Gas prices mixed after bumpy ride

Gas prices have been on a bumpy ride the past week. 

After surging because of frigid weather conditions and strong holiday road travel, pump prices fell by a penny over the weekend, but are still seven cents higher than this time last week.  

Today’s national average of $3.28 is 2.5 cents less than a month ago and 3.4 cents less than a year ago. 

Meanwhile, according to AAA East Central’s Gas Price Report, gas prices in Pennsylvania are almost two cents higher this week at $3.649 per gallon. 

In the Lehigh Valley the average price for a gallon of gas was up just a fraction over the week prior. 

On Jan. 9 the average price was $3.508 as compared to $3.506 on Jan. 2.  

The average price s just slightly over the price on Jan. 9, 2022 when it was $3.496 per gallon. 

According to data from the Energy Information Administration, gas demand dropped from 9.33 million barrels per day to 7.51 million barrels per day last week. Meanwhile, total domestic gasoline stocks fell by 300,000 barrels to 222.7 million barrels.  

Lower gasoline demand has contributed to limited increases in pump prices, according to AAA. 

It added that at the close of Friday’s formal trading session, West Texas Intermediate increased by 10 cents to settle at $73.77.  

A lower dollar helped to push crude prices higher at the end of the week. However, crude prices declined earlier in the week amid ongoing global economic concerns due to rising COVID-19 cases in China. 

Lehigh Valley renters becoming cost burdened

The Lehigh Valley’s median renter qualifies as cost burdened when it comes to housing these days, as affordability plummets. Households are considered cost burdened when they spend more than 30% of their income on rent, mortgage and other housing needs.

In Northampton County, the median housing cost ratio for renters was 30.1% (an estimated 32,729 occupied rental units) while it was 30.7% in Lehigh County (an estimated 48,003 occupied rental units).

Over 19 million U.S. renter households spent more than 30% of their income on housing costs in 2021, according to data from the 2017-2021 American Community Survey (ACS) 5-year estimates.

The burden was especially high in some of the nation’s largest counties where housing is pricier or in areas where incomes are low.

The ACS collects a variety of housing cost information for renters (monthly rent and utility bills) and for homeowners (mortgage principal and interest, real estate taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utilities, mobile home costs, second mortgage payments and condominium fees if applicable).

Homeowners in most of the country had a lower median cost burden than renters.

High housing costs can impact the amount of money households are able to save or use for other expenses. The ACS data show that renters were particularly vulnerable to cost burdens.

Part of the reason that rental housing cost is so high, as a percentage of income, is the lack of homes to purchase, combined with higher interest rates.

Loren Keim, president/broker of Century 21 Keim Realtors, wrote in an email: “There’s an old adage that says you are always buying a house, whether you’re buying one for yourself or you’re buying one for your landlord. And rental rates are a function of supply and demand. The current demand is very high, leading to upward pressure on rental rates. These increasing housing costs directly impact how much money households can save and how much disposable income each household has.”

Consumers have to make a decision whether to buy or rent, he said, and the lack of affordability is affecting home sales, too.

“Housing affordability in the Lehigh Valley dropped to the lowest level since I started tracking it in 2005, at only 79,” Keim said.

An index of 100 means median household income is 100% of what is necessary to qualify for a median-priced home under current interest rates. “A higher number means greater affordability. At a level of 79, that means the median household income won’t qualify with current interest rates for the median-priced home. This index has been at or above 100 since we started tracking in January of 2005, and in fact was above 200 at several points between 2011 and 2015.”

“I expect rental rates to continue to rise, although slower than the last 18 months, for several reasons,” Heim said. “In the Lehigh Valley, although there are several multifamily projects in development or under construction, there is still a low vacancy rate, leading to competition for those rental units. Additionally, developers and investment property buyers are paying more for construction and borrowing at higher interest rates to build projects, which drives their costs higher, which is passed onto the tenant.”

Rising rents can be explained by several factors, he said. The costs to maintain apartments, including lawn care, snow removal, landscaping, repairs and renovations, has also jumped. “The cost of utilities, for those landlords paying for utilities, has risen. All this leads to increased landlord cost, which is being passed along to the tenants in the form of higher rental rates.”

Anecdotally, Keim said, this has led some tenants to move farther from the Lehigh Valley into areas like Carbon and Schuylkill counties in order to find lower rents.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Bradbury-Sullivan names new executive director

Ashley Coleman –

After a search that lasted several months, the Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center in Allentown has named a new executive director. 

