Wren Kitchens to open Allentown showroom

Wren Kitchens, a British-based kitchen retailer, is opening its first showroom in the Lehigh Valley.

According to the company’s website, Wren Kitchens is going to occupy 962 Airport Center Drive in Airport Shopping Center, Hanover Township, Lehigh County, which formerly housed A.C. Moore.

No more information was available, and Wren could not be reached for comment.

The shopping center also includes a Sam’s Club, Target, Ulta Beauty, Starbucks, Ross Dress for Less, GameStop and On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina.

This is Wren Kitchens’ second showroom in Pennsylvania; the first to open was in Wilkes-Barre. There are seven showrooms in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut as well.

In the UK, Wren, which was founded in 2009, celebrated the opening of its 100th showroom there in 2020.

The Wren Kitchens’ website said the retailer, headquartered in Barton-upon-Humber, United Kingdom, features the largest kitchen showrooms in the U.S., with more than 65 full-size kitchen displays, showcasing cabinets, hardware, sinks, faucets, countertops, backsplashes – and appliances from espresso makers to washers.

The kitchens are designed by Wren and manufactured in U.S. factories. There are three kitchen collections, 16 cabinet styles, more than 1,500 colors and more than 10 million combinations.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

200,000-plus-SF warehouse to be built next to Coca-Cola Park

Indus Realty Group, a New York City-based real estate investment trust, is building a 205,800-square-foot industrial warehouse in Allentown, next to Coca-Cola Park.

The Class A facility, on 23 acres at 1115 American Parkway, is available for lease.

Lee Fittipaldi, of Lee & Associates, which is the brokerage agency handling the listing, said possible tenants are being interviewed. The building is well under construction and should be completed near the end of July.

“It’s a great project,” he said, with ideal size for this market. The warehouse offers easy access to Route 22 and Lehigh Valley International Airport and can draw from a large potential workforce population.

Fittipaldi said any traffic issues with the ballpark, where the minor league Lehigh Valley IronPigs play, are being “mitigated.”

On its website, Indus said it completed a complex master plan for 1115 American Parkway that included assembling multiple parcels, remediating the site, “and collaboration with the City of Allentown as well as owners of the adjacent IronPigs minor league baseball stadium to construct additional stadium parking, capacity, and a realignment of American Parkway and IronPigs Way.”

The listing for the building said it will feature 36-foot clear height, 28 dock high doors, two drive-in doors and a separate on-site trailer parking lot.

Indus said it seeks to be “a leading logistics real estate company focused on select high-growth, supply-constrained markets that can satisfy the demand of ever-changing supply chain requirements.”

Its portfolio includes properties in Connecticut, Florida, North Carolina and South Carolina as well as 11 in Pennsylvania – all of which are in the Lehigh Valley.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Lehigh Valley college gets new funding for manufacturing training programs

Northampton Community College in Bethlehem has received $336,024 in new funding to support manufacturing programs, Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) Secretary Rick Siger announced Wednesday. 

Two Manufacturing PA Training-to-Career (MTTC) grants were awarded to Northampton Community College. The school’s Industrial Skills for Manufacturing training program received $199,996, and the Precision Machine training program was granted $136,028. 

Siger visited the Bethlehem-based college on Wednesday and spoke of the “enormous impact” the training programs were having on students. 

“The people in these training programs are learning valuable skills that prepare them to enter the workforce and build strong, sustainable careers,” Siger said in a statement. “The investment that the Shapiro Administration is making here at Northampton Community College is an investment in Pennsylvania’s economic future.” 

The college’s Industrial Skills for Manufacturing training program curriculum includes introduction to manufacturing, workplace safety, measurement, blueprint fundamentals, basic electricity, electric relay control/programmable logic controllers, and mechanical maintenance concepts.

The aim of the Precision Machining training program is for students to learn and master the skill sets to safely and effectively operate the typical machines found in manufacturing environments. The career exploration components of the program will see students identify and align personal strengths and interests with manufacturing occupations to better understand the educational requirements, regional demand, and salaries for each.

Projects that result in short-term work-readiness, job placement, or the advancement of manufacturing are supported by the Manufacturing PA Training-to-Career grants program. The program works with area manufacturers to identify and teach essential skills for entry level applicants seeking manufacturing employment, engage youth or those with barriers to career opportunities in manufacturing, and or advance capacity for local or regional manufacturers.

Lauren Loeffler, vice president of Workforce Development, Northampton Community College, said the school is delighted to expand its relationship with DCED.

“Their support of these programs has been instrumental in helping our students, our college, and local employers to grow and move forward,” said Loeffler. “These high priority occupations are critical to the success of these businesses and our local economy long-term.”

More than 560,000 Pennsylvanians are currently employed in the state’s manufacturing industry.

