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Scranton helps boost wages of longtime lampshade manufacturer in Pine Brook

Dec. 20—SCRANTON — The city announced its first "wage boost" grant of $50,000 from federal American Rescue Plan Act funds given to a longtime lampshade manufacturer in Pine Brook.

Penn Shadecrafters, 941 Sanderson Ave., a small, second-generation lampshade manufacturer established in 1974, will be able to obtain up to $50,000 from the city over the next two years to go toward raising employee salaries.

The company, a boutique maker and wholesaler of lampshades to the hospitality industry, whose customers include hotels and hospitals, has 10 employees, owner Steve Carter said during a tour of his factory Tuesday.

Founded in 1974 by his father, Robert L. Carter, Penn Shadecrafters had several locations in the city before consolidating operations in the Sanderson Avenue factory in 2004. Much of the firm's products are customized and handmade.

Penn Shadecrafters barely survived the COVID-19 pandemic but has emerged still standing and remains one of the few lampshade manufacturers in the United States, Carter said.

But inflation in costs of raw materials and persistent supply-chain delays and problems cut into the bottom line.

And with area warehouses and big-box chains now offering unskilled labor starting salaries above $25 an hour, Carter applied for the city's wage boost as a way to help offer competitive pay to his workers.

The $50,000 grant over two years will help Penn Shadecrafters pay employees a minimum of $2 per hour, adding at least $4,000 to individual annual salaries.

"Hopefully, giving my employees a competitive wage is something that will keep me in business," Carter said. "I'm only as good as my employees and this is going to offer them the opportunity to stay here."

Mainly an employee retention program, the wage boost grant program also aims to close the gap between the current working wage in the city that is lower than a so-called living wage, Mayor Paige Gebhardt Cognetti said during the tour.

The city in May approved allocating $3 million for a Wage Boost and Business Recovery Grant Program.

For the first year of the wage boost, the city uses ARPA cash to fully fund the pay raises. In the second year, the city and recipient share in funding the cost of the raises. The goal for the third year is for a recipient business to be able to fully fund the higher salaries.

"Providing help through this federal funding source makes it easier for workers to stay in jobs they love here in the city and for businesses to keep their doors open. Higher working wages help us all," Cognetti said.

Meanwhile, Penn Shadecrafters and another business, Bee's Backyard children's play place inside the Marketplace at Steamtown in the downtown, each received a $25,000 grant from the ARPA funds for small business financial recovery.

Bee's Backyard closed several times because of the pandemic and the grant "will help us cover needed expenses as we continue to offer an affordable attraction for area families," owner Bridget Moran said in a statement.

Check back for updates.

emailto:Contact the writer: jlockwood@timesshamrock.com; 570-348-9100 x5185; @jlockwoodTT on Twitter.