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LVEDC 2017 Year in Review: Historic Growth Drawing International Attention

By Colin McEvoy on December 28, 2017

2017 was another huge year for the Lehigh Valley economy. (photo by Marco Calderon)

2017 was another huge year for the Lehigh Valley economy. (photo by Marco Calderon)

It’s been another huge year for the Lehigh Valley economy.

2017 saw record growth for the region, drawing international media attention to the Lehigh Valley’s economic success story. Several major business attraction or expansion projects were completed this year, and the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has embarked on multiple initiatives to market the economic assets of the Lehigh Valley.

“The historic economic growth we’ve seen this year speaks to the remarkable balance between our various economic sectors, a sign of a well-balanced and multifaceted economy,” said LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham. “And with the recent completion of our new strategic plan, LVEDC is in the best possible position to continue helping the Lehigh Valley economy grow.”

Below are of some of the region’s biggest economic development stories from the past year.

Record economic growth

This post is part of a series of “2017 Year in Review” stories that will run on the LVEDC Blog throughout the month of January. Check back here later in the month for links to the other stories…

• LVEDC 2017 Year in Review: Historic Growth Drawing International Attention
Mack Trucks, Victaulic Among Lehigh Valley’s Manufacturing Success Stories of 2017

The Lehigh Valley’s gross domestic product (GDP) for private sector industry reached a record-high $39.1 billion for 2016, a more than 4 percent increase over the previous year.

That means the region now ranks 65th out of the 382 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, compared to ranking 73rd last year. The Lehigh Valley GDP is now larger than that of Wyoming ($38.5 billion) and Vermont ($31.5 billion), as well as 108 other countries.

Site Selection magazine ranked the Lehigh Valley one of the top five overall regions in the Northeast for economic development, and the number one region of its population size. It ranked behind only the New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Boston metropolitan areas.

Additionally, for a fourth consecutive year, the Lehigh Valley ranked highest among major metropolitan areas in Pennsylvania in terms of post-recession job growth, with 4.9 percent more jobs by the end of 2016 than it had before the Great Recession began.

International media attention

The growth of the Lehigh Valley economy has been so strong, it drew attention far beyond the region’s borders in 2017, including a front-page story in one of the most widely-read newspapers in the world.

The New York Times published an A1 story about the Lehigh Valley on Oct. 23, highlighting the region’s booming logistics and e-commerce sector and touting the its central location, strong workforce, and well-developed transportation infrastructure.

In addition, the Lehigh Valley was the subject of a 24-page feature in American Way, the in-flight magazine for American Airlines, the largest airline in the world. The issue, which is available online, was featured on all flights and reached at least 16 million passengers in total.

The Lehigh Valley market was also ranked second globally in industrial growth, according to CBRE, and the region drew additional media attention from such outlets as Forbes, Money, GoodCall, Expedia.com and Realtor.com.

Initiatives regionally and abroad

LVEDC continued to market the Lehigh Valley overseas to attract foreign direct investment to the Lehigh Valley, including a 10-day tour in China in May 2017. This marked the organization’s second international business tour in as many years.

LVEDC also hosted a visit from international business investment representatives, helped spotlight the Lehigh Valley at the SelectUSA Investment Summit, and hosted a visit from Chinese government officials.

Meanwhile, closer to home, the organization has been engaged in an ongoing initiative to identify talent supply and demand issues in the region and create a strategy that results in a broader, ongoing understanding of the Lehigh Valley workforce.

LVEDC also hosted its third annual Fall Signature Event, which highlights a Lehigh Valley company that exemplifies one of the region’s four target sectors. This year, the company was Victaulic, which announced it is investing tens of millions of dollars to increase its manufacturing operations in the region, creating up to 50 new jobs by next year.

Looking ahead

With 2017 drawing to a close, LVEDC is focused on the future.

The organization made a bid for the Lehigh Valley to become the location for a second headquarters planned by Amazon. The proposed HQ2 will be a “full equal” to Amazon’s current Seattle campus, which totals 33 buildings and 8.1 million square feet, and employs more than 40,000 people.

Additionally, LVEDC recently unveiled its new three-year strategic plan to establish the organization’s priorities and initiatives as it continues its work to advance the region’s economic growth and job creation through 2020.

The plan is the result of a comprehensive process that has included outside consultants, key stakeholder organizations in the Lehigh Valley, and the LVEDC staff and board. It includes four sets of initiatives for the organization in the area of recruitment; marketing & communications; advocacy & leadership; and retention, resources, & regional strategies.

LVEDC Strategic Plan: Advocacy & Leadership Initiatives

Last month the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) unveiled its new 2017-2020 Strategic Plan, which included 22 specific initiatives to help the organizatio[...]

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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

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    1,504 Total Office Buildings
    Q2 2017

  • By the Numbers
    $57,510

    Median Household Income

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    1,770 Total Industrial Buildings
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  • By the Numbers
    24,400

    New Jobs Created Over Past 5 Years

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    5.0% Industrial
    Vacancy Rate
    Q2 2017

  • By the Numbers
    658,477

    Population

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    Olympus
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    7.7% Office
    Vacancy Rate
    Q2 2017

  • By the Numbers
    342,493

    Labor Force

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

  • By the Numbers
    5,073

    Technology Patents from 2000-2015

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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)
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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)
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    NFI