Back

Northampton County Executive John Brown Delivers State of the County at Hotel Bethlehem

By Colin McEvoy on March 2, 2017

Northampton County Executive John Brown delivers the 2017 State of the County address at Hotel Bethlehem.

Northampton County Executive John Brown delivers the 2017 State of the County address at Hotel Bethlehem.

Jobs numbers in Northampton County are up, unemployment is down, the Gracedale Nursing Home turned a profit for the first time since 2008, and the county is relying less and less on reserve funds to balance its budget.

Those were among a few of the messages Northampton County Executive John Brown conveyed during his fourth State of the County address on March 2, held before a crowd of about 140 people at the Hotel Bethlehem.

“My commitment to you is to keep doing what we’ve been doing (and) to continue to be accountable to the taxpayers with the money that we spend going forward,” Brown said.

About 140 people attended the 2017 State of Northampton County address.

About 140 people attended the 2017 State of Northampton County address.

The event was hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), as was Lehigh County Executive Tom Muller’s State of the County event the previous week.

Brown said Northampton County has accounted for an estimated 95,000 public sector jobs in 2016, a 7.5 percent increase compared to 88,000 jobs in 2012. The county’s unemployment rate is down to 5.2 percent, he said, compared to a high of 8.1 percent in 2012.

The average wage for a Northampton County resident increased by 5.2 percent from 2011 to 2015, Brown said, growing from an annual $41,456 to $45,452, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Northampton County tax revenue has increased an average of 1.7 million per year over the past decade, while personnel costs have increased an average of $2.5 million per year, Brown said.

“Obviously, we’re on the wrong end of that equation,” he said.

However, Brown noted that his budgets have relied less on the general fund to be balanced, with each his last two budgets drawing down about $10 million from reserves, compared to $20 million in his first budget in 2014.

The county has sought to identify where it is “leaking” cash and soft costs, Brown said, and sought to make operational improvements through organizational structure reviews and leveraging the use of technology. Employee benefits have been scaled back, he said, and health care and workers’ compensation packages now more closely resemble the private sector.

The county-owned Gracedale Nursing Home ended the year with a $970,000 surplus in 2016. It realized an annual savings of $101,549 in overtime costs due to electronic scheduling and time reporting, Brown said, and 2016 marked the second consecutive year that the Pennsylvania Department of Health identified zero deficiencies.

This marks the fourth State of the County address Northampton County Executive John Brown has made since his election in 2013.

This marks the fourth State of the County address Northampton County Executive John Brown has made since his election in 2013.

“This is the first time since 2008 that Gracedale has ended up in the black,” Brown said, although he noted the nursing home is projected to face a $2.6 million loss this year.

Major capital projects moving forward include improvements at Gracedale, the reconstruction of 119 county bridges, the potential acquisition of the human services building, the construction of a regional forensic center, and the construction of a new jail, Brown said.

The county has preserved 100 percent of farmland that meets program requirements, he said, and is pursuing technology upgrades at Gracedale (including electronic health records, workforce management software, and pharmacy) and county row offices (including orphan and wills, criminal, and prothonotary/sheriff).

Brown also discussed a state-mandated consolidation of 911 services between the city of Bethlehem and Northampton County. Bethlehem’s 911 center will merge with the county’s existing Nazareth location, and a consultant has been hired to facilitate that plan, Brown said.

The Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) was the presenting sponsor of the 2017 State of the County. Ed Dougherty, LVHN Chief Business Development Officer, said one-third of Northampton County residents who are admitted to a hospital go to an LVHN hospital.

Don Cunningham: Quality Housing is Critical to Future Economic Growth

This column, written by LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham, originally appeared on The Morning Call website on March 1, 2017. (Click here to read Cunningham’s previous col[...]

Continue to Next Page

Lehigh ValleyQuick Facts

By the Numbers
$40.1 Billion

Gross Domestic Product

Investor Spotlight
City Center Lehigh Valley
Industry Spotlight

11% of Labor Force
Employed in Manufacturing

By the Numbers
$3.65 Billion

Exports

Investor Spotlight
Air Products
By the Numbers
$62,489

Median Household Income

Investor Spotlight
PPL Electric Utilities
By the Numbers
26,000

New Jobs Created Over Past 5 Years

By the Numbers
669,899

Population

Investor Spotlight
Olympus
By the Numbers
345,260

Labor Force

Investor Spotlight
Lutron Electronics
Industry Spotlight

26.1% of Labor Force
Employed in "Eds & Meds" sectors

By the Numbers
5,073

Technology Patents

Investor Spotlight
Mack Trucks
Investor Spotlight
UGI
Investor Spotlight
NFI
Industry Spotlight

14% of the total community college degrees awarded in PA

By the Numbers
$7.4 Billion

Manufacturing Contribution to GDP

Investor Spotlight
BB&T
Industry Spotlight

69th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. by population

Investor Spotlight
Seedcopa
Industry Spotlight

10,328 degrees awarded by colleges and universities

Investor Spotlight
Fuling
Industry Spotlight

81,000 employed in "Eds & Meds" sectors

By the Numbers
26.97%

Population between ages 18 and 34

Investor Spotlight
Workforce Board