Allentown Economic Development Corporation

Monthly Archives: July 2015

Experienced professionals get advice on starting their own business after 50

On July 20, AEDC co-hosted the “Summer of Encore Entrepreneurship Program” for semi-retired professionals ages 50 and older with an interest in starting a new business during the second half of their lives.

Co-hosted by Lehigh Valley SCORE, the event featured a mentor panel of six professionals who each conducted short presentations on topics ranging from the basics of starting a business, to marketing your business, and event planning.

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U.S. Representative Charlie Dent addresses attendees at the Summer of Encore Entrepreneurship Program.

U.S. Representative Charlie Dent kicked off the half-day event, which was attended by more than 25 people. Dent pointed out the importance of entrepreneurs creating jobs in our community and driving the nation’s economic recovery. He also pointed out that entrepreneurial ventures launched by seasoned professionals show increased odds of a startup’s success.

“The ‘Summer of Encore Entrepreneurship’ is an initiative of the SBA to help promote entrepreneurship among individuals age 50 and older,” explained

Shannon R. Degiglio, Lender Relations & Economic Development Specialist and Veteran Business Development Officer with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). “Research shows that individuals 50 and over are interested in starting a business within the next 5 to 10 years.”

“The program’s intent is to link Encore entrepreneurs with mentors in the SBA’s Resource Partner Network such as Lehigh Valley SCORE,” Degiglio continued. “SCORE is a national mentoring organization that provides free mentoring in every stage of a business’s life cycle. Small business owners with long-term counselors see bigger sales, hire more workers and have more longevity. In the Lehigh Valley, the SBA, SCORE, and Representative Dent teamed up to offer an informational workshop on the basics of starting a new business and to connect entrepreneurs with local resources for ongoing support.”

New roof equals savings and improved efficiencies for Bridgeworks Enterprise Center

It might be a long hot summer outside, but inside the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in South Allentown it’s as cool as a cucumber. That’s because Phase 2 of our rooftop replacement project has ended, resulting in improved heating and cooling efficiencies for the entire building.

The building’s angled roof material was made of a 1/16” clear corrugated plastic with virtually no insulation value. “It could be nearly 100°F inside during the summer with the air conditioning running, and barely above 60°F in the winter with the heat running. That certainly made it challenging to market incubator space!”

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The new roofing material is a combination of insulation and rubber roofing (R-20) and double-pane Kalwall (R-7). This combination creates a roof with an average R-13 insulation rating. It also allows some sunlight penetration, which maintains the aesthetics of the building.

“The new roof improves energy efficiency which means a measurable monthly cost savings in our utilities, and happier, more comfortable clients,” said Anthony Duarte, Bridgeworks Enterprise Center Program Manager. “This project lets us practice what we preach when it comes to the adaptive reuse of older buildings and making them more efficient for manufacturing.”

“We’ve already seen a 42 percent reduction in natural gas use and a significant reduction in electric use too,” he continued. “The roof replacement will also allow us to realize the full benefits of installing higher-efficiency HVAC systems in the future. Otherwise there would be no reason to install a 90+ percent efficient HVAC system in a space that couldn’t maintain its temperature.”

Roof - Before & After

Roof temperatures before replacement (left) and after (right), on the same day.

Phase 1 was funded by a $500,000 Economic Development Administration grant, a $500,000 Pennsylvania Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant, and nearly $100,000 of AEDC’s own development funds. It began in August 2013 and was completed that December. During that time approximately 60 percent of the roof (1,440 linear feet) was replaced.

Phase 2 of the project, which replaced an additional 480 linear feet of the roof, began in late April 2015 and was completed by June 30. This phase was funded by $327,000 in loans plus nearly $10,000 of AEDC’s own development funds.

“All client spaces, plus some of our largest common areas, are now under the new roof,” Durante said. “It also creates an area in the building where we can add a client unit which will allow us to transition some of our common area into usable space in the future.”


  • AEDC experienced a 33 percent decrease in natural gas cost from FY2012-13 to FY2013-14.
  • It’s important to note that the decreased natural gas cost occurred during a colder winter in FY2013-14 as compared to the FY2012-13 winter:
    • Average Winter Daily Temp – 10/1/12 to 3/31/13 = 39°F
    • Average Winter Daily Temp – 10/1/13 to 3/31/14 = 35°F
  • In FY2014-15, after having tripled the occupancy of the building, which includes two heavy users of natural gas that use it year-round, AEDC spent 22.5 percent less for natural gas than we did two years ago.

AEDC Business Opportunity Outreach Connects Local Companies With Valuable Resources

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

Bridgeworks Company Helps Client Obtain Ben Franklin Funding For New Product

MindBridge Innovations LLC was awarded a $35,000 investment from the Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeast Pennsylvania in order to advance the development of its OrthoBike.

Much of this is thanks to some timely input, guidance and design work done by MTS Ventures, a resident company at the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center operated by the Allentown Economic Development Corp.

The funding will help MindBridge finalize a new sales strategy, revise financial models, and complete software development for the OrthoBike’s Coach AL interface, the system that communicates between the at-home patient and physicians and therapists. This rehabilitative tool for physical therapists provides range-of-motion, strength, and gait rehabilitation to patients after total hip and knee replacement and other lower extremity surgeries.

“We have been instrumental in guiding that project along over the past year or so,” said MTS founder Matt Sommerfield, adding that his company helped MindBridge president Dan Vasillaros with a significant redesign that made the bike more user-friendly and aesthetically pleasing.

The MTS team considered and reshaped OrthoBike’s mechanical details. The function of the crank was streamlined and pedal adjustments refined. Additionally, the seat and handlebars received a more ergonomic configuration. Adjustable parts were labeled, simply and clearly, to help patients and therapists make the most of their use. The design was made more compact and previously open assemblies were enclosed. Portability was designed in, and the device’s digital performance measurement capabilities honed for maximum reliability and user friendliness.

“Matt understood from the start that we had to convince the people who had to buy OrthoBike and the people who had to use it,” Vassilaros said in a case study produced by MTS. “He was great at this – his eye is connected to his heart.”

Sommerfield said Bridgeworks and AEDC were instrumental in his work with MindBridge by allowing MTS to temporarily rent additional space at the incubator to build the prototypes.

“We have helped MindBridge advance their product and AEDC helped us by providing the resources that helped us get it done,” Sommerfield said.

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