Bethlehem area Dollar Tree faces $300K in OSHA fines: Updated

A Dollar Tree store in Bethlehem Township is facing nearly $300,000 in fines from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for exit and storage hazards.

After receiving a complaint about the store at 3821 Nazareth Pike, OSHA inspectors said they found blocked emergency exits and unsecured compressed gas cylinders as well as unsanitary bathrooms, electrical panels that were not properly maintained and materials that were stacked in an unsafe manner.

The national retailer was cited for two willful, one repeat and two other-than-serious violations as a result of the inspection.

“Workers have a right to a safe and healthful workplace,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Loren Sweatt in a release. “OSHA will continue to ensure that Dollar Tree is held accountable for their obligations under the Occupational Safety and Health Act.”

Dollar Tree has 15 business days from receipt of the citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Dollar Tree responded to the citation:

“Maintaining a safe workplace and shopping environment is our highest priority.  We work to ensure compliance with OSHA regulations at all of our stores and we are taking these citations seriously.”

Lehigh Valley International Airport reports 28 months of passenger growth

Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County. PHOTO/FILE –

While the first two months of the year generally trend lower for travel, Lehigh Valley International Airport  is reporting an increase in passenger traffic for January.

The airport, in Hanover Township, Lehigh County saw an 11.7% increase in travel over January of the prior year with 61,309 passengers traveling through the airport as compared to 54,895 in January 2019.

The authority noted that it was the 28th consecutive month of passenger traffic growth.

“Previous travel trends at ABE demonstrated a slowdown in passenger traffic during January and February, but the momentum we’ve sustained for over two years isn’t showing signs of slowing down,” said Thomas R. Stoudt, executive director, Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority.

Recent additions to the airport include Allegiant Travel Co. opening a $50 million aircraft base there. A number of new destinations were also added over the course of the past year, which contributed to the growth.

Allegiant reported a significant passenger traffic increase of 31%, while American jumped 9% and United was up 4%. Meanwhile, Delta slightly declined in traffic for the month by 4.1%

Ben Franklin Technology Partners names 2020 Innovation Award winners

Last year’s iXchange at Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem. PHOTO/FILE –

Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania announced the winners of this year’s Innovation Awards.

The Entrepreneurial Achievement Award went to OPTiMO of Bloomsburg and its founder, Michael Miguelez. The company delivers IT solutions to legal, corporate and government clients nationwide. Starting with two staffers 10 years ago, OPTiMO now has a staff of 68 and has doubled its revenue in the last five years.

The Incubator Graduate Award went to ChannelApe of Scranton and its COO, Jason DePietropaolo. The company is a modern warehousing and fulfillment company that has built a fulfillment network used by some top direct-to-consumer brands such as Rothy’s and Allbirds.

Signallamp Health Inc. of Scranton and co-founders Drew Kearney and Andrew Goldberg, won the Product Innovation Award. For healthcare organizations, Signallamp expands capacity, improves quality, and generates new net revenue. SLH serves more than 25,000 patients across seven health systems, dozens of group practices, and ten states.

The Innovative Application of Technology Award was awarded to SOLO Laboratories Inc. of Kutztown and its CEO, Lindsay Sokol Szeiko. SOLO Laboratories has manufactured custom prescription orthotics for podiatrists and medical professionals since 1983.

Ben Franklin invested $44,500 in SOLO in 2019 and connected it with Lehigh University’s Center for Supply Chain Research to increase facility capacity and identify process improvements and additional quality measures. After implementing the recommendations, SOLO enhanced fixtures, improved efficiency, and realized a reduction in lead times of 14%.

The Manufacturing Achievement Award went to Effort Foundry in Bath and Charles Hamburg, CEO and William Easterly, president.

Effort Foundry is a supplier of high-integrity steel castings for the pump, power generation, and military industries.

Working with BFPNEPA and Lehigh University’s Enterprise Systems Center the company significantly increased its bottom line from 2018 to 2019, increasing last year’s employment by 5% to 81.

