Aside from getting more companies to locate and do business in Northampton County, the county’s new executive said he is heavily focused on ensuring his 2,000-plus employees are part of a stable, secure workforce.
Executive John Brown delivered his first major address on the campus of Northampton Community College in Bethlehem Township this morning in an event hosted by Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.
As he introduced Brown, Gerry Nau, chairman and CEO of Lafayette Ambassador Bank, said good leadership helps companies decide to locate here.
"It speaks to the economic political leadership that we have in the county," Nau said. "Businesses want to be here for some reason. We need healthy communities in order to grow and be successful; that doesn't happen without good leadership."
The main role of county government is to provide services, Brown said.
"We are here to be a service provider," Brown said. "It's really the interface that occurs with our constituents. The quality of that experience will determine the impression people have going forward."
LEAKS IN BUDGET
With 2,100-2,200 county employees, Brown, former mayor of Bangor, said the workforce is stable, but also aging. To better balance the $343 million budget, Brown said he wants to identify leaks and cracks in the budget to determine where the money is going.
Brown said he questioned some job requests from department heads, including a clerk replacement position for a department that had a 30 percent turnover rate. He said he is relying on employees to help stabilize the workforce and possibly trim the number of employees if positions are not necessary.
"They know who's doing the work and who's not; they know where those leaks are," Brown said.
Since 2007, the county's revenue has grown about $905,000 per year, Brown said.
Twenty nine percent of the county's budget comes from the real estate and hotel tax, 58 percent from federal grants and 12 percent from various fees.
Brown described Gracedale, a nursing home in Nazareth which had been on the brink of closure last year, as an important facility and one that the county is annually contributing $5.5 million toward to keep it operating. He would like to see it become a successful operation.
He supported the idea of county administration having a relationship with union workers that was not adversarial and related a story about how he recently attended a union meeting.
For economic development initiatives and ideas, Brown said he reached out to Thomas Muller, Lehigh County's new executive, the mayors of Bethlehem and Easton, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce and other organizations to see how the county can collaborate.
So far, 2014 has shown several reasons for the county to be positive, including the award of the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone designation for Bethlehem, the Route 33 interchange project in Palmer Township, the potential development of properties owned by the Lehigh and Northampton Airport Authority and companies such as manufacturer Curtiss-Wright Corp. and retail giant Walmart locating facilities in Bethlehem.
Another new development is the new county human services building, which is now complete at Emrick Boulevard in Bethlehem Township. County employees are expected to move into the facility from the Governor Wolf building in Downtown Easton. According to Brown, the county should close on the sale of the Governor Wolf building in Downtown Easton in April.
Overall, Brown said, he would like to grow the economy and strengthen communities by shedding assets that are not necessary and partnering with organizations and groups.
"My intention is to keep taxes as low as possible without sacrificing services," Brown said.
Please note: All comments will be reviewed and may take up to 24 hours to appear on the site.View Comment Policy