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Expansion Projects Keep Momentum Moving in the Lehigh Valley

By Colin McEvoy on February 27, 2017

Guardian Life Insurance President and CEO Deanna M. Mulligan and Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack were among those at the Guardian Life Insurance ribbon-cutting ceremony in July 2016.

Guardian Life Insurance President and CEO Deanna M. Mulligan and Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor Mike Stack were among those at the Guardian Life Insurance ribbon-cutting ceremony in July 2016.

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 is a region on a roll. In 2015, the region’s gross domestic product reached $37 billion for the first time and a string of expansion and new investment projects created 920 jobs and retained another 3,600. Among the major recent successes:

Guardian Life Insurance

One of the nation’s largest mutual life providers, Guardian Life Insurance established a three-story corporate office building in Hanover Township in Northampton County, bolstering its already strong presence in Lehigh Valley.

Construction was recently completed on the 281,680-square-foot facility. The project demonstrates Guardian Life Insurance’s continued commitment to Lehigh Valley, where it has operated since 1984.

“This is an exciting step toward our goal of making our employee workspaces as open, safe and adaptable as they can be,” said Scott Dolfi, Guardian’s chief operating officer. “The new facility will create innovative workspace arrangements, leverage technology enhancements, and accommodate flexible work arrangement options.”

SunOpta

A SunOpta employee oversees a production line of Almond Breeze at the company's Upper Macungie Township facility.

A SunOpta employee oversees a production line of Almond Breeze at the company’s Upper Macungie Township facility.

The Canada-based company, which focuses on natural, organic and specialty food products, held its grand opening in November 2015 on a $25 million addition to its Upper Macungie Township facility. The project is expected to create 48 jobs and retain 52 existing jobs.

The new addition, combined with the Lehigh Valley’s proximity to major markets on the East Coast, will give the company a crucial competitive advantage, SunOpta officials say.

“The completion of the expansion in Lehigh Valley means SunOpta now has aseptic processing facilities on the East Coast and West Coast, as well as the Midwest,” according to a SunOpta official. “With the addition of (the facility) in Allentown, we now offer customers one of the largest integrated non- dairy aseptic beverage processing platforms in North America, which we believe will offer the lowest landed cost to customers.”

Sharp Packaging Solutions

Sharp, a packaging company for the life sciences industry, has increased its capacity by 30 percent as the result of a $45 million expansion at its Upper Macungie Township facility.

The company purchased and renovated a 112,000-square-foot building adjacent to its existing 270,000-square-foot contract packaging facilities at 7451 and 7529 Keebler Way, marking the company’s third expansion at the Lehigh Valley campus since 2014.

Initial estimates say the project will result in the hiring of 25 to 50 new employees, but that number could grow to more than 150 workers in the future. Sharp Packaging Solutions’ total Lehigh Valley workforce is about 580 full-time employees and 200 temporary workers, with the potential to increase even further.

The decision to undertake this project was fueled by the increasing industry demand for contract packaging services of bottled and blister-packed pharmaceutical products business, coupled with the explosive growth of specialty product and biologic package outsourcing.

“Customers with specialty drugs and biologics require complex equipment,” says Doug Hill, senior vice president and general manager of Sharp Packaging Solutions. “We have customers with vials that need labeling and serialization, syringes with a label pack-out, oral thin film strips and then those with automatic, self- injected devices requiring special assembly. With our new facility, we have the dedicated space to meet the most demanding requirements.”

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Lehigh ValleyQuick Facts

  • Industry Spotlight

    14.2% of Labor Force
    Employed in Professional & Business Services
    Q4 2016

  • By the Numbers
    $37 Billion

    Gross Domestic Product

  • Investor Spotlight
    City Center Lehigh Valley
  • Industry Spotlight

    10.2% of Labor Force
    Employed in Manufacturing
    Q4 2016

  • By the Numbers
    $4.3 Billion

    Exports (2015)

  • Investor Spotlight
    Air Products
  • Industry Spotlight

    1325 Total Office Buildings

  • By the Numbers
    $58,134

    Median Household Income

  • Investor Spotlight
    PPL Electric Utilities
  • Industry Spotlight

    1707 Total Industrial Buildings

  • By the Numbers
    24,400

    New Jobs Created Over Past 5 Years

  • Investor Spotlight
    National Penn
  • Industry Spotlight

    4.8% Industrial
    Vacancy Rate

  • By the Numbers
    658,477

    Population

  • Investor Spotlight
    Olympus
  • Industry Spotlight

    8.8% Office
    Vacancy Rate

  • By the Numbers
    336,100

    Labor Force

  • Investor Spotlight
    Lutron Electronics
  • Industry Spotlight

    10% of Labor Force
    Employed in Leisure & Hospitality
    Q4 2016

  • By the Numbers
    4,359

    Technology Patents from 2000-2013

  • Investor Spotlight
    Mack Trucks
  • Industry Spotlight

    1.6% of Labor Force
    Employed in Food & Beverage Manufacturing
    Q4 2016

  • By the Numbers
    25 Million

    Office Inventory (Square Feet)

  • Investor Spotlight
    UGI
  • By the Numbers
    108 Million

    Industrial Inventory (Square Feet)

  • Investor Spotlight
    NFI