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Don Cunningham Testifies Before Pennsylvania House Republican Policy Committee

By Colin McEvoy on September 25, 2017

The President and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) provided testimony before a Pennsylvania House committee last week, giving an update on the Lehigh Valley and providing input into how the state can help stimulate economic growth.

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham speaking before the Pennsylvania House Republican Policy Committee.

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham speaking before the Pennsylvania House Republican Policy Committee.

Don Cunningham’s testimony came the same week LVEDC hosted a meeting with nearly two dozen Lehigh Valley legislators and staff members from federal and state offices, a bi-annual gathering LVEDC hosts to maintain regular communication with the region’s legislative delegations.

Cunningham testified on Sept. 20 before the Pennsylvania House Republican Policy Committee, a traveling group of about a dozen legislators from across the state. The hearing was entitled “Strengthening Pennsylvania’s Middle Class: How Government Can Get Out of the Way of Prosperity in the State and How We Can Help Job Creators.”

“I am proud to report that working with business leaders, elected officials and higher education and healthcare institutions we have helped to transform Lehigh Valley’s economy,” Cunningham said at the hearing, which was held at the municipal building in Hanover Township, Northampton County. “Once we were known solely as the home of heavy manufacturing, but that has changed, and we are now better known for having a truly diversified economy.”

Voicing budgetary concerns

Cunningham voiced concerns about the proposed Pennsylvania budget, noting that ten years ago, the state Department of Community and Economic Development budget for 2007-08 included $631 million, with more than $90 million in discretionary funding to support business expansion, retention, and relocation prospects.

By contrast, the DCED budget for 2017-18 is only $134 million, with just $20 million in discretionary funding, Cunningham said.

“I understand that many things have changed in ten years and the DCED budget then included some programs that are not included today, along with a significant amount of funding for legislative grants that have been stopped,” Cunningham said. “But even with those factors considered the loss of real economic development funding has been staggering.”

Cunningham also expressed concern about funding cuts from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority and the Machinery and Equipment Loan Fund (MELF). LVEDC currently has in the pipeline $7.5 million in financing that would be jeopardized by the proposed cuts in the House budget, he said.

“That financing supports $25 million in investment that represents 200 new jobs and more than 450 retained jobs in the Lehigh Valley,” Cunningham said. “The loss of funding is heightened, because it has come at a time when neighboring states like New York, New Jersey and Ohio are upping their games and increasing economic development funding.”

Economic success stories

Cunningham shared some of the same information during his testimony as he did during the legislative luncheon, which was held Sept. 21 at the Melt restaurant in Upper Saucon Township.

This included the Lehigh Valley having the best post-Recession job growth in Pennsylvania, and the Site Selection magazine ranking Lehigh Valley in the top five overall regions in the Northeastern United States in terms of economic development for 2016, and the number one region of its population size in the Northeast.

Cunningham also discussed the Lehigh Valley’s recently released gross domestic product figures. The regional GDP for private sector industry has grown to a record-high $39.1 billion for 2016, a more than 4 percent increase over the previous year.

The regional GDP saw year-over-year growth in each individual subsector, reflecting the remarkable balance of the Lehigh Valley economy. The Lehigh Valley GDP is now larger than of Wyoming ($38.5 billion) and Vermont ($31.5 billion), as well as 108 other countries in the world.

Finance, insurance, and real estate is once again the region’s largest sector in terms of GDP, at $8 billion. But Cunningham said manufacturing, the region’s second-largest sector, also saw growth over the previous year. It is now $6.9 billion, or nearly 18 percent of the total regional GDP, compared to 15 percent last year.

Attendees at the Sept. 21 luncheon included U.S. Rep Charlie Dent and state Reps. Gary Day, Marsha Hahn, Ryan Mackenzie, Zachary Makos, Peter Schweyer, Justin Simmons, as well as staff members of U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey.

Lehigh Valley GDP Continues to Grow; Reaches Record-High $39 Billion

The Lehigh Valley’s gross domestic product (GDP) for private sector industry has grown to a record-high $39.1 billion for 2016, a more than 4 percent increase over the pre[...]

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Lehigh ValleyQuick Facts

  • Industry Spotlight

    13.8% of Labor Force
    Employed in Professional & Business Services
    Q4 2016

  • By the Numbers
    $39.1 Billion

    Gross Domestic Product
    2016

  • Investor Spotlight
    City Center Lehigh Valley
  • Industry Spotlight

    9.8% of Labor Force
    Employed in Manufacturing
    Q4 2016

  • By the Numbers
    $3.44 Billion

    Exports
    2015

  • Investor Spotlight
    Air Products
  • Industry Spotlight

    1,504 Total Office Buildings
    Q2 2017

  • By the Numbers
    $57,510

    Median Household Income

  • Investor Spotlight
    PPL Electric Utilities
  • Industry Spotlight

    1,770 Total Industrial Buildings
    Q2 2017

  • By the Numbers
    24,400

    New Jobs Created Over Past 5 Years

  • Investor Spotlight
    National Penn
  • Industry Spotlight

    5.0% Industrial
    Vacancy Rate
    Q2 2017

  • By the Numbers
    658,477

    Population

  • Investor Spotlight
    Olympus
  • Industry Spotlight

    7.7% Office
    Vacancy Rate
    Q2 2017

  • By the Numbers
    342,493

    Labor Force

  • Investor Spotlight
    Lutron Electronics
  • Industry Spotlight

    17.2% of Labor Force
    Employed in Health Care & Social Assistance

  • By the Numbers
    5,073

    Technology Patents from 2000-2015

  • Investor Spotlight
    Mack Trucks
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    9.1% Increase in exports
    Among top 20 markets nationally in export growth

  • By the Numbers
    25.8 Million

    Total Office Inventory (Square Feet)
    Q2 2017

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    UGI
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    10.1% Industrial rent growth
    Second highest in the U.S.

  • By the Numbers
    115.5 Million

    Total Industrial Inventory (Square Feet)
    Q2 2017

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    NFI