He’s the boss: Todd Robbins of Robbins Rehabilitation East

Todd Robbins grew up on his family’s dairy farm in Schuyler, New York, where his father worked 16 hour days tending to the livestock.  From childhood, Robbins worked alongside his dad morning, noon and night. Rain or shine.

Todd Robbins, MSPT, owner, Robbins Rehabilitation East. – submitted

It’s where he learned that being your own boss meant hard work, but that it came with the freedom to live life on your own terms.

The experience on the farm shaped Robbins as he grew, and he decided early on that one day he would work for himself, too.

“I never saw myself as an employee,” he said. “I don’t think I would be a good one. I’m better working for me. It’s what I know.”

In fact, Robbins has been working for himself since he was 24 and launched Robbins Rehabilitation, a Lehigh Valley-based physical therapy practice, with his twin brother, Travis.

Today, at 41, Robbins has guided the company on a journey of growth and change. Robbins’ branch of the business, Robbins Rehabilitation East, now operates three locations, one in Easton, and two in New Jersey, one in Phillipsburg and the other in Lebanon.

Robbins Rehabilitation East remains staunchly independent, despite frequent attempts by the larger Lehigh Valley health networks to buy him out. “I am too young to retire,” he said. “If I were to be bought out, I wouldn’t have control over how I want to run my team or treat my patients. When the hospital tells you what to do it’s not always good for the patient.”

Robbins said that it’s important for him to operate Robbins Rehabilitation as a patient-outcome centered practice, not a high-volume, high-turnover practice, such a larger health network might expect.

Staying independent

The health networks put a lot of pressure on independent practices, he said. There is sort of an “offer you can’t refuse” feeling. The offers sound something like: “Do you want to come with us or do you want us to open a competing place across the street?”

Robbins doesn’t fear that competition, he said.

“The big networks have advertising budgets that are more than my entire budget,” he said, “but I don’t consider them my competition. We are more of a mom-and-pop shop. People will always look for that. A person who wants to go to the big hospitals isn’t going to want to come here.”

He admits that, for many independents, the challenge of running a business can make them vulnerable to buy-out efforts by large networks.

“As medical practitioners, we have no background in business,” he said. “We are getting paid less and less, and we have to be more and more efficient. At some point, a lot of doctors are saying, ‘Did I go to school for this?’ It’s easy to get frustrated with the business end, and just let yourself be swallowed up. You have to be able to be both a businessman and a health practitioner to survive.”

It’s tempting to give in and let someone else deal with the “headaches,” but Robbins insists on going his own way. “I don’t want to be told how to practice.”

Building relationships

Robbins demonstrate the rock wall used in physical therapy at Robbins Rehabilitation – Dawn Ouellette Nixon

For Robbins, the way to practice is to build individual relationships with patients.

“All of our therapists are manually trained and we are doing hands on work with every single person who comes through,” he said. “Most other places are not doing that.”

Then there’s the myth that patients need a doctor’s referral for their insurance to pay for it.

“You don’t need to go to the doctor first,” he said. “You can get in to see us in 24 hours.”

Most of his patients have already been to the doctor and are taking medications that don’t work, or are considering considered surgery. He wants to change the common viewpoint that surgery, pain meds and injections are the first option to heal.

“We are the cheapest form of medicine, no question,” he said. “We can fix problems that surgery would attempt to treat for tens of thousands of dollars.”

Then he points to research showing that physical therapy is more effective than surgery, injections and medications.

Robbins has a goal of 10 Robbins Rehabilitation sites in 10 years.

While the demands of the physical therapy practice sometimes necessitate long days, Robbins says he makes time for his wife and two boys, ages 8 and 10.

“I think about how I grew up on a dairy farm,” he said. “If I was spending time with my dad, I was working with him. Now I don’t want it to be like that for my children, but there’s value in time working together. And I may work 12 hours today but my dad worked 16.

“If you look at it that way,” he adds with a smile, “I’m going home early tonight.”


