The National Museum of Industrial History does not have the $2 million it hoped to raise by now and will not be open by next summer in Bethlehem.
But executive board members who met Wednesday repeated a mantra of ''steady progress'' and expressed hope that a community fund-raising campaign to begin next month will raise enough to start building the $16 million Exposition Hall by the end of this year.
''We'd had a goal to be open by summer of 2005, but that schedule is probably going to slide a little,'' said Stephen Donches, president and chief executive officer of the museum. ''We're making steady progress. Success doesn't come overnight.''
Success hasn't come in seven years for museum organizers. That's how long they've been trying to build a fitting monument to the impact of the Industrial Revolution and specifically Bethlehem Steel, the company that dominated the Lehigh Valley economy for a nearly century.
After almost four years of delays caused by a sagging economy and the bankruptcy of Bethlehem Steel, museum organizers regrouped in April with a plan to raise $2 million of the $5 million they need by this month.
That plan called for a Leadership Council comprising 30 of the Valley's most influential people to spend three months collecting donations to start building the 37,000-square-foot Exposition Hall. It will be in the former Bethlehem Steel electrical repair shop in the Bethlehem Works entertainment and shopping district on the South Side.
While crews replaced the roof and windows, the Leadership Council would raise the remaining $3 million to finish the interior.
The museum had $11 million in pledges and grants, and the council hoped to have enough money to begin construction this month.
Though Donches said Wednesday that council members have contacted more than half of the 200 potential big donors, they have not reached the $2 million goal to begin exterior construction.
That almost certainly means there will be no museum next summer, but that doesn't mean there will be no museum, said Leadership Council Chairman C. Richard Wilson, former president of Buckeye Partners pipeline company.
''It's summer, and fund-raising is always more difficult in the summer,'' Wilson said after the 90-minute meeting. ''We had a good meeting, and progress is steady. We're encouraged.''
Wilson and Donches said they have brought in some donations over three months, but they refused to say how much of the $2 million they've collected.
Donches said while Leadership Council members continue to approach potential big-spenders, the Fogelsville consulting firm of Farr Healy in late August will begin mass-mailing informational packets about the museum. That will be followed by a September membership drive in which people will be mailed subscription packets.
The bottom line, Donches said, is that his hopes remain high, even though donation totals aren't.
''I'm working with the construction team to have crews ready to go as soon as we have the money we need,'' Donches said. ''Progress is steady.''
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