Friday, December 22, 2006

So you want better public transportation? Now is the time to speak out.

Our bus company, LANTA, is at a pivotal point, and the future of regional public transportation is at stake. Ridership is growing fast: up 60% since 1997, up 10% in the last year alone. This past October ridership was up 21% over October a year ago with 85,000 more rides in October than the same month last year. At this rate, LANTA will soon -- for the first time in its 30 year history -- run buses often enough and to enough places to convince a significant number of car drivers to ride the bus. This will mean less traffic congestion, decreased pollution/greenhouse gas emissions; slower suburban sprawl; increased urban vitality and greater economic competitiveness.

However, LANTA started the process this week to raise fares and cut service during 2007, despite the bus company's own projection this will mean sharp drops in ridership.

What can you do?

Start by riding the bus. CAT, your transit advocacy organization, encourages you to support LANTA during this crisis by riding at least once a month. To encourage new riders, the last Friday of each month is set aside as a special Try Transit Day.

If you want to make a larger commitment to public transportation, ride the bus more often. Buy a multiple-ride bus pass, providing more cash for LANTA during this crucial time.

But get on the bus. LANTA buses are clean, on time and, by far, the safest form of transportation on the road. It's hard to be a transit advocate if you don't ride the bus.

Both county executives support public transportation. However, the two county leaders need to hear from you, so they can gauge how important this issue is now for the public.

Contact Lehigh County Executive, Don Cunningham (610-782-3001) or e-mail him Attn: Don Cunningham at, and Northampton County Executive, John Stoffa (610-559-3191) or e-mail him at

We need state legislation that provides a reliable funding stream for mass transit before July 1, 2007. If funding is not granted, emergency funding is needed to prevent the service cuts proposed for our bus company in fiscal 2007-08.

Call or write your State Representative and Senator immediately. See for contact information.

Mark your calendar for one of LANTA's public hearings on the fare increases/service cuts, January 30 in downtown Easton; January 31 in downtown Allentown; and February 1 in downtown Bethlehem. All meetings are at Noon.

Because, if you want better public transportation in the Lehigh Valley, now is the time to speak out.

Steve Schmitt, Director
Joyce Marin, Vice President

CAT-Coalition for Appropriate Transportation, 610-954-5744.

Network of Young Professionals Supports Local Businesses through Discount Program

Attention all business owners! The NET is currently seeking Affiliate Partners to participate in its membership discount card program. NET Affiliate Partners provide in-kind services to the organization and its members. An ideal way is giving a discount or special offer to NET members who show their membership card.

NET partnership delivers significant benefits:
  • Exposure to an important demographic. Working with the NET is an ideal way to increase awareness and build relationships with young, professional people in the greater Lehigh Valley region.
  • NET members have disposable income. They make large purchases like cars, electronic gear, and homes. Partnering with the NET offers excellent exposure to this hard-to-reach audience.
  • Incremental revenue. Involvement with the NET discount card can spur incremental sales that can be tracked.
  • Regional economic vitality. The NET exists to keep young people active and interested in this region. When businesses support the NET, they make an investment in the future economic prosperity of the greater Lehigh Valley.

Some discounts given in the past include: application fee waivers, discount admission, 10-20% off purchases, and free food or drink with purchase.

The NET’s membership discount program is open to all small, locally-owned businesses. To find out more contact Erin Gruver, Partnership Coordinator at 610-821-8054 or

Good news young professionals, housing prices down a bit

Average home prices in the Lehigh Valley fell year-over-year in November for the first time in more than two years.

The drop is small: the average cost of an existing home in Lehigh and Northampton fell 2 percent to $208,000, compared to November of 2005. That's still an extremely healthy figure.

Nonetheless, it's a key sign that the hot housing market of the past two years - in which properties sold in days, and home prices rose 10 percent or more year-over-year - is a thing of the past. This means buyers, have their pick of properties, and can negotiate prices down.

Allentown weighs options on casino site

Tropicana Pennsylvania's failure to win a slots license for an Allentown casino might open the door to a regional convention center and potentially even a minor league hockey arena on the city's east side.

