From relatively small issues such as litter on company grounds to much bigger decisions such as site selection, the Allentown Economic Development Corporation is reaching out to companies with a program aimed at helping local businesses navigate the regulatory landscape and find the resources they need to thrive.
“The Business Outreach Program, a refreshed version of the Business Retention and Expansion Program, is a statewide initiative run regionally by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation,” said AEDC Program Manager Anthony Durante. “These types of programs have been around for a while and they serve an important role in helping us work with the Allentown manufacturing community to make sure they can grow in our City.”
The AEDC team has already begun visiting city businesses to help them with pending issues.
“Our primary goal is to reach out to Allentown companies to see how they are doing and if we can be of any assistance,” said Michelle Rifkin, AEDC Economic Development Specialist. “In a worst-case scenario, it can help provide an early warning in case a company is in danger of closing or moving from the city or the Lehigh Valley.”
The Business Outreach Program also enables AEDC to work with companies to improve communication with local and regional economic development organizations, make referrals, and provide resources.
“We have been able to play the role of facilitator between individual companies and City municipal offices to address issues like tractor-trailer parking and traffic safety problems,” explained Rifkin. “Sometimes the company just doesn’t know who to call or where to start when it comes to these types of things.
“Another purpose of the visits is to help us to better understand what these companies do,” continued Rifkin. “Are they are growing? Are they facing specific challenges? Do they have a good relationship with the City, the County and other economic development organizations? These are the things we want to understand. Whenever possible, we also enjoy tours of the facilities to help us learn more about the manufacturing processes and space requirements for the different types of industrial companies.”
The meetings, which typically consist of confidential one-hour sessions with the owner or senior executives, also enable AEDC to identify projects eligible for financing through the loan programs the organization administers. The Enterprise Zone Revolving Loan Fund can be used for expansions and equipment acquisitions. The Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority (PMBDA) Revolving Loan Fund can be used for funding similar projects, but focuses on companies with at least 51 percent minority ownership. AEDC also connects companies with financing from the Industrial Development Authority, the City of Allentown, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation and more.
“The Enterprise Zone Business Outreach Program also enables us to establish trends amongst Enterprise Zone companies,” said Rifkin.
“For example, it’s well known that local companies are facing challenges with work force training and a general disinterest in manufacturing jobs,” she said. “Business outreach visits confirm if such challenges remain, and determine how businesses have been coping. We are able to feed this information back to organizations like the Lehigh Valley Workforce Investment Board.”
AEDC administers the Business Outreach Program exclusively for manufacturing, industrial, and technology companies within the city limits of Allentown. All business outreach for commercial, restaurant, or retail businesses is managed by the City of Allentown Department of Community and Economic Development.
Interested business owners/leaders can contact Michelle Rifkin about the Business Outreach Program at 610-435-8890 or firstname.lastname@example.org