A search committee, led by DRG Talent, chose longtime LGBTQ+ community leader, Ashley Coleman, and she has been appointed to serve in the position by the center’s board of directors. 

Coleman was formally introduced at a community event hosted by Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center Jan. 9.  

“We are thrilled to have Ashley join us as the executive director of Bradbury-Sullivan LBGT Community Center,” said Liz Kleintop, chair of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center’s board of directors. “Ashley is a strong, collaborative leader bringing many competencies to the Center that will help the board and staff work toward a new vision of the Center that benefits the LGBTQ+ community throughout the Lehigh Valley.”  

Coleman has worked in the LGBTQ+ community in Philadelphia for over ten years having previously served as executive director at galaei, an empowerment and social justice nonprofit and as senior events manager at Mazzoni Center, a health and wellness center serving the LGBTQ+ population.  

According to a press release, Coleman began her activism and advocacy began as a youth in the Lehigh Valley, leading Queer youth initiatives while producing large scale events for nonprofits in Northeastern Pennsylvania.  

She went on to serve as the general conference coordinator of the world’s largest Transgender specific conference from 2016-2019. She led galaei through the production of Philadelphia’s 50th Pride parade and festival in 2022.  

“I am honored to join the dedicated staff and board at Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center. Bradbury-Sullivan Center is a keystone in LGBTQ+ support far beyond the limits of the Lehigh Valley. I am truly elated to work together to continue the lifesaving work of the Center and cultivate opportunities and resources for LGBTQ+ individuals that have been left on the margins,” said Coleman.  

She succeeds Interim Executive Director Bill McGlinn, who began leading the Center in March 2022. “The Lehigh Valley LGBTQ+ community will be well-served by having Ashley L. Coleman as Executive Director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center,” McGlinn said. “I have been impressed with Ashley’s tenure with both galaei and Mazzoni Center. She has a deep understanding of the role an LGBTQ+ community center can play in advancing the health and well-being of the complex and wondrous community we are privileged to serve. I have complete confidence in Ashley’s readiness and ability to serve as an inspirational leader and assist in realizing the next chapter of our center.” 

Penntex Construction donates $187,000 to Camp Fowler

Christina Schoemaker, Valley Youth House, senior vice president & Jim Hoolehan, president, Penntex Construction. PHOTO/SUBMITTED –

Penntex Construction of Blue Bell has committed $187,000 to Valley Youth House in Bethlehem to support STEM and arts programming offered by the organization’s Camp Fowler. 

Valley Youth House serves youth in 15 counties in Eastern, Central and Southeastern Pennsylvania. It focuses on young people who are experiencing homelessness, housing insecurity or a loss of family connections to help them achieve healthy, independent futures. 

Programs and services include emergency shelters, help in obtaining stable housing, counseling and life skills training. 

Camp Fowler promotes positive development in a way that is not likely to occur in a conventional setting.  

Penntex Construction is a full-service commercial construction company  

 James Hoolehan, president of Penntex commented on the donation. 

 “Penntex Construction is pleased to commit $187,000 to Valley Youth House to support their incredible work in helping youth in our community. Our team is committed to building community by helping organizations we are passionate about in the areas we serve. We are honored to be part of removing barriers and creating opportunities for more children across the region to access this valuable learning resource. We look forward to seeing firsthand how the funds will benefit young campers.”  

Cryogenics manufacturer moving to Forks Township

A Northampton County Company is relocating and consolidating its operations with some help from the state. 

CryoConcepts, a manufacturer of portable cryosurgery and cryotherapy products, is moving from its current Bethlehem facility to a larger location in Forks Township. 

The project is expected to create at least 61 new jobs, the company said. 

Governor Tom Wolf announced the plan on Thursday. 

“Having an innovative, pioneering company like CryoConcepts chose to grow their operations in Pennsylvania speaks volumes about our business environment and how it empowers companies to succeed and thrive here,” said Wolf. “It’s also a testament to the great work that the Governor’s Action Team has done throughout my administration to attract new businesses and also help keep companies like CryoConcepts in the commonwealth.” 

CryoConcepts will move from its 7,519-square-foot Bethlehem facility to a 23,275-square-foot facility in Forks Township, consolidating operations. 

