It’s been almost eight years since Scott Unger took the helm at Allentown Economic Development Corporation. It was an organization in transition at that time and Unger was tasked with righting the ship and setting it on a strong path. And based on the progress the organization continues to see year after year, it appears he has accomplished that goal.
AEDC returns vacant and underutilized real estate to productive use in the City of Allentown while also supporting the private industrial sector and encouraging it to start, grow and stay in the Queen City.
We asked Unger what the three most significant projects are that AEDC has worked on during his tenure. Here are the ones he chose:
- PPL hockey arena and hotel complex – “AEDC was involved with that project from the very beginning with preliminary discussions with the developer and owners about possible arena locations. We played a key role in developing the site plan, acquiring the properties on that block and demolishing them, and coordinating the environmental remediation, relocation of utilities and bulk earthwork.”
- Bridgeworks Industrial Center – “A former Mack Trucks building, of which 140,000 square feet (more than half of the facility) had to be refurbished before it could be leased. But doing so allowed our organization to grow, and allowed some existing Allentown manufacturing companies to expand. Today those leases help to fund AEDC operations and continue to support our local manufacturing community.”
- Bridgeworks Enterprise Center – “Another former Mack Trucks building, Bridgeworks was started in the 1980s as a business incubation center with a focus on manufacturing startups and entrepreneurship. But we needed to refocus its scope as well as our own dedication to making it successful. In doing so we added to it the Flex Launch and Coworking Space and made several significant capital improvements to the facility including a new roof. To-date it has helped launch more than 60 companies and created more than 325 jobs in the community. The program generates 20 percent of AEDC’s annual revenue.”
“Other projects that I’ve been proud to oversee include the selection of a developer and sale of the Colonial Theatre site on Hamilton Street; site remediation and demolition of the CALO building next to America on Wheels; completion and sale of the final units of Bridgeworks by the Creek manufacturing facility; as well as the ongoing remediation and future redevelopment of the Allentown Metal Works and Neuweiler Brewery sites.”
Under Unger’s direction AEDC has also continued a strong connection with the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and the Environmental Protection Agency. Together with the City of Allentown and the Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative (a program of LVEDC), AEDC has tackled a variety of remediation projects in the city utilizing EPA funds that were nearing expiration. Since then the organization has made a concerted effort to tap into all grant opportunities available to pursue AEDC’s mission.
“Our project track record with EPA has helped us to apply for and receive supplementary funds for remediation projects”.
Unger is reticent to take too much personal credit for these accomplishments, instead attributing them to the collective efforts of his talented staff, board members and our many economic development partners.
“Redevelopment doesn’t just happen with buildings. It also happens with teams. One of the very first things I started doing as the executive director was to grow and shape our small staff of seven employees, and it’s made all the difference. We now have a strong team of knowledgeable economic development and business professionals that are committed to our mission and who help us achieve our goals every day.”