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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

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9.1% of Labor Force
Employed in Professional, Technical, Financial & Business Services
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By the Numbers
$39.1 Billion

Gross Domestic Product
2016

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City Center Lehigh Valley
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10.5% of Labor Force
Employed in Manufacturing
Q2 2017

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$3.44 Billion

Exports
2015

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$59,989

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PPL Electric Utilities
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24,246

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National Penn
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659,312

Population

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344,623

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33% of Labor Force
Employed in Health Care, Social Assistance & Education

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4,399

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10.7% of Labor Force
Employed in Accomodation, Food Services, Arts, Entertainment & Recreation

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UGI
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NFI
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15% of the total community college degrees awarded in PA
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68th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. by population

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9,747 degrees awarded by colleges and universities
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80,000 employed in "Eds & Meds" sectors

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21.7%

Population between ages 18 and 34

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