 “CryoConcepts is committed to expanding its manufacturing capabilities in the Lehigh Valley,” said Sam Niedbala, CEO of CryoConcepts. “The Governor’s Action Team helped us navigate to our new facility, along with support for training our expanding workforce. Because of their great support, we’ve been able to quickly ramp up to meet our production needs.” 

 The Department of Community and Economic Development offered the company a $400,000 Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority loan, a $183,000 Pennsylvania First grant and a $50,000 workforce development grant to train workers. 

 In addition to the new jobs that will be created in Northampton County, the state said CryoConcepts has committed to retaining 28 existing, full-time jobs statewide and investing $1.6 million into the project within the next three years. 

 “I’m glad that DCED and the Governor’s Action Team could help get this project across the finish line and keep this manufacturing company here in Pennsylvania,” said DCED Acting Secretary Neil Weaver. “CryoConcepts is a growing, trail-blazing company that will help bolster economic growth in the Lehigh Valley region.” 



PPL Foundation promoting grant opportunities

Nonprofit organizations will have an opportunity to learn more about grants available from the PPL Foundation. 

The Allentown-based foundation will be having a virtual information session at 1 p.m. on Jan. 10 to update organizations on grant opportunities 

The PPL Foundation was established by PPL Corp. in 2012 to support programs that improve lives in areas served by PPL’s utilities. Since then, it has awarded more than $20 million in grant money in the community. 

The foundation said it plans to launch three new grant programs in PPL Electric Utilities’ service territory in 2023.  

Through the programs, eligible nonprofit organizations will be able to apply for grants of between $2,500 to $50,000. Grants will support programs focused on education; diversity, equity and inclusion; and sustainable communities.  

These new grant opportunities replace the foundation’s former grants awarded in the spring and fall of each year. 

Interested nonprofit organizations may register for the virtual information session by following the registration link.  

During the information session, PPL Electric Utilities and PPL Foundation representatives will provide an overview of the foundation’s focus areas and the grant process. 

Late December storm drove up gas prices

Gas prices in Pennsylvania are almost four cents higher this week at $3.630 per gallon, according to AAA East Central’s most recent Gas Price Report. 

In the Lehigh Valley the price increased to an average of $3.506 per gallon on Jan 3., up from an average of $3.415. The numbers are steady over last year. The average price for a gallon of gas on Jan. 3, 2022 was $3.500. 

According to AAA, the late December winter storm and its frigid temperatures caused gas prices to spike, with refineries as far south as Texas and the Gulf Coast forced to shut down temporarily.  

The storm also caused holiday travelers to fuel up and hit the road early to beat the bad weather, leading to a spike in overall gas demand, AAA said.  

The national average for a gallon of gas rose 12 cents over the last week to hit $3.228. This is still almost 20 cents less than a month ago and six cents less than a year ago. 

According to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), gas demand rose from 8.7 to 9.3 million barrels per day last week.  

Meanwhile, total domestic gasoline stocks fell by 3 million barrels to 223 million barrels. More demand and less supply helped push pump prices higher. 

At the close of Friday’s formal trading session, WTI increased by $1.86 to settle at $80.26. A weaker dollar contributed to rising crude prices, AAA said.  

Crude prices rose despite the EIA reporting that total domestic commercial crude stocks increased by 800,000 barrels to 419 million barrels.  

The increase signals that oil demand may be weakening amid ongoing market concerns that a recession or economic slowdown could occur this year. 


IBEW 375 receives grant for apprenticeship training expansion

The Lehigh Valley’s electrician’s union, IBEW Local 375, is the recipient of nearly $300,000 in funding to bolster its apprenticeship program. 

The funds will be used for the local’s Joint Apprenticeship and Training Fund in Allentown and will provide 30 apprentices with training. 

 “I’m proud to announce these apprenticeship grant awards, which are crucial for Pennsylvania’s future,” said Pennsylvania Gov. Wolf. “Investing in apprenticeship programs like this one ensures there is a strong pipeline of new talent for the construction industry for many years to come.” 

With the funding provided by Pennsylvania’s Pre-Apprentice and Apprenticeship Grant Program, IBEW Local 357 will increase the number of apprentices through their program by nearly 15% per year for the next three years. 

 The program curriculum will focus on telecommunications wiring and fiber optics to improve broadband access to rural and underserved areas of Pennsylvania as well as solar power; programmatic logic controls; power quality and power grid updates; safe job practices; and the National Electrical Code. 

Once apprentices have completed the program, the focus will be on placement with the more than 300 employers in the Lehigh Valley who have signed on with the program as partners. 

