Great Lebanon County PITCH competition opens

The Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence, a free business resource for Lebanon County, has opened the third annual Great Lebanon County PITCH, offering entrepreneurs the chance to win seed money to start their dream business or expand their existing business.

They will compete for a portion of $8,000 in grant money – $5,000 to the winner and $3,000 to the runner-up. This year’s PITCH program will culminate in a presentation Oct. 24.

The center’s chairperson, Lebanon Mayor Sherry Capello, said in a release that “the winners from previous PITCH competitions have done very well – expanding their business offerings, opening their doors, and more. We’re glad we were able to provide some assistance in helping them reach their goals.”

Interested participants will need to complete a business plan. Now through October, the center will provide workshops and SCORE mentoring for entrepreneurs to develop and create their comprehensive business plans.

An Interest to Participate in the PITCH must be submitted no later than Sept. 4. This does not require participation; it just shows a level of interest.

Deadline for the final application and business plan is 4 p.m. Oct. 6.

The Great Lebanon County PITCH will be presented at the Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence, 989 Quentin Road, Suite 1, Lebanon, from 3-5 p.m. Oct. 24.

The competition is open to the following:

  • A business in Lebanon County that is expanding or altering its business model.
  • Entrepreneur(s) with an idea to create a new business that is or will be in Lebanon County.

There is no cost to participate; all the information and the applications are online at thecenterlebanon.org.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

York, Reading, Lancaster metros had fastest-selling homes in the US

York, Reading, Lancaster and their surrounding metro areas topped the list of metros nationwide with the fastest-selling homes, according to Stacker, which analyzed data from Redfin.

Only metro regions with more than 300 houses sold in April were included in the top 50 list. Metros are ranked by the least days listed for sale that month, with ties broken by the number of home sales.

· Ranked No. 1 was York, where Redfin reported that listings spent a median of six days on the market.

Elle Hale, past president of the Realtors Association of York & Adams Counties, wrote in an email: “Homes are moving at a quick pace, and buyers can’t hesitate if they want to purchase a home because it will get snapped up by another willing and ready buyer.”

The current association president, Reid Weinbrom, told the Pennsylvania Association of Realtors, “The scarcity of available homes is a significant factor driving our quick home sales. There is a strong demand to live in York. We have a prime location with proximity to major metropolitan areas. This accessibility appeals to buyers who seek a strong quality of life combining the benefits of suburban living with convenient access to employment opportunities, amenities and cultural attractions.”

· The Reading metro comes in at No. 2, with listings also spending a median of six days on the market.

This ranking is no surprise to Jason Burkholder, president of the Reading-Berks County Association of Realtors.

As the fourth largest city in Pennsylvania, Reading “offers a vibrant and growing downtown, a diverse population and a bright future ahead,” he said in an email.

Reading has what many people want, Burkholder noted: “affordable homes, a great quality of life with art and music all around, and walkable areas with fantastic eateries and shops around every corner.”

“The world is a bit of a smaller place now as well, and the ability of remote workers to live anywhere is part of what fuels the growth and speed of the market,” he added. And as they move into more affordable areas like Reading and its environs, “the easy commuter routes make the area appealing to buyers who want to easily return to larger cities … since it’s just a two- to three-hour drive from places like Philadelphia and New York.”

On a larger scale, the regional effort to bring passenger rail back to Reading, along with work already completed or underway at colleges like Albright and Alvernia, will only serve to increase amenities and home values, “so people know it’s a great opportunity for investors,” Burkholder said. “You can see their faith in the city as developers are taking on projects, partnering with the city and state representatives to bring revitalization and adaptive re-use to older buildings. As these projects move forward, there will be more affordable and attainable housing, for owners and renters.”

· Ranked third was Lancaster, also with a median of six days on the market.

Demand is high in the Lancaster metro area – which covers all of Lancaster County – yet inventory is low, Jeff LeFevre, a Realtor with Berkshire Hathway HomeServices Homesale Realty, wrote via email.