ABB Installation Products opens $4M distribution center in Easton

ABB Installation Products opened its $4 million Northeast Distribution Center in Easton on Thursday to meet increased demand.

The Memphis-based company designs and manufactures products used to manage the connection, distribution and transmission of electrical power. This investment adds 100 jobs and further strengthens ABB’s U.S. supply chain, a release said.

Serving more than a dozen states, it will also speed delivery to electrical contractors, distributors and industrial customers by up to 50% in the Northeast and support growing demand in the U.S. with $15 million in electrical product inventory.

ABB’s Northeast Distribution Center stocks more than 5,000 high-demand products used to power, connect and protect electrical systems across a wide range of construction, industrial, infrastructure, transportation and utility applications. It’s part of an ABB Installation Products nationwide distribution network that includes centers in Phoenix, Arizona, and Byhalia, Mississippi.

The 350,000-square-foot facility – within 80 miles of New York City and Philadelphia on nearly 10 acres at 1000 Carson Court in Easton – expands ABB’s U.S. distribution footprint to increase direct delivery routes and reduce carbon emissions coast to coast.

President Joe Biden said, “This investment in a regional distribution center in Lehigh Valley will create good-paying jobs, shore up our transportation and infrastructure supply chains here at home, and help build a clean energy economy.”

“We continue to build upon our legacy of pioneering innovative electrification products that contractors and installers rely on every day to complete critical commercial, residential and utility projects,” said Matthias Heilmann, president, ABB Installation Products Division.

The U.S. remains ABB’s largest market by revenue, and this builds on more than $100 million in ABB Installation Products (formerly Thomas & Betts) expansions and improvements made in the U.S. since 2020.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

EMD Electronics, Shapiro announce investment in Lehigh Valley facility

EMD Electronics joined with Lehigh Valley leaders and Gov. Josh Shapiro Wednesday to break ground on the world’s largest integrated specialty gases facility, a multi-million dollar investment that is expected to create hundreds of jobs in Schuylkill County. 

The $300 million investment in semiconductor specialty gases manufacturing will create nearly 200 jobs, including 68 permanent union positions. A manufacturer in semiconductor and electronics manufacturing, EMD Electronics will build a new 96,500-square-foot facility as part of its investment. 

EMD Electronics will use the new facilities to double the production capacity of tungsten hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride, crucial components in semiconductor manufacturing. This will allow EMD Electronics to meet the increased demand in the electronics and semiconductor industries. 

One of the 10 largest manufacturing employers in Schuylkill County, EMD Electronics is the North American electronics business of Merck KGaA in Darmstadt, Germany. According to a press release, EMD Electronics manufactures chemical-mechanical planarization slurries, ultra-thin dielectric and metal precursors of film, formulated cleans and etching products, and delivery equipment for the semiconductor and electronics display industries. 

We have been the employer of choice in Hometown for almost 50 years,” President of EMD Electronics Jeff White said in a statement. “Our commitment to level up our business in Schuylkill County bodes well for the community and its global impact on the semiconductor industry. 

“We appreciate the efforts on the part of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to recognize the value of our growth plans and work with us to make this expansion possible.” 

EMD Electronics received a funding proposal from the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) for a $1,062,500 Pennsylvania First grant and a $122,000 workforce development grant to train workers. EMD has committed to creating 68 new jobs and retaining 289 existing, full-time jobs at its Schuylkill County location within the next five years. Construction of the new facility will add approximately 120 jobs. 

Shapiro said the investment in the new facility sends a clear message to the world that Pennsylvania is open for business. 

“We have enormous potential here in Pennsylvania to be an economic leader and drive innovation on a global scale,” said Shapiro. “Investments in projects like this one further prove this point. EMD Electronics is expanding and bringing more jobs to Schuylkill County. Let’s work together to make more projects like this possible.” 

Shapiro added that his administration promotes growth and seeks to ensure Pennsylvania becomes a leader in economic development and opportunity. 

Shapiro’s first budget, unveiled last month, is seen by his administration as a commonsense set of solutions to the pressing issues Pennsylvanians face, including the importance of increasing funding to attract and retain businesses in Pennsylvania. The budget invests 50% more in the Manufacturing PA Innovation Program, which connects Pennsylvania’s universities with businesses to spur innovation and job creation. 

“Governor Shapiro recognizes the impact the manufacturing industry has on Pennsylvania’s economy, and his budget includes funding for incentive tools to help attract and retain more businesses,” said Acting Secretary of DCED Rick Siger. 

“The governor’s proposed $12 million increase for the Pennsylvania First program would allow for more expansion projects like this one to be funded, bringing additional business investments and high paying jobs to the commonwealth.”