The Frederick J. Beste III Partnership Award went to Eugene Lucadamo, the retired director of industry research engagement at Lehigh University in Bethlehem.

The awards, presented to the businesses and individuals who have achieved success through Ben Franklin funding and assistance, helped others to achieve success, or improved their businesses through innovation, will be presented at the iXchange event May 12 at Lehigh University’s Zoellner Arts Center in Bethlehem.

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.

LCCC workforce development program gets state approval

Lehigh Carbon Community College’s newest workforce development program, Certified Production Technician Plus, has been approved as a registered pre-apprenticeship by the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

The program is designed to prepare future employees with next-generation skills for work in a computer-driven, data-intensive advanced manufacturing workplace.

LCCC said the course combines online learning, self-study and hands-on work to prepare students in a variety of jobs including machine operators, maintenance and industrial automation, with a chance to move into more advanced positions.

All registered pre-apprenticeships are required to have a connection to existing registered apprenticeships. The CPT+ program at LCCC is connected to the registered apprenticeship programs at Mack Trucks and Ocean Spray.

The school said employers recognize that students graduating from a registered pre-apprenticeship course have learned the skills and knowledge that allow them to move directly into apprenticeship programs.

LVHN acquires privately owned EmergiCenters in S. Whitehall and Allentown

The Airport Road EmergiCenter is one of two Emergicenters being acquired by Lehigh Valley Health Network. PHOTO/STACY WESCOE –

Lehigh Valley Health Network is acquiring an independent urgent care business with two locations.

The health network is taking over Cedar Crest EmergiCenter in South Whitehall Township, and Airport Road EmergiCenter in Allentown. The offices are owned by founder Dr. David J. Shingles, D.O.

The offices will become LVHN ExpressCARE locations this spring.

EmergiCenter has been operating in the Lehigh Valley since 1985 according to its website. It has been offering walk-in medical care since before area health networks and other chain providers, like Patient First entered the field.

It offers urgent care for nonlife-threatening illnesses and injuries, employment physicals, drug testing, lab tests, X-rays and other services.

The current EmergiCenters, which are located respectively at 1101 S. Cedar Crest Blvd., and 1791 Airport Road, will close March 31, according to the health network, and reopen as Lehigh Valley Health Network services. LVHN ExpressCARE—walk-in care for minor emergencies—will open practices in those locations the next day, April 1.

The EmergiCenters are notifying their patients of the changes via letter.

LVHN said it will evaluate opening additional services at these locations in the future.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Puzzle fans will soon be able to escape a new location

A group searches for clues in a treasure chest at the Bethlehem location of Captured LV Escape Room. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

Captured LV Escape Room is expanding with a new location.

The entertainment venue, currently located in the Main Street Commons in Bethlehem, puts people in a locked room where they have to solve puzzles and discover keys to escape within 60 minutes. It features four themed rooms including “the Haunted Theatre,” “the Alchemy lab,” “Pirate’s Chamber” and Mayan Temple.

The new location, which will open this spring in The Tilghman Square Shopping Center at 4640 Broadway Rd. in South Whitehall Township, will have a new set of escape room themes.

The space was previously a Massage Envy.

Scott Horner and Derek Zerfass of Colliers International Allentown office brokered the lease with the shopping center.

The shopping center is also home to the New Vision Theater, Harbor Freight and Duck Donuts.

Taking the Leap: Cady Darago is helping law firms grow through marketing

For Cady Darago, an interest in law came at an early age.

She studied criminal justice in college, and since graduating, only worked for law firms. She served a number of roles, including a legal assistant, paralegal, office manager, and in the accounting department. However, when she began working in the legal marketing department at the Lehigh Valley-based firm Tallman Hudders & Sorrentino, she found her true passion.

