The LVEDC Interview: Rep. Mike Schlossberg
By LVEDC Staff on October 1, 2013
Editor’s Note: Pennsylvania Rep. Mike Schlossberg was elected to his position on Nov. 6th, 2012. The freshman legislator is no stranger to the residents of Allentown or members of the Lehigh Valley business community. Rep. Schlossberg was elected to Allentown City Council in November 2009, at the age of just 26, making him the youngest person ever elected to that position in the city’s history. Prior to his election to the state House, he was employed by the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce as vice president of member relations and applied technology.
LVEDC: The area you represent – the 132nd Legislative District – is a hotbed of economic activity. What do you credit for this amazing renaissance and the impressive investment of money and vision?
Rep. Schlossberg: A combination of factors: members of multiple government branches and both parties that saw the importance of Allentown (Mayor Pawlowski, Senator Browne and my predecessor, Representative Mann) and private developers, like J.B. Reilly, who saw the potential in the city and decided to take a chance. That being said, multiple long-term projects – crime reduction, a series of successful economic development projects, and a stabilization of city finances – helped to lay the groundwork that made the NIZ and subsequent development possible.
LVEDC: The headlines focus on the major projects, like PPL Center, City Center, Waterfront and the Allentown bridges – but what do you think are the smaller projects that deserve attention and kudos, too?
Rep. Schlossberg: The city is actually home to thousands of small businesses and dozens of different neighborhoods that have received a great deal of attention. Personally, I’m excited about the work being done on 19th Street in the area of the Civic Theatre. A streetscape project has significantly beautified the area and made an already pedestrian-friendly environment even more attractive, and that’s only phase one. Projects like that help to bring more people to an area, thus increasing jobs and economic activity.
LVEDC: What do you consider your biggest challenges and opportunities since taking office last November?
Rep. Schossberg: Being a freshman in a 19 seat minority certainly forces you to look harder for opportunities! That being said, it doesn’t completely close the door. My #1 priority is the Allentown School District; fortunately, thanks to work done by Senator Browne and I, we were able to get ASD an extra $8 million in funding. Another area of real frustration is transportation; this “no tax hike” mind-set that has completely swallowed countless politicians is really an anti-investment mantra; if we don’t invest in ourselves and in a thriving road network, we lose jobs. It’s really that simple. I’m hoping we can approve a transportation plan this fall.
LVEDC: How has your office helped LVEDC and the Valley’s other economic development entities prosper and provide the help business need to come here, grow here or stay here?
Rep. Schlossberg: On two levels. First, we provide constituent service to dozens of people every day. My staff has been extremely diligent in referring people to the right offices, be it LVEDC, the Chamber, the City of Allentown, WIB, SBDC or countless others. They are the ground-level soldiers and have done a phenomenal job. For my part, as a legislator, I’ve been working to create a friendly business climate; this includes a robust transportation system, a prepared and trained workforce and a tax environment that encourages investment.
LVEDC: You’ve accomplished so much in such a short time – your head must be spinning! But seriously, what’s the next stop in your amazing career path?
Rep. Schlossberg: I’m flattered, but I’m also very, very happy! I seriously love my job; I feel so blessed in so many ways, and one of the most important of those is I get to wake up every day and be excited to go to work. I also love spending time with my family; I’m happily married to a very patient woman, Brenna, who is a teacher in the Allentown School District, and I have a two and a half year old and a nine month old. I don’t get to see them enough as it is, and I am loathe to take on anything else that takes me away from them.
LVEDC bonus question: What do you find so special about Allentown and the Lehigh Valley?
Rep. Schlossberg: The sense of community. I’ll tell you my dirty political secret: I was actually born and raised in New Jersey! I came here by way of Muhlenberg College and interned for Representative Mann my senior year. During that time, I was exposed to Allentown, and fell in love with the place. In New Jersey, where I grew up, there wasn’t much in the way of civic pride or neighborly engagement. I found the total opposite here, and found that it was something that I had been missing all my life.
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