He lost his job, then he found his way

Steve Thompson, far left, is the chairman of the board of directors of Lehigh Valley Public Media and vice president of finance at Delane Consulting & Talent Management. PHOTO/LEHIGH VALLEY PUBLIC MEDIA –


For Steve Thompson, vice president of finance at Delane Consulting & Talent Management in Bethlehem, continuous learning is a way of life.

It led him to his current job and inspired him to become chairman of the board of Lehigh Valley Public Media, which oversees the Lehigh Valley’s Public Broadcasting Station, Channel 39, and many other educational initiatives. But his education goes beyond his Bachelor of Science Degree in electrical and computer engineering from Brown University, or his Master of Science Degree in electrical engineering from Penn State.

For him, it all started with getting laid off from his job.

Thompson began his career in 1973 as an engineer at Western Electric in Allentown. He stayed on as the company evolved into its later incarnations, first Lucent and later LSI. That’s when his upwardly mobile career went south.

He was in charge of converting integrated circuits made by the company into devices that could be used by the military, a major sales target. He did everything right. His team made the circuits correctly and kept everything under budget, but the military didn’t buy them and he was laid off.

Looking back, Thompson now says getting laid off “was the most positive thing that ever happened to me.” The layoff put him on the path to learning new skills.

Perplexed as to what happened, he took a job with AT&T in New Jersey as a product manager. “It was my first foray into the business end. I think like an engineer, but I wanted to know what went down,” he said.

As he learned more about the business end of the engineering world, he found that it was the marketing of the products, not the design or manufacturing that led to the failure at his previous job. That’s when he decided that to be a success he had to understand all aspects of how a business operates, because all are important. He decided to challenge himself to take on new roles and learn new skills so he could be the best at any job he undertook. But, his love was still in operations, so as he looked to expand his education and career he looked towards process management and programing.

“That was helpful. I had worked in and touched just about every spot that was in manufacturing, so I could see past what people were telling me,” he said.

With his career heading in the direction of project management, finance didn’t seem like a logical leap but, always eager to learn more skills, that’s exactly what he did, taking on a role in project management and finance for Verizon. While the finance end was a new skill set for him, he brought value to the organization because of his background in engineering and manufacturing.

The people making the financial decisions “didn’t know a router from a server. They didn’t know what they were spending money on,” he said.

Now, finance is a big part of his job at Delane and he spends much of his time concentrating on such issues as 401ks and measuring the company’s positive and negative results.

But having his background in engineering and manufacturing still comes in handy and he’s sometimes called in to as a consultant when his experience can help improve a situation.

“To me something can always be more efficient than it was yesterday,” he said.

Thompson says it’s important to use the whole tool box when solving problems in a company. “I spent my entire life trying to find new tools.” He has little patience for those who don’t embrace continual education. “You want to annoy me, tell me you’re done learning and that you already learned everything you need to know.”

His the mission of Lehigh Valley Public Media helps him spread the word of continuous learning to the next generation with its emphasis on educational and informational programing. “I’ve told young people more times than I can count, continuous learning is the number one thing. Technology moves very quickly. Your area will change while you sleep, so you better have studied or you’ll be behind.”

Musikfest 2020 adds a virtual market for handmade items

Festivalgoers shop Handwerkplatz at last year’s Musikfest. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


Musikfest may be mostly virtual this year, but festival fans will still be able to shop for the handmade and artisan craft items that the Bethlehem arts and music festival is so well known for.

ArtsQuest, which runs the festival, said it will add a Handwerkplatz to its Musikfest website to recreate the artisan village, which has always been a part of the annual festival.

The Handwerkplatz site will be an official shopping portal featuring links and photos of participating artisans, many of whom are small businesses owners who have been struggling through the significant loss of business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Each year ArtsQuest provides opportunities for more than 200 artisans through our programming and events, including 45 vendors at Musikfest,” says ArtsQuest Operations Manager Emily Kocis. “As a small business ourselves, we know how vital it is for independent businesses to have opportunities to support their livelihood right now, so we are excited that virtual Musikfest and this shopping portal will allow them to offer their items and work for sale.”

Featured artists so far include:

  • Whisker Biscuits Handmade Dog Treats – healthy USA-made pet treats
    Skyseed Energy – handcrafted healing, hand-wrapped gemstones.
  • High Strung Studios – handcrafted guitar string jewelry and gifts.
  • Rediscover Handbags – handbags with a theatrical program or album cover.
  • Lucas Candies – craft beer brittle.
  • Handmade Art Studios – handmade, colorfully created wall art.
  • RAVEbandz No Slip Headbands – lifestyle and fitness headbands.
  • Finneran Jewelry – handcrafted upcycled jewelry made from vintage tin and beads.
  • Rickey’s Jerky – handcrafted beef and exotic game jerky.
  • Michael Sandy Photography – fine art photography including photos of Bethlehem Steel.

