Family-sustaining jobs, and lots of them.
That's the motto officials touted at a press conference today at the vacant F.L. Smidth industrial site in Catasauqua to announce their inter-municipal plan to create an economic development zone similar to the Neighborhood Improvement Zone in Allentown.
A subcommittee of the Whitehall Township Industrial and Commercial Development Authority will submit an application to the state later this month that committee members hope would spur redevelopment on seven underused sites in Whitehall, Coplay and Catasauqua that total 130 acres.
The application outlines seven sites that could attract developers to rehabilitate underused sites and bring new jobs to the area.
"Our community can create opportunities to attract new development and family-sustaining jobs," said Howard Lieberman, executive director of the Whitehall Township Industrial and Commercial Development Authority.
Municipal officials from Whitehall, Catasauqua and Coplay approved a resolution to cooperate with The Whitehall Township Industrial & Commercial Development Authority to submit the application to the state Department of Community and Economic Development. The committee has been meeting since August to develop the application.
The agency's goal is to market and develop vacant and underused sites in Catasauqua, Whitehall and Coplay in a positive manner without destruction of green sites, Lieberman said. He said it was the agency's sincere hope that the state would agree to support the project.
Pennsylvania Act 52, signed into law on July 9, authorized the creation of two city zones and one pilot zone for townships and boroughs, also known as the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone Pilot Zone.
For Catasauqua, the F.L. Smidth industrial site is the borough's primary interest in this project, said Mayor Barbara Schlegel. In addition to the creation of a municipal complex, she said she would like to attract businesses that could bring in taxes to the site. She described the area as the final frontier of Catasauqua, noting that the 17-acre site borders Front Street and the Lehigh River.
The borough is virtually land-locked and there's a need for careful planning, Schlegel said.
As an example, Lieberman said that with the F.L. Smidth property, the committee would not want to see businesses that would compete with nearby retail establishments, but instead businesses that would complement these establishments. One possibility is an emergency medical services facility.
"The goal is family-sustaining jobs," Lieberman said. "The CRIZ is built around business taxes generated."
While each project would require municipal review and approval, the CRIZ designation would benefit developers by establishing preliminary site reviews, evaluations and identify potential tax exempt financing, local financing and state funding programs, among other benefits, officials said. The goal, they said, is to accelerate the development process to get projects completed faster.