Creativity, impact and enthusiasm are alive and well in the Greater Lehigh Valley.
That was the message from Eric Barron, Penn State University president who was a guest speaker Thursday at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting at the Sands Event Center in Bethlehem.
A record 1,300 people attended the event, which featured an opening act that included a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller,” a roving swarm of “zombies” and Tony Iannelli, chamber president and CEO, emerging from a coffin. (“You haven’t lived until you’ve been in a coffin,” Iannelli told the crowd.)
The event underscored the chamber’s continued efforts to promote and support businesses and encourage the region’s entrepreneurial spirit.
“I can say with absolute certainty this is not your typical chamber meeting. … This statement [is] what the Lehigh Valley is all about,” said Barron, who touted the LaunchBox program of Penn State’s Lehigh Valley campus in Center Valley.
A business accelerator program across many Penn State campuses, LaunchBox began last year in the Lehigh Valley with $50,000 in seed money to help businesses grow and spur new ideas.
“We want to incentivize faculty, staff and students to get their ideas into the marketplace,” Barron said.
Also at the event, chamber members were honored for excellence in business, community service, volunteerism and longevity.
Coordinated Health, based in South Whitehall Township, was named business of the year, and attorney Gregg Feinberg of Feinberg Real Estate Advisors in South Whitehall Township was named volunteer of the year.
“You have a 24/7 commitment of service leadership,” said Feinberg, also a principal at Feinberg Law Office.
The chamber also feted three members for milestones: Bennett Automotive Group (65 years) of Allentown, Lehigh Carbon Community College (50 years) of Schnecksville and the Gross McGinley law firm (40 years) of Allentown.
Also of note, the chamber is now the seventh largest in the country, according to Laurie Gostley Hackett of chamber member Air Products and Chemicals of Trexlertown.
The chamber, which recently merged with the Whitehall (Township) Area Chamber of Commerce, now has nearly 5,000 members in Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Warren (N.J.) counties.