Allegiant adds new route to LVIA

Allegiant said it would offer service from Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport beginning Feb. 13, 2020. In addition, the company is offering one-way fares on the new route for $65. –


Allegiant said it would offer service from Lehigh Valley International Airport in Hanover Township, Lehigh County, to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport beginning Feb. 13, 2020. In addition, the company is offering one-way fares on the new route for $65.

The new seasonal flights will operate twice weekly. With the addition of this new route, Allegiant will now serve eight cities from LVIA.

Sarasota marks the airport’s 14th non-stop destination.

It’s also the fourth air service announcement the Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority made this year, said Colin Riccobon, spokesperson for LNAA.

As the third newest non-stop destination, the Sarasota-Bradenton route could further boost passenger traffic at the airport, according to Riccobon.

“Any leisure destination is always a popular one,” Riccobon said. “For Allegiant, it’s a growing destination for them where they’ve seen some requests to add this service.”

LVIA now offers five Florida destinations with the addition of this new route.

With Allegiant set to establish an aircraft base at LVIA that would open in February 2020, that too opens possibilities for additional routes, he added.



A Conversation With: Les McCoy of DesignPoint Inc.

Les McCoy of DesignPoint Inc. –

Les McCoy started out in the engineering field and after 20-plus years he decided a career change was needed so he started a commercial interior design firm built on the foundation he made during his consulting engineering days.  Many would think that an odd transition but, having made the right connections, it worked out and 2020 will be the 25th year of DesignPoint.


LVB: How does your work as an interior architectural designer differ from other types of architecture? 

McCoy: We concentrate solely on the space within a building and how it will be utilized by the people that work or live in the building.  It is our job to bring life to the interior whether it be a corporate, hotel, or senior living community, all with very different needs but ultimately much of what we bring to the architecture determines how well people will live and function within their space.


LVB: What are the most important things you look at when designing an interior space?

McCoy: Every detail of the design is important, but one of the most compelling is how to bring harmony of daylighting and artificial lighting to enhance the overall environment.  The advancement of LED and circadian rhythm lighting is an exciting development that will be huge in years to come for many applications.


LVB: What are the current, ‘hot’ trends in interior architectural design? 

McCoy: Open environments and the use of glass especially in corporate spaces for a more minimalist look, but just like single-family homes are being built today, we strive to create openness in our large senior living community projects as well.


LVB: What’s next for the industry? 

McCoy: I think VR (Virtual Reality) that larger firms are using will expand and soon all designers will be taking clients through their spaces before they actually exist.  Interior design is never standing still and the future is very bright for those in the industry.   – By Stacy Wescoe

Builders pitch in to rebuild camp for low-income kids

L-R: Eric Luftig (Victaulic), Christina Schoemaker (Valley Youth House), Jim Eck (Quadratus Construction Management, Inc.), Eric Scheler (Commerce Construction Co./Majestic Realty Co.), Rick Koze (Kay Builders), Jason Engelhardt (Langan), Tom Harrington (Valley Youth House) –


A number of Greater Lehigh Valley construction companies have joined forces to help Valley Youth House of Bethlehem make improvements at the nonprofit’s Orefield campgrounds.

Kay Builders, Majestic Realty Co./Commerce Construction Co., Brooks Development Group, Quadratus Construction Management Inc., Langan, and many others are helping Valley Youth House build new cabins at Camp Fowler, a project valued at $1.4 million.

“These cabins will be built by the heart to last another 100 years,” said Richard H. Brooks, president, Brooks Development Group, one of the companies assisting with the project, in a statement released Thursday.

Valley Youth house said the cabins on the 43-acre property were built 75 years ago and are unsafe, with uneven and damaged flooring, leaking roofs and rotting wooden siding.

These renovations are expected to improve safety and expand the usefulness of the camp for Valley Youth House clients, and the community groups that use the camp.

The camp serves youth of all ages with a focus on those who would otherwise not have access to camp experiences. This population includes low-income children and youth, youth in foster care, and homeless youth, many of which have experienced significant trauma in their lives.

“Camp Fowler allows youth of all ages to dream, learn and discover their strengths in a unique setting.  It is a very special place and an essential element in Valley Youth House’s programming,” said Eric B. Luftig, chair of the board of directors for Valley Youth House and vice president at Victaulic in Easton.

