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Lehigh Valley in Spotlight at High-Profile SelectUSA Investment Summit

By Colin McEvoy on June 19, 2017

Gilbert Lee of Fuling Plastics speaking at the 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, D.C.

Gilbert Lee of Fuling Plastics speaking at the 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit in Washington, D.C.

The Lehigh Valley was well-represented at the 2017 SelectUSA Investment Summit, the highest-profile event dedicated to promoting foreign direct investment in the United States.

Don Cunningham, President and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), was invited to moderate a panel discussion at the three-day summit, which began on June 18 in Washington, D.C.

Additionally, a representative from Fuling Plastics, China’s largest manufacturer of plastic tableware and kitchenware, participated in a discussion about “Renewed Economic Opportunity in the United States.”

Fuling Plastics chose the Lehigh Valley for its first U.S.-based operations in 2014, establishing an 88,000 square-foot facility in Upper Macungie Township. The $21.3 million facility was projected to create 75 new jobs over a three-year period.

“We chose the Lehigh Valley for a number of reasons, including its central location in the East Coast, well-developed transportation infrastructure, strong support network, public security, and the cooperation of local officials in making the project happen,” Gilbert Lee, Fuling Global’s Chief Financial Officer, said at the summit.

The SelectUSA Investment Summit provides an unparalleled opportunity to bring together companies from all over the world, economic development organizations from every corner of the nation, and other parties working to facilitate business investment in the United States.

In addition to participating in the panel discussions, LVEDC has a booth at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, where it highlighted the economic assets of the Lehigh Valley to the summit’s estimated 2,500 participants from 70 markets and all 50 states.

“The SelectUSA Investment Summit puts us front and center in front of senior government officials, top business executives, and other thought leaders,” Cunningham said.

Foreign direct investment is becoming increasingly important for the Lehigh Valley economy. About one-third of our current prospects are from outside the country, and 42 percent of the Lehigh Valley’s major business attraction and expansion projects in 2015 were international companies, including Safran, Primark, SunOpta, Nihon Kohden, and others.

LVEDC distributed copies of its international marketing brochures at its SelectUSA booth. The organization has brochures marketing the region’s economic assets in nine different languages, including Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish.

Additionally, LVEDC distributed copies of brochures marketing specific sub-regions of the Lehigh Valley, as well as give away or auction items made by Lehigh Valley-based companies.

This includes a Dreadnought Jr. guitar by Nazareth-based C.F. Martin & Co.; Peeps and other candies by Bethlehem-based Just Born; crayons by Forks Township-based Crayola; and a coloring book sheet custom-made by LVEDC highlighting Lehigh Valley companies and products.

In addition to Fuling Plastics, other panelists that participated in the discussion with Lee included Ludwig Willisch, President and CEO of BMW (U.S.) Holding Corp.; Safra Catz, CEO of Oracle; and Greg Scheu, President of ABB Americas Region.

The discussion focused around how the United States presents unique access to capital markets, state-of-the-art physical and digital infrastructure, and growing business and consumer demand that could drive their companies’ global business growth.

“It was important for us to establish a factory near our customers, and the Lehigh Valley allowed us to do exactly that,” Lee said. “We received a warm welcome by this great community and tremendous support from local officials and agencies. It was nice to set up our home base here, and the best is yet to come.”

The summit included an armchair discussion with such global business leaders as Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors Corporation; Jeffrey Immelt, Chairman and CEO of General Electric; and Wilbur Ross, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

It also featured a dialogue with Matt Bevin, Governor of Kentucky, and Henry McMaster, Governor of South Carolina, about U.S. investment policy and what state governments are doing to promote new and creative investment opportunities.

Don Cunningham: The New Economy Arrives in a Box

This column, written by LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham, originally appeared in The Morning Call and on the newspaper's website on June 19, 2017. (Click here to rea[...]

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