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Monthly Archives: May 2016

Executive Director Scott Unger reflects on his eight-year tenure as the head of AEDC

Scott UngerIt’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:

  1. 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.”
  2. 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.”
  3. 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.”

Remediation of key brownfield site in Enterprise Zone nears completion

allentown-metal-works

Progress continues at the Allentown Metal Works brownfield site in South Allentown as the remediation process necessary to return it to use as a manufacturing facility winds down.

Phase I of site remediation, which was completed in April 2015 and supported with $350,000 from the City of Allentown’s EPA-funded Brownfield Revolving Loan Fund, passed its final inspection by the PA Department of Environmental Protection in early March. This indicates that all state Land Recycling Program, or ‘Act 2,’ cleanup requirements protecting human and environmental health are now complete at the site. EarthRes of Pipersville, Bucks County acted as the project engineer, while BrightFields Inc. of Wilmington, Del. was cotracted via public bid to handle the onsite cleanup work.

AEDC and the City of Allentown jointly applied for and were awarded $400,000 in supplemental funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct the second phase of remediation at the site. At last week’s Allentown City Council meeting, the City amended the Capital Fund Budget to provide for the $400,000 reflecting receipt of monies from the EPA.

Work to be done in Phase II will include the encapsulation of lead-based paint on the steel beams located in Building B; asbestos abatement within Building B, Building 1, and Building 2; and the filling of open sumps and pits located in Buildings B and C.

In addition to the EPA funds, AEDC will contribute $55,380 to the second phase of the project, and the City of Allentown will provide $25,000 in personnel costs. Phase II is expected to be completed by the end of 2016.

“We’d like to thank our partners on this project without whom the remediation of this 268,000 brownfield site would not have been possible,” said AEDC Executive Director Scott Unger. “Special thanks to the City of Allentown, EarthRes Group, and BrightFields, Inc. Additional thanks go out to the EPA, PADEP, HDR and Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative.”

AEDC and the City of Allentown have applied for other grants to continue the redevelopment efforts when Phase II of environmental remediation culminates.

Community contributions sought to allow AEDC progress to continue

Last year, and for the first time in more than a decade, AEDC proactively solicited the support of local business partners to request contributions. The effort raised $48,000, much to the delight of Executive Director Scott Unger. Partners like Air Products, PPL, UGI, Lehigh Valley Health Network and others contributed the funds needed to allow AEDC to continue being a self-sustaining nonprofit organization.

“Ninety percent of AEDC’s operating revenue is self-generated,” Unger explained. “Six percent comes from public sector funds as fee-for-service for programs administered by AEDC, like the Enterprise Zone. The last 4 percent comes from the private sector. While that might seem like a small percentage of a budget, that 4 percent is an important piece of our annual financial puzzle.”

While Unger continues to identify the specific companies he is asking for support from in 2016, any small business is able to make a contribution, as are individuals who want to support AEDC’s economic development efforts in the Queen City.

“We’re looking for those community minded, big picture thinkers who see the progress we’ve made over 37 years and want to encourage it to continue,” Unger said. “They are the ones who understand our mission of restoring and returning Allentown’s most challenged real estate to productive use and increasing our city’s standard of living by helping manufacturing and technology companies to Start, Grow and Stay here.”

Interested in contributing to AEDC? Contact Scott Unger at sunger@allentownedc.com.

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