Newly opened Radial looking to hire 649 for holiday season

A Radial logistics center. (Submitted) –

A new Easton-area logistics center is looking to hire 649 seasonal workers to meet the increasing demands of the holiday shopping season.

Radial, which serves as a third party logistics supplier for such national retailers as Dick’s Sporting Goods and PetSmart, opened in July at 4200 E. Braden Blvd. in the Forks Township Industrial Park.

The company just finished its first initial hiring period for the facility and now has 180 full-time employees.

So Michael Cox, director of fulfillment at Radial, knows the company has a big challenge ahead of it as it brings more than three and a half times that number of employees in for the November and December months.

Cox said one of the biggest challenges Radial has in recruiting new staff is the competition in the region for good workers.

“Every major manufacturer has a footprint in the Lehigh Valley. People can work anywhere,” he said.

To differentiate itself, and hopefully attract top talent, Cox said Radial is trying to market itself as a place where it can be fun to work.

He said Radial provides its employees with fun activities during the hectic holiday season, with regular raffles, awards and recognition, ice cream socials and popcorn Friday’s.

He said such activities boost morale and lead current employees to recommend the job to others.

“We tell them ‘you can enjoy your job,’” he said.

But he also notes that the seasonal jobs can also be an opportunity for people looking for a full-time career to get a foot in the door, and that Radial offers development opportunities for people that are looking to come aboard and move up.

“Our intent is to always engage our folks. We use cross-training and development of a long-term workforce to help Radial’s customers,” he said.

Cox noted that the company is already in talks with new customers that would necessitate adding many more workers to the permanent, full-time rolls, so there should be plenty of opportunities for those who seek them.

Radial is now accepting applications for entry-level warehouse positions, including fulfillment associates and pickers and packers. Workers will be responsible processing online orders, including picking, sorting, packing, and shipping both single and multi-unit orders.

The 500,000-square-foot fulfillment center in Forks Township is one of about 20 such centers that Radial has across the country.

Who put those coupons in my mailbox? Paul Williams, the man behind Money Mailer

If you live in the Lehigh Valley, chances are you are familiar with Money Mailer of Bethlehem, the envelope of coupons that arrives in your mailbox from time to time.

Paul Williams, owner, Money Mailer of Bethlehem

Maybe you’ve used a coupon to grab a pizza on a Friday after work, or to get a discount on those much needed new tires, or to have your hair done at that place that just opened up around the corner.

There is just one man behind this hyper-local direct mail advertising in the Valley and that’s Paul Williams, a former insurance industry-exec turned successful franchisee.

Williams bought the Money Mailer franchise 15 years ago at the age of 44. Tired of losing time with his family due to the long hours and travel associated with his insurance career, Williams took a chance on investing in his own business.

Drawn to the idea of a franchise, which comes with an established business model and built in support system, he contacted a franchise broker who helped match him with Money Mailer.

“It wasn’t a scary investment,” Williams says. “I was excited. There is always some fear of course, but it was more a mix of anxiety and excitement.”

For Williams the real challenge was establishing the business as a respected name in the local marketplace, which is tough when you are the sole staff member.

“I’m the business owner and I do it all,” he says of the business he refers to as a “one man show.”

“I’m the salesperson, marketer, the everything,” he says. “There’s no one but me. Clients will always deal with me personally which has helped to build my brand. And I’m able to relate to the business owners I sell to, because I’m a business owner myself.”

That personal touch has helped build Money Mailer into one of the most recognizable direct mail advertising sources in the area.  Today the Money Mailer envelope arrives in over 80,000 mailboxes throughout the

“I’ve built this business on relationships,” Williams says. “My business is to help get the word out about your business.”

But in today’s digital world, can a print advertising source survive? For Williams, the answer is “Yes.”

“In today’s environment there is so much noise out there,” he says. “There’s digital billboards, ads on Facebook, ads in your email in-box…but direct mail is something tangible that you can touch with your hands. Even young people appreciate that. It’s only going to get stronger. Direct mail stands out from all that digital noise.”

Of course, Williams is keeping up to date with digital advertising too. Money Mailer is now available as an app for your phone, where consumers can find online coupons for and information on local businesses.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” Williams says, “print and digital.”

With a busy business that continues to grow and change, does Williams now have the same work/life balance challenges that he once had in the insurance agency?

“No,” he says. “I love what I do. I love to see my brand grow while having no one else to answer to but the person in the mirror. The success of my business is based on how hard I work, and I also work hard to make time for my personal life.”

Williams explains that he was able to make every one of his daughter’s college volleyball games because of the flexibility of being his own boss, and that alone has made the career switch worth it.

“It’s a fantastic feeling to do what I want, when I want and to see my hard work pay off,” he says. “There’s nothing like it.”



OraSure honored for contribution to life sciences

OraSure CEO Stephen Tang, left, speaks with Don Cunningham, president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. (Photo submitted) –

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. honored Bethlehem-based OraSure Technologies for its contributions to the life sciences industry and growth as a company that produces medical diagnostic tests.

The event took place at LVEDC’s fifth annual fall signature event Wednesday at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.


At the event, OraSure CEO Stephen Tang spoke with Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC, about the growth potential of the industry. In addition, Tang spoke about OraSure’s role as a center for life sciences research and manufacturing and how the Lehigh Valley supported those efforts.

“OraSure is improving health and wellness for people around the world by providing access to accurate, essential personal health information,” Tang said in a news release. “Our business requires employees with a wide range of skills, from manufacturing equipment operators to Ph.D.-level scientists. To recruit successfully, we need an environment where talented people want to locate.”

That environment is the Lehigh Valley, which he said, offers the location and quality of life employees want.

“Lehigh Valley is becoming a microcosm of an innovation hub,” Tang said.

With its established companies, growing startups, and numerous universities and colleges that provide access to talented employees and forums for sharing ideas, the Lehigh Valley can press its advantage, Tang said, by extending connections with surrounding areas that are hubs for talented life sciences employees.

Cunningham said life sciences research and manufacturing are a target industry sector for LVEDC recruitment initiatives and the valley is at the heart of one of the largest concentrations of life sciences workers in the nation.

In Lehigh and Northampton counties, life sciences companies such as OraSure provide more than 6,000 jobs.

In the last five years, employment in the sector grew at an annual rate of 1.7 percent, he said.

In the Lehigh Valley, employment in the sector could grow at a rate of 0.5 percent per year for the next five years, according to LVEDC.

LVEDC’s fall event spotlights a company in one of the region’s targeted industry sectors, such as high-performance manufacturing, life sciences research and manufacturing, food and beverage processing, and high-value business services.








Healthgrades recognizes Coordinated Health’s Allentown, Bethlehem Hospitals for procedures, patient safety

Coordinated Health’s Allentown and Bethlehem hospitals are among the top 10 percent in the nation for patient safety according to a 2020 national report by Healthgrades, the Denver, Colorado -based online resource for information about physicians and hospitals.

Healthgrades evaluates hospital performance at nearly 4,500 hospitals nationwide for 32 of the most common inpatient procedures and conditions using Medicare data.

CH’s Allentown and Bethlehem hospitals are part of findings released Oct. 22 in the Healthgrades 2020 Report to the Nation, which reports on hospital quality to both consumers and hospital executives.

CH’s Allentown hospital was also recognized as a five-star recipient for spinal fusion surgery, hip replacement, and knee replacement surgery. CH’s Bethlehem hospital was designated a five-star knee replacement surgery center, among other honors.

“Our organization is extremely proud of the high quality care that we deliver to our patients every day,” said Emil DiIorio, CEO of Coordinated Health.  “It’s a very important benchmark that we work hard to achieve.”

Individual procedure or condition cohorts are designated as five-star (statistically significantly better than expected), three-star (not statistically different from expected) and one-star (statistically significantly worse than expected) categories.

The complete Healthgrades 2020 Report to the Nation and detailed study methodology, can be found at https://partners.healthgrades.com/healthgrades-quality-solutions/healthgrades-quality-awards/.

Coordinated Health, which will soon be acquired by the Lehigh Valley Health Network, is an integrated healthcare network with locations throughout eastern Pennsylvania and western New Jersey, specializing in orthopedics and sports medicine.

LVHN, the Lehigh Valley region’s largest health network, has signed a binding letter of intent to acquire Coordinated Health, pending a regulatory review.


LVIA reports two years of steady growth, record September

Passenger traffic at Lehigh Valley International Airport has reached its highest level in nine years.

Traffic for September was 66,854 trips, up nearly 17 percent over September 2018 when there were 57,195 trips.

It’s the highest volume of passenger traffic since September 2010.

The airport authority also noted that this marked the 24th consecutive month of positive passenger traffic growth.

“It’s truly remarkable to see this steady increase over a 24 month period. The airport remains grateful for the loyalty of our passengers; the commitment of airlines to expand service options and offer more seats in the market with larger aircraft; plus, the dedication of staff to ensure the customer experience in your neighborhood airport is unmatched,” said Thomas R. Stoudt, executive director, Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority.

By airline, United reported a total passenger increase of 44 percent, American jumped 36.7 percent, with Allegiant following at 10 percent up. Delta posted a minimal decline in traffic of 2.8 percent.

Three of the Biggest Family Business Conundrums, and How to Overcome Them

Family-owned businesses are part of our nation’s DNA and a testament to our entrepreneurial spirit. Take a look around the Lehigh Valley and you’ll see this spirit alive and well in the multitude of family businesses that thrive here.

Almost one in five of the 28.8 million small businesses in America are family-owned, according to SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer, expert business mentors. These companies help drive our economy: they employ 60% of the country’s workforce and generate 64% of America’s GDP. The human resources challenges these organizations face can have a huge impact on stakeholders across the board.

I’ve worked with many family-owned companies of all sizes across the U.S. and the globe. Here are some of the biggest problems I see them face:

Lack of structure, policies and procedures

Family co-workers know each other well. To avoid letting familiarity override common-sense business practices, clear policies and procedures are essential. These help reduce and alleviate confusion and conflicts. Additionally, roles and responsibilities should be clearly established between family members. This can save a lot of time, energy and money—not to mention hard feelings—between relatives. Be sure to consistently follow the rules you establish, and resist changing them on a whim. These actions can be an employee morale, productivity and retention killer.

Recruiting ineffectively from the outside

Family-owned businesses are often able to attract and retain key talent because of the reputation they have built for themselves as great places. They are often associated with strong values and positive, friendly work environments. Still, hiring can bring some unique challenges.

When you search for outside candidates, make sure all owners are on the same page about it. Be sure to have a clear and detailed job description, and set proper compensation and benefit levels. You should also remember to keep reasonable expectations for candidates and new hires.

Succession planning

Succession planning is an important part of long-term strategizing, and yet it is all too often left minimally addressed. Some eye-opening reporting by SCORE showed:

  • 47 percent of family business owners planning to retire within five years do not have a successor.
  • Only 30 percent of family-owned businesses survive from the first generation to the second.
  • Just 12 percent survive from the second to the third generation.

It is important to decide in advance what happens to your company when you retire, or if you unexpectedly step down. Is the next generation ready to take over? Do they want to? You should talk to them about all this, then plan accordingly.

If the business is staying in the family, make sure that the next owners are well prepared with knowledge of day-to-day management and the critical financial aspects of ownership. When several family members will be left the business together, things get more complex. A succession-planning consultant can provide assistance and an objective opinion. An estate-planning attorney can help with any regulations or estate taxes that may impact the next generation.

Lotte Bacho is vice president of administration at Kitchen Magic, and one of the founders’ three daughters. She and four other family members run the kitchen refacing and remodeling company, with operations in six states and headquarters in Nazareth, Pennsylvania.

“The challenges we face are no different than any other company—recruiting, retention, training and benefits. Where we are different is that our HR functions must include dealing with quite a few family members,” she says. “It is most important to us all that the family remain strong and respect one another. We address that with a very clear set of core values, as well as differing but complimenting roles and responsibilities. To handle challenges and questions as we continue to usher in the third generation, we are establishing a strong family-business governance plan.”

As this year marks 40 years in business, Bacho feels quite blessed with how far they have come, as a business and a family.

Richard Lively is a partner and vice president of Bethlehem HR Consulting Services at RAI Resources, with Margo Trott Collins.


A Conversation With: Dennis Morton of Morton Brown Family Wealth

Dennis Morton of Morton Brown Family Wealth (Photo submitted) –

As a financial adviser, Dennis Morton has integrated his academic background in history and finance with his professional background as an Army officer and entrepreneur. Along with his partner, Katie Brown, they have drawn on our decades of combined experience and designed Morton Brown Family Wealth to advise families, including business owners, on their unique financial opportunities and risks.


LVB: Do those in family businesses have different financial planning needs than those who work for larger corporations?

Morton: Family business is different because the means of building personal wealth are as unique as the businesses themselves. In a larger corporation, employees make use of a defined set of benefits like a 401(k), pension or deferred compensation. In a family business, so much of a family’s financial security is tied up in an illiquid enterprise. There are more risks and more opportunities and that is what makes intentional planning critical.

A career’s worth of good business decisions can make the business a very valuable asset for the family. However, building wealth outside of the business and exiting on their own terms is a distinct challenge for family business owners. Uncertainty is the enemy when it comes to weighing complex retirement, estate, and tax implications for a family business.


LVB: What are the most important financial planning concerns for those with family businesses? 

Morton: We are focused on two common concerns, one perpetual and another more a function of where we are in the economic cycle. First, family businesses should always be focused on how to grow and manage liquidity in a financial plan. The privately held business and real estate may represent the bulk of the family’s wealth, but access to cash gives owners flexibility to make good decisions about everything from growing the business to exiting on their preferred timeline.

The second concern is about timing: When is the right time to grow and when is the best time to exit the business? The economy, especially in the Lehigh Valley, is good and has been for some time. We hear owners say: “I think I can walk away from the business and financially be ok, but is now the right time?” This is a more complex question that requires us to explore what the owner is retiring to as much as what they are retiring from.


LVB: Are there any pitfalls to avoid?

Morton: There is risk to the family if their financial plan is dependent on one person. As in many families, we find that a single person often knows all the details about the personal balance sheet, succession, insurance and the estate.

In a family business it is doubly challenging if that same person is indispensable to the enterprise. Many people who are dependent on the success of the financial plan, including their spouse, can feel left in the dark. If anything were to happen to that one person, life insurance can help soften the impact, but the burden of financial decision making can be overwhelming. The plan must be more than just insurance.

Communication between spouses and multi-generational owners is critical because everyone should understand how ownership in the business contributes to their financial well-being. If you as the owner feel you can’t communicate your financial plan effectively, it may be time to engage with a professional.


-By Stacy Wescoe

Rainy day fails to stop Carbon County’s first Day of Caring

With it being the first ever United Way Day of Caring in Carbon County, it was a pretty big deal and volunteers were excited to get started on four community service projects in the region.

Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate with the inaugural event, and it rained on much of the volunteers’ plans.

But, Jill Pereira, vice president of education and impact for the United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley, said that didn’t stop the dozen or so people signed up for the work to give up.

Outdoor projects had to be scrapped, but they all gathered together for an indoor project to deep clean the kitchen at the Jim Thorpe Memorial Hall, where there was plenty of work to do.

“There was lots of rolling up the sleeves and getting into the cleaning,” Pereira said.

Volunteers from First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union, Lehigh Valley Health Network, and Split Rock Resort all participated in the project.

Pereira said that while this was the first Day of Caring event in Carbon, the United Way has been hosting Day of Caring events for corporate volunteers in Lehigh and Northampton counties for 27 years.

Day of Caring brings volunteers from the area’s corporations for a day of service at nearby community service organizations.

Projects can range from landscaping work and rearranging food pantries to visiting the elderly.

The United Way of Carbon County merged with the Lehigh Valley United Way three years ago.

“It took some time to learn the landscape and to build relationships with the region’s businesses and nonprofits,” Pereira said. “But now that we have started, based on the interest, we know we’ll be looking at a bigger and better one next year.”