Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf Tours Allentown Manufacturer in Lehigh Valley Visit
By Colin McEvoy on March 9, 2017
For the second time in just over a month, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf made a visit to the Lehigh Valley, touring an Allentown manufacturer and speaking with employees and local leaders in a roundtable discussion as part of his “Jobs That Pay” tour.
Wolf visited Vastex International, Inc., a family-owned manufacturer of screen printing machines that will be undertaking a $3.75M expansion with help from a loan the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) helped them secure.
“This area is booming,” Wolf said during the March 8 visit. “Its central location and proximity to New York and other markets makes the Lehigh Valley very attractive to a lot of people.”
Last summer, Vastex was approved for a $1.2 million Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority (PIDA) loan at a 2.25 percent rate for the first seven years, with assistance from LVEDC’s Finance Department.
That loan was to help Vastex acquire 8.25 acres in Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII to construct a 45,000 square-foot building. The total project cost is projected to be $3.75 million and will create eight new jobs and retain 23 existing positions.
“Manufacturing Vastex screen-printing machinery in Pennsylvania was a strategic decision for us 20 years ago because, unlike other states we considered, Pennsylvania was by far the most business-friendly, and today that’s even truer than ever,” said Vastex President Mark Vasilantone.
“PIDA is helping to continue our expansion by providing funding for our new manufacturing plant, which will employ more great PA residents from the start and more as we grow,” Vasilantone said. “We cannot thank Gov. Wolf and the legislature enough for supporting the PIDA program, and for personally joining us here at Vastex to celebrate this milestone in our 57-year history.”
PIDA, one of several financing programs LVEDC administers, is considered by the majority of lenders to be Pennsylvania’s flagship economic development lending program. It offers low-interest loans and lines of credit to eligible businesses that commit to creating and retaining full-time jobs, and can finance up to $2.25 million with a term of up to 15 years.
Wolf also visited the Lehigh Valley on Feb. 8 to deliver his first address after unveiling a $32 billion budget. During that visit, he spoke to a crowd of more than 100 at the Carpenters Training Center in Allentown, and observed one of the center’s student apprenticeship classes.
During his visit to Vastex, Wolf solicited ideas for how to support manufacturing and job creation during a roundtable discussion with company employees, elected officials, and other community leaders, including LVEDC Vice President of Finance John Kingsley.
“LVEDC and John Kingsley have really been fantastic,” Vasilantone said during the discussion. “We’ve had an excellent relationship with them that has made the process very easy and has allowed us to expand our facility and continue to grow.”
Wolf said his budget proposal continues to invest in 21st century manufacturing, workforce development and training programs while also implementing new safeguards to ensure taxpayer dollars for economic development projects are spent appropriately and intended outcomes are met.
The job creation initiatives in Wolf’s budget include partnering with the state research universities and Industrial Resource Centers to accelerate manufacturing technology advancement, foster manufacturing innovation and commercialization, and build a 21st century workforce.
Wolf’s proposal also seeks to create a new apprenticeship grant program to ensure workers receive training aligned to business workforce needs, as well a $5 million investment for a manufacturing training-to-career grant program to partner with technical programs and community colleges to develop new training programs.
Other participants in Wolf’s roundtable discussion on March 8 included state Reps. Dan McNeill and Mike Scholssberg, Lehigh County Executive Tom Muller, Allentown Council members Daryl Hendricks and Cynthia Mota, and Ellen Millard-Kern, Chief of Staff to state Sen. Pat Browne.
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