Mack Trucks, Victaulic Among Lehigh Valley’s Manufacturing Success Stories of 2017
By Colin McEvoy on January 5, 2018
Just before 2017 began, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) launched a billboard campaign touting the message: “Hey, world, we still make stuff here!” The organization wanted to make clear that, despite any preconceived notions to the contrary, manufacturing is still going strong in the Lehigh Valley.
One year later, and that message rings truer than ever.
“Manufacturing may be different than it was 25 years ago – it may be much more diverse, with a greater prevalence of automation and robotics – but manufacturing is alive and well in the Lehigh Valley,” said Don Cunningham, President & CEO of LVEDC.
2017 was a great year for economic development in the Lehigh Valley, particularly in the area of manufacturing, one of the region’s target sectors. The regional gross domestic product (GDP) has reached a record-high $39.1 billion, and manufacturing makes up its second-largest sector.
Contributing $6.9 billion to the Lehigh Valley economy, the manufacturing sector not only grew over the previous year (when it was recorded as $5.56 billion), but it makes up a larger portion of the total regional GDP at nearly 18 percent, compared to 15 percent a year earlier.
From startup companies to some of the biggest giants of the regional business community, the Lehigh Valley saw a lot of success stories in the manufacturing sector. Below are a few examples.
Just as 2017 was coming to a close, Mack Trucks announced in December that it was adding another 400 workers to its Lower Macungie Township plant, which had already employed about 2,000 people. This would bring employment at the facility to an all-time high.
“We are increasing employment to meet higher market demand, including strong interest in our new Mack Anthem model,” said Jonathan Randall, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Mack Trucks, a reference to Mack’s new Anthem truck.
“For more than 40 years, Lehigh Valley Operations has built high-quality, durable trucks that our customers can depend on, and we look forward to continuing that tradition with the Mack Anthem and the help of these new employees,” Randall said.
Mack Trucks has operated its Lehigh Valley plant since 1975, and all of its trucks built for the North American market are manufactured there. Mack Trucks orders for the first nine months of 2017 went up 53 percent compared to orders in the same period from 2016, according to Mack Trucks spokesman Christopher Heffner.
Mack Trucks further reaffirmed its commitment to the Lehigh Valley in 2017 with the completion of a $3 million renovation and remodeling of its customer center, and the ongoing $70 million in investments to the Lower Macungie plant to further improve manufacturing quality and efficiency and modernize the facility.
Another global manufacturer based in the Lehigh Valley also announced in 2017 that it is doubling down on its investment in the region.
Victaulic, a Forks Township-based manufacturer of mechanical pipe joining solutions and grooved pipe joining systems, announced at the LVEDC Fall Signature Event that it will be investing tens of millions of dollars to increase its manufacturing operations in the region.
The company is expanding its Lehigh Valley manufacturing operations and adding a second shift to its Forks Township facility, adding 45 to 50 new jobs by the end of 2018, according to Victaulic Chairman, President, and CEO John F. Malloy.
Victaulic is also purchasing 28 acres of land in the Hecktown Road Business Park, located just off the Route 33 interchange in Lower Nazareth Township, to build a new 400,000 square-foot facility as a result of increased domestic demand for the company’s products, he said.
“A major aspect of our business strategy has always been to manufacture products in close proximity to our customers,” Malloy said. “While we already manufacture 80 percent of domestically sold products in the United States, this facility will further enhance our product delivery capabilities, making our U.S. operations even more competitive.”
Other Success Stories
Mack Trucks and Victaulic are just two examples of manufacturers who expanded or established new operations in the Lehigh Valley in 2017.
Alpla Inc., an Austrian manufacturer of plastic packaging items is establishing a presence in the Lehigh Valley, established a 160,000 square-foot facility in Bethlehem that will create 59 new jobs over the next three years.
Royal Industries International, Inc., manufacturer of promotional products, relocated its headquarters from Brooklyn to Allentown, purchasing an 85,000 square-foot facility and investing at least $3.73 million into the project.
Vastex International, a family-owned manufacturer screen-printing equipment for the garment textile industry, broke ground on a 37,500 square-foot facility in the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII in Bethlehem, with plans for an eventual 30,000 square-foot expansion.
Vastex also drew the attention of Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf in 2017, when he toured the facility as part of his statewide “Jobs That Pay” tour. Additionally, Cunningham was invited to speak at the prestigious ACG Annual Manufacturing Conference in New York City in June, where he discussed manufacturing in the region.
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