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Lehigh Valley Remains a Manufacturing Center for America

By Colin McEvoy on August 4, 2017

More than 32,000 people now work across the region’s 680 manufacturing companies. (photo by Marco Calderon)

More than 32,000 people now work across the region’s 680 manufacturing companies. (photo by Marco Calderon)

The Lehigh Valley has been featured in a 24-page feature in American Way, the in-flight magazine of American Airlines, the largest airline in the world. Below is a portion of a story called “Global Impact,” which highlights the various regions, companies and economic trends of the Lehigh Valley. This particular excerpt focuses on region’s manufacturing sector. The full story and the rest of the Spotlight Lehigh Valley feature can be found online here.

Today, the mills have gone and the old steel plants have closed, but that expertise when it comes to making things remains. More than 32,000 people now work across the region’s 680 manufacturing companies, contributing to an industry that still contributes nearly $6 billion in annual economic output (about 15 percent of the Valley’s GDP) and touches almost every corner of the planet.

“This area historically has been a manufacturing center for America, and to some point, the world,” says Don Cunningham, president and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). “While people may not know of the Lehigh Valley, there’s a good chance they’re familiar with products that are made and created here.”

For instance, Crayola is a name known across the globe for its crayons and other art supplies, around two-thirds of which are made in the Lehigh Valley, close to its Easton headquarters. In fact, the company manufactures around 12 million crayons in the region on a daily basis, as part of an ever-growing product line that is shaping how children play and learn in more than 80 countries.

“We’re in the business of helping parents and teachers raise creatively alive kids,” says president and CEO Smith Holland. “We believe creatively alive kids grow up to be creatively alive adults, and those are the kinds of people that make big change in the world happen.”

Similarly, if you’ve eaten a Peeps at Easter—and, as the number-one non-chocolate candy at Easter for more than 20 years, it’s likely that you have done—you’ve tasted the fruits of Lehigh Valley labor. Bethlehem-based Just Born produces about 5 million of the treats daily, as well as other such beloved brands as Mike and Ike, and Hot Tamales, which together have made the company the 11th biggest candy company in the U.S.

“The candy industry is driven by brands and we are certainly no exception,” says co-CEO Ross Born. “If your product doesn’t say fun on it, if it’s not colorful, if it’s not recognized, people are not going to buy it.”

Further north, C. F. Martin & Co. was founded in 1833 and moved to Nazareth, in 1839, making it one of the oldest surviving acoustic instrument producers in the world. Played by the likes of Johnny Cash, Eric Clapton and Ed Sheeran, the company benefits from international name recognition, which bodes well for the future as it witnesses rising demand for its guitars in global markets and a resurgence in the popularity of acoustic guitar music.

“People say that Martin is the standard of the industry; that everybody else’s product is judged against ours,” says chairman and CEO Chris Martin, who represents the sixth generation of his family to lead the company. “Because of our longevity, the consumer has voted.

Visit here to read the rest of this story and to download the rest of the Spotlight Lehigh Valley feature in American Way.

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13.8% of Labor Force
Employed in Professional & Business Services
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$39.1 Billion

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