Lehigh Valley

Allentown plant among 18 approved local KOEZ sites

Program creates a tax incentive to spur economic development

BETHLEHEM, Pa. -  The former Allentown Metal Works property on S. 10th Street in Allentown is one of 18 Lehigh Valley locations that have won Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone status -- better known as KOEZ-- from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development.

Winning the state's designation on Friday creates tax incentives to foster economic growth and development of the sites.

More specifically, approved KOZ properties that are redeveloped do not have to pay any local or state taxes for 10 years. That gives developers a major financial incentive to invest in properties that otherwise might remain vacant and deteriorating indefinitely.

"Today's KOEZ designation will pave the way for new growth and new jobs in the Lehigh Valley," predicted  DCED Secretary C. Alan Walker.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, which administers the program in the region on behalf of DCED, submitted a regional application to the state on behalf of Northampton and Lehigh Counties, local governments and school districts.

All 18 properties requested in the application were approved.

All but one are in Northampton County. Fifteen are in Easton. They include the Governor Wolf Building, the Easton Silk Mill, the Black Diamond Silk Mill, the Easton Intermodal and City Hall project, and N. 2nd St. in Easton. The former Dixie Cup building in Wilson also was approved.

"I am excited that the state recognizes the importance of these sites to the overall economic vitality of our city," said Easton Mayor Sal Panto.

"We are all so pleased with this designation which will provide unlimited opportunities for economic advancement and the creation of new jobs," said John Stoffa, Northampton County executive. "The KOEZ designation will allow neglected and brownfield properties to eventually return to the tax rolls."

The sole Lehigh County property is the 17.5-acre Allentown Metal Works, owned by the Allentown Economic Development Corp. at 606 S. 10th St.

"We are extremely pleased that the former Allentown Metal Works property has been accepted into the Commonwealth's Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zone program," said Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

"This property represents our commitment to bringing industrial jobs back to the city and the KOEZ designation provides a valuable tool to assist with its redevelopment. I would like to thank the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation for coordinating the regional application as well as Allentown City Council, the Allentown School District and the County of Lehigh for their support."

"The county and local governments identified these properties and with the support of area school districts approved KOEZ designations at the local level," said Don Cunningham, LVEDC president and CEO.

"The KOEZ requires a collaborative effort with state and local governments, school districts and the regional economic development corporation to help create real estate development and new jobs on parcels that are not currently economically active."

The KOEZ program, which is nearly identical to the KOZ program, is intended to spur development in specific underutilized and underdeveloped areas.

"Across Pennsylvania, the KOZ program has spurred the creation of nearly 40,000 jobs since the program's inception," said Walker. "As past designations expire, new tax revenues are being generated for the state and local communities,"

"This process reflects a regional partnership in conjunction with the state," Cunningham said. "It takes four governing bodies participation for a site to be approved. I want to thank the counties for their leadership in the process and the Pennsylvania DCED for its support in making economic development happen in the Lehigh Valley."

The designated parcels are eligible for benefits from the KOEZ program for a period of 10 years starting Jan. 1, 2014 and expiring at the end of 2023.

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