 “We are very grateful to DCED for this apprenticeship grant that will help grow our existing program and expand apprenticeship opportunities in the Lehigh Valley,” said Robert Franklin, training and safety director for IBEW Local 357. “With the ever-changing workforce and the retirement of the baby boomer generation, now is the perfect time to use these funds for outreach, registering, and training the next generation of apprentices.” 

 The Pre-Apprentice and Apprenticeship Grant program works to increase apprenticeship availability to Pennsylvania employers to assist them with their talent recruitment and development. Pre-Apprentice and Apprenticeship Program funding is provided to eligible applicants for the purpose of reaching the goal of increasing apprenticeship accessibility across the state.  

Eligible uses of funds include expenses related to instruction that complements on-the-job learning. 

Lehigh Valley projects granted funding for workforce development

Workforce development projects across Pennsylvania are receiving $5.5 million in Industry Partnership Grant funding aimed at meeting local and regional workforce needs. The announcement was made Wednesday by Gov. Tom Wolf. 

Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania projects will receive approximately $2 million combined funds in grants. 

Industry Partnership (IPs) grants are administered through the Department of Labor & Industry (L&I). The program supports businesses partnering to build a stronger, more competitive job market through training, networking, recruitment, and collaboration within targeted industries and offer Pennsylvanians opportunities for pathways into careers and jobs with wages that are family-sustaining. 

“With Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate holding steady at a record low, it is our collective responsibility to make decisions that are responsive to the needs of both Pennsylvania workers and employers in sectors where talent pipelines are tapped,” Wolf said in a statement. 

“By investing in workforce development projects, and specifically industry partnerships, we can connect hardworking Pennsylvanians wit opportunities to advance their skillsets and obtain family-sustaining jobs in booming industries.” 

Pennsylvania has invested more than $40 million since 2018 to enhance opportunities for workers through apprenticeship programs and industry partnerships via Wolf’s PAsmart initiative. This new round of funding provides grants to 25 Industry Partnerships to increase awareness and implement strategies for workforce development in the agriculture, construction, education, healthcare, manufacturing, information technology, hospitality and energy industries. 

“At L&I, we strategically use resources to connect Pennsylvania employers with a highly skilled and talented workforce who can do the jobs of tomorrow,” L&I Secretary Jennifer Berrier said. “We continue to do that, first and foremost, by investing in people and their families.” 

Following is a list of Central Pennsylvania and Lehigh Valley PAsmart grant winners and their award amounts: 

  • AgConnect (Lehigh, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia – $250,000). Grant funding for technical assistance for farm and food business partners in the region for training, management, and accounting; create youth pipeline development and provide hands on experience to high school students; implement an Innovative Workplace Solutions grant program; and provide project management for the PA Cheese Guild and Growing Roots Partners’ Good Food Fest. 
  • Lehigh Valley Healthcare Pipeline Industry Partnership (Lehigh, Northampton – $250,000). The partnership will conduct healthcare industry employer roundtables and develop a Workforce Pipeline Strategic Action Plan Committee. Projected activities to support workers include identifying strategies for recruitment of adults, youth, and those in underrepresented populations. 
  • Manufacturing Alliance of Chester and Delaware Counties (Lancaster, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, York – $250,000). Funding to recruit and retain employees for participating companies. The project will also focus on outreach efforts to youth and their parents promoting manufacturing careers and create programs to connect women and female students to careers in manufacturing. 
  • Smart Energy Initiative of Southeastern PA (Berks, Dauphin, Lancaster, Lehigh, York, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Northampton, Philadelphia – $250,000). Goals include consumer and business education about different energy sources. 
  • The Innovative Technology Action Group (Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, Philadelphia – $250,000). The partnership will use its funds for employer outreach, technology education events for IT professionals, incumbent worker training, and youth career exploration activities. 
  • South Central Construction Industry Partnership (Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Juniata, Lancaster, Lebanon. Perry, York – $204,396.44). Funding will be used for partnership start-up and convening regional partners to develop outreach strategies. 
  • South Central Manufacturing Industry Partnership (Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, York – $250,000). Funding to build a pipeline of diverse young individuals pursuing careers in manufacturing by promoting careers in the industry via social media and connections among manufacturers in the region. 
  • South Central NextGen IT Industry Partnership (Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry, York – $250,000). Funding for creating awareness and access to employers and resources to increase a skilled workforce that can meet the current IT needs of the region. Funds will be used to build a communication infrastructure for employers, educators, and job seekers. 
  • Opportunity for All Pennsylvania Construction Industry Partnership (Statewide – $250,000). Funding to hire a project manager that will research and develop education materials on best practices around apprenticeship readiness, diverse pipelines, and local hire/community benefit agreements. 