“Lancaster has (nearly) 130,000 more residents than Berks County and nearly 100,000 more residents then York County but less inventory,” he said.

A desirable destination for buyers, Lancaster County only offers 115 homes priced between $100,000 -$300,000, while York has 188 listings and Berks 131 homes at the same price range, LeFevre said. So it’s more expensive.

A good example of why prices are higher is competition. LeFevre said he just sold a house for $33,000 above asking price, winning out over five other offers.

The Stacker report also ranked the Harrisburg metro at No. 9, with a median of seven days on the market. Rounding out the top 10 were Evansville, Indiana.; Seattle; Cincinnati; Grand Rapids, Michigan; and Wichita, Kansas.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Fulton Financial Group, RKL Virtual Management Solutions and more name new hires, promotions

Architecture and engineering

Derry Township-based Keystone Clearwater Solutions named Matthew King vice president of engineering and construction. King will oversee water system development and implementation for natural gas clients.

Banking and finance

Lancaster-based Fulton Financial Corp. named Karthik Sridharan senior executive vice president, chief operations and technology officer. Sridharan will lead information technology and operations professionals who provide digital experiences for bank customers.

Millersburg-based Mid Penn Bank named Lola Lamnatos a private banker and vice president.


Manheim Township-based RKL Virtual Management Solutions named Ryan Coccagna client advisory and CFO services practice leader. Coccagna, a certified public accountant, will oversee the delivery and development of outsourced accounting and financial management services. Lindsay Heist was named workforce strategies human resources information system solutions practice leader. Heist will oversee the software capabilities that support the firm’s technology and human resources advisory offering. Amanda Miller was named core accounting practice leader Miller, a CPA, will lead a team of accounting professionals who handle clients’ back-office finance and accounting functions. Victoria Pritchard was named technology and innovation practice leader. Pritchard will lead the company’s technology and innovation efforts across all of its outsourced back-office service offerings. Jennifer Strobel was named workforce strategies practice leader. Strobel will lead the company’s human resources consulting and advisory services.

Health care

Pittsburgh-based UPMC named Dr. Paul D. Mahoney co-director of the structural heart program at UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute in Central PA. Mahoney focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of structural heart disease and performs advanced interventions.


Lancaster-based Barley Snyder named attorney Larry Heim chair of its liquor law practice. Heim has been helping hospitality industry businesses obtain and defend their liquor licenses for more than 40 years. Derek Dissinger is a partner and chair of the real estate practice and the Hospitality Industry Group. Dissinger works with the application, sale and transfer of liquor licenses for hotels, restaurants and joint ventures.


Lancaster-based Water Street Mission named Dan Siewert senior vice president of programs. Siewert will oversee much of the mission operations serving those experiencing homelessness. Marj Wilcox was named senior vice president of operations. Wilcox will oversee information technology, finance and maintenance. Bob Kramer was named senior vice president of advancement. Luis Rodriguez was named vice president of residential life. Rodriguez will direct the operations of shelter and residential programs. Greg Kessler was named senior vice president of health services. Jeremy Wiker was named vice president of finance.

York-based Typical Life Corp., which supports individuals throughout York and Adams counties in residential group homes, day programs and community service opportunities, named Sandra Chilton executive director.

Real estate

East Pennsboro Township-based Landmark Commercial Realty named Jamie Keener senior adviser. Keener has more than 30 years of business and land planning experience and will provide strategic guidance and support for clients’ commercial real estate needs.

Self storage

York-based Investment Real Estate Group of Companies named Justin Quinto vice president of acquisitions and asset management. Quinto will oversee the research, evaluation and selection of properties to add to the Moove In Self Storage portfolio. Elizabeth Kirchner was named human resources coordinator. Kirchner will maintain employee files and personnel-related data; track the annual performance review process; and assist with employee orientation, training programs, compensation and benefits.

