Allentown Economic Development Corporation
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Monthly Archives: July 2018

Working capital loan helps human services entrepreneur make ends meet

A desire to help others is often rooted in a personal life experience. For Adewale Dosunmu it was caring for an aunt with a disability that made him want to start a business to help people like her.

After a career working in finance for companies like Morgan Stanley, and even starting his own financial services firm in 2008, Dosunmu decided to start Lehigh Human Support Services to provide residential support and respite services for people with intellectual disabilities.

So in 2014, he began doing research on what it would take to start such a business, including state and local regulations and required certifications. In 2017 he officially incorporated LHSS and received his state certification on December 8, 2017. The business officially started on June 8, 2018, with its first residents.

“Personal care is a heavily regulated industry in Pennsylvania and it takes years to apply and be approved,” Dosunmu explained. That included filling out hundreds of forms, attending seminars, and completing a final exam to get his business license. “You have 120 days to complete the application and approval process. It’s very intensive,” he said.

The business started with four homes: two in Allentown, one in Macungie, and another one in Breinigsville. He has an expansion plan in place with a goal of having six homes by the end of August.

Having spent much of his own capital purchasing the initial locations, he needed “gap funds” to support the business period between its first billing and the payment of invoices. A colleague mentioned to him the loan programs that Allentown Economic Development Corporation offered and suggested Dosunmu contact AEDC Program Manager David Dunn to learn more.

The $75,000 working capital loan was made possible by utilizing two of the loan programs that AEDC manages – the Pennsylvania Minority Business Development Authority program and the Allentown Enterprise Zone Revolving Loan Fund.

Dunn worked closely with Dosunmu to prepare accurate cash flow projections so he wouldn’t be over or under in his cash flow needs for the business based on the rate of reimbursement for services, which is dictated by the contract Dosunmu has with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. It took five months to complete the loan paperwork.

“AEDC provided the help we needed at a critical time. Access to startup capital is critical for a new business like mine,” said Dosunmu. “Without that loan, it would have been very difficult. Without AEDC I don’t know where we would be right now.”

So far Dosunmu has created 19 jobs, the majority of which are full time, and he expects to hire more in the future as the company grows. He is proud to offer his employs an hourly rate that is nearly double the minimum wage because he believes in compensating employees well so that they stay. “I believe in paying my employees a living wage,” he said.

“AEDC is focused on economic development in Allentown and the Lehigh Valley,” explained Dunn. “Lehigh Human Support Services’ unique business model fills an important niche in our regional healthcare system. They serve a population with high needs and create jobs that help AEDC fulfill its mission. We’re glad that we had the opportunity to provide crucial financing that will help them grow and prosper.”

 

New joint-initiative aims to teach manufacturing basics to new recruits

If you’ve ever considered a career in manufacturing but didn’t have the training to pursue it, now is your chance.

A new program called The Fundamentals of Manufacturing is being launched this fall as a joint initiative of Manufacturers Resource Center, Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, and Lehigh Carbon Community College. It is funded through a $135,000 state Training-to-Career grant.

Over 15 weeks the program teaches individuals who are new to the industry a wide range of mechatronics fundamentals, including production assembly, electrical fabrication, lean manufacturing principles and Six Sigma, safety procedures, soft skills, and more. “It uses a combination of book learning and hands-on practice for a well-rounded experience,” said Jack Pfunder, President and CEO of MRC.

An advisory council made up of 15 of the Lehigh Valley’s leading manufacturers is offering guidance to the program by indicating what skills they most need employees to know.  “In the past, employees specialized in either electrical, mechanical, or controls,” said Don Worman, LCCC Manufacturing Technology Instructor. “But today those three areas have been merged into one role of mechatronics.”

Finding tomorrow’s manufacturing technicians

An aging workforce coupled with fewer young people entering vocational technical careers in high school and after, has led to a decrease in skilled technicians for local companies to hire. As a result, community colleges are partnering with industrial resource councils like MRC and workforce organizations like WBLV to develop programs that build awareness and provide training opportunities like this new program. Some manufacturers are also instituting their own training and mentoring programs, partnering with an older experienced specialist on their staff with a new hire.

“Local manufacturers are having a tough time finding the right candidates with the right skills sets. You can’t gauge all of that just from a resume,” said Pfunder. “Employers need the confidence that a new hire will work out, otherwise it’s a costly mistake.”

The Fundamentals of Manufacturing will also show someone if they have an aptitude for manufacturing work. “Today’s manufacturing technicians need an inquisitive mind and a talent for problem-solving, and not everyone has that. Usually, people who are natural tinkerers do well in this field,” Worman said. “We hope that after teaching them the basics that it sparks an interest in them to return to LCCC for additional training.”

“Past programs we’ve done were for people already working in manufacturing and looking to improve their skills to get better positions,” explained Don Worman. “This program is different since it’s aimed at bringing people into manufacturing. It targets individuals who are unemployed, underemployed in their current positions; recent high school or technical school graduates, veterans, and those seeking a job change.”

A certificate of distinction

The first nine weeks take place at LCCC, with the remaining 6 weeks happening at MRC at their simulated factory facility. The program also includes tours of local manufacturing companies and guaranteed interview with the human resources staff at a local manufacturer.

Students in the program attend for free thanks to the state grant and are considered a student of LCCC where they will earn three course credits for completing the program. It costs about $2,000 per student to run the program, which has a cap of 25 students for the pilot year. The deadline to apply is August 15. Classes begin September 6 and take place on Thursdays and Fridays. For information, call Tom Bux at LCCC at 610-799-1961 or send an email to tbux@lccc.edu.

“Those who complete the program receive a certificate from LCCC, MRC, and WBLV,” Pfunder said. “This program will help differentiate candidates from other applicants when applying for a job.”

If the program’s pilot year goes well, Pfunder would like to see it expand to other regions in the future, and maybe even go statewide.

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