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LVEDC Hosts Gathering of Lehigh Valley’s Legislative Delegations

By Colin McEvoy on June 5, 2018

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham speaking to the Lehigh Valley legislative delegation at the Edge restaurant in Bethlehem.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) held its bi-annual gathering of the region’s legislative delegations to discuss pertinent issues and strategies related to economic development in the Lehigh Valley.

More than a dozen legislators and staff members from federal and state offices representing the Lehigh Valley attended a discussion hosted by LVEDC to exchange ideas, outline the corporation’s functions and initiatives, and to discuss the economic strengths and challenges of the Lehigh Valley.

“We want to help provide an understanding of what’s happening in the Lehigh Valley economy so we all know what’s working and can take a strategic approach when it comes to our efforts around recruitment, engagement, and economic development,” LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham said at the luncheon event, held at the Edge restaurant in Bethlehem on June 1.

Those in attendance included representatives of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, the U.S. 15th Congressional District, state Sens. Pat Browne and Mario Scavello, and state Reps. Joe Emrick, Marcia Hahn, Ryan Mackenzie, Mike Schlossberg, and Zachary Mako. LVEDC holds these gatherings twice yearly.

Cunningham provided an overview of the regional economy, which was followed by presentations by LVEDC Director of Talent Supply Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Director of Research and Analysis George Lewis, and Joseph Uliana of J.M. Uliana and Associates.

Cunningham noted that the Lehigh Valley economy has reached a record-high $39.1 billion, which is higher than the days of Bethlehem Steel, and higher than that of the entire states of Wyoming ($38.5 billion) and Vermont ($31.5 billion), as well as 108 other countries in the world.

He said the Lehigh Valley economy now ranks 65th out of the 382 largest metropolitan areas in the United States, and if the region were a country it would be the 87th largest in the world in terms of economic output.

Cunningham also said that, for a second consecutive year, the Lehigh Valley has ranked in the Top 5 regions in the northeast for economic development, and noted that the region’s fast-growing ecommerce sector has created a market-based minimum wage of $15 per hour and full employment in online fulfillment centers that serve direct-to-consumer shopping.

“That is an incredible thing that has happened here,” Cunningham said. “A lot of governments are thinking of legislating a $15 minimum wage. Here, the market has created it.”

Gelinas discussed LVEDC’s ongoing talent supply study, which which the organization partnered with management consulting firm MDB Insight, as part of 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 and MDB Insight recently wrapped up the data validation portion of the study, which followed the stakeholder engagement and data collection portions involving surveys, interviews, and focus groups with educational institutions, employers, and other regional organizations. An public unveiling of the report is planned for July 12.

Lewis discussed population changes highlighted in recent U.S. Census Bureau estimates, which show that Lehigh and Northampton counties were two of only 18 counties in Pennsylvania which have had an increase in population since 2010. In the 49 other counties, the population estimate was unchanged or decreased.

The updated population estimate for the region is 840,550, according to the Census Bureau, an increase of 0.6 percent from the 2016 estimate, making the Lehigh Valley the 69th largest metropolitan statistical area by population in the United States, Lewis said.

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