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The LVEDC Interview: Interim Lehigh County DCED Director Frank Kane

By LVEDC Staff on December 10, 2013

Editor’s Note: On September 27th Frank Kane became the interim director of community and economic development for Lehigh County. Kane is no stranger to Lehigh County government, having been hired in 2006 to serve as the county’s public affairs director before becoming chief of staff and public information director one year later.

LVEDC: Congratulations on being named interim community and economic development director for Lehigh County. With the year almost over how do you see your job playing out and what impact can you have on the county economy?

frank kaneFrank Kane: I think it’s more of a combined effort that we all have working together. In this field, in my opinion, it’s more a question of working consistently, following up on leads and making our entire region seem attractive to new business. Even more important is working to resolve issues and help the businesses that are already here thrive and grow.

LVEDC: How do you see your role with respect to Lehigh County and the overall Lehigh Valley?

Kane: I see my role as one of facilitation. I have spent the past ten years in public service, and that has been the common thread that has run through everything I have done. When a business or community group comes to Lehigh County with a problem, suggestion or other issue, it’s our job to find a path to whatever their end objective is and then to remove obstacles that might be in the way, and maybe even make some helpful suggestions that haven’t been thought of.

As far as the Lehigh Valley as a whole, I am very optimistic that we will work together well with Northampton County. I think that the Muller administration in Lehigh County and the Brown administration in Northampton County will have similar perspectives on economic development and I am very much looking forward to working with them.

LVEDC: As a follow-up, what are your thoughts on the mission and programs of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation — and how do you think Lehigh County and LVEDC can work together most efficiently?

Kane: I think we already work together quite effectively with LVEDC.  LVEDC provides staffing for our General Purpose Authority, we work together on business recruitment and retention and I already spend quite a bit of time on joint projects. It’s important to maintain close relationships because so much of the economic development world revolves around constant communication and not letting details fall by the wayside. That’s the best way for us all to work together.

LVEDC: You’ve been involved with county government for some time now. How has Lehigh County fared as far as economic development is concerned – and what do you feel are the strengths of Lehigh County and the Valley?

Kane: I am fortunate to have inherited a very well-run economic development team.  Since 2006, we have had a very lean, aggressive, results-oriented office of community and economic development. Eight years ago, Don Cunningham, as the newly-elected county executive, restructured the department and set the stage for a lot of the success that we have had. Cindy Feinberg deserves a lot of credit for this.  I worked with her for almost eight years, but I never realized just how much she was able to juggle at one time until her emails and calls were forwarded to me when she left. The team that she and Don put together is still in place and working hard.

Over the past eight years, we have succeeded in helping existing businesses fulfill their needs and grow and in helping new businesses to find a home here in Lehigh County. And that’s not just me saying it–We have been recognized for our efforts. We have received a number of awards and recognitions, most recently, Lehigh County placed seventh nationwide among large-sized counties positioned to attract investment and growth, according to a study released in 2013 by Fourth Economy Consulting.

LVEDC: If — and we are saying, if — you were appointed the new director of community and economic development come January, what would be your goals over the next several years? If not, what would be your advice for your successor?

Kane: Sometimes we place so much emphasis on economic development that we forget for a moment about community development.  The incoming county executive, Tom Muller, has indicated that he wants to place a strong focus on community outreach and community development. LVEDC is an economic development organization, so this Q and A has focused more on that area, but we will certainly place a lot of focus on community development beyond CDBG over the next several years.

In addition to the community development,incoming county Executive Muller also has the strongest private sector business background of anyone who has been elected to public office in the Lehigh Valley in recent memory.  He will take an active role in working with the business community both in terms of retention and recruitment and he has already hit the ground running with ideas that we’ll be rolling out in the first quarter of the new administration.

In terms of goals over the next several years, I think that the role of someone in my position has a few important responsibilities.  First, it is constituent service, specifically to the business community. Businesses large and small need to know that they can pick up the phone and, with one call, we can help them get what they need—whatever that may be. Maybe there is a permitting issue with our Conservation District or a zoning issue in Lower Macungie. It’s the job of the Community and Economic Development department to help them weave their way through the government bureaucracy to achieve their desired end result. Equally, it is important to work hard to promote the area and stay on the lookout for businesses who may be looking to relocate and steer as much of those opportunities as possible into the Lehigh Valley and Lehigh County. Those are the two or three broad areas that everything else falls underneath.

 

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