The City of Allentown’s Enterprise Zone Revolving Loan Fund and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Minority Business Development Authority Revolving Loan Fund are two great ways for manufacturing businesses in the Queen City to grow their business.

While each loan fund has different parameters and requirements, in general they will help a business owner purchase important machinery and equipment, purchase land, renovate a building or construct a new one; and can sometimes assist with working capital.

To help illustrate what these loans can do for businesses, we’ve profiled three recent success stories.

LightLab International Allentown

Company founders Mike Grather and Tracy Silvert started the accredited photometric testing laboratory company in April 2015 at Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in South Allentown.

Since the light testing equipment in such a technical field is costly, they applied for a loan with the Enterprise Zone Revolving Loan Fund. LightLab’s $100,000 loan was used toward the purchase of an integrating sphere, which is used to determine the total amount of light, lumen output, and color that a bulb gives off. It was also used toward build-out costs to create the lab space at Bridgeworks.

“The equipment that we purchased with the loan was necessary to round out our scope of testing capabilities,” said Grather. “Without it we would not have been able to offer a full suite of testing services, which would’ve left us at a strong disadvantage in our industry.”

Since acquiring the loan and equipment two years ago, LightLab has achieved accreditation and acceptance into some of the predominant energy efficiency programs like the Department of Energy’s Lighting Facts Program, DesignLights Consortium, and California’s Title-24 program.

“Over the next six to 12 months we are planning to hire one or possibly two more full-time employees, expand our scope of testing services, and continue offering cutting-edge services surrounding new lighting technologies and their application.”

Terra Group

Located in South Allentown’s Bridgeworks Industrial Center, the company’s TECWAR water purification and wastewater treatment systems create potable and utility water from any water source, such as a pond, lake, river or even floodwaters, no matter how contaminated. The systems are portable, scalable, and modular, and can be used in standalone situations in war zones, emergency response scenarios, and disaster relief situations.

In early 2016 Terra Group closed on an Enterprise Zone Loan for $45,700 for the purchase and installation of a walk-in dust control booth that is used in the metal grinding process. Previously, the aluminum frames that hold the filtration systems were made by welders and fabricators offsite who would send the frames to another offsite contractor for metal grinding. Once the piece was done it would be sent to TerraGroup for powder coat painting.

Bringing the metal grinding in-house allowed the company to speed up the process, saving them money and time, while getting each frame to the exact military specifications, a problem the outside contractors often had trouble achieving. But since the metal grinding process involves health and safety issues, a special dust control booth first had to be constructed with proper ventilation.

“Being able to upgrade our facility by adding the new booth has saved a tremendous amount of time by allowing us to keep our products in-house compared to sending them back and forth to outside shops,” said Terra Group President Primo Acernese. “We have very high quality standards for our products so this new booth allows us quickly rework items to meet our level of quality.”

“The process was very simple and much more personalized than working with a conventional lender,” he continued. “The team at AEDC was extremely helpful with any questions we had and they made the entire process quick and easy. We would absolutely consider doing another Enterprise Zone Loan. We are constantly evaluating new projects and ways to improve existing ones. It is great to know this loan program is in place to assist us with future equipment purchases that we might consider.”

Summit Utility Structures

Located in South Allentown, Summit designs and manufacturers engineered products for infrastructure used in high voltage transmission poles for utility companies, wireless communication mono-poles, and traffic, lighting and sign structures for departments of transportation.

Allentown Economic Development Corporation Program Manger David Dunn introduced business owner Raj Pawar to the PMBDA loan program last year. Pawar used $150,000 in loans to aid his company’s growth, which allowed him to increase his staff from 10 to 44 full-time employees. Pawar is currently obtaining another PMBDA loan for $250,000.

“I would recommend that other Allentown manufacturers take advantage of the support that the PMBDA loan program offers to help make their business grow,” said Pawar.