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THE CONNECTOR

A Newsletter By, About, and For Graduates
of William Allen High School's Class of 1983

Issue 5 - December 1997

By: Wayne Barz

Mack Trucks stopped making truck components in the City of Allentown in the early 1980s. This left nearly 2 million square feet of building space vacant, left dozens of acres of land idle, and eliminated hundreds of jobs.

THE NEED FOR REVITALIZATION

To counteract the devastating effect the departure of Mack Trucks had on the City of Allentown, the Allentown Economic Development Corporation (AEDC) began exploring the possibility of reusing several of Mack's properties. Specifically, they thought about reusing the former Mack 4 property (approximately 360,000 square feet) and 4A property (approximately 80,000 square feet) both at South 10th and Harrison Streets in Allentown.

AEDC decided to reuse the Mack 4A property by turning in into a business incubator. Business incubators, which have been successful in Europe and in major urban centers in the United States, involve providing relatively inexpensive, shared space and services to start-up companies. Incubators strive to improve start-up business success from typical success rate of 50%.

To become Allentown’s small business incubator, the Mack 4A property needed over $2 million in renovations, and some sources of on-going revenues.

THE BRIDGEWORKS ENTERPRISE CENTER FACILITY IS CREATED

In 1988, AEDC purchased the former Mack 4 and 4A properties, with 4A scheduled for conversion to a small business incubator to be called Bridgeworks Enterprise Center.

AEDC received financing from the Ben Franklin Partnership, the City of Allentown, Allentown Redevelopment Authority, Private Industry Council, Pennsylvania Department of Community Affairs (now Department of Community and Economic Development), and Merchants Bank (now First Union) to remove asbestos, re-insulate, partition, and spruce up the Mack 4A building.

Work was completed on the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center in 1989. The facility is now home to two interior loading docks with overhead crane capacity, two large conference rooms, a library, a 2,500 square-foot reception and administrative office area, two exterior truck docks, two drive-in doors, a state-of-the-art actively monitored security system, parking for 60 vehicles, and a dozen subdivided tenant units with 15’ clear ceiling heights and heavy load bearing floors.

The facility continually receives compliments on its functionality and appearance.

THE INCUBATOR PROGRAM BEGINS

While the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center facility is well equipped, the programming and resident business assistance is what makes the small business incubator function.

To be eligible for entry into the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, businesses must be less than three years old and must be engaged in manufacturing, research and development, wholesale and distribution, or business services. New subsidiaries of existing companies are also eligible.

The program is overseen by an on-site property manager, program manager, and by the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center Advisory Committee (BECAC). BECAC consists of professionals in the areas of law, accounting, and lending, in addition to a few small business owners and city government officials. BECAC’s role is to review applications and the ongoing success of resident businesses.

To receive consideration for admission to Bridgeworks, an applicant must submit a business plan that contains basic information about the business. The plan must describe the business, identify likely markets and competitors, describe company ownership and management structure, identify its needs for being in the incubator program, present financial projections for three years, and describe background on the principals. If an applicant is accepted into the incubator program, it becomes a resident business. Every six months, the resident business is required to submit financial statements to BECAC. The committee reviews this financial information, compares it to the projections, and provides professional advice if the plan is not being fulfilled.

In addition to this professional advice, the incubator program also provides resident businesses with many additional services. Resident businesses have access to two conference rooms. They can have their telephones answered in their names if they are not available. They can have an e-mail address on the Bridgeworks Microsoft Network account and can conduct World Wide Web searches. They can use other computer-based administrative services such as word processing and database development. All utilities, even trash removal, are provided in the rent except for the telephone bill, which is centralized through Bridgeworks. Free notary services are offered to resident businesses. They also have access to fax machines and copiers. The facility's library contains issues of Business Week, Inc., Entrepreneur, Forbes, and the Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal.

THE SUCCESS OF THE SMALL BUSINESS INCUBATOR

Providing shared services and the shared building have yielded successful results. Fifteen out of the eighteen incubator tenants that have occupied the building have "graduated" from the program or are currently in occupancy at Bridgeworks. National studies indicate that without an incubator environment, perhaps as few as 5 or 6 would have survived the first three years of operation.

