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Crayola CEO Discusses Why Lehigh Valley Gives the Company a Strategic Advantage

By Colin McEvoy on December 16, 2016

Crayola first established its roots in the Lehigh Valley in 1900, when they began producing slate school pencils for schoolchildren in an Easton mill. The company has grown and changed drastically since then, but their mission remains the same: to help parents and educators raise creatively alive children.

“The world’s changed a lot in the last 110 years, but we believe that mission is as relevant today as it has ever been,” said Smith Holland, President and CEO of Crayola. “We believe creative thinkers that ones who are going to make change in the world happen, and we believe creativity is something that can be learned, can be taught, and most importantly, can be experienced.”

Holland spoke to a crowd of more than 150 people at Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) Fall Signature Event on Dec. 15, which was held at the Crayola Experience attraction in Easton.

The second annual event spotlights an important existing company in the region that exemplifies a particular industry, in this case manufacturing, which is now the largest sub-sector of the Lehigh Valley economy.

The Lehigh Valley gives Crayola a strategic advantage over its competitors, Holland said, because its central location and strong transportation infrastructure allows it to respond to demand and drive sales more quickly than companies that import product.

“We manufacture and operate in the Lehigh Valley not just because it’s the right thing to do or it’s right politically, we do it because we think it’s the best thing for our business,” Holland said. “We are proud of our heritage of manufacturing in the Valley.”

Additionally, the region boasts a highly-skilled workforce that benefits its manufacturing operations, he said. More than 240 of the company’s employees have worked there for 20 years or longer, and Crayola has had generations of families working there for 113 years.

“Our dedicated, innovative employees are the reason we have been successful all these years,” he said. “Our location helps us attract talented workers from outside the region and partnerships with local colleges and universities provide a qualified pool of interns and future Crayolians.”

About 80 to 90 percent of the world’s crayons are made in the Lehigh Valley, with 13 million being manufactured each day, in addition to 3 million markers, 500,000 jars of paint, 170,000 pounds of modeling compound, and 22,000 silly putty eggs.

“This really is a good time for Crayola, because the whole notion of creativity, arts and crafts, writing and coloring is in a bit of a boom right now,” Smith said. “Between adult coloring books, kids coloring, and if Google or go to Instagram and search for coloring, Crayola, or crayon, you’ll see everyone in the world is being creative right now. We’re riding a product wave.”

There are about 680 manufacturing companies in the region, employing about 33,000 workers and contributing $5.56 billion to the Lehigh Valley’s record-high $36.97 billion gross domestic product. This marks the first time since the days of Bethlehem Steel that manufacturing was the largest subsector of the regional GDP.

This marked the second LVEDC Fall Signature Event. The first one, held in November, also highlighted manufacturing and was hosted by Mack Trucks, during which they reaffirmed their commitment to the Lehigh Valley and discussed plans to expand its presence there.

“Once a year, we highlight one of the companies in our market that is extraordinary and special, and a chance to take a deeper look, listen to their leadership, and really celebrate those great companies that make up the economy of the Lehigh Valley,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO.

After the remarks portion of the event, visitors were invited to tour the Crayola Experience attraction, and provided tokens that allowed them to create their own custom-designed crayon.

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