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Thursday, September 08, 2016

Jennings: "The Slate Belt Has Been Long Neglected by All of Us"

When we talk about poverty in the Lehigh Valley, most people immediately think of Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton. But the decaying infrastructure and lack of decent jobs is also a serious problem in our older boroughs, where the rag mills and quarries are extinct. In Pen Argyl (population 3,500), 12.2% of the population lives below the poverty level. It's pretty much the same with the populations in Bangor (10.4% of 5,200), Portland(13.7% of 500) and Wind Gap (9% of 2,700). Alan Jennings, the CACLV ExecutiveDirector who will tell you himself that he's been fighting a losing battle against poverty for decades, wants that to change. He's proposing a Neighborhood Partnership Program (NPP) that will include all four boroughs.

"The Slate Belt has been long neglected by all of us," Jennings admitted to NorCo Council last week. He thinks that a NPP is the "best tool that's available for economic development in lower income neighborhoods. This is not a traditional economic development tool. This is a neighborhood development tool. It is a tax credit program offered by the [state DCED]."

What prompted Jennings to make this proposal?

Two words.

Alicia Karner, who lives in Bangor. Jennings said that, when she was employed by Northampton County, she badgered him incessantly. "You can't fight her for very long without getting bloodied and bruised." Karner eventually departed the County for greener pastures in Bethlehem, but Jennings continued seeking financial commitments from area businesses.

He finally succeeded.

Here's how it works. A business making a contribution of at least $50,000 per year for five years can get a state tax credit of up to 80%. This, coupled with a federal charitable deduction, means that it only loses 13 cents on every dollar contributed.

The businesses pledging to contribute to a Slate Belt NPP are as follows: Merchants National Bank ($50,000 per year for five years); Waste Management ($50,000 per year for five years), ESSA Bank ($25,000 per year for five years); and Lafayette Ambassador Bank ($10,000 in Year 1, $5000 in Years 2-5).

How will the money be used?

"We are very Main Street-oriented in the sense that we think central business districts are critically important," said Jennings. He added that money would be spent on facades in central business districts. It will also be allocated to housing rehab projects and municipal park improvements. He said the focus in the first year will be Bangor. In the second, it will be Portland. He believes this tiny river town is an excellent venue for eco-tourism by boaters who can take a break from kayaking and stop in a shop or restaurant.

Jennings has experience, too. He already administers three NPPs in Allentown, South Bethlehem and in Easton's West Ward. What's different about this one, if approved by the state, is that it will be the first to cover several municipalities.

The state will decide in November.

Pen Argyl Borough Manager Robin Szmoda was with Jennings as he spoke to Council. She said borough efforts to attract private investment were unsuccessful.   

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Looks like the king of poverty is branching out into Main Street management. CACLV should stick to providing food, clothing, housing assistance or other services. Those boroughs would be better served by a joint Main Street program run by an entity with truly altruistic motivations.

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:24,Jennings is not "branching" out, as you state inaccurately. As my own post makes clear to even the dumbest reader, Jennings already runs three NPPs. Also, if you had even the faintest notion of knowing what you're talking about, you'd know that state funding for Main Street programs has dried up. You'd know that Jennings' Rising Tide has already lent over $4 million to small businesses. Finally, what is more altruistic than eradicating poverty? That is what Alan has done his entire liefe while you can't even sign your name. I can only do so much with stupid people, and yu definitely fall in that category.

Anonymous said...

After flaunting Northampton County law and hiring a former county administrator that gave him county contracts. He should be ignored by the new county council. The guy does what he wants because no one hold shim accountable.

Fair and Balanced Reporting!

Bernie O'Hare said...

Your use of the word "flaunting" is inaccurate. Look up the definition before you misuse words. Jennings hardly flaunted anything. He made very clear to the Exec and to Council what he wanted to do. There was an agreement and Council thereafter decided to take no action. Thy then adopted a goofy ordinance that would prevent employees from sitting on nonprofit boards. The revolving door law was never intended to apply to this situation. Also, the subject here is NPP, not something that happened five years ago. Stick to the topic or I will delete you.

sean8021 said...

http://lehighvalleyramblings.blogspot.com/2012/12/alan-jennings-cheerleader-of-rich.html?m=1

Rev Al and Jesse J do the same thing. Find a (corporate) mark, tell them you will be going to the press with the fact they are racist, or make a "donation." Repeat over and over.

Ray Nemeth Sr said...

This may all be well intentioned, but if you want to stimulate real wealth producing jobs, the politicians may want to relax regulations, to encourage business, zone more commercial space, definitely need property tax elimination, as a small businessman for 40 years, one of the biggest obstacles is government, if Bill Gates, the founders of Hewlett Packard, and most businesses had obeyed all the rules and had the rules we have today, they would not have been successful. Most successful business started in garages and basements, then when they grew they expanded, today the rules require you need a $5000. a month overhead before you can start. Small business numbers have been declining, not increasing, less small business and you will have less big business in the future. Many small business's today do not only not succeed, but are saddled with a debt into the future, because of the cost of opening a business. I know this approach is anathema in todays environment, but government can not produce jobs, they can only provide a fertile environment for businesses to be started and grow.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps this will expedite some warehouse development up that way.

Anonymous said...

12:34am Bernie Ohare:

No one is against helping those in need, but this is outside of what CACLV is best at doing and just a way for Jennings to power grab. Remember, your original take on mayor Pawlowski was positive. Just saying you should be wary of Jennings' motivations, not CACLV.

