John Brown is setting the table for economic development

By LVEDC Staff on January 14, 2014

NCLogo (281x255)During a recent visit to Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s headquarters, John Brown said one of his goals as newly elected executive of Northampton County is to make sure the proper programs are in place – and then to get out of the way of the economic development that will result in jobs and revenue.

“My goals are the same as those I ran on: to keep taxes low, to deliver services at a higher level, and to work more closely with our partners.”

Brown, who was elected November 5th after serving as mayor of Bangor, is carefully considering who will serve in his cabinet.

“I’m currently working to find the right people for my administration – I’m not just filling slots,” Brown told LVEDC in this exclusive interview. “Chemistry is paramount.

And one of those key partners is LVEDC. The organization shares a mission with Brown – to promote the region and attract business.

“Northampton County hasn’t done a very good job of telling its story,” Brown said. ‘We’ve been our own worst enemy when it comes to letting the world know what we offer here.”

Brown, who oversaw a budget of about $3 million while serving as mayor of Bangor, will now oversee a budget of $342 million. He intends to carefully note where spending has been made and to improve the way the taxpayers’ money is spent so he can end the practice of deficit-spending to the tune of $10 million each year.

With an improving business climate, he believes Northampton County can begin to live within its means.

“I’m an advocate for the taxpayer and I believe the taxpayers shouldn’t suffer,” Brown said. “The early indicators are that the economy is coming back to pre-recession levels.

“We do need to do a better job of supporting the business climate and letting private developers do what they need to do.”

Brown says the county will lend a helpful hand to both the “Chrin Interchange” and Bethlehem CRIZ projects. Combined, the projects have the potential to create more than 6,000 jobs for the county.

After he was able to land PennDOT’s approval of a Route 33 interchange in Palmer Township, developer Charles Chrin was applauded by Gov. Tom Corbett and local officials for developing a public-private partnership projected to create about 5,000 jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenue.

The roadwork is well underway and the marketing efforts have attracted plenty of attention.

Meanwhile, just weeks ago, the City of Bethlehem was approved for City Revitalization and Improvement Zone designation that provides developers with financial incentives for transforming existing properties into usable – and taxable – locations.

Brown intends to be more proactive when it comes to other opportunities. He plans to reformat his economic development department – and work closely with LVEDC so as not to be redundant with efforts to attract business to Northampton County.

“I see LVEDC as a significant partner with our economic development,” Brown said. “LVEDC will complement us and help us define our approach.

“And part of our job will be to tell the story of Northampton County.”

Brown has reached out to newly installed Lehigh County Executive Tom Muller and Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez. He wants to see where it makes sense to work together to strengthen Lehigh Valley.

“I’ve had an initial conversation with Tom Muller – when it makes sense, we will sit down and discuss the region,” Brown noted.

Brown has also got the ball rolling with LVEDC CEO and President Don Cunningham. There are a number of ways LVEDC can help Northampton County tell its story better – these include feature articles, collateral materials and videos for starters.

Meanwhile, it all comes back to setting the table for success.

“The county’s role is to facilitate… and get out of the way,” Brown said. “I love Northampton County and Lehigh Valley because it feels like ‘home’ and it’s so family-oriented.”

Brown realizes his home is home to 38 communities. Like a good father, he intends to treat each child fairly and equally.

“We need to help them all succeed and we can do that by eliminating duplication of services and assisting them with their respective challenges,” he said.

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