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KIZ garners national economic development award

Lehigh’s commitment to driving economic development in the region through its partnership on the South Bethlehem Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) was recognized recently with a national award.

The partnership of Lehigh University, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), and the City of Bethlehem and the groups’ work on KIZ was honored with an award presented by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) at the group’s annual conference in Atlanta, Ga. in late October.

“The KIZ is based on partnership and on the university being an economic development driver in the community, and we are proud of the success of this partnership,” says William D. Michalerya, associate vice president of government relations and economic development at Lehigh University, and co-chair of the KIZ board.

“If South Side Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley are better places, it helps us to attract the best faculty, students and staff. And if our community is strong and growing, if it’s a more attractive place for people to live, work and play, it helps us to retain the brightest Lehigh graduates in the region to start new companies and create a thriving economic development base around the university,” Michalerya says.

This is not the first national award for the South Bethlehem KIZ. In November of 2007, the group was recognized by the University Economic Development Association for its success with the KIZ. In addition, Fortune Small Business magazine recognized Lehigh for helping Bethlehem become a national destination for entrepreneurs and business development, in part because of the KIZ.

Competing in the category of Partnerships with Educational Institutions by organizations serving areas with populations between 50,000 and 200,000, the team was recognized by IEDC for the South Bethlehem KIZ. The mission of the KIZ, created in May 2004 after Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell’s Economic Stimulus Package was signed into law, is to foster a "Knowledge Neighborhood" that enhances the urban environment of innovation and entrepreneurship.

In order to educate students about the growing technology opportunities within the KIZ, the partners have instituted and placed 44 undergraduate and graduate students into paid internships within the selected business clusters of Life Sciences, Optoelectronics, Information Technology, and Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology. Working closely with Lehigh University and Northampton Community College, the Keystone Innovation Zone, which is administered by LVEDC, has a governing board comprised of a local bank, three hospitals and seven other economic development support organizations, as well as the City of Bethlehem Department of Community and Economic Development and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

“I am very pleased that our KIZ has received this recognition,” says Steve Melnick, director of the South Bethlehem KIZ. “It validates the participation of all our partners and points out just how effective our partnerships are in fostering innovation and growing our business base.”

Consisting of 14 partner organizations, the KIZ has funded more than $450,000 in Technology Transfer grants to 24 new startup companies, leveraging more than $11 million in total investment.

“The City of Bethlehem is pleased with the success of the KIZ. It has enhanced our economic development efforts in South Bethlehem by providing valuable partnerships with the KIZ governing board, as well as with the KIZ companies,” says Tony Hanna, director of community and economic development for the City of Bethlehem and co- chair of the KIZ Board.

The International Economic Development Council (IEDC), with more than 4,600 member organizations, is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Its mission is to provide leadership and excellence in economic development for communities, members and partners. IEDC's professional economic development awards annually recognize excellence in the economic development profession.

“Economic development efforts have long been a keystone in the quest to bolster the economy and improve quality of life in every locality across the country,” says Robin Roberts Krieger, IEDC chair. “As the nation continues to tackle longstanding challenges in the midst of an inhospitable financial climate, these efforts have taken on an even greater significance. With the award, we laud trendsetting organizations and municipalities like LVEDC, the City of Bethlehem and Lehigh University for leading the charge.”

--Dina Silver Pokedoff



Posted on Friday, October 31, 2008

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