SOUTHSIDE TASK FORCE City demographics laid out at meeting
Bethlehem’s Business Development and Retention Specialist Sara Bukowiec provided the Mayor’s South Side Task Force with an economic and demographic profile of the city from both sides of the Lehigh River at the March 27 Meeting.
Bukowiec, employed by Bethlehem’s department of community and economic development, looks to fill vacant storefronts and to assist and encourage established businesses from leaving the city. During her PowerPoint presentation, she described how millennials, those born between 1982-2004, are impacting retail shopping. Numbering 63 million nationwide, “They are the largest shopping population in U.S. history,” according to Bukowiec. “They are always on their phones, their handheld electronic devices. Retailers really need to position themselves so they can be found on those devices,” she added. There are also 75 million baby boomers (born between 1946-1964) and 63 million Gen X (born between 1965-1985) nationwide.
“Omni channel retailers,” said Bukowiec, “unify all available shopping channels providing customers with smooth, integrated experiences.”
The good news for “brick and mortar” establishments, is that “78 percent of consumers still prefer to shop in stores. They want to touch and feel their products. They want to interact with their product,” said Bukowiec, adding, “They want that experience that they can share through social media.” She referred to it as “Experiential Retail” where consumers enjoy dining, theater, exercise, and “hands-on, authentic experiences.”
She listed The Flying Egg and Roasted as recent success stories for the Northside. The Greek Meat Guy, Hot Plate Soul Kitchen, Golanzo House, and Domachi are among the SouthSide success stories.
Mayor’s South Side Task Force Chairman Roger Hudak passed on that he heard Wind Creek Hospitality had no plans to layoff any of the Bethlehem Sands Casino employees when it assumes ownership of the property. Wind Creek is an affiliate of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians.
Hudak expressed gratitude that in the ten years since the casino had replaced the vacant former Bethlehem Steel property, “Bethlehem has succeeded in developing the rest of the site.”
The Community Action Development Corp. of Bethlehem (CADCB) offers a “Start Your Business” series of classes every month according to Estefania Perdomo representing the organization. Business basics sessions are free, but there is a $25 fee for each of the other sessions. These include marketing, small business finance, and sales and professionalism. She also said the CADCB is working on a plan to beautify the neighborhood called “Southside Vision.” For information: cadcb.caclv.org.
Janine Santoro, from the Bethlehem Area Public Library South Side Branch, announced that Lehigh students were bring their sewing skills to assist with the library-sponsored “Mending Project.” Another Lehigh student is teaching an introduction to Arabic at the branch. The library’s “Spring Fling” is scheduled for April 30 from 6:30 p.m. to 7:15 p.m. for all ages, including an egg hunt for children ten and under. “Snack Box Storytimes” are planned for May. Santoro passed around Spanish language postcards to promote the branch’s services to displaced Puerto Ricans arriving in the Lehigh Valley. For information on these and other programs: bapl.org.
Dixie Miller and Hank Portney, both members of the Lehigh University student senate introduced themselves at the SSTF meeting March 27. Miller explains that she, a junior, and Portney, a freshman, were asked by the student government to act as liaisons, “for having another direct connection to the community.”
Southside resident Stephan Antalics, who regularly attends city council and school board meetings, said, “The new council seems to be more interactive with the public.” He praised full-day kindergarten and opined that pre-K should receive funding to help keep the children of families that can’t afford it from falling behind their classmates.
The Mayor’s South Side Task Force meets regularly on the last Tuesday of the month at Northampton Community College’s E. Third street campus.