Bridgeworks' graduates have created approximately 300 jobs. Only one resident business has relocated to a site outside of the City of Allentown.

The business incubator has been home to a wide variety of business types including manufacturers, service providers, and distributors. Bridgeworks has received guest visitors from Switzerland, China, Australia, Czechoslovakia, Russia, Israel, Mexico, Columbia, Canada, and most recently, the Director of Economic Development from Free State Province and the Director of Development from the University of the Free State in South Africa. All of these guests are visiting Bridgeworks to learn about its successful program for renewing business vitality.

As Bridgeworks approaches its 10th anniversary in 1998, the Center continues to need the support of the community, city, and state governments. The volunteers on their advisory committee remain dedicated to a pure incubator program policy, while many other incubators in Pennsylvania have become merely multi-tenant buildings in their communities. The Bridgeworks Enterprise Center remains a nurturing environment for the American dream.

BRIDGEWORKS ENTERPRISE CENTER GRADUATES

Since the official Grand Opening on June 21, 1989, sixteen incubator tenants have come into the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center. The box below provide a summary of the businesses that have graduated or are currently resident at Bridgeworks.

The witty and charming Wayne K. Barz, a graduate of Allen High School's Class of 1983, is the Director of Industrial Development for the Allentown Economic Development Corporation. He is responsible for managing an 80,000 square foot small business incubator and directing economic development activities in the Allentown Enterprise Zone.

For more information on the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, contact Wayne K. Barz, by telephone at (610) 770-1015 or by e-mail at wkb_aedc@msn.com.

Luminaire Testing Laboratory (LTL) - Jay Langthorn founded the only lighting fixture testing facility east of the Mississippi River. Officially the first Bridgeworks Enterprise Center incubator program graduate in 1992, LTL remains in the facility as an anchor tenant. As an anchor tenant, it is able to remain as a market-rent paying tenant, due to the substantial investment the company made to its space. In 1995, LTL expanded in its facility to over 2,000 square feet and now has three additional employees.

Applied Separations, Inc. - Applied Separations represents a textbook example of how the incubator program at Bridgeworks is expected to work. The company began its existence making disposable chemical testing kits that are inexpensive and easy to use in medical laboratories. Upon graduation, the company purchased a 4-story vacant building in downtown Allentown and began its manufacturing on the 4th floor. The company continues to reinvent itself, as it has expanded into producing equipment that allows for oil extraction without chemicals. Applied Separations is distributing this breakthrough technology all over the world from an office building on Hamilton Mall and is now approaching 40 employees.

National Environmental Service Company (NESCO) - NESCO engineers, manufactures, and installs dust control equipment. Its wet suppression systems are purchased primarily by the mining industry, utility companies, and stone crushing industries.

Chena Software, Incorporated - This software development company began at Bridgeworks, producing computer software for Macintosh systems. Chena produced the award-winning titles FairWitness and InfoDepot. In 1995, Chena was purchased by West Publishing of Minnesota.

All-America Graphics, Incorporated - All-America Graphics started in the incubator in 1990 and graduated in 1995. Its high quality and high volume of shirt screen-printing has kept the company competitive in a very difficult business. Upon graduation, All-America Graphics purchased the well-known property in downtown Allentown formerly operated by Hess’s Department Stores.

Solar Technologies, Incorporated - Moving into the incubator in 1992, Solar Technologies, Inc. manufactures the solar powered message boards seen along Pennsylvania highways under construction. Solar Technologies graduated from the incubator early and continues in business in the Lehigh Valley.

Demco Enterprises - Demco Enterprises is a current Bridgeworks tenant. It designs and manufactures programmable logic computer panels for manufacturers. Its five employees supply customers whose stock is publicly traded.

WilliamSigns - WilliamSigns is the most recent graduate of the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center. It prints and produces signs of every type on virtually any type of material. The company was a prototypical Bridgeworks tenant because it expanded two times while in the facility and has now relocated to within the Lehigh Valley.

Stad’s, Inc. - This assembler, packager, and distributor of collectible toy soldiers represents the classic story of how a new business idea follows a hobby. Headed by Mr. Paul Stadinger, a former mathematics instructor at Allentown Business School, Stad’s, Inc. graduated from the Bridgeworks incubator program in autumn of 1992 and continues in the mail order and distribution business today.

