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LVEDC Embarking on International Business Development Tour in China

By Colin McEvoy on May 18, 2017

For the second time in as many years, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) will be embarking on an international business development tour overseas to attract foreign direct investment to the Lehigh Valley.

Matthew Tuerk, Vice President of Economic Development and Marketing at LVEDC, will be traveling to China for a 10-day tour through Beijing, Shanghai, Yangzhou, and other cities and provinces to discuss the benefits of investing in the Lehigh Valley.

The tour is similar to one LVEDC officials underwent in Western Europe in the summer of 2015, which drew interest from several business prospects, including a French company that established its first American facility in the Lehigh Valley in part due to the tour.

Tuerk shares his thoughts about his upcoming China tour in an interview below:

Is the Lehigh Valley a strong market for international companies?

Matthew Tuerk

Matthew Tuerk

Tuerk: Absolutely. Our central location and proximity to major northeastern markets like New York City, Philadelphia, and Boston make us extremely attractive to international companies seeking a strong consumer base in the United States. We’re within a day’s drive from one-third of all U.S. consumers, and our well-developed transportation infrastructure and availability of talent and technical support from professors at places like Lehigh University and Lafayette College are attractive assets as well.

The region has long been a home to prominent companies from around the world, such as Olympus, Bosch Rexroth, B. Braun, Hydac, and others. 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.

What will the business development tour in China entail?

Tuerk: I’ll be meeting directly with representatives from Chinese manufacturers, pharmaceutical firms, medical device manufacturers, and other types of companies, and discussing the opportunities available for them to establish operations in the Lehigh Valley. We’ll also be meeting with the Chinese Minister of Commerce, the U.S. embassy in Beijing, and Chinese and American government officials in China to convey why the Lehigh Valley is a destination for capital investment.

How important are these in-person visits to international prospects?

Tuerk: It’s crucial to put in the effort to visit these companies at their home offices and discuss the economic assets and opportunities in the Lehigh Valley. Even in cases where we’ve already engaged in talks with some of these prospects in the past, that face-to-face interaction is invaluable because it really confirms interest in the U.S. market and shows that our region is well-positioned in the East Coast to grab a certain portion of that activity.

I’ll give you an example. LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham went on a similar tour two years ago through Western Europe, with visits in France, England, and Germany. Among the prospects he visited was Norac, a French manufacturer of natural bakery snacks, who shortly thereafter established its first U.S. facility in Forks Township. We had already been on the short list for that project, but Norac officials said Don’s visit during that tour was a deciding factor that led them to choose the Lehigh Valley, because we were the only ones who came directly to them and told them, face-to-face, why we were their best choice.

Have Chinese companies established U.S. operations in the Lehigh Valley in the past?

Turek: Yes, and in fact, the Lehigh Valley is the home of the first Chinese manufacturing company to ever establish a facility in the state of Pennsylvania. Fuling Plastics, China’s largest manufacturer of plastic tableware and kitchenware, established an 88,000 square-foot facility in Upper Macungie Township, a $21.3 million project that was expected to create 75 jobs.

Fuling considered sites in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, and five other locations in Pennsylvania before settling on the Lehigh Valley. They ultimately chose us because of the region’s central location, convenient transportation, strong support network, public security, and the cooperation of local officials in making the project happen. This is an important thing, because international-based companies are often most comfortable finding a place in the American market in proximity to companies from their home countries.

How was this tour organized?

Turek: Like the tour in 2015, the trip was organized by the Office of International Business Development (OIBD), which is part of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. We’ve partnered before with the OIBD, which has a large network of overseas offices with contractors available to identify prospects and opportunities for the Commonwealth, and support international companies that choose to invest in Pennsylvania.

This tour is part of a close partnership between the OIBD, the Team Pennsylvania Foundation, the city of Philadelphia, Regional Economic Development partners and the Philadelphia Orchestra. The visit will include several “Invest in PA” seminars, all set up and marketed by the state, in which we can meet with and make presentations before several international business executives.

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