Darago started working at Tallman Hudders in 2009 as a legal assistant, got involved in the marketing department full time shortly after as a marketing assistant, got married in 2010, had her daughter in 2012 when she became a marketing coordinator, and her son in 2017 when she became the firm’s marketing manager.

She was with Tallman Hudders & Sorrentino before the firm merged and changed its name to the Bridgewater, New Jersey-based Norris McLaughlin nearly 10 years ago. When the merger happened, the law firm wanted someone to represent their office as the firm’s marketing manager and as the firm got bigger, it began hiring more people.

“I really loved everything that I got to do in that role,” she said. “The firm was super supportive of letting me take over that role.”

Cady Darago started her own business with partner Ed Miller because she wanted more time for family.-PHOTO/SUBMITTED

She knew she wanted to spend more time with her family, while also building her marketing career. After traveling a lot for the firm, she realized she wanted more family time while also pursuing her passion, which led to an important decision, a jumping off point for a new venture. Having worked with lawyers for years, she knew they were busy people who needed someone to help them stay organized and position themselves to stand out in a crowded market.

After identifying a niche that needed filling, she thought of starting her own marketing firm, but one focused on helping lawyers. She began ESQuisite Marketing in 2019 with Ed Miller, who was chief marketing officer at Norris McLaughlin. Together, they began a small business that offers business development and management services, in addition to marketing and communication support for law firms.

Other marketing companies do not quite understand the law industry and the ethics and culture involved, she said. Darago is relying on that to help set her firm apart from others. The firm has office space on Hamilton Street in the heart of downtown Allentown.

Today she also makes time for volunteer activities. She serves on the development committee for the Third Street Alliance for Women & Children, a social services organization in Easton, and is head coach for Girls on the Run International, a nonprofit that motivates and encourages girls.

Lehigh Valley Business recently sat down with Darago to learn more about what led to her current career.

LVB: What made you want to start your own business?

Darago: Feeling like my growth had met its limit at the firm. I want to do the class mom stuff and go on field trips. I was in Allentown twice a week, Bridgewater twice a week and Manhattan once a week. I take my career very seriously. It wasn’t always feasible to take the time off, now it is. I can work overnight as needed. We do have an office in Allentown that we go to and we do onsite visits with clients.

We had steady employment at a well-respected firm. It was a leap. It was scary to leave. I had been there for 10 years. Ed had been there for 20. But we saw a need in the legal community where a lot of law firms were starting their own firms and needed marketing support.

Frankly, the growth we had in the last year proved us right.

LVB: Why marketing?

Darago: I like the ability to still learn about the law because that’s what interests me and to take it and be creative with it and to take lawyers and showcase them in a positive way. A good day for them is when they are able to help their clients solve a problem, and lawyers aren’t taught marketing in law school. They have a ton of competition. Lawyers are competing for the same pool of clients who need their services.

LVB: What advice would you give to someone who always wanted to start their own business but was afraid to try?

Darago: Find a mentor who already made the leap and can talk you through it and has the ability to continue to give you guidance after you open the doors. Ed and I relied on a friend. He was invaluable. He and his company were really instrumental. They let us use their conference rooms. Even with pricing and proposals, it’s nice to have someone who understands your industry. [The company is] a larger, general marketing firm in the Lehigh Valley.

And just do it. Once you have all your ducks in a row, rip the Band-Aid off and make it happen.

LVB: Any trends in marketing that you are seeing?

Darago: Especially in the legal industry, clients want their attorneys to teach them. More than ever, clients want to be educated. I think lawyers need to showcase they are the best and how they can help their clients, whether that’s being interviewed about changes in the law or cases, writing blogs, podcasts. Consumers are hungry for knowledge. You can be the best business out there, if you can’t showcase that, then clients are going to look elsewhere.

LVB: Is there anything specific about your firm that sets you apart from others?

Darago: We definitely have the law background. We want it to be fun. We really want to work with each client on an individual basis to find out what works for them. For an attorney to build their business they have to understand who their target audience is.