Satellite Music Systems, Incorporated - As a subsidiary of an established company, Satellite Music Systems, Inc. presented the first tenant admission challenge for the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center Advisory Committee (BECAC). BECAC agreed to permit subsidiary ventures as long as they were held to the same admission and company reporting standards as new companies. Satellite Music Systems did fine and graduated after three years, moving in with its parent company Daveland, Inc. into a new building in the Queen City Industrial Park in 1993.

Advanced Environmental Recycling Corporation (AERC) - AERC entered the Bridgeworks program as a 1-year-old company. AERC, which extracts useful metals from waste oils, graduated in 1992 and purchased a building on Allentown’s south side. The company has received federal permission to reclaim fluorescent light fixture ballasts and to operate the Lehigh County Household Hazardous Waste Recycling Program. With over 60 employees now, AERC is looking for new space as it continues to identify new markets for its capabilities.

Precision Surface Technologies - This company was not a start up when it joined Bridgeworks, but was less than three years old. Precision Surface Technologies manufactures microcircuits for a variety of primarily commercial applications. Since graduating from the facility in 1996, Precision Surface Technologies has purchased a building approximately one mile from the incubator. It continues to thrive in an internationally competitive marketplace.

Tradeshow Resources - Tradeshow Resources designs and manufactures large tradeshow displays for major companies. The company occupies more space, at nearly 20,000 square feet, than any other resident business ever has occupied in Bridgeworks. Well ahead of their financial projections, the company is scheduled to graduate in 1997.

Cappuccino Caffe - Bridgeworks is home to both Fasig’s Coffee and Cappuccino Caffe. Cappuccino Caffe bakes all the pastries and other goods it sells in its nine retail coffee shop locations in the Bridgeworks facility. The aroma from baking pastries and roasting coffee is just another service of the Bridgeworks Enterprise Center.

Nature Stone, Inc. - Nature Stone is the latest tenant to move into Bridgeworks. It custom designs, manufactures, and assembles unique, natural sandstone coasters and clocks. Its products are marketed nationally directly to consumers, as well as through retailers.

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William Allen High School's Class of 1983's 15th Year Reunion will be held on Saturday, November 28, 1998, at the Fullerton Fire Hall. An informal gathering is planned.

To help with the reunion, update your address, or get more information, see the reunion page or call (610) 966-5691.

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By: Annette Blanar

1998 marks the year of our 15th year reunion. We all know what reunions means -- a bunch of people from the past getting together. But why do we do it?

I've heard some people say that they don't like high school reunions. Some say that they didn’t like the people from high school back then, why would they like them now? Others say that they don't have anything exciting going on in their life, what would they talk about?

Reunions are about renewing friendships with people from your past. But can't they also be about making new friendships? Those people from your past, who you didn't like, probably have changed. Haven't you changed?

We all probably have more in common with our high school classmates than we'll ever have in common with our parents or even our own children. We all played with the same toys growing up. Remember Slinky, Evel Knievel action figures, Slime, and Simon. We watched the same television shows. Remember The Partridge Family, Sigmund and the Sea Monsters, the Six Million Dollar Man, and Charlie's Angels. We listened to the same music. Remember Donny Osmond, Bruce Springsteen, the Bee Gees, and Devo. We went through the same fads. Remember mood rings, scratch and sniff T-shirts, platform shoes, and CB radios. We saw the same history being made. Remember the gasoline shortage in 1973 that led to locking gas caps, Watergate, Skylab, and the shooting of John Lennon.

We all share a common culture. We experienced the same things, the toys, the television shows, the music, the fads, and the history, at the same point in our lives.

Reunions are also about sharing what has happened to us in our lives. Besides growing up during the same time, we are now under-going the same life experiences at the same time. We're going through marriages and divorces. We're raising children. We're striving to balance our jobs with our personal life.

You may have more to talk about with your fellow graduates than you realize. Your hobby may be someone else's interest. Your experience with a bitter divorce may help someone else with his or her marriage. What you've learned while raising your children may help someone else with a situation they are having.

