In 2019, Allentown Economic Development Corporation will celebrate its 40thanniversary. Since its founding in 1979, AEDC has focused its mission on improving vacant and underutilized properties in the Queen City in order to create an environment where manufacturers and other companies can flourish and grow.
At the request of Allentown City Council Member Courtney Robinson, AEDC Executive Director Scott Unger gave a presentation to the Community and Economic Development Committee of City Council to help ensure that more council members knew all that AEDC was doing to bring manufacturing jobs to the region, as well as to reuse existing manufacturing sites.
Robinson had recently met with Unger and received a tour of the AEDC offices and Bridgeworks Enterprise Center so he could become better acquainted with the nonprofit organization and what it does in the community.
“I asked Scott to give a presentation to the Community and Economic Development Committee of Allentown City Council because the role that AEDC plays is vital to the economy in Allentown,” said Robinson. “I felt it was important for the committee and the general public to be shown the full scope of AEDC’s mission and to understand not only the work being done presently, but the amazing success stories that AEDC has already written.”
For the first time in 11 years, Unger provided a general presentation on AEDC to City Council, which included an overview of the organization’s three primary programs: property management and land development, business incubation at Bridgeworks, and the business retention and expansion programs.
The presentation covered the basic organization structure of AEDC, as well as the Allentown Commercial and Industrial Development Authority that is also staffed and funded by AEDC. He provided a summary of the four state and local economic development loan funds that AEDC manages, and an overview of completed projects, along with an update on current projects, including Allentown Metal Works and the Klein Building.
Unger explained that AEDC helped return approximately 30-plus acres of vacant or underutilized properties to productive use without adding any public rights of way. Of its $1.58 million-dollar 2018-2019 operating budget, less than 2 percent ($32,500) is supported by public funds, while it pays more than $145,000 in annual real estate taxes and stormwater fees.
“I had two goals for the presentation,” explained Unger. “I wanted to clarify AEDC’s role and relationship with the city as a separate nonprofit entity, and also demonstrate that the organization is primarily funded by private dollars and not by the city itself. I think many people in attendance at the presentation were surprised and interested to learn that. And when it comes to business incubation, our focus on manufacturing means that our incubator is the least common type, and arguably the toughest kind, of business incubation to execute. And we do it exceptionally well with almost zero public or private financial support!”
Eight private sector and seven public sector representatives serve on the AEDC Board of Directors, including the Mayor of the City of Allentown, the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development Director and a City Council representative. The composition of the board makes AEDC an effective private-public partnership with the local business leaders, the City of Allentown, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, and Lehigh County.