Musikfest 2020 will take place July 31-Aug. 9. This year’s festival will include 40 performances by bands performing live from the Service Electric TV studios and shown via Musikfest.org.

An on-site food and beverage vendors will be at SteelStacks, including at least 10 Musikfest favorite food vendors.

The website, www.musikfest.org/virtualhandwerkplatz, goes live today.

Easton seeing post-shutdown interest in city storefronts



The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on the small business community and many mom and pop shops did not survive the shutdown and have shuttered for good.

It’s a problem that has weighed heavy on the minds of those in economic development as they watch storefronts close one by one.

But in Easton, Kim Kmetz, manager of the Main Street Initiative, said she is also seeing something she wasn’t sure she could count on – an influx of new business.

“I was afraid with the business closures there wouldn’t be businesses that would want to come in,” she said.

To be sure a number of valuable Easton businesses are now closed for good or moved out of the downtown, but it’s not all bad news.

For example, Unwine with Art, a gift store and wine bar, closed. Kmetz said by the time she contacted the building owner to see if the Main Street program could help, there had already been two showings of the storefront.

Two hair salons did close, but one didn’t stay vacant long as Sweet Girlz bakery used the opportunity to expand into the former space.

In fact, she said the activity is much stronger than she expected.

“Once we went into the yellow phase I have been starting to hear from people again,” she said.

She noted that three new businesses have opened downtown since the city went green.

One of them, ERA The Vintage Shop at 140 Northampton St., had been all ready for its grand opening just as the pandemic began in March and stores were ordered closed. The closure postponed the grand opening until the beginning of July, but it didn’t stop it.

A new hair salon has also opened. Salon Authentic is at 75 N. Fourth St.

One Source Staffing also opened an office at 11 N. Third St.

Manager Erin Traina said One Source had been looking to open an office downtown even before the pandemic, because they saw it as a growing area where businesses would be looking for staff and people would be looking for jobs.

Since the pandemic, she said the need has grown. As businesses reopen they have new staffing needs and many people who lost their jobs over the last few months are looking for new employment.

“There are struggles on both sides. We’re hoping to bridge that gap,” Traina said.

More new businesses are on the horizon according to Kmetz.

CIAO, an Italian deli and sandwich shop hopes to be open by the end of July at 12 N. Third St.

And, tie dye artist NeNe Pender has signed a lease to open a bricks and mortar location at 15 S. Second St. for TrueHue Creations, where she will sell the tie dyed clothing and gift items that she makes.

Kmetz said she hopes to have news about even more businesses looking to locate in downtown Easton soon.

“Most importantly I think it’s refreshing and uplifting to know there is an interest in theses spaces,” she said.

Global real estate firm Colliers completes acquisition of Maser Consulting

Colliers International, a global commercial real estate firm headquartered in Toronto, said it has completed the acquisition of Maser Consulting PA of Red Bank, New Jersey.

Maser will be rebranded as “Colliers Engineering Services” in the first half of 2021.

Both have a significant Lehigh Valley presence with Colliers having an office in Upper Macungie Township and Maser in Hanover Township, Lehigh County.

Maser, founded in 1994, offers private and public sector clients a full range of consulting and engineering design services for Property & Building, Infrastructure, Transportation, Environmental and Telecommunication end markets. In 2019 the company had revenue of $167 million.

“We are pleased to welcome the talented and entrepreneurial team from Maser into the Colliers family,” said Elias Mulamoottil, head of strategic investments for Colliers International. “By combining their best-in-class service offerings with our globally recognized brand and service platform, we can accelerate our collective growth in the $100 billion engineering design services sector and take advantage of the many opportunities to revitalize aging infrastructure in the U.S.”

Maser’s senior leadership team will retain a significant stake in the business going forward.

“We expect to hit the ground running as we combine Colliers’ specialized market knowledge and relationships with our own expertise across many different asset classes and end markets,” said Kevin Haney, Maser CEO and president. “Our partners and highly skilled professionals could not be more thrilled and look forward to leveraging our new partnership to accelerate growth in the years to come.”

The acquisition was first announced in March.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Truth for Women taps nonprofit Bloom director to be its CEO

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Truth for Women, a Bethlehem-based nonprofit that helps survivors of sex trafficking, has hired a new CEO. Carol Andersen, who is coming from Bloom, a nonprofit in Bangor with a residential program for women, where she  is executive director.

