Partnerships, business investments, make city strong
Donchez said the city is now celebrating 275 years of rich history, and its recent placement on a list of tentative World Heritage sites reinforces not only its place in history, but the community’s perseverance through challenges.
“We have always risen to the occasion and created a better, more stable future for our community, and our children. We are hardworking and determined. Our strength comes from our partnerships, and our ability to work together. United…we can stand up to any adversity,” Donchez said.
“For being 275 years old, I think we look pretty good.”
Donchez said the city is strong and has largely recovered from crushing deficits – from $40 million to $12 million in the past three years without having to raise taxes in 2017. He said revenue has increased $4.2 million while expenses have decreased by $15.4 million, in part thanks to alterations such as consolidating and streamlining departments and updating city facilities with high-efficiency technologies.
Safety is always a priority, he said, and the police department is receiving new dash cams and body cameras while continuing citizen outreach programs such as delivering gifts to hospital pediatric units, the Cops ‘n’ Kids reading program and playing pickup basketball with kids all over the city.
Meanwhile the Southside Ambassadors, who patrol the Four Blocks neighborhood of the Southside, are expanding to Hayes Street. These yellow-jacketed men and women keep the streets and sidewalks clean while providing additional friendly eyes for residents and businesses. He happily announced that major donor Lehigh University has just promised its support to the program for another three years.
Donchez said business investments continue to look to the future. These include blight remediation for sites such as the Southside’s Goodman building, an ongoing market analysis study for the downtowns, continued support for tech ventures such as the Pi incubator, and, he added, “Route 412 is finally finished – thank God.”
“The southern area of the city is now open for business and easier to access than ever. We’ve seen renewed interest from companies wanting to locate in this corridor, including a new extended stay hotel,” Donchez said.
“We continue to focus revitalization efforts on initiatives that are inclusive and representative of the community; that highlight Bethlehem’s distinctive characteristics and historic buildings; and that foster a strong local usiness environment.”
Other investments include the coming Greenway Commons, a Third Street car park, industrial park expansion and Lehigh Valley Hospital building a new obstetrics facility. These are expected to add hundreds of new jobs to the area.
“I think I speak for all of us when I say that we are proud of Bethlehem. We have a long history of economic growth, safety, and community involvement. A history that evokes a sense of pride for having been an important part of the American story.”