Just weeks after Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank delivered a $500,000 to upgrade the manufacturing incubator at Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, the Allentown Economic Development Corp. is already moving ahead on the project.

The work will make the iconic, saw-toothed roof of the one-time Mack Truck plant more energy efficient by replacing the aged, translucent roof panels with insulated glass and panels that retain the generous skylight but dramatically reduce the heating and cooling costs for the enormous building.

The changes will allow the AEDC staff to reinvest the savings in energy costs back into the incubator to encourage more manufacturing entrepreneurs who will in turn create jobs.

“It really is interesting to see the economy growing in places like this,”  Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank Acting U.S. Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank greets co-workers in Hive 4A during her visit to the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center.

Blank said when she visited Bridgeworks on Aug. 21. “Manufacturing has been one of the bright spots in the economy and 10,000 new manufacturing jobs were created in Pennsylvania over the last two years. We know that manufacturing jobs are good jobs that pay better than average and provide better benefits.”

AEDC Project Manager Molly Slevin Wood said the organization has already begun reviewing the grant documents to ensure that it meets all of the conditions, a process that must be done in the first 30 days. After that, they will prepare requests for proposals for the design process, which must be finished before they can seek bids for the actual renovation work.

Wood estimated that work could begin as early as March 2013 – or earlier, if there is another mild winter like 2012.

“The character of the building allows light to filter through but this renovation project will give us the energy efficiency we need,” she said, noting that energy savings will range from 30 to 60 percent of the current costs.

“Between AEDC and our clients, we’ll be putting less money into energy costs and more money into our innovation and helping our tenants,” AEDC Executive Director Scott Unger said at the presentation.

The work should not affect current incubator tenants or independent contractors who use the Hive 4A co-working space. It has been prioritized by zones over the four sections of saw-tooth roof and almost all of the work will be done on the exterior, starting in the tenant areas and out to the common areas of the building, she said.

Secretary Blank said the timing and economic conditions are just about perfect for more investment in manufacturing.

“As an economist I can say that you are not going to see lower interest rates that what we have now. If we choose not to invest now, we lose a key moment of opportunity,” she told the assembly gathered for her visit, which included Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and regional economic development officials. “We look forward to working with the entrepreneurs and investors here.”