The Slate belt knows their issues best and could set a up a joint main street program on their own. This would NOT be dependent on State main street funds. Jennings is seeking long term commitments from businesses, the slate belt boroughs could set something up to do the same and maintain local control of their own main street business development program.

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:34, Repeating an ignorant comment does not make it wise. This is NOT outside what Jennings does. He runs three of these already. You question his personal integrity and don't say who you are? That's rich.

Anonymous said...

Kudos for Alan Jennings. He's doing what Don Cunningham and the LVEDC should have bee doing for years.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Just deleted a number of anonymous personal attacks posted by cowards.

Anonymous said...

Mr Jennings intentions are the purest of pure!

Anonymous said...

Any reason East Bangor or Rosetp aren't included? Or are they considered part of Bangor for this. Or did I miss something all together.

Also, I have always thought Portland has great potential, but figured it was handicapped by flooding issues.

Hank_Hill

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting change in tone, very conservative. Use private funding, lower taxes.

Anonymous said...

Not a fan of the narcissistic, often uniformed and bad mannered Alan--isnt 32 years doing the same shtick long enough?

However promoting economic development in the Slate Belt is in the region's interest and particularly Northampton County. While everyone laments the alleged "neglect" of the northern tier when there was the possibility (in the late 90s) of actually measuring--quantifying in dollars and cents--the County's dollars spent in the slate belt (think employees and their benefits; paid vendors, grants, allocation of state program funds, allocation of hours spent by departments) it was Slate Belt council people who resisted. Hmmmm perhaps we would find a very generous slice of the County pie (in excess of their actual percentage of the County population) has been consumed by the good folks of the northern tier.

Regardless kudos for doing something constructive.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Hank, There is a consortium of four boroughs who teamed up for regional efforts, and they were making annual contributions to fund them. East Bangor and Roseto said No, mist likely bc their finds are too limited. They might very well seek an opportunity to participate.

Anonymous said...

Looks like CACLV is packing up their tents and moving on to the Slate Belt now that the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership failed to maintain sponsorship.

Anonymous said...

In defense of LVEDC, their staff has been working in the Slate Belt for years. The Portland Industrial Park was built with the guidance and help from a LVEDC staffer. The Techo-Block project was built on land the county owned but the Green Knight EDC used LVEDC staff to draft the incentive program they used to assist the actual developer. LVEDC also managed a year long employment incentive program for Techo-Block. If I am not mistaken, LVEDC staff also assisted in the formation of the original Slate Belt Council of Governments.

Bernie O'Hare said...

No need to be defensive. LVEDC exists primarily to attract bigger businesses, as Cunningham demonstrated quite effectively in his recent presentation to local governments. It still does work the slate belt, to be sure.

Anonymous said...

Lack of further county funding of the current boro partnership group led to this take over for obvious financial reasons. Control now goes to Jennings instead of local wishes. John Brown starved the current partnership between the boro's to death. Jennings no white knight and he pays his people less than a sustainable wage. Hopefully the state tells him no. He needs to retire and cede power. The Slate Belt does not need his robin hood act.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Just deleted yet another anonymous personal attack. They will not be allowed.

Anonymous said...

Neglected? We've been used and abused by the county for decades. HUD rentals alone dominate the boro of Bangor. Slumlords dominate the local scene. Nearly 50% of all residences in Bangor are rentals. That is insane and leads to way too many problems for a small boro to overcome. Jennings gonna change that dynamic?

Bernie O'Hare said...

Jennings never suggested he would defeat poverty in the slate belt. But he will bring some $ from local businesses and try to make a difference. You seem to think he shouldn't even bother. That's a shitty attitude.

Anonymous said...

Code enforcement alone is nearly impossible with so many dwellings going uninspected and that leads to safety issues and continuing problems associated with renters who have no stake in the community due to the conditions they must accept. The job is huge. I want to hear what the plan is. Bangor is a mess and is clearly the most distressed boro in the region.

Bernie O'Hare said...

OMG! A constructive comment at long last! I don't think that's his gig, but I suppose inspections will be required for any home rehab.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Also, though Bangor certainly looks distressed, the poverty rates in Roseto and Portland are higher.

Anonymous said...

NPP is not a regional program. It is target oriented to a specific area of concern. No way you have an impact across an entire region. The state is not gonna buy a regional deal. Fix the most glaring situation and tthat is downtown Bangor and the rentals close to the business district. Maybe..just maybe..they can put a dent in this thing.

Bernie O'Hare said...

The investors will not contribute unless it goes beyond Bangor. I doubt you have the faintest dea what the state will do.

Anonymous said...

John Brown has caused this uproar by slowly defunding a solid regional program that was supported by the individual boro's. None of this had to happen and it was inevitable that we now face a corporate take over by CACLV as a way of trying to save some essential initiatives. It will fail and the boro's will walk away because they will have little or no say in what happens. Jennings will decide what is needed, not the towns. This power play will fail and rightly so.

Bernie O'Hare said...

I am shutting down commentson this thread. Some asshole keeps posting the same OT criticism of Jennings over and over. There have been attacks claiming that he lives in a McMansions in LowerMac, when he in fact lives in an Allentown row home. This is an outright lie, and I believe the person who posted it knows it is an outright lie. This is classic defamation, and I know two people who are very good at it.

Anonymous said...

Makes sense. Thanks for the clarification!

Hank_Hill