.

“For us to be on the forefront of new technologies and creating jobs you’ve got to plant the seeds,” he said.

Flanigan said he hopes that the public interest in the vaccine industry generated by the pandemic will help develop support for planting those seeds in vaccinations.

“Vaccine developers usually don’t find any glamor in the industry,” he said. “All of a sudden everyone is interested in vaccines. It’s refreshing.”

He hopes it inspires people to realize the importance of investing in vaccine development, having a strong supply chain and stockpiling.

“We’ve now found that when it happens it’s too late,” he said. “Some of the decisions, globally, could have been better in the past.”

‘Last Cast 25’ to mark anniversary of Bethlehem Steel’s final beam

An historical photo of workers at Bethlehem Steel PHOTO/ EDWARD LESKIN –


South Side Bethlehem will be reminiscing about its steel-making history later this month.

To mark the 25 anniversary of the last steel beam made at Bethlehem Steel, a number of community organizations are organizing “Last Cast 25,” a series of events that will include the Steel Weekend at the National Museum of Industrial History, Sept. 26-27.

The anniversary events will be held on the SteelStacks property that was once home to the plant, which employed more than 30,000 at its peak and was instrumental in manufacturing steel for much of the Manhattan skyline, Madison Square Garden and artillery and ships in the two World Wars.

Nov. 18, 1995 was the last cast of iron from a blast furnace in Bethlehem and the Basic Oxygen Furnace, which converted iron into steel, shut down shortly afterwards. The Electric Furnace Melt Shop was the last steelmaking shop to end melting on Nov. 22, 1995.

Other events include a screening of “Bethlehem Steel: The People Who Built America at Lehigh Valley Public Media (Channel 39) Sept. 16 at 7 p.m.

A steelworkers reunion party will be held Oct. 3 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. At the ArtsQuest Center’s Town Square.

There will also be the Bethlehem Beam Project – “Look for the I-s that built the sk-I-es,” which will run from November through 2021 throughout the city.

ArtsQuest, the National Museum of Industrial History and various other organizations and businesses are collaborating to host a public art project featuring the iconic Bethlehem Beams. Beams will be featured throughout the north and south sides of Bethlehem.

The beams, which come from Martin Tower, will be divided into benches and decorated by local artisans, as well as youth.

“Bethlehem Steel’s ‘last cast’ holds a symbolic place in the hearts of many steelworkers and community members.  It’s an indelible final chapter in the history of a storied company,” said National Museum of Industrial History President and CEO Kara Mohsinger. “While the plant’s final days were a sad time for Bethlehem, we’re glad we can come together now, 25 years later, and remember the worldwide impact Bethlehem’s steelworkers had on our town and our country.”

All events can be found at www.steelstacks.org/LastCast25.


Air Products to replace 1970s tech for Algerian customer

After announcing a contract to provide nitrogen to a memory chip maker in Malaysia, Air Products of Trexlertown said it has also just been contracted to provide Main Cryogenic Heat Exchangers to a company in Algeria.

Air Products said it is actually replacing four MCHEs that the company supplied to Sonatrach’s liquid natural gas facility back in the 1970s, noting that they are some of the longest operating MCHEs in the world.

The four new MCHEs to be supplied by Air Products will be installed at the heart of the propane pre-cooled mixed refrigerant liquefaction process at the facility.

The original six MCHE’s at the Sonatrach facility were supplied by Air Products in 1977. Since that time, the company said the location has undergone multiple rejuvenation projects with the original MCHEs still in service.

The new exchangers will incorporate the latest advances in design and manufacturing hich have been developed by Air Products over the past four decades.

“This is a very significant contract for Air Products to have won with a very important customer, Sonatrach, who has been a valuable customer of ours for many years,” said . “This is another important milestone in our commitment to work with Sonatrach in Algeria and deliver the best heat exchanger technology in the LNG industry. Air Products is very proud that we built the original heat exchangers, which are still operating at the Arzew facility in Algeria and have been for over four decades.”

Air Products will build the LNG heat exchangers at its Port Manatee, Florida manufacturing facility.

Air Products opened its Port Manatee facility in January 2014 and completed a 60% expansion in October 2019 to meet the needs of the growing LNG industry.

Air Products will also be responsible for overseeing the installation of the equipment and also provide advisory services and engineering studies.