Andersen is co-chair of Leigh Valley Anti-Trafficking Week 2020 and is a trained trauma-informed crisis counselor for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

“The realities of commercial sexual exploitation and its effect on our society and female victims are tragic and disturbing,” Andersen said in a release. “I look forward to working together and creating opportunities for women survivors to find refuge and begin the healing process.”

Truth for Women is a non-profit organization with the mission of providing sanctuary and emergency stabilization to survivors of sex trafficking.

The Pub at Wegmans closing, store to focus on to-go meals

The Pub at Wegmans in Allentown PHOTO/FILE –


The Pub at Wegmans in Allentown is closing permanently. Wegmans announced today that it would be closing all the chain’s 12 in-store pub locations.

The Wegmans Bethlehem location did not have a pub.

“We know those who love our Pub restaurants will be disappointed to learn that we have made the decision,” said spokeswoman Laura Camera.

The Pub, which opened in June of 2013,  served chef-inspired pub fare like pizza, entrees, sandwiches and salads in a bar-like atmosphere.

The pub served beer from the collection of craft beers the grocery store carries – as well as cocktails and wine by the glass.

At the time of its opening the store manager described the Pub as a place for people “who prefer not to shop hungry,” as well as for those who want a quick meal on the way home from work and for families looking for an affordable dinner.

The 15,000-square-foot pub seated about 150 patrons.

It had been closed when in-restaurant dining was halted back in March because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The store will be repurposing the space for its popular to-go options according to a Camera.

“We are focused on applying our culinary expertise to the increasing demand for fast, casual meal solutions available in our stores, for pickup, and through delivery,” she said.

Camera said those working for the Pub have been offered other positions within the store.

iXchange rescheduled for next May

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania has rescheduled its annual iXchange event for May 18 of next year. The event, originally set for May 12 of this year, was called off because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

iXchange, which is held each year at the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, will feature a keynote speech by innovation coach Robert B. Tucker and a tribute to retiring president and CEO, R. Chadwck Paul, who has led the organization for more than 18 years.

Winners of the innovation awards, which were announced in February, will also be honored at next May’s event.

The winners are:

The purpose of the innovation awards are to congratulate winners on their success and achievement, to highlight the effectiveness of the Ben Franklin program, and to inform entrepreneurs and established manufacturers about the resources that are available to them in northeastern Pennsylvania.

Air Products signs agreement to generate green hydrogen

Air Products of Trexlertown has signed an exclusive strategic cooperation agreement with thyssenkrupp Uhde Chlorine Engineers to collaborate on developing electrolysis plants to generate green hydrogen.

The companies said thyssenkrupp’s technology will be used to support Air Products’ development of green hydrogen as an energy carrier for sustainable transportation, chemicals and power generation.

The company will use its technology engineering, equipment and technical services for water electrolysis plants to be built, owned and operated by Air Products. The companies said the plants will be located in “key regions” around the globe.

“The [agreement] with thyssenkrupp is an important element of our value chain in developing, building, owning and operating world-scale projects and supplying green hydrogen for mobility, energy and industrial applications. We look forward to applying our complementary strengths and delivering substantial sustainability benefits through transformational green hydrogen projects,” said Samir J. Serhan, Air Products COO.

Denis Krude, CEO of thyssenkrupp Uhde Chlorine Engineers, said the company is set to supply one gigawatt for water electrolysis plants per year and is prepared to ramp up capacity in the evolving market.

PennDOT now accepting public-private partnership proposals

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation is now accepting unsolicited proposals for transportation projects from the private sector.

The PennDOT Office of Public-Private Partnerships normally accepts such submissions in April and October of each year, but the April submission period was postponed because of COVID-19. Submissions will be accepted through July 31.

Private sector businesses can submit proposals offering innovative ways to deliver transportation projects across a variety of modes including roads, bridges, rail, aviation, and ports. Proposals can also include more efficient models to manage existing transportation-related services and programs.

The state’s P3 law allows PennDOT and other transportation authorities and commissions to partner with private companies to participate in delivering, maintaining, and financing transportation-related projects.

A seven-member Public Private Transportation Partnership Board will examine and approve potential public-private transportation projects.

If the board determines a state operation would be more cost-effectively administered by a private company, the company will be authorized to submit a proposal and enter into a contract to either completely or partially take over that operation for a defined period of time.

For more information visit www.P3.pa.gov.

A Conversation With: Glenn Heisey, senior vice president of strategy and business operations at Capital BlueCross

Heisey –


LVB: Health insurers have been making drastic changes in the way they see health care in recent years. What do you see as the top trends?