We work with an attorney to find out what their comfort zone is and find the best way to showcase their marketing. You have to find out what you like to do and we sit down with each attorney and find out what works for them.

LVB: Describe some of the challenges that you face.

Darago: Managing your workload, because we have different clients and being able to compartmentalize. Having our office space really helped with that. To be organized and to see the bigger picture of everything that we are working on. Thankfully, we have a really great accountant who helped us manage our books. We were fortunate that more of our clients knew we were a startup. Some of our clients found us on social media. A lot of smaller firms, which is our sweet spot, don’t have marketing support and those are the ones who really need it.

LVB: What do you like to do when you are not working?

Darago: After years of helping attorneys be on boards, I am a coach for Girls on the Run. Running is a passion of mine. I serve on the development committee for the Third Street Alliance and I have two kiddos that I run around with. I spend a lot of time on the D&L trail.

LVB: What are some causes that are important to you?

Darago: The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is something I have been involved in. It’s been about 10 years. I do fundraising for them. I’ve been involved with the Light the Night Walk. I was their captain for the Light the Night Walk. The day before the walk, my mom was diagnosed with both Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkins lymphoma. She’s in remission.

Penn State Lehigh Valley adds accounting option to business major

Penn State Lehigh Valley in Upper Saucon Township is expanding its business program to include an accounting concentration.

Maung Min, director of business programs, said the accounting option will provide 18 credits worth of accounting classes, a project management course and a six-credit accounting internship.

The program will give students the education and number of credits needed to sit for the CPA exam and is designed to prepare them for job prospects in the accounting field.

“We’re doing well as far as enrollment goes and there’s been a lot of interest in the business program,” Min said. “We’ve seen predictions that there is going to be a significant growth in the need for accountants in coming years.”

Currently, students who wish to become CPAs have to transfer to other Penn State campuses or schools to obtain the proper credits.

In addition to the accounting concentration, which will be offered beginning in the fall, Penn State Lehigh Valley’s business degree program also offers a marketing and management option, as well as an individualized option, so students have the opportunity to tailor their education to their specific interests.

“The importance of professional accountants in ensuring sound financial reporting cannot be stressed enough. Accountants contribute to the stability and progress of society,” said Mark Gruskin, associate professor of finance and accounting, Penn State Lehigh Valley. “Our accounting option prepares students for careers as a Certified Public Accountant, Corporate Controller, Treasurer, Budget Director and consultant.”

Eight affordable homes to be built in East Side Allentown

Eight twin homes are being built on the 600 block of Tacoma Street in Allentown. Rendering by Rob Williams

Habitat for Humanity of the Lehigh Valley is breaking ground next week on a new eight-home construction project in East Allentown.

Feb. 19, Habitat construction staff, core construction volunteers, corporate volunteer groups and future homeowners will begin work on the project to build eight twin homes on the 600 block of Tacoma Street.

Habitat home buyers work with Habitat Lehigh Valley to complete a minimum of 250 sweat-equity hours on their home and neighbors’ homes as part of their agreement.

They are then offered an affordable no-interest mortgage on the property. The home buyers need to meet financial guidelines.

The housing project is being sponsored by Thrivent Financial, Santander Bank, The Harry C. Trexler Trust, the Lehigh County Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the City of Allentown HOME funds.

The project is expected to take about two years.

Pa. manufacturers cautious as coronavirus spreads

Fuling Plastics in Upper Macungie Township is owned by the China-based Fuling Global. PHOTO/FILE –

Manufacturers in the Greater Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania are keeping a close eye on China.

With ongoing production and supply chain shutdowns there due to the coronavirus, now officially named COVID19 by the World Health Organization, any company that has manufacturing facilities in China, or purchases vital components from that part of the world, could be impacted by the disease’s spread.

“Everybody is very concerned,” said Richard Hobbs, president and CEO of the Manufacturers Resource Center in Upper Macungie Township. “But, it’s not a complete story by any means. No one knows how quickly it will spread or how far it will spread.”