At the very least, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's decision Wednesday to award a slots license to Sands BethWorks Gaming, not to Allentown, will put 18 acres of valuable land adjacent to the proposed IronPigs' minor league baseball stadium back on the market.

Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski both embraced the backup plan, which offers some salve for the wounds the gaming board inflicted on the city. But it won't come close to replacing an estimated $11.5 million in annual revenue for a city facing significant financial hurdles.

Allentown will have to settle for an annual $3.3 million — the loser's share of a slots revenue-sharing deal with Bethlehem.

Cunningham said he had been hedging his bets and talking with developers, including Asbury, N.J., developer James G. Petrucci, about converting the Tropicana land into a regional conference center with restaurants and perhaps a minor league hockey arena.

''I think having all the components of the Aztar [casino] proposal without gambling, next to a baseball stadium, is in a lot of ways better,'' Cunningham said. ''Our ultimate goal and vision in this is to make this a family destination and a center for business and recreation in the Lehigh Valley.''

Pawlowski said he and the administration of former County Executive Jane Ervin started talking with Petrucci about the project about two years ago, enticing him to purchase an adjacent 26-acre parcel.

''It is something that is definitely needed in the Lehigh Valley� '' Pawlowski said. ''My hope now is the state will give us some money to make this happen, since there was a pretty big portion given to Bethlehem this week. I think Allentown deserves a little bit to help us with this project.''

Cunningham said the county and IronPigs owner Gracie Baseball will buy the 18 acres from Tropicana under a pre-existing agreement for about $450,000.

The county will outline how it would like to see the land developed, then put the property up for grabs using a request for proposals as early as the first quarter of 2007, Cunningham said. Any development would have to consist primarily of private investment dollars, he said.

Without the promise of millions of dollars in gambling revenue, development will probably take longer to materialize, Pawlowski said.

A group of minor league hockey investors has approached the county about putting a hockey arena next to the baseball stadium, Cunningham said. That proposal is in the very early stages, he cautioned.

''Ultimately, we would like for this not to be a government-owned parcel of land,'' Cunningham said. ''We would like to see this be a private development. Because of [Petrucci] owning the 26 acres across the street and his willingness to be a partner with us, it opens up options.''

Tropicana has not decided how it will dispose of an additional 5.6 acres it acquired nearby in preparation for the project, spokesman Mark Nevins said.

The area still has plenty of development potential, said Petrucci, who has completed a variety of substantial projects in the Lehigh Valley. He said he has done some planning for a convention center, but will wait to see what happens with the newly available Tropicana land.

More here.

SteelStax, other projects gear up

n a funky third-floor cafe, a microbrew-sipping crowd watches alternative rock sensation Death Cab for Cutie belt out a tune no one will ever hear on local pop stations. Bethlehem Steel's blast furnaces, now festooned with lights, tower behind the glass wall at the back of the stage.

A few floors below the cafe, children scurry to theater practice, and just down the street some people leave their new condominiums to amble through high-end shops such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Barneys New York and Tommy Hilfiger.

And, of course, a couple of blocks away, thousands of people are dropping money at the recently opened casino in south Bethlehem run by Las Vegas Sands.

That's what ArtsQuest President Jeffrey Parks sees for 124 acres of former Bethlehem Steel lands come 2009. It's a vision that came into clear focus Wednesday when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board issued Sands BethWorks Gaming a license to operate a casino on the site.

While the glitzy casino has garnered most of the attention in the past year, it is the mix of music, performing arts and shopping that could make Bethlehem the kind of attraction Lehigh Valley people have been traveling to New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore to find.

Now that Sands BethWorks Gaming has been approved to move forward with a casino on the east side of the lot, Parks said he will quietly begin a capital campaign to raise $49 million to build the first phase of the SteelStax performing arts center.

Gov. Ed Rendell on Monday awarded ArtsQuest, which also runs Musikfest, a $5 million state grant for the new complex.

And it's not the only nongambling project that kicked into gear Wednesday. Barry Gosin, a partner in Sands BethWorks Gaming, said he will immediately begin a $50 million to $60 million project to transform the former Bethlehem Steel headquarters building on Third Street into neighborhood shops, apartments and condominiums.

