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Foundations to distribute BB&T's $5 million for economic development

Written by Anthony Salamone of the Morning Call.

The news last year that BB&T Corp. would purchase Allentown's National Penn Bancshares Inc. came with a pledge to create a $5 million fund to support economic development in the Lehigh Valley and Berks County.

Two nonprofit foundations said this week they have the money.

Lehigh Valley Community Foundation and Berks County Community Foundation on April 1 each received $2.5 million from the BB&T Economic Growth Fund. The money will go toward "charitable projects and initiatives that impact economic development efforts," according to a news release.

What that means has yet to be decided, said Bernie Story, CEO of the Lehigh Valley Community Foundation.

"That's the kind of work that will be taking place at the community level with the foundation and the BB&T team working together to determine how the fund will support economic growth," said Story.

Later this year, Story said, the foundation will issue guidelines on how the investments will be distributed. The money will be placed in a "temporary charitable fund," he said, meaning it will be doled out over a period of time, not kept in perpetuity.

BB&T said it would create the $5 million fund toward economic development initiatives when the $1.8 billion deal to acquire National Penn Bank was first announced Aug. 17.

Besides the foundation, an advisory committee includes Scott V. Fainor, BB&T group executive and former National Penn CEO, and BB&T advisory board members Thomas A. Beaver and Jeffrey P. Feather, who were former board directors at National Penn.

"The BB&T Economic Growth Funds will be exciting tools to help build the economies of Berks County and the Lehigh Valley," Fainor said in the news release. "We are proud to support the efforts of these two organizations."

The nonprofit Lehigh Valley Community Foundation oversees more than 200 charitable funds with about $50 million in assets, Story said.

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