He noted that many manufacturers in the region have connections to China.

Fuling Plastic USA in Upper Macungie, for example, is owned by China-based Fuling Global.

Solar Technologies Inc. in Upper Macungie gets many of its component parts from China.

Bracalente Manufacturing in Trumbaursville has a manufacturing facility in China. So does Lancaster-based Armstrong Flooring Inc., which said operations have been affected in China as the company works to protect its employees from the virus.

“We’ve implemented travel restrictions to and from China,” said Steve Trapnell, communications manager for Armstrong. “We’ve been complying with government regulations, including delaying employees’ return from the Lunar New Year due to travel restrictions. Some employees are working remotely.”

The company it is also working to send additional health and safety supplies to its employees in China, he said.

Due to concern about the coronavirus, Armstrong Flooring in Lancaster County imposed travel restrictions to and from China.

Phoenix Contact USA in Lower Swatara Township, near Harrisburg, manufactures industrial connection and automation technologies. Frank Stührenberg, chairman of the company’s board of directors, said in a letter that it is keeping a close eye on the situation in China.

“It is still too early to be able to predict all the effects this may have on supply chains. We are, however, confident that these effects will initially be limited to production downtimes in China, and restrictions in the flow of goods from and to China,” he said.

Precautions include a ban in place on any Phoenix Contact employee traveling to China and employees in the Greater China region are currently banned from traveling to other countries on business.

The company also extended the closure of its facility in Nanjing, which had been closed due to the Chinese New Year celebrations, as it does each year.

Hobbs said the manufacturers he has spoken with told him that they haven’t seen any impact yet on production and supply chain delays in China. However, if the virus continues its spread, most believe it’s a matter of when, not if, the impact will be felt by manufacturers in Pennsylvania.

Stührenberg believes any effects caused by the downtimes in China, won’t become noticeable until the end of February.

Phoenix can obtain parts from other providers if needed, to prevent any supply-chain bottlenecks, he said.

The impact for most manufactures in the region that use China-made components will depend on how much they rely on a particular manufacturer, Hobbs said.

“If a company is tied to a product coming out of China and there aren’t alternate locations that can provide substitutions, that’s going to be trouble,” he said. “It can have a pretty significant trickle-down effect.”

HMK Insurance names new CFO

Schaffer –

HMK Insurance in Bethlehem has a new chief financial officer.

Sherry Schaffer has been named to the post. She is replacing George Mowrer who is stepping down as CFO after 25 years.

Schaffer, who has been with the agency since 2002, most recently served as accounting and licensing coordinator.

She is now one of two women sitting on the HMK management team.

“George has been a wonderful mentor and left me with really big shoes to fill.  In my new position as CFO, my goal is to help make HMK profitable and to keep growing through new business, retaining the accounts we have, and through acquisitions or mergers,” Schaffer said.

HMK Insurance was founded in 1914 and now has more than 6,000 business and individual clients for Property & Casualty and Employee Benefits solutions.

Simon Property Group acquires rival mall operator

Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall Township PHOTO/FILE –

The owner of a number of local mall properties announced today that it plans to acquire another major mall operator for about $3.6 billion.

Simon Property Group Inc., which is headquartered in Indianapolis, said it plans to acquire Taubman Centers Inc. of Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

The company said it will acquire 80% ownership of the Taubman Realty Group Limited Partnership for $52.50 per share in cash.

The Taubman family will remain a 20% partner in TRG.

Simon is the owner of such shopping centers as the Lehigh Valley Mall in Whitehall, The Crossings Premium Outlets in Tannersville and the Philadelphia Premium Outlets in Pottstown.

David Simon, president, chairman and CEO of Simon Property Group, said the acquisition will help TRG invest in “innovative retail environments for retailers and consumers, deliver exciting shopping and entertainment experiences to consumers, and create new job prospects for local communities.”

Simon said he expects to fund the $3.6 billion deal with existing liquidity.