By 2009, what is now a barren collection of rusted steel buildings stretching along the south bank of the Lehigh River would be a nearly $700 million casino and hotel complex that would include homes, shops and a cultural arts center.

From east to west, the 124-acre property is to include:

A $350 million casino complex with a 300-room hotel tower and a 100,000-square-foot gambling floor with 5,000 slots machines. Room for poker and other gaming tables could be included to accommodate plans by some state legislators to approve table games. To be open in July 2008.

A 200,000-square-foot mall of shops and restaurants. Already signed are Polo Ralph Lauren, Barneys New York, Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole, Nike, Adidas, Rockport, Torneau jewelers, Reebok, Eddie Bauer and Salvatore Ferragamo Italian fashions. Other retailers that could sign include an Agassi Enterprises 24-hour fitness center, the Cheesecake Factory and restaurants affiliated with Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Thomas Keller. Grand opening as early as July 2008.

Refurbished blast furnaces. The massive task of turning the rusted icons into a brightly lit spectacle has been estimated to cost anywhere from $5 million to $20 million. Work will start in January, said Andy Abboud, Las Vegas Sands vice president of government relations.

''We're still working out who will pay what portion of that renovation, but we consider it key to the property,'' Abboud said. ''No one else has anything like this. We're going to get it done.'' Scheduled for July 2008.

The National Museum of Industrial History. The $22 million museum, affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, would be in the former Electric Repair Shop.

A redeveloped Bethlehem Steel headquarters on Third Street. Gosin said he plans a $50 million to $60 million project to transform the complex into about 200 apartments and condominiums. Gosin believes its location at the edge of the BethWorks property will be attractive to upscale professionals looking to live in the middle of the action. Could open as early as May 2008.

''What we are about to build will not only be the coolest place in the Lehigh Valley, it's going to be the coolest place in the state,'' Gosin said of the entire development.

SteelStax performing arts and broadcast center. The $49 million complex is to include a three-story performing arts center with a theater, several education rooms and the third-story Musikfest Cafe, with a view of the refurbished blast furnaces through a glass wall behind the stage.

The 450-seat cafe would host 150 concerts for the type of alternative and progressive music featured at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

''That sounds very, very cool,'' said Bruce Warren, a program manager for WXPN in Philadelphia, which caters to an audience similar to what SteelStax will be targeting. ''If these are the same people who do Musikfest, then I'm sure it's going to be something special. That's a world-class event.''

Across the courtyard, a new 40,000-square-foot PBS 39, WLVT-TV headquarters would include state-of-the-art studios wired to broadcast live concerts, plays and dinner events from the performing arts center.

The link between the two operations, and the collection of new classrooms, would allow PBS 39 — which goes into 2.5 million homes — to expand its education programs, said General Manager Pat Simon.

''Our education programs are exploding, but we just don't have the space to handle it all,'' Simon said of the current studio on South Mountain. ''We're out of space, the roof is leaking and this building is falling down around us. We're going to be able to serve the community so much better from SteelStax.''

It also would enable PBS 39 to give SteelStax national exposure.

''People overlook the importance of PBS-39,'' said Tony Hanna, Bethlehem's director of community and economic development. ''The venue is great, but PBS gives them the ability to transmit all of those activities to the world. That's huge.''

A capital campaign has already begun, and construction could begin in 2008, with a grand opening in late 2009, Parks said.

A second phase of SteelStax would be a 3,500-seat venue called Festival Hall, capable of hosting big-time acts such as Elton John and John Mellencamp. The complex also would have a glass wall with a view of the brightly lit blast furnaces behind the stage.

When big acts are not in town, the space could be converted into a 1,000-seat venue that would host about 100 dinners, private parties and conferences a year. The campaign to raise money for that won't start until after the first phase is funded, Parks said.

All told, SteelStax is projected to draw 300,000 to 500,000 people a year, in addition to the nearly 5 million expected to visit the rest of the casino and entertainment site each year.