Compiled by Amy DiNunzio

The region’s first Nothing Bundt Cakes franchise opens in Camp Hill

The first Nothing Bundt Cakes franchise in Central Pennsylvania will hold grand opening events this week.

In Camp Hill at 3548 Gettysburg Road, Nothing Bundt Cakes is owned by Karyn Reber-Hummer, a Cumberland Valley native.

“I just love the cake, our quality standards, and our values of creating connections, bringing joy and giving back to community,” explained Reber-Hummer in a release. “We are blessed to be able to celebrate our neighbors’ moments big and small.”

Reber-Hummer has the support of her family, including husband Joe, a daughter attending nursing school at Penn State, and a future son-in-law who manages the bakery. The cakes are made in 40 designs and 10 flavors.

The ribbon-cutting, with the West Shore Chamber of Commerce, will be 9 a.m. June 1.

Founded in 1997, Dallas-based Nothing Bundt Cakes is the nation’s largest specialty cake company, with more than 500 franchised and corporate bakeries in 40-plus states and Canada, according to its website.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

RKL LLP, Belco Community Credit Union name new hires


Manheim Township-based RKL LLP named William Fritz a director in the small business services group. Gregory Harp was named a director in the audit services group. Both are certified public accountants.

Banking and finance

Swatara Township-based Belco Community Credit Union elected Terry M. Hessler chair, Richard P. Myxter vice chair, Stephanie F. Miller treasurer, Dawn E. Gamble secretary, William F. O’Donnell assistant treasurer, Beverly A. Lilley assistant secretary and Eric E. Leidigh and Jeffrey L. Sterner board members. On Belco’s supervisory committee, Allen M. Brewer was elected chair, Gina M. Bond was elected vice chair, Chris R. Feather was elected secretary, and Nancy A. Clay was elected a committee member.


South Lebanon Township-based Arthur Funk and Sons Inc. named Brent C. Werner director of finance and administration. Werner, who has more than two decades of construction industry senor finance experience, will monitor, report and make major decisions to ensure accurate statements and invoicing for construction projects. Werner, a certified management accountant, will also manage all of the company’s departments.


Harrisburg-based Dame Leadership named Taylor Fairchild an executive administrator. Fairchild will assist in the day-to-day planning and execution of projects and client services.


Carlisle-based Dickinson College named Renée Ann Cramer provost and dean of the college, effective July 1. She will be the college’s chief academic officer and help deliver education that focuses on global and civic engagement and sustainability. She will also champion Dickinson’s academic mission, including teaching and research.


Warwick Township-based New Energy Blue named Kelly Davis vice president. Davis will increase the company’s technical, regulatory and operations expertise as it prepares to build out clean-technology biomass refineries.


Cumberland County Commissioners named Keeter Kallam director of the Office of Veterans Affairs and Services. As a civilian, Kallam will advocate for veterans and their families for federal, state and county benefits and services.


Pittsburgh-based Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott LLC named Robert DeSousa government affairs counsel in the Harrisburg office. DeSousa has nearly 40 years of experience in the government and legal sectors and is an Iraq War veteran while in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

Manheim Township-based Saxton & Stump named attorney Megan Barracato a litigator in the health care litigation group and the commercial litigation group. Barracato will be based in the Malvern office and represent physicians, medical professionals, hospitals, health care organizations and health care facilities defending medical malpractice claims.

Compiled by Amy DiNunzio


David’s Bridal announces mass layoff, central Pa. stores affected

David’s Bridal LLC, the wedding dress and formal wear retailer, announced it would be laying off 9,236 workers nationwide, including from 15 stores in Pennsylvania – two of which are in central Pennsylvania.

The specific number from the commonwealth was not available in the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification listing on the Department of Labor & Industry website. It did say that Phase 1 of the layoffs will began today, April 14, and that phases 2 and 3 will start May 13 and June 12, respectively.

Overall, the Pennsylvania stores affected are in nine counties. The two local franchises on the list are 5125 Jonestown Road, Harrisburg, and 2821 Concord Road in York Town Center, York.

The seven other counties are Allegheny (four locations); Blair; Bucks (two locations); Delaware; Erie; Luzerne; and Montgomery (three locations).

Laura McKeever, a spokeswoman for David’s Bridal, said in an emailed statement: “We are evaluating our strategic options and a sale process is underway. At this time, there are no updates to share. As ever, providing excellent service remains our focus and we are committed to serving and delivering for our brides and customers and being part of magical moments.”

The WARN filing expanded on “strategic options” as “including a sale as a going concern, a sale of certain assets and intellectual property, or a potential wind-down of some or all of the business and a resulting limited or company-wide reduction in force and job elimination of employees within the state.”

The layoffs are expected to be permanent, the filing said, “although new opportunities may become available depending on the outcome of the company’s sale efforts. Unfortunately, the company was not able to provide early notice of the layoffs as it qualifies under the ‘faltering company’ and ‘unforeseeable business circumstances’ exceptions set forth in the WARN Act.”

Conshohocken-based David’s Bridal, which has 300 or so stores, most of which are in the U.S., boasts that it sells one of every three wedding dresses in the country, according to the New York Times.

But the Times also recently reported that the business was considering filing for bankruptcy, for the second time in five years.

The bridal wear market in the U.S. was estimated at $27 billion in 2022, according to a Research and Markets report. The U.S. accounts for a 44.16% share in the global market.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Harrisburg area again ranked as great place to retire

On the heels of U.S News and World Report ranking the Harrisburg metro area as an attractive retirement destination, StorageCafe is getting into the act, too.

In its rating of the top 100 metro areas in the nation for retirees, Harrisburg-Carlisle comes in 16th.

StorageCafe, an online platform that provides storage unit listings across the U.S., was prompted to compile the list by the 3.6 million baby boomers turning 65 this year who may be thinking about where they want to retire.

Metro areas were evaluated for their age-friendliness across criteria ranging from cost of living and access to health care to the local tax burden, safety and the availability of recreational activities.

Why are some of the reasons Harrisburg-Carlisle does well?

Seniors make up 29% of the adult population, while 16% of multifamily accommodation is age 55+ communities “that are designed specifically to cater to a more relaxed, yet engaging lifestyle,” StorageCafe said.

Also, Harrisburg-Carlisle seniors have an average income of $28,194 and “reasonable cost of living.”

Aura Michelle Mogosanu, a communications specialist with Storage Café, wrote in an email that the approximately 600,000-person Harrisburg-Carlisle metropolitan area beat out such places as Miami, Honolulu and San Diego.

“Harrisburg-Carlisle scores particularly well with its provision of health care and social assistance, ranking in the top 20 for this aspect, and it is also in the top 25 for its reasonable house prices. Where the metropolitan area scored best, however, was for safely, getting third place nationwide based on FBI figures. Weather-wise, the area doesn’t have the extreme summers, which can be problematic for seniors and which penalized some places in the ranking. Slightly above average life expectancies … add to the fact that, overall, the place is an option that retirees should consider.”

Among the 20 metro areas that scored highest, most are in the Northeast or Florida, as expected. No. 1 is Cape Coral-Fort Myers, Florida.

But other regions are represented, too, including the Midwest.

Two of the top five – Cleveland-Elyria and Dayton-Kettering – are in Ohio and two of the top 12 – Milwaukee-Waukesha and Madison – are in Wisconsin.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Median rents in central Pa. near 30% threshold

The good news: In central Pennsylvania, the median renter is not yet cost burdened when it comes to housing costs, as defined by the latest census data.

The bad news: That could change – in at least one county – if a shortfall in housing stock is not addressed. According to the 2017-2021 American Community Survey five-year estimates released last month, over 19 million U.S. renter households spent more than 30% of their income on housing costs in 2021. Households are considered cost burdened when they spend at least 30% of their income on rent, mortgage and other housing needs. The situation was especially dire in some of the nation’s largest counties where housing is more expensive, or in areas where incomes are low.

The ACS collects a variety of housing cost information for renters, including monthly rent and utility bills, and for homeowners, including mortgage principal and interest, real estate taxes, homeowner’s insurance, utilities, mobile home costs, second mortgage payments and condominium fees (if applicable).

In most of the U.S, homeowners had a lower median cost burden than renters.

The median housing cost ratio for renters in five counties in central Pennsylvania, the ACS reported, was 28% in Lancaster (estimated 60,449 occupied rental units); 28.9% in Lebanon (estimated 15,406 occupied rental units); 26.8% in Dauphin (estimated 40,459 occupied rental units); 29.2% in York (estimated 41,983 occupied rental units); and 26.6% in Cumberland (estimated 28,988 occupied rental units).

Greg Bardell, past president of the Lancaster County Association of Realtors, said homeowners tend to have less of a housing cost burden than renters because most of them took out fixed-rate mortgages with low interest rates.

It’s all a matter of supply and demand with rental units, he said. “Very, very few” rental properties in the county are sitting empty, as occupancy rates are in the high 90s.

A recent study by the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County’s Center for Regional Analysis should alarm county and municipal officials, Bardell said.

It concluded that current housing stock is not sufficient to meet the needs of the county’s population.

Two factors contribute to this:

· New housing is not compensating for existing stock that is aging.

· Existing and new housing is not keeping up with the county’s changing household composition.

There’s “not enough housing for people who live alone or households without children,” the report said. The “market is responding but there is still a significant shortfall of efficiency apartments and one-bedroom units.”

One reason people want to move to central Pennsylvania is because it is relatively affordable compared with denser metro areas, Bardell said. But “if we don’t get more housing stock,” that advantage is going to disappear.

“Officials have to make a decision,” he said. At this point, the cost to get approval for housing projects is very expensive, and “no one seems to be able to do anything about it.”

“It’s incredible what rental rates have risen to,” with some renters even offering to pay more because they’re desperate for housing, Bardell said.

“We could see ourselves above 30%” in median housing cost ratio, he explained, unless something changes.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Migration report shows Lancaster and Hershey attracting new residents

Bucking a statewide trend, two central Pennsylvania cities/towns are seeing more people moving in than out so far this year.

Lancaster and Hershey rank first and second in moveBuddha’s 2021-2022 Pennsylvania Migration Report, with search data showing 159 moves into Lancaster for every 100 moves out.

The info was collected from Jan. 1 to Oct. 10 of this year, encompassing searches nationwide by individuals who were planning to move themselves or hire a moving company in 2022.

For its report, moveBuddha looked at only cities or towns with at least 25 inbound and 25 outbound searches, identifying 55 in Pennsylvania that were the most popular.

While Lancaster came in a clear first, Hershey edged out Kennett Square for second, with 132 moves in for every 100 moves out.

The vast majority of cities and towns on the list, however – 38 of 55 – showed the opposite trend.

A blog post on moveBuddha said Pennsylvania has the 13th worst migration ratio of the 50 states so far in 2022, with 83 people arriving for every 100 leaving.

What makes Lancaster a destination, moveBuddha said, is its history and diversity, plus its proximity to the more rural areas of the county. “It provides more space for folks looking to leave the denser Philly metro area,” for example.

Hershey was praised for its small-town atmosphere, which “is attractive to many.”

Some other highlights from the report:

· Florida is the top destination for those moving out of the commonwealth, followed by California, Texas, North Carolina and New York. One possible factor cited for Florida’s top ranking is its lack of income tax.

· Lebanon, Levittown, Monroeville, Norristown and Pottstown are all seeing two times more moves headed out than in this year.

· Over the past few years, Pennsylvania has seen negative net migration. Better job opportunities in other states and the shift to remote work are cited as potential reasons.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Newsmakers: RKL LLP, Stock and Leader and ECORE International

Salvatore Anastasi, Wilfred Bentley, Michael Koch, Debra Lechner, Shari Sell and Glenn Rambler
Salvatore Anastasi, Wilfred Bentley, Michael Koch, Debra Lechner, Shari Sell and Glenn Rambler.


Manheim Township-based RKL LLP named Michael Koch leader of its valuations practice, which identifies and analyzes a business’ value and cost drivers. Koch is a certified valuation analyst and has experience in valuation, financial modeling and projections, and litigation support.


Arlington, Virginia-based American Intellectual Property Law Association elected Salvatore Anastasi second vice president. Anastasi is a patent attorney, partner and intellectual property practice group chair with Lancaster-based Barley Snyder.

Chicago-based American Bar Association Section of Intellectual Property Law named Joseph R. Falcon III chair of the patent litigation committee. Falcon will also serve on the America Invents Act Task Force and Patent Section 101 Task Force. Falcon is a partner and intellectual property attorney with Lancaster-based Barley Snyder.

Banking and finance

Jonestown Bank & Trust Co. named Glenn Rambler a commercial relationship manager. Rambler will help meet the financial needs of businesses and business owners in Lancaster and Lebanon counties.


East Hempfield Township-based B.R. Kreider & Son Inc. named Dean Stoner senior estimator.


Harrisburg-based Dame Leadership named Mark Walker an assessment solutions practice leader. Walker will assist in the marketing and delivery of employee assessment services. Tedd Wheeler was named a leadership consultant. Wheeler will provide companies with coaching and strategic planning services. He is a U.S. Army veteran.


Swatara Township-based Millers Mutual Insurance named Mickey Bekelja vice president of finance, chief financial officer and treasurer. He will manage, analyze, and ensure integrity of treasury operations and partner with Millers’ business units to monitor and guide the company’s strategic direction and support business operations.


York-based Stock and Leader named David M. Walker counsel in the school law group. Walker will focus on general solicitor, labor and employment issues, school business, construction, contracts and pupil services matters.


Lancaster-based Ecore International named Debra Lechner chief marketing officer. Lechner will oversee the planning and execution of marketing and advertising initiatives to support the company’s mission and strategic business goals.


Lancaster-based Tenfold named Wilfred Bentley chief community investment officer. Bentley will lead the Tenfold Community Lending team, which focuses on increasing homeownership opportunities for underserved people in Adams, Cumberland, Dauphin, Franklin, Lancaster, Lebanon, Perry and York counties.

Real estate

Manheim Township-based Sable Commercial Realty named Justin Geisenberger senior vice president. Geisenberger will help with business development and strategic company decisions. Geisenberger is a licensed real estate salesperson and Certified Commercial Investment Member.


East Hempfield Township-based Gish’s Furniture named Shari Sell manager of the East Earl store at the Shady Maple Complex.

Compiled by Amy DiNunzio

Cumberland County awards more than $5 million in Recovery Grants 

The Cumberland County Board of Commissioners voted last week to approve $5,0496,757 in additional Cumberland County Recovery Grants. 

Commissioners Jean Foschi and Vince DiFilippo voted 2-1 to approve grants for P25 radios. Funding for the Cumberland County Housing & Redevelopment Authorities and Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation was also approved. 

Funding in the amount of $3,783,557 was approved for the purchase of P25 Radios for Cumberland County EMS, fire, police, and municipal emergency management departments. 

Allocated to the Cumberland County Housing & Redevelopment Authorities was $873,000, $500,000 of which will be used to address affordable housing, and $250,000 for the creation of a land bank. The remaining $123,000 is allocated for gap funding to cover administration of community development block grants and the 2023 community business development subsidy. 

Approved for the Cumberland Area Economic Development Corporation (CAEDC) is an additional $750,000 in grants. This includes $500,000 for tourism product development grants and $250,000 for a small business revolving loan fund. 

Cumberland County has granted a total of $22,664,618 in Recovery Grants and has allocated $25 million for county revenue replacement. The remaining $3,172,534 will be allocated later. 

Most recently, on Nov. 9 the Board of Commissioners voted 2-1 with Commissioners Foschi and DiFilippo voting to approve $1.2 million in Cumberland County Recovery Grants for Business/Non-profit and COVID-19 recovery, and $25 million for county revenue replacement. 

On Oct. 26, Cumberland County Commissioners voted 2-1 to approve $6,434,235 million in Cumberland County Recovery Grants for infrastructure projects in the county. Twenty-one municipalities were awarded funding for improvement projects.  

On Oct. 12, Cumberland County Commissioners unanimously voted to approve $7,112,908 million in Cumberland County Recovery Grants for mental health and physical health organizations across the county. Funding was awarded to 17 organizations to improve the physical and mental health of residents directly and indirectly impacted by COVID-19. 

Solving the Housing Crisis for Low Income Communities

If you think of the most pressing issues that our low-income, marginalized communities face, everything is centered on access to safe, adequate, and affordable housing. Without this essential foundation, how can we expect our communities to live healthier lives, contribute to our economy, and be active members of our society when every day they are at risk of losing their homes and going hungry?

Affordable, accessible housing, particularly right here in Central Pennsylvania, was a major problem long before the COVID-19 crisis. Now it’s a front-burner issue that’s risen to a roaring boil. And communities of color are disproportionately impacted as rent increases and homes are much harder to purchase in today’s market.

Many people can no longer afford to live in the communities and cities in which they grew up and have called home for generations. Rather, they are being driven out into far worse living situations that perpetuate an even greater problem.

Compounding this problem is a lack of access to education focused on financial literacy. Individuals limited by their credit scores and financial situation are left completely helpless due to a lack of access to information and resources to help dig them out of a sinking hole of debt. To further exasperate the problem, migrant and immigrant communities are at a severe disadvantage due to language barriers and racial profiling. And this gap has only continued to widen!

This issue needs to be elevated to a forefront concern for everyone. Even if you’re among the very fortunate to have a stable living situation, it still concerns you. As everyday people lose their jobs and burn through their savings, they’re becoming a part of the marginalized and at-risk communities. And as this population rises, so does a whole other host of social issues that can quickly lead to a community’s downward spiral.

Owning a home is the foundation of the American dream and the true beginning of being able to create wealth in America and lay roots in a community. We must do better as Americans for each other. Those who are in positions of power and influence must prioritize creating solutions that focus on universal equity, especially for low-income housing. And first, we must remove all the unnecessary red tape! We must think outside of old solutions that are not moving the needle. And we must clear the path for progress by removing cumbersome and outdated roadblocks.

Counties right here in Central Pennsylvania can and should strive to lead by example, especially Dauphin County as the Capital of our Commonwealth. Township commissioners, code officers, and local government officials need to refocus their energy on maximizing the use of existing streets and buildings that are in disrepair and make it a smoother process for interested developers to revitalize these areas.

Right now, the roadblocks and red tape make it nearly impossible to welcome community revitalization projects to the region. I speak firsthand when I say that a dream and desire to help create low-income housing opportunities is no longer enough. Significant changes to policies, procedures, and mindset need to happen in order to overcome the major hurdles that stand in the way of community partners, developers, and well-meaning citizens who want to help solve this crisis. And for the sake of the thousands of people right here in Central PA who risk going homeless tomorrow, that change needs to happen today!

About the Author: Founder and CEO of Fernandez Realty Group, George Fernandez is passionate about creating safe, affordable, and uplifting living environments for those in need, which is fueled by his own personal experience. The Sycamore Homes development team is led by Fernandez Realty Group, a minority-owned development company with ties to the immediate community, and Latino Connection, a local social determinants of health agency that exists to meet the needs of diverse and underserved communities. Fernandez’s vision is much bigger than any one building, city, or person. It is the key that unlocks opportunity, pride, and a sense of belonging. Sycamore Homes is the first building block in this foundation.