A year can be measured in 365 days, 8,760 hours or 525,600 minutes. But since the last year contained a pandemic with restrictions that lead to business closures and a sudden change to our way of living and operating, the argument can be made that it felt much longer than that!

More than half of the July 1, 2019 through June 30, 2020 fiscal year for the nonprofit Allentown Economic Development Corporation took place during “normal times.” But its final four months were a test of the 40-year-old organization’s strength as it endeavored to support not only the client companies in its Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, but also the city’s manufacturing businesses.

It left Executive Director Scott Unger with a story of resilience that he wanted to share. Since he’d already been planning to resume producing the organization’s annual report, that piece became the right vehicle through which to tell the story. “The annual report is our platform to tell the community who we are, what we’ve been doing, and why our work matters,” he said. (VIEW/DOWNLOAD ANNUAL REPORT HERE)

Donald Bernhard, AEDC Board Chairman and Downtown Allentown Community Development Initiative Executive Director, agrees that it’s a tool to both inform and educate. “A nonprofit organization uses its annual report to highlight its contributions. Since AEDC has always been more focused on results than on self-promotion, it’s common for people to be surprised at the magnitude of its contributions to the city’s economic vitality.”

Selecting the format for telling the story

The project was handed to AEDC Marketing Communications Specialist Erin Hudson to develop along with marketing agency owner, Evan Johnson of Stay Calm Industries. Johnson’s firm, a Bridgeworks office tenant, had previously been tapped to assist in the organization’s rebranding and created its new web site.

“This report is an opportunity to share not just a depiction of AEDC’s mission, but how we measure success,” explained Hudson. “The report was designed in a way that would allow for an introduction and explanation of each of our three programs, followed by a visual of the impact that program has had on business owners and the community.”

Included in it are data, images, graphics, and testimonials to tell the individual success stories of the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, the Urban Made program, and the Urban Sites program. “Our audience can read our stories and hear directly from people in our community,” she continued. “The objectives of each program become much more personal and meaningful on the pages of this report.”

Company profiles help readers connect to the story

Since an annual report is an organization’s opportunity to share its top accomplishments for the past year, it is generally done with financial figures in pie charts and graphs, and through the use of stats. And while that data can be found in the AEDC annual report, its successes are primarily told through profiles of some of the companies it has helped over the past year.

In the Bridgeworks section, client companies TRuCapSol, ColdEdge, and The Colony Meadery are each featured in single-page overviews. In the Urban Made section, three PMBDA loan recipients – US Specialty Formulations, The L.I.F.T. Center, and small business owner Rafael Lovera are briefly profiled. And two recipients of Allentown Enterprise Zone Revolving Loan funds – Urban Green Ventures LLC, and RB Collection – have their stories told in that section as well.

Allentown Metal Works

A project about which Unger is passionate is located across the street and down the block from the AEDC offices. Allentown Metal Works is featured in a two-page spread in the Urban Sites section showing the project’s timeline from 2011 through today. He felt it was important to show the progress that has transpired on the former manufacturing brownfield site in nearly a decade to make it suitable for redevelopment by a new owner.

“Next to the PPL Center, Allentown Metal Works is likely the largest project AEDC has ever engaged in, and it has been a challenge!” Unger explained. “This year we made progress in securing some of the necessary permitting for the redevelopment concurrently with our efforts to assemble funding. We also submitted a large grant application that we hope will provide the matching funds we need to start the initial phase of building renovation during the first quarter of 2021.”

For the record

One of the little-known facts about AEDC that Unger wants to convey through the report is that it is an independent 501c3 organization and is not a part of the City of Allentown.

“It is often perceived that we are a part of the city, or it is assumed that our operations are funded by the city. While Allentown is one of our key partners, less than 2 percent of our annual operating budget is supported by public funds, and we pay nearly $160,000 in annual real estate taxes and stormwater fees to the city, county, and school district.”

Surrounded by a great team

Given the small size of AEDC’s staff of seven, Unger continues to be proud of all that they are able to accomplish in a given year, let alone one with a pandemic.

“We are fortunate to have a group of dedicated people who are passionate about AEDC’s programs and overall mission,” he said. “I think that our team looks at what we do as an opportunity to make a difference rather than just as a job. I am most proud of our team for pulling together to keep our three programs fully operational during COVID. Staff continue to work varied hours, display commitment, and provide flexibility to safely serve our customers during a very challenging year. I am both proud and grateful to be surrounded by such a capable group of people.”

Introductions, connections and reminders

Hudson sees the annual report as an opportunity to connect with community members and remind them of the meaningful work that AEDC does. And for people who may not already be familiar with AEDC’s work, it’s an opportunity to introduce them to the organization and create a connection between AEDC’s mission and the businesses or places they’re familiar with around town.

“This organization has helped finance projects or provide capital for so many local business owners. It’s also played a role in many of the large redevelopment projects throughout the city,” she said. “This is our chance to proudly tell those stories. We want readers to see these pages and say, “Wow! I’ve been to that building! I know that business! AEDC was involved in that?”

Hudson said the report will be primarily distributed digitally via email, and by downloading from or viewing it on the AEDC website. There will also be a limited number of printed copies available, which will be distributed to a smaller audience including select AEDC partners and supporters.