Chamber Highlights COVID-19 Funding Lehigh Valley Businesses Received

By Colin McEvoy on November 23, 2020

Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Tony Iannelli speaks with Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure (left) and Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong (right) during the Chamber’s virtual 2020 Annual Meeting.

The global coronavirus pandemic didn’t stop Tony Iannelli from making a grand entrance.

The President & CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce is well-known for his extravagant entrances each year at the Chamber’s Annual Meeting. In the past, they’ve included swinging onto stage on a giant wrecking ball, performing a musical number in a feather boa and sunglasses, and lowering from the sky in an astronaut costume.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis, the Annual Meeting was broadcast virtually this year on Nov. 19, with no in-person audience. But it opened with Iannelli, wearing a tuxedo and sunglasses, riding a helicopter across the Lehigh Valley to the Wind Creek Event Center, with the James Bond theme song playing in the background.

“What a great way to see this beautiful Lehigh Valley,” Iannelli said, as the helicopter passed the former Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks.

The Chamber is a partner in the Lehigh Valley Made Possible marketing initiative, which is led by a coalition including the Chamber, Discover Lehigh Valley, and the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). The Made Possible video was shown during the Chamber’s Annual Meeting.

About 1,000 people were estimated to have attended the online event, during which Iannelli discussed the efforts by both the Chamber and the counties of Northampton and Lehigh to ensure that Lehigh Valley small businesses received emergency financing during the pandemic.

Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure said about $10 million in funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was distributed to small businesses in the county. About 700 businesses received money, he said, many of which received the maximum grant amount of $15,000.

“This partnership that Lehigh and Northampton counties have with the Chamber to distribute this CARES Act money to small businesses is the best in the state, bar none, and will be no matter what happens,” McClure said.

Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong said Lehigh County distributed about the same amount to small businesses. The county received 738 applications in total, and he expects all of them to receive funding.

Armstrong also said the two counties worked together to help regional organizations like LANTA, the Lehigh Valley International Airport, ArtsQuest, and the Lehigh Valley Ironpigs.

“You’re not going to see that in too many other places,” he said. “That was a great example of regional cooperation.”

Additionally, Iannelli said the Chamber helped provide almost $400,000 to small businesses in the Lehigh Valley, in $1,500 increments each, for rent, payroll, and other operating expenses. This was done in partnership with BB&T, now Truist.

LVEDC helped publicize the Chamber’s program. LVEDC also previously submitted 26 loan applications on behalf of Lehigh Valley companies to the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority’s COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program. The loan requests totaled $2.3 million in loan financing.

The Chamber also distributed its 2020 awards during the Annual Meeting. Hellertown Mayor David Heintzelman received the Chamber Champion award, Ashley Russo of ASR Media Productions was named Volunteer of the Year, and New Tripoli Bank received a Milestone Award for 110 years in operation.

Additionally, Rob Vaughn of WFMZ provided a look back on the pandemic and other major news events of 2020, and Carson Kressley, an Allentown-based television personality best known from his role on Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, spoke from his Lehigh Valley farm.

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