Parks said he expects the complex to become a nationally known spot that will attract the attention of Lehigh Valley corporations.

''That is probably the aspect most overlooked,'' Parks said. ''Corporations won't have to travel to New York or Philadelphia to entertain their clients.''

But that ambitious vision means a lot of work over the next three years. Abboud said Las Vegas Sands will begin filing site plans after the new year, and the city expects to hire more planning bureau workers to handle the flurry of activity. A $70 million widening of Route 412 from Interstate 78 will begin this year and continue through 2009.

And if you own a business, or just have a lot of money, you should expect to see Parks on your doorstep very soon.

''In three years, I think we will have something very special down there,'' he said. ''But until then, things are going to get crazy.''

More here.

Lehigh County joins study of regional health service

After years of unsuccessful attempts to launch a county health department, Lehigh County commissioners have voted to join Northampton County in studying the feasibility of a regional or multi-county service.

By unanimous vote Wednesday, Lehigh County commissioners passed a resolution that would add Lehigh to research being conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Public Health Practice.

''It's about time we got something going here,'' said Lehigh commissioners Chairman Percy Dougherty. ''I think the stars are in the right position.''

Work being done by Pittsburgh researchers suggests a regional approach will provide the ''optimal level of services with the least amount of fiscal burden.''

In a prepared statement read at the meeting, Dougherty said, ''because of the expense of setting up a health bureau, it is my opinion that we can only do so on a regional basis.

''There is a cost saving in a larger scale health bureau that cannot be met by a city or county on its own. The logical match is with Northampton County.''

The Lehigh Valley is stagnated by the number of operational government facilities in Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon Counties - about 14 institutions per 100,000 people compared to a national norm of 6.1 per 100,000 people. According to the Brookings Institution Center, this fragmentation complicates coordination, exacerbates unbalanced growth patterns, and undercuts the region's ability to compete economically.

Regionalized approaches to service delivery could result in major economic savings, more coordinated and organized service delivery and an increase in service quality including health and emergency response services.

More here.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Betcha didn't know...

The Liberty Bell was hidden in Allentown by the Second Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War. As the British were attempting to seize Philadelphia in 1777, the Liberty Bell was moved north and successfully hidden in the basement of the Old Zion Reformed Church, in center city Allentown. Today, a shrine in the church's basement marks the exact spot where the Liberty Bell was hidden. It features a full-size official replica of the Liberty Bell, flanked by the flags of the original thirteen colonies, and is the only replica of its type.

NET January First Thursday

If you've heard about the NET and would like to see what it's about, this is the event for you. Come meet and network with NET members.

January is Membership Month so First Thursday will be FREE to all attendees regardless if they are members or not. This is a prime opportunity to check out what the NET has to offer.

Those individuals that join or renew their membership in January will receive a 10% off the current membership dues of $30. Click here to take advantage of this offer.

Already a dues-paying member? No problem. The current dues-paying member who refers the most individuals to sign up for membership in the month of January, will receive one year of NET membership for free. Just have your friends put your name in the appropriate field.

Come alone, bring your friends, introduce someone new to the NET, introduce yourself to someone new. Expand your network.

When: Thursday, Jan. 4, 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Where: Starters Riverport, 17 W. 2nd Street, Bethlehem

Admission: FREE!!

More information.

To get the latest news about NET events and more sign-up for our weekly e-mail list here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bethlehem, Mount Airy win casino

Slot machines, a multi-million dollar tax windfall and the specter of gambling are headed to Bethlehem thanks to a vote cast moments ago in Harrisburg.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board picked Sands BethWorks -- located on 124 acres of former Bethlehem Steel Corp. land in the city's southside -- for a slots license this morning.

In doing so, the board rejected Allentown's competing proposal for a slots casino on former Agere Corp. land in east Allentown.

Similarly, the board picked Mount Airy over Pocono Manor. Mount Airy proposes a slots casino in Paradise Township. Pocono Manor's would be located in Tobyhanna Township.

