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Advanced Manufacturers Investing in New Development in the Lehigh Valley

By Colin McEvoy on January 30, 2017

Mack Trucks has announced plans to invest $70 million in its Lower Macungie Township facility. (Photo by Marco Calderon)

Mack Trucks has announced plans to invest $70 million in its Lower Macungie Township facility. (Photo by Marco Calderon)

This story first appeared in the third issue of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development magazine, a publication developed by LVEDC and Journal Communications. This magazine highlights the region’s competitive advantages for targeted sectors, as well as providing an overview of the region’s business climate, livability, transportation infrastructure, and other economic assets.

Lehigh Valley’s advanced manufacturing economy is on the rise, with companies investing millions of dollars in new equipment and facilities, creating jobs and economic opportunity.

Growth in the manufacturing sector, which contributes $5.6 billion to the region’s $37 billion economy, is encouraged by advantages including workforce development resources, a deep pool of skilled workers, integrated transportation infrastructure, a centralized location, an abundance of full-service industrial sites and a plentiful water supply.

The two-county region’s diverse manufacturing sector is growing across a range of specialties, from food production and transportation products to aerospace components, electronics and medical devices. Nearly 31,500 workers are employed in the region’s manufacturing sector.

The company whose very name is synonymous with heavy-duty vehicles – Mack Trucks – is investing $70 million in its operations in Lower Macungie Township, where it produces all trucks for North American and export markets. The investment will improve manufacturing quality and efficiency and modernize the facility.

“Mack Trucks has been a part of Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley for more than a century, and we’re proud to have grown with the region. The Lehigh Valley provides Mack several advantages, including a hard-working and highly skilled workforce, a business-friendly environment and a great quality of life for our employees,” says John Walsh, Mack’s vice president of global marketing and brand management.

History of Innovation

The operation in Lower Macungie Township celebrated its 40th anniversary in late 2015. The first highway truck assembled at the plant rolled off the production line in 1975. Today, all Mack trucks built for North America and export markets are assembled at the facility.

The Lehigh Valley is also home to the Mack Customer Center and the Mack Trucks Historical Museum, a separate, not-for-profit corporation known around the world as the premier collection of Mack trucks and Mack history. Both entities are in Allentown.

Signature companies such as medical products provider B. Braun Medical, Reeb Millwork Corp., Victaulic and others are placing communities throughout the Lehigh Valley at the forefront of growth in the advanced manufacturing sector.

Fountain Hill-based Reeb Millwork, one of the East Coast’s leading building materials distributors, launched a $38 million expansion on a site formerly occupied by Bethlehem Steel that added 147 jobs. The project includes construction of a 175,000-square-foot facility on 61 acres in the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII along Route 412.

Workforce Resources

Developing workforce skills is an ongoing process in the region. B. Braun Medical, for example, offers a paid apprenticeship program that helps to attract talent and equips participants with the skills they need to succeed.

The company, which has operations in Allentown, has the mission of manufacturing products to improve the quality of patient care while also helping healthcare professionals bring time and cost efficiencies to their practice.

The region offers a wealth of workforce resources. The newly established LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council links workforce and economic development organizations with education and industry to ensure the skilled worker pipeline remains strong and helps bridge any workforce gaps.

Numerous technical training programs are offered through educational institutions such as Lehigh Career & Technical Institute, Lehigh Carbon Community College, and Northampton Community College.

With its deep talent pool, commitment to workforce development and other resources, it’s no surprise the Lehigh Valley region is attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) from overseas manufacturers.

Fuling Plastics, the only Chinese manufacturer in Pennsylvania, celebrated its first anniversary in the Lehigh Valley in 2016. Messier-Buggati-Dowty, a subsidiary of France-based aerospace and defense supplier Safran, has established a wheel and brake repair facility in Lower Nazareth Township, where it will provide maintenance, repair and operations services for commercial airlines.

Others are noticing the successes of the Lehigh Valley’s advanced manufacturers. Victaulic, a Forks Township manufacturer that produces mechanical pipe joining solutions and grooved pipe joining systems, was named one of the top eight manufacturing plants in North America by IndustryWeek.

Founded in 1919, the company has 14 major manufacturing facilities and 29 branches worldwide with 3,600 employees. Victaulic has more than 1,900 global patents.

“This recognition acknowledges Victaulic’s commitment to manufacturing excellence and continuous safety improvements. More importantly, our world-class operations team has worked hard to improve quality, productivity, and customer satisfaction to exceed the needs of our customers,” says Eric Luftig, vice president for Victaulic.

Lehigh Valley Economic Outlook: Growth Expected to Continue into 2017

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