Heisey: Capital BlueCross continues to make strategic investments in technology that are making it easier for people to choose coverage, monitor the use of that coverage, and make smart decisions about their overall healthcare. Our members can use a laptop or phone to securely access all of their personal health information, schedule virtual medical visits for physical or mental health issues, or get tips on how to stay healthy. Technology makes that kind of convenience possible.

Emerging technologies are also reshaping how we manage population health, giving us the data and analytics to identify healthcare issues that might be costly to an employer, so we can work with that employer and their employees to improve health and save them money. Technology also is empowering us to take a more holistic look at healthcare and examine how things like physical health, mental wellness, prescription drug use and other factors all intersect, so we can help people live their healthiest.

As an example, we offer an analytics platform through  one of our subsidiaries. It offers an array of tools to identify healthcare trends and issues and proactively identify populations that could be at risk for health problems, or benefit from intervention or guidance in maintaining health.

LVB: How does offering wellness, exercise and healthy eating programs to your customers benefit an insurance company’s bottom line?

Heisey: A quality wellness program promotes and rewards healthy behavior, which in turn reduces or eliminates medical issues and related costs for the individual. By helping a member stay healthy, we’re helping to ensure the best possible member experience. That member knows we care about their well-being.

Another benefit of a quality wellness program is for employers, who can use these programs to reward healthy behavior by their employees and help reduce absenteeism, work-related injuries, and long-term health issues that could impact productivity.

Capital BlueCross’ wellness program, Healthy Blue Rewards, gives members useful tools and resources to take charge of their health, guiding them to make meaningful progress toward specific health and wellness goals that they help identify.

LVB: Recently, many insurers started covering telehealth appointments because of the COVID-19 pandemic. How is that going?

Heisey: Capital BlueCross has offered telehealth coverage for several years—long before the pandemic—and we worked with local network providers to improve access to telehealth during the pandemic, including further expanding the types of telehealth providers and services we cover during this time.

We also made the decision to waive member costs for telehealth visits during the height of the pandemic. That waiver was one of several proactive steps we took to encourage members to use technology to safely access healthcare and to help minimize in-person medical visits at a time when doctors’ offices and medical facilities were being strained.

We’ve also waived member costs for medical and behavioral health visits on our own telehealth platform, Capital BlueCross Virtual Care. We saw a sharp increase in Virtual Care medical visits in mid-March and then a gradual decline back to pre-pandemic levels; while, we continue to see a steady increase in Virtual Care behavioral visits. We already knew telehealth was an emerging tool, but the COVID-19 pandemic proves it’s here to stay.

LVB: What do you think the next trends will be in health care coverage?

Heisey: The healthcare landscape in Pennsylvania will continue to be shaped by the increasing number of Baby Boomers reaching Medicare eligibility age. This age group is embracing technology and e-commerce at an increasingly fast pace, opening up new opportunities to communicate with them.

Groundbreaking of ‘Seville Apartments’ in Easton slated for Wednesday

Rendering of the Seville Apartments at 56 N. Third St., Easton. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –


A groundbreaking is planned for Wednesday for a new 68-unit apartment building in Easton.

To be known as the Seville Apartments, the project is located at 56 N. Third St., which was once the site of a movie theater, but has been a parking lot since the theater was demolished in the 1970s.

The property is being constructed by Peron Development of Bethlehem.

According to a press release, the 17,000-square-foot property will have 43 one-bedroom and 25 two-bedroom apartments on five floors. There will be retail, a community kitchen and wellness center for residents.

“The Seville will be a beautiful in-fill project on what is known as Millionaire’s Row. The location holds many fond memories for Eastonians,” said Easton Mayor Sal Panto.

The name ‘Seville’ was created in honor of the former movie theater that was on the site.

The project’s design and construction team includes USA Architects, Boyle Construction Management, Barry Isett and Associates and Advantage Engineers.

Cetronia Ambulance Corps names interim CEO

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The Cetronia Ambulance Corps. has named Bob Mateff as interim CEO. He is replacing Larry Wiersch who is retiring.

Mateff was hired as chief operation officer in 2017 as part of Wiersch’s succession plan. Wiersch was with the service for 40 years.

“We want to thank Larry for his service and accomplishments over the last 40 years,” said Christopher Lakatosh, the ambulance corps’ board chair. “Under Larry’s direction, Cetronia was the first and only to implement high performance EMS in this region and he oversaw the design and fruition of Cetronia’s state-of-the-art joint operations facility, thereby creating the first aspect of community regionalization and preparedness.”

Prior to joining with Cetronia, Mateff worked as director of emergency communications and operations at the University of Pennsylvania.

Mateff also served as a former deputy sheriff and emergency medical technician. He holds a certificate in preparedness leadership from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health and is a graduate of DeSales University.

Cetronia Ambulance Corps is a nonprofit 501c3 organization.