PA Chamber examines Shapiro’s strategy to rebuild workforce

Gov. Josh Shapiro has been touring Pennsylvania speaking of his proposals to restore the state’s flagging workforce. An effort that may not be looking enough at the big picture, according to the PA Chamber of Business and Industry. 

Jon Anzur, vice president of public affairs for the PA Chamber, noted that Pennsylvania businesses of every size and industry are dealing with a workforce shortage that predates the pandemic but was intensified by COVID-19. 

“Even before COVID, businesses were struggling with the worker shortage, but the pandemic really exacerbated this challenge,” said Anzur. “So many workers left Pennsylvania to go to another state to find opportunities or just left the workforce entirely. Employers as a result are struggling to find qualified workers. 

“You’re seeing Pennsylvania largely starting to recover the jobs that were lost during the pandemic. The challenge, though, is that Pennsylvania lagged the rest of the nation by six months to fully recover those jobs and our workforce today is smaller than it was pre-pandemic.” 

In the two-plus weeks following Shapiro’s first budget address, the governor has crisscrossed the state discussing his budget’s “commonsense” proposals to rebuild Pennsylvania’s workforce.  

Shapiro’s tour has taken him to Lancaster City to speak to local firefighters, to the Pennsylvania Police Academy in Hershey, the George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science in Philadelphia, Lackawanna College Police Academy in Scranton, Gwynedd Mercy University, Colfax K-8 Elementary School in Pittsburgh, and Mercyhurst Municipal Police Academy in Erie. 

A common thread to all the above is Shapiro’s desire to hear firsthand the challenges facing nurses, police, and teachers, three professions that have been hit particularly hard by a decreased workforce. 

Anzur said that while the PA Chamber appreciates the governor focusing on the workforce issue, he thinks the chamber would encourage lawmakers to focus on policies that would improve workforce development across all sectors. 

“From our perspective, job training and investing in proven job training and career and technical job training programs would help individuals develop the skills they need for the jobs that are available,” Anzur stated. “We talk to employers in manufacturing, in technology and innovation, in health care and they have jobs that are available. They just can’t find the workers who have the skills necessary for those careers.” 

“Investing in different educational programs and job training, and re-training of workers for these available jobs would go a long way,” he added. 

Lack of affordable health care is another challenge the chamber sees as exacerbating the worker shortage. 

“This is really a multi-pronged issue,” said Anzur. “We see younger families struggling to afford childcare and it’s leading to one of the adults in the family to leave the workforce to stay home with the kids. This is something we really think the private sector is responsible for driving solutions.” 

To that point, Anzur said the chamber is seeing Pennsylvania’s employers taking up the task of addressing the crucial childcare issue in various ways. Employers are assessing their employee’s needs to determine what working parents need from their employers, what their flexibility is in the business, and if they can provide hybrid work schedules and work from home. 

“Implementing these sorts of strategies and tracking the impact is something we’re seeing from our members and businesses across Pennsylvania, and I think it’s starting to have a positive impact,” said Anzur. “Figuring out that childcare piece will go a long way to getting adults back into the workforce.” 

Viewing the workforce shortage from a macro-economic perspective, Anzur said that as Pennsylvania’s tax and regulatory environment improves, so will investment into the state. That means more economic growth, which would have a positive impact on wages and bring Pennsylvanians back into the workforce and keep them in state. 

“With the pandemic, we saw tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians leaving the state to go other places for opportunities,” said Anzur. “As businesses are able to save on costs as the result of tax and regulatory reform, they will be able to invest more of that money back into the workforce. That’s going to lift wages and lead to more Pennsylvanians seeking employment here.” 

An additional key factor in rebuilding the state’s workforce focuses on continuing the phase down of the corporate net income tax from its current 8.99% to 8.49% later this year and eventually down to 4.99% by 2031. 

Permitting reform is another issue Shapiro has been speaking to, and Anzur noted that Republicans in the Pennsylvania Senate have introduced legislation to streamline and speed up the permitting process. 

“That’s a process that costs businesses millions of dollars annually here in Pennsylvania,” said Anzur. “As businesses save on those costs and are able to reinvest that money back into their workforce, I think you’ll see a positive impact of people coming back into the labor force here in Pennsylvania.” 

Workforce shortages rank among the biggest challenges facing Pennsylvania residents, and Shapiro has proposed incentivizing the nursing, police, and teaching professions with a three-year tax credit of up to $2,500 per year for new recruits. 

Anzur said the PA Chamber agrees with the governor’s prioritizing the labor shortage, and at the same time is taking a big picture view of the crisis. 

“From our perspective,” said Anzur, “while we share the governor’s concern and focus on strengthening Pennsylvania’s workforce, we’re looking at a more macro approach to addressing this issue that will impact positively Pennsylvania’s workforce across all sectors – job training, childcare, and improving our tax and reg environment.”