CTCs in Lehigh Valley, Central Pa. awarded grants to purchase new equipment

Career Technical Centers in the Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania are among the 33 CTCs and two school districts to receive competitive grants to purchase new equipment aligned to training students in high-demand occupations. 

Awarded by the Wolf Administration, the grants total $1.2 million in career and technical education equipment. The funding was announced Wednesday by the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE). 

CTCs in the Lehigh Valley and Central Pennsylvania received approximately $300,000 in grants. 

“Career and technical centers continually provide excellent educational and professional opportunities for students across the commonwealth,” Acting Secretary of Education Eric Hagarty said in a statement. “Investing in career readiness and career exploration is a priority for PDE, and we encourage recipients to utilize this funding to enhance and expand these learning programs, which will help students excel in their chosen fields.” 

More than 80 CTCs in Pennsylvania offer a combination of classes and hands-on learning in programs approved by the PDE. Students can earn industry credentials or certifications for local jobs in high demand. 

Area awardees and their funding amounts include the following: 

  • Adams County – Adams County Technical Institute, $47,500. 
  • Berks County – Berks CTC, $23,229. 
  • Cumberland County – Cumberland Perry Area Career & Technical Center, $26,935. 
  • Dauphin County – Dauphin County Technical School, $50,000. 
  • Lancaster County – Lancaster County Technical School, $50,000. 
  • Lehigh County – Lehigh Career & Technical School, $50,000. 
  • York County – York Co. School of Technology, $50,000. 

The maximum grant under the program is $50,000, and every grant must be matched dollar-for-dollar from a local source, which can include local school funds or contributions from business and industry partners. 

Gas prices continue dropping

Just in time for holiday travel, gas prices are dropping in Pennsylvania. 

According to AAA East Central, the state’s average gas price is down ten cents this week to $3.659 per gallon. 

Gas prices in the Lehigh Valley were even lower. 

The average price for a gallon of gas in the Lehigh Valley on Dec. 20 was $3.473 per gallon compared to $3.759 per gallon on Dec. 13. Prices are still about ten cents higher than they were a year ago. On Dec. 20, 2021 the average price for a gallon of gas in the Lehigh Valley was $3.550. 

The national average slid 12 cents over the last week to $3.123. This is almost 55 cents less than a month ago and 18.5 cents less than a year ago.  

There are now 20 states with averages below $3 per gallon, AAA said. 

According to data from the Energy Information Administration (EIA), gas demand decreased slightly from 8.36 to 8.26 million barrels per day last week. That coincides with the arrival of the winter driving season, when fewer people are driving because of shorter days and poor road conditions.  

Meanwhile, total domestic gasoline stocks rose significantly by 4.5 million barrels to 223.6 million barrels. Increasing supply and lower gasoline demand have helped push pump prices lower. 


Coopersburg Commons shopping center sold

Coopersburg Commons, a 95,186-square-foot shopping center in Coopersburg borough, has sold for an undisclosed price.

The retail complex is anchored by a Giant Food Store at 216 E. Fairmount St. According to an online listing, Coopersburg Commons was built in 1973 and renovated in 1995.

Announcing the sale was JRW Realty, a Pasadena-California-based commercial real estate brokerage that focuses on net-leased properties on behalf of institutional clients.

Coordinating the transaction for the undisclosed buyer was JRW Realty’s Aaron Bush. JLL represented the seller, who was also undisclosed.

“We are thrilled to have sourced another high-quality grocery-anchored asset for our client,” Bush, a real estate associate, said in a release. “The impressive performance of the Giant anchor combined with the appealing demographic trends in this market attest to the attractiveness of this property and will support its continued strong performance for the new owner.”

Bush said that JRW Realty’s institutional buyers are engaged in purchasing net-leased real estate tenanted by grocery stores like Giant, including Kroger, Market 32, Hy-Vee and Publix.

They also acquire net-leased properties occupied by high-performing, creditworthy tenants that provide pharmaceutical, medical and other necessity-based goods and services, he added.

JRW Realty has closed on more than 1,100 properties valued at more than $4.6 billion.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer