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Member Spotlight: Perkasie Borough

Perkasie’s “overnight” success story has been years in the making.

While downtown revitalization efforts may be more prominent now, years of planning and discernment have gone into the Borough’s current economic vitality and investment strategy yielding residents, business owners and borough officials results they can see, touch and feel.

From modernization efforts that never got off the ground in the 1970s to a catastrophic fire in 1988, that wiped out an entire block in the downtown, to national recognition last year for holding the oldest Christmas tree lighting ceremony in the country, Perkasie Borough is a small town, American innovator.

With the goal of creating prosperity, several elements came together. Local leaders built a comprehensive plan with the help of the Bucks County Planning Commission.

“We held public meetings to gather people together, and what people wanted, in Perkasie,” explained Stephen Barth, Perkasie director of economic development. Borough officials and planners took on a master plan process in 2013 to gather up a “wish list” from residents and community members.

A winning combination of strategic partnerships, local leadership and input from residents and business owners continues to gain traction and fuel Perkasie’s reclaimed vision.

Maintaining a walk-able downtown business district with community support and patronage, ongoing sustainable economic development and an attractive small town community vibe, build upon Perkasie’s assets.

“Our number one goal was to rebuild the downtown. In order to create dynamic revitalization, you have to bring various groups together,” Barth said.

Stimulating interest from entrepreneurs, new business start-ups and attracting national and international firms, meant considering what makes a town appealing to investors.

For starters, borough officials slashed building and improvement permit fees by 50 percent. The result has been more than 30 new business openings, according to Barth.

The byproduct of lower permit fees has been a ripple effect, which spurred residents to “spruce up” their homes and properties, too. What looks good, feels good.

The American House at Perkasie, located at 7th and Market Streets and the Perkasie Commerce Center, are examples of new buildings resulting from partnerships with investors, Perkasie Town Improvement Association and the Borough. Apartments and retail are mixed-use hallmarks of the new buildings.

Attracting housing development is another gauge of interest in a community, according to Barth. When people are buying homes and locating somewhere, it’s because they see value in the community and want to be part of it.

Major companies such as Free Will Brewing Company attract visitors from out of town, and serves residents in the community.

“Free Will is a major player, and their headquarters is right here,” Barth said.

A new microbrew pub planned next door to Perkasie Borough Hall, located on West Chestnut Street in an historic building, is viewed as another dining option for visitors to the downtown. “The popularity of microbrews” is a larger national trend, playing out on the local level in downtown Perkasie.

Options to serve Perkasie natives, as well as new residents are part of the overall plan.

“We have about $100 million in new housing developments (underway), and a plan for a hi-tech center at the Pennridge Airport,” Barth said.

With new residents comes disposable income and with new business development comes investment and validation in the community and its infrastructure.

The Pennridge Airport development on Ridge Road is estimated to have 700,000 square feet of space under roof and is aimed at attracting high tech companies and jobs to the area. “Industrial space, high speed internet and a hotel and conference center” are part of the proposed plan, Barth said.

Barth said leaders are using a holistic approach to creating prosperity, and it’s working.

“We were told we couldn’t accomplish this much in 20 years, and we have done it in two,” Barth said.

For more information on Perkasie Borough log onto www.perkasieborough.org.

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Member Spotlight: The Athena Network

After years of working for someone else Lisa Strohm decided she could fill a niche financial advising services market, because she better understands their needs, priorities and challenges.

With more than 15 years as a financial advisor, Strohm opened her own office in December, 2015, with a women-friendly focus. Strohm is president and CEO of The Athena Network, financial and life management services based in Center Valley, Lehigh County.

Strohm believes women approach financial issues from a different position and perspective than men do, and therefore need a different approach.

“Women are juggling a lot of priorities,” Strohm said.

That means it’s important to take women’s values and priorities into consideration, when advising them about financial planning, savings and wealth management.

From raising children to suspending or igniting power careers, dealing with aging parents, death or divorce, women often shoulder the lion’s share of family life, while keeping their fingers on the pulse of household income, savings and investments. They may even be in a position of earning more than their life partners or spouses.

“Men approach financial planning with S&P 500 analysis and statistics, women don’t think that way,” Strohm explained.

“Statistically oriented and communicated results” can be intimidating to women, with the result of “alienating them,” Strohm said.

Her holistic approach takes into consideration where a woman is in her career and earning cycle, where her children and parents may be in their life journey, and how all the pieces fit together.

Beyond bank statements and investment reports, Strohm said offering added value means providing credible resources to her clients, above and beyond the investment picture.

Strohm provides resources and vetted services for such professionals as CPAs, estate planning attorneys, nutritionists, personal trainers, insurance agents, realtors, rental property analysis firms (for investors) and elder care services, among others. This slate of providers helps save her client’s valuable time with focused concierge services.

“These are (benefits) your typical financial planner doesn’t offer. I’ve done the due diligence for (my clients),” Strohm explained of her list of concierge options.

Lisa Strohm’s Take Away Tips for Women and Finance:

#1 Meet with the planner before signing. Financial advisors should be looking out for you and listening to your concerns and needs, not telling you about themselves and what they can achieve.

#2 Fee basis versus commission based- Strohm advocates fee based services over commission based ones. If financial charges for services are based upon a commission, proceed with caution, according to Strohm. Investments may be suggested because of the benefit to the advisor, because that is how he or she will be paid.

Strohm, who offers fee-based services, said her fee includes life management services. “At the least, planning and investment should be part of (the package),” Strohm said. When selecting someone to work with, Strohm suggested “go with your gut, it’s rarely wrong.”

For more information on The Athena Network log onto www.the-athena-network.com

How to increase referrals for your service-based company

by Nick Hance, UBCC Member and CEO of Reenhanced Does it feel like you’re suiting up for battle every time you go to a networking event? You’re ready to make a charge and “network” with as many people as possible? What … Continue reading