Major life changes can help us discover something about ourselves that we never knew. For Ken Vance that happened when he found himself caught in a wave of cutbacks a few years ago in newspaper publishing. And while he didn’t want to leave the industry and a job he liked, doing so opened the door to a career in economic development where he now enjoys a personal sense of satisfaction in helping create jobs for others.
For the past three and half years Vance has been the Controller at Allentown Economic Development Corporation, where he’s adapted to its high energy, responsive, on-the-move environment.
Handling the finances of the Southside Allentown nonprofit corporation might sound straightforward enough, yet it’s anything but. In addition to AEDC, Vance also manages finances for Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority as well as the Bridgeworks by the Creek manufacturing complex. He also serves on its finance and audit committees, and periodically consults with the startup clients in the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center’s business incubation program.
Of course, there’s the usual finance work like invoicing, collecting payments, paying taxes, and paying employees. But he also maintains its financial systems, and administers the staff’s benefits programs, acting as the organization’s human resources officer.
“My main job is to prepare all financial statements for the entities we oversee and to secure all of the organization’s assets,” said Vance. “I’m the financial gatekeeper for the organization. I’m charged with making sure we turn a profit. Most people don’t realize that 80 percent of our revenue is generated by our leases and rent. Our very infrastructure sustains us.”
When AEDC is awarded a grant or loan, Vance works with the federal, state or local authorities to secure, and then manage, the grant funds. He also handles all of the banking including loan programs that AEDC administers on its own, as well as programs done it does in conjunction with the City of Allentown.
“I’ve come to really enjoy economic development,” he explained. “It’s a dynamic industry where we create something new each day. We assist companies that want to move here with site selection. We rehabilitate old manufacturing buildings so they can once again be used to produce things. We handle real estate development. And we do all of this as a private-public nonprofit organization.”
In the future, Vance would like to see AEDC continue to put more properties into productive use through rehabilitation because occupied properties mean jobs.
“At the end of the day, AEDC is a job creating organization,” Vance explained. “It gives me a good feeling to know that the work I do, that our entire team does here, brings and keeps manufacturing in Allentown, which leads to living wage jobs for our residents. I like contributing to that. This kind of work is different from anything I’ve done before in my career because it’s personal; it directly affects people, and that gives me a sense of satisfaction.”