Earlier, a group led by billionaire developer Neil G. Bluhm and Connecticut-based Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation won a slot-machine casino licenses in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ethnic Eats: Paolos

102 W. Susquehanna St.

Food type: Columbian

From Beyond Scrapple:
"Oddly, reminants of the Italian menu still reside on the menu. But what my ethnic eating buddy, Rob, and I wanted was Colombian food. We were not disappointed."

Bethlehem area scores $18 million in grants from the state

He wasn't wearing a red suit or white beard, but Gov. Ed Rendell arrived in Bethlehem on Monday with a sack full of $18 million worth of presents for an area that's clearly on his nice list.

ArtsQuest and PBS-39, WLVT-TV must have been very good this year because Rendell left a $5 million grant for the SteelStax performing arts and broadcast center planned for former Bethlehem Steel land on the South Side.

But that present sat atop an unprecedented stack that included a $5 million present for the South Side campus of Northampton Community College, which has its main campus in Bethlehem Township. The governor also dropped off a $4 million grant for St. Luke's Hospital and its proposed Route 33 campus in the township.

And Rendell left a $2.5 million grant for Historic Bethlehem Partnership to maintain its Colonial Industrial Quarter along Main Street, and a $1.5 million grant to build a technology center in Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII in south Bethlehem.

As Rendell passed out the giant cardboard checks, all that gift-giving took on a festive tone, complete with singing elves and a Bethlehem mayor who looked very much like a child tearing open his Christmas morning haul.

''We all want to ride in the governor's limo,'' said 8-year-old singing elf Tajaliah Wheeler, who performed at the event with the Pennsylvania Youth Theatre.

''I want to ride in the governor's limo, too,'' Mayor John Callahan joked back. ''Maybe there's more checks in the trunk.''

There weren't. But Rendell had already dropped off more state Redevelopment Assistance Capital money in Bethlehem than the city previously received in the entire 14-year history of the program, according to the mayor.

Rendell explained that the Bethlehem area didn't get on his nice list by chance.

''We assess the potential of every region,'' Rendell said. ''This is one of the regions with the biggest upside of creating good-paying jobs. Instead of a [Bethlehem Steel] brownfield, this site will come alive with culture, entertainment and excitement.''

The gifts came two days before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is scheduled to decide whether Sands BethWorks Gaming will get a license to build a casino on the same 126-acre Bethlehem Steel site. But Rendell said that was merely a coincidence, and he originally planned to deliver the checks in October, but delayed that because of the elections.

A look at the gifts left under the Bethlehem area's tree Monday:

$5 million to help build the SteelStax performing arts and broadcast center. The $49 million complex is to include an ArtsQuest performing arts center with a glass-walled concert cafe that would have a view of the Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces, and a state-of-the art PBS-39 studio. It would be a year-round concert venue and education center run by Musikfest's parent, ArtsQuest. The PBS-39 studio would be a three-story, 40,000-square-foot headquarters.

$5 million for Northampton Community College to help with its $15 million renovation of a former Bethlehem Steel office building. NCC moved into the first two floors of the six-story building last year, but completing the renovation will allow more than 4,000 students to take classes in the Third Street building as early as next year.

$4 million for St. Luke's Hospital-Fountain Hill to begin building its cancer, surgery and hospital campus on 200 acres at Route 33 and Freemansburg Avenue.

$2.5 million for the Historic Bethlehem Partnership to help it maintain 19 buildings and 40,000 artifacts at its 20-acre site just off Bethlehem's Main Street.

$1.5 million for the city to build a technology center on the LVIP VII property in south Bethlehem. The technology center is part of an overall plan by the city to sell two operating technology centers near the Fahy Bridge, and begin building a series of tech centers on the LVIP VII site.

For Tony Hanna, city director of community and economic development, the haul from Rendell hit every corner of the city's vision for the South Side.

''It shows the commitment we've made for arts, history, preservation and technology development,'' Hanna said. ''It's a balanced formula, and today the governor bought into every part of it.''

The flurry of checks came during a festive news conference at ArtsQuest's Banana Factory in south Bethlehem. While city, county and state officials lined up to have their photos taken with Rendell and his giant checks, those 15 elves from the Pennsylvania Youth Theatre kept asking him for a ride in his sleigh, er, limo.