Instead of thinking of a reunion as re-living the past, we should think of it an experience in the present -- as a chance to interact with people with whom we have so much in common, whether we want to admit it or not.

Annette Blanar is a graduate of Allen High School's Class of 1983. She is the editor of this newsletter and of The Connector web site. She is planning to attend the 15th year reunion.

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Since High School      See e-mail addresses of classmates

Gayle (Roth) Cichocki graduated from Widener University in Chester, PA in 1987. She received a BS degree in Business Administration, with a major in accounting. During college, she co-oped with KMG Main Hurdman. After that firm's merger and her graduation, she worked for KPMG Peat Marwick in Philadelphia until September 1991. She then took a job as an assistant controller for Toll Brothers, Inc. in Huntingdon Valley, PA.

In September 1992, she married Tom Cichocki and continued to work at Toll Brothers until April 1995 when their first daughter Megan was born.

After the birth of her daughter on April 25, 1995, Gayle stayed home to care for her daughter and worked (when she had time) on a business she and her husband bought in August 1994. The business, which is currently for sale, involves selling advertising space on three backlit advertising display cabinets in Allentown and Bethlehem hotel lobbies. Each display cabinet houses a telephone for direct patron access to the advertiser. If you are interested in a great at-home opportunity, contact The Connector to get in touch with Gayle.

Gayle enjoyed this home-based business until she got really busy after their second daughter, Brooke, was born on April 29, 1997.

Once the business is sold, Gayle intends to spend all of her time with her family, to work on their fixer-upper farmhouse in Zionsville, and to plan the 15th year reunion. Gayle's husband, Tom, has worked as a stockbroker for Dean Witter in Allentown since 1991.

Janice Zipf Speer went on to Penn State after graduating from Allen High. She received a BS degree in Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Management in 1988.

After graduating from Penn State, Janice worked for Houlihan's restaurants as a manager for two years, in San Antonio, Texas, Houston, Texas, and Secaucus, New Jersey. She then worked for a small family owned restaurant in northern New Jersey for two more years.

She moved to Oklahoma after that, to be with her husband, Larry, and they lived in Altus, Oklahoma for 4 more years.

While in Altus, Janice attended Western Oklahoma State College and received an Associate's Degree in Nursing. She is…oh so slowly… working towards her Master's in Nursing.

Janice is currently a registered nurse at Wesley Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas where she works in Surgical Intensive Care.

Janice met her husband in Allentown, despite the fact that she was at Penn State and he was at the Air Force Academy. He came to Allentown on a chorale trip; a friend of his stayed at her parents' house and introduced them.

Larry and Janice have been married just over 6 years. Larry is a Captain in the U.S. Air Force, and a KC-135 pilot in Wichita at McConnell Air Force Base. They have no children yet, but have three cats that are like their children, named Max, Karma, and Bacci.

Larry travels the world with his job, and Janice does it for fun, although they rarely do it together.

The past two years have found Janice on a 9 country jaunt in western Europe for 6 weeks, in Vicenza, Italy for 6 weeks (where her husband was stationed for 4 1/2 months), and in Holland this past spring for two weeks during the tulip festival.

She is currently planning a cruise through eastern Europe down the Danube in the fall of 1998.

She doesn't get back to Allentown very often, although her parents still live there and her brother and his wife and son are in Warrington.

Update - Kerry Moyer is now a professor of meteorology and astronomy at Edinboro University He and his wife Lisa are now living in Edinboro, PA.

Mark and Alice WilsonUpdate - Mark Wilson and Alice Heiskell were married in Dayton, Ohio, on June 21, 1997 and are now living in Allentown. See them doing the locomotion in the photo to the right. Mark and Alice share mutual interests in music, theater, and sports -- especially sports! They have Sunday tickets for Phillies baseball, as well as season tickets for Eagles and Penn State football.

Alice, who is originally from Dayton, received her BS in Business Administration from the University of Dayton and her MS in Healthcare Administration from George Washington University. Alice works at Sacred Heart Hospital in Allentown.

Mark, who had been living New Jersey and working at Bell Laboratories (part of Lucent Technologies and, formerly, AT&T) in Holmdel, New Jersey, continues to work for Bell Labs from his "Virtual Office" in their home in Allentown.

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