June 30--As executive director of the Allentown Economic Development Corp., Scott Unger routinely deals with some of the city's most challenging properties.
One is the 17-acre Allentown Metal Works campus, which has been idle for about a decade after a history of making cement kilns and crushers. A plan to bring new manufacturers to the site got a boost from BB&T, which is contributing $250,000 toward its redevelopment, AEDC announced Thursday.
"At 17 acres, this is a profoundly important manufacturing project," Unger said.
When the campus' first building is ready for occupancy, it could create up to 45 jobs, according to AEDC.
The Metal Works' grant was among eight, totaling $1.45 million, which BB&T and Lehigh Valley Community Foundation officials traveled across the area to deliver Thursday. The grants are intended to spur economic development by being used to create more manufacturing jobs, provide job training and deal with blighted properties, said Scott V. Fainor, BB&T community banking group executive.
Checks between $10,000 and $250,000 will benefit Valley cities, colleges and nonprofits. The money is part of a $2.5 million economic growth fund BB&T created when it acquired Allentown'sNational Penn Bancshares.
Don Cunningham, president and CEO of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., said the area's 680 manufacturers provide about $5.6 billion to the local annual gross domestic product.
"And we can continue to grow that," Cunningham said. "Believe it or not, one of the biggest challenges is having adequate space to meet the demand in the time frame in which it's needed."
Lehigh Valley Community Foundation received BB&T's money in early 2016. Bernie Story, foundation president and CEO, said the BB&T money -- unlike most of the 225 funds the foundation administers as endowments -- is held in "temporary" status, meaning it will be doled out in the next year or so.
While the fund's balance should be handed out in the next year or two, Fainor said the grants could beget private money. For example, he said a south Bethlehem proposal to clean up blighted properties is part of a revolving loan fund, and whoever buys properties from the city would pay into the fund.
"I think all of these projects can be leveraged," said Fainor, who is based in Allentown. "I can't say how leveraged they'll be, but I think we become the catalyst today to basically leverage our grants, which can get these projects started."
He left the door open for more help from BB&T, one of the largest financial services companies in the country, with $220.5 billion in assets.
"We're definitely going to look at how we can continue to make a bigger impact," he said.
Get the inside scoop on the Lehigh Valley's business scene on The Business Cycle, themorningcall.com/business. Like us on Facebook: facebook.com/LVBizCycle. Follow us on Twitter: @LVBizCycle.
These following other organizations received grants, according to BB&T and the Community Foundation:
* Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation, $250,000 for creation of a revolving loan fund to remediate blighted properties in Bethlehem
* Lehigh Valley Industrial Park, $250,000 for construction of the Bethlehem Manufacturing Center in LVIP VII
* Ben Franklin Technology Partners, $100,000 to expand the Lehigh Student, Faculty & Alumni Collaboration Area and the mission of the Baker Institute and its business incubator
* Northampton Community College, $200,000 for the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in south Bethlehem
* Lehigh County and Lehigh Career & Technical Institute, $100,000 for workforce development scholarships
* Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Foundation, $50,000 for Western Hamilton Street Gateway Project.
* Cedar Crest College, $10,000 for the Student Employment Center
* DeSales University, $10,000 for the Health Care Program Scholarship Fund
* Lehigh Carbon Community College Foundation, $10,000 for Dual-Enrollment Classes with the Allentown School District
* Moravian College, $10,000 for the BB&T Fellows Program
* Muhlenberg College, $10,000 for the Business Accelerator Complex
* The City of Easton, $125,000 toward the proposed Da Vinci Science City project and $75,000 for parking and hotel studies to enhance tourism
(c)2017 The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.)
Visit The Morning Call (Allentown, Pa.) at www.mcall.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
© Tribune Content Agency, source Regional News