As they guessed the governor's age to win the ride, Rendell resisted his urge to award the prize to the elf who guessed 39. He awarded the prize to 8-year-old Madison Cerniglia of Nazareth, who guessed 57, and her friend Heather Goff of Bethlehem, who was celebrating her ninth birthday. They got a ride around the parking lot.

Then, as Rendell rushed to his limo, blaming his next appointment for his haste, he said, ''I hope everyone in the Lehigh Valley has a great holiday season.''


Financial Planning 101: How much should I save?

OK. So you've officially decided that you are going to buck national trends and save. Good for you! What a great New Year's resolution. But how much should you really save? Good question.

David Bach, author of "The Automatic Millionaire" of Oprah fame, suggests that you sock away one hour of pay every workday before taxes. That works out to be about 12.5%. He takes the idea of "pay yourself first" to a whole new level. This makes sense, because as you earn more, you save more.

So where should that money go?
Then it depends on your financial situation and what your priorities are.
  • If retirement savings are of primo concern open a Roth IRA and put in the maximum contribution of $4,000.
Building an emergency fund for a rainy day isn't a bad idea. Experts suggest saving for 3 months of living expenses. Some say you should save so that you wouldn't have to change your lifestyle at all, if god forbid you or your spouse looses their job suddenly. Others say just the essentials like food, housing, utilities, car etc. You decide what you're comfortable with.
Save for the next big thing. Whether it be a car, house, project, vacation or new business venture we all have financial goals we need to reach to get there.
  • Start a fund for your next big purchase and depending on when that may be create a high-yield savings account or open a CD where returns are higher, but the time commitment is longer.
If saving just seems too out of grasp for you, re-examine your expenses. As Bach would say, "Find your Latte factor." We all have those guilty pleasures that we spend our money on that could be better spent on our financial goals, or not spent at all. Bach calls this our Latte factor. Many of us grab that morning coffee and don't think twice about spending that $1.50 for it. If you just cut that small thing out of your routine and grab your coffee at home, you'll save nearly $550 a year! (Not to mention interest.)

To find your Latte factor track your expenses for one week. You'll really get a good picture of where your money is going, and it may shock you.

Other ideas to cut back are to limit eating out to once a month (like the NET's monthly dine-outs) or looking at your cable. Do you really watch all 150 channels? Perhaps there some money hidden in your cell phone bill. Can you switch to a better plan and save? In addition, many times just by calling your utility providers you can lower your bill. It's a competitive market out there, and if you're a good customer, the provider will want to keep you. This has worked from newspapers to cable bills.

And limit your impulse buying. Remind yourself that by purchasing that book, shirt or gizmo you are preventing yourself from getting something you really want, like a house. Ultimately you have to decide what's important to you.

For more tips and tricks on how to save go to David Bach's website.

Allentown launches Web videos

Allentown has launched promotional videos on the city's website. The videos feature attractions, recreation and relocation information among other things.

Mayor Ed Pawlowski said he also plans to post a weekly or monthly video message on the city Web site. The goal is to help Allentown put on its best appearance for tourists, business leaders and future residents considering relocating to the city.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Give back this holiday season

The Morning Call recently published requests of nonprofits in the area. Items include food, toys, toiletries and other goods. Check it out here.

NET needs you!

The NET is actively seeking people for the following positions:
Other, smaller commitment volunteers are needed like hosting one business card exchange. Only site coordination and a few hours of your time at the event are needed. This is a great way to start small.

Many exciting changes are occurring with NET that will catapult it through the next year including:
  • Potential hiring of a full-time NET employee
  • New additional regular events
  • Amazing Race intern program
  • Representation at local job fairs
  • Reaching out to area young alumni college groups
  • Continued involvement with Renew Lehigh Valley
Make a positive impact on the Lehigh Valley, build your resume, and make new friends.

If you are interested in any of the positions listed above, e-mail Vanessa Williams, Marketing Chair at and she will see that it reaches the appropriate person.

January is NET Membership Month

In honor of the new year, NET is hosting membership month in January. Those individuals that join or renew their membership in January will receive a 10% off the current membership dues of $30. Click here to take advantage of this offer.

Already a dues-paying member? No problem. The current dues-paying member who refers the most individuals to sign up for membership in the month of January, will receive one year of NET membership for free. Just have your friends put your name in the appropriate field.

NET membership is the key to NET’s fantastic social, educational, and cultural events. In the past year, we’ve had political roundtables, professional development seminars, community volunteer opportunities, and recreational outings. And of course, we’ve hosted lots of social events including our regular First Thursdays, which are free for NET members.

In addition, the NET membership card is a gateway to discounts at businesses throughout the Lehigh Valley. We currently have over 100 participating businesses, and with our aggressive new campaign, that number is rapidly growing.

Local merchants, insurance companies, theaters, and restaurants all recognize that suave little card and those who carry it. Click here for the most up-to-date listing. With only a handful of uses, through these discounts the NET membership card easily pays for itself.

Our newest Affiliate Member, Lehigh Valley Style, will be providing a free subscription to all NET members.

As a dues-paying member, you are able to vote in NET elections, run for the NET board, and serve as committee chair. To find out more on how to become further involved in the NET come to our next organizational meeting.

Most importantly, your membership fee helps fund the NET, making all that we do possible.

Thank you in advance for your support of the NET.

Southside Bethlehem visitors center planned, if casino comes

At the foot of the old Bethlehem Steel furnaces, Bethlehem is planning a visitors center that would tell the city's story and orient tourists with cultural and entertainment offerings if a casino is built at the old Steel site.

Kiosks for attractions like the proposed National Museum of Industrial History and SteelStax concert hall would dot the inside of the 7,600-square-foot center, while space would be set aside for films, a souvenir shop, refreshments and restrooms.

Community leaders say the center, on par with what one may find at a federal park, would capture tourists who come for gambling and introduce them to other cultural opportunities in the area, such as the Moravian Industrial Quarter north of the Lehigh River or the America on Wheels Museum in Allentown.

''This makes an awful lot of sense,'' Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan said. ''This is a stop where people can get a quick look at the history of our city and everything that it has to offer.''

The city has been working on the visitors center plan for three or four months. It is still too early in the planning stages to attach a price tag, Callahan said.

Michael Perrucci, of BethWorks Now, developing the Steel land around the casino, said the visitors center is a deal he readily wanted to make because it helps the various components of the project work together.

The center would be housed in the stock house, the oldest building on the Bethlehem Steel site. Built around 1863, the building once was used by the Bethlehem Iron Co.

Jeff Parks, president of ArtsQuest, said the visitors center project would help the other cultural components to help one another.

''This will preserve the old building, interpret the city's history and show everything that the city has to offer,'' said Parks. ''This is an ideal use.''

More here.

Congratulations on being person of the year!

Time magazine's Person of the Year is (drum roll please) YOU! Yes you, me and everyone else who is part of this information age we live in.

"(2006) is a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. Not the Web that Tim Berners-Lee hacked together (15 years ago, according to Wikipedia) as a way for scientists to share research. It's not even the overhyped dotcom Web of the late 1990s. The new Web is a very different thing. It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it's really a revolution.

And we are so ready for it. We're ready to balance our diet of predigested news with raw feeds from Baghdad and Boston and Beijing. You can learn more about how Americans live just by looking at the backgrounds of YouTube videos—those rumpled bedrooms and toy-strewn basement rec rooms—than you could from 1,000 hours of network television.

And we didn't just watch, we also worked. Like crazy. We made Facebook profiles and Second Life avatars and reviewed books at Amazon and recorded podcasts. We blogged about our candidates losing and wrote songs about getting dumped. We camcordered bombing runs and built open-source software.

Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you."

So for all us bloggers, online social networkers and web 2.0 participants here here. Three cheers for you!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

First Night Bethlehem for New Year's

This is a citywide alcohol-free event celebrating New Years complete with two Fireworks displays.

When: Sunday, Dec. 31

Where: Bethlehem, multiple locations

Cost: Outside events, like the Fireworks, free, buttons $15 for performances

What are you doing New Year's Eve?