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LVEDC Hosts Visit From International Business Investment Representatives

By Colin McEvoy on May 17, 2017

As the importance of international investment in the Lehigh Valley has continued to grow, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has worked closely for years with a network of business investment representatives across the globe to attract businesses to the region.

This week, LVEDC hosted a visit of those representatives from more than a dozen countries, providing an overview of the regional economy and discussing why the Lehigh Valley is a perfect place for international companies seeking to establish operations in the United States.

“We’re quite fortunate here in Pennsylvania that the Commonwealth invests in consulting investment representatives in Europe, Asia, South America, and Australia to tell the story of Pennsylvania’s assets and economy to companies looking at entering the United States market,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO.

“If we were a business, they would be our key sales team recruiting prospects for us,” he said during a luncheon discussion on May 17 entitled “Bringing the World to PA,” attended by about 75 people at Lehigh University’s Iacocca Hall in Bethlehem.

The representatives are part of the Office of International Business Development (OIBD) of the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. The OIBD 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 here.

The Lehigh Valley visit was part of a two-week Pennsylvania tour the representatives have been undertaking this month. It included representatives from such countries as Australia, Austria, Canada, China, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, and Taiwan.

Irene Tsai, the trade representative for China and Taiwan, provided an example of how her role through the OIBD helped bring a business attraction project to the Lehigh Valley. She was involved in helping Fuling Plastics, China’s largest manufacturer of plastic tableware and kitchenware, establish its first U.S. facility in Upper Macungie Township.

Tsai learned Fuling wanted to establish operations in the United States, and she contacted them to provide information about investing in Pennsylvania. She began daily communications with them, developed trust with them, translated English materials for them, and established meetings and calls with Pennsylvania officials over the course of a year.

Fuling Plastics opened its Lehigh Valley in 2014, becoming the first Chinese manufacturing company to established a facility in the state of Pennsylvania. LVEDC worked on the recruitment along with DCED and the state’s Governor’s Action Team.

“This is an example of how I can help,” Tsai told the crowd at Iacocca Hall. “I am definitely your best representative in the greater China area.”

The representatives’ visit also included a trip to the Olympus Corporation of the Americas headquarters in Upper Saucon Township. Olympus is a Japanese manufacturer of digital cameras, diagnostic systems, and imaging systems, and officials there spoke about their experience as an international company successfully operating in the Lehigh Valley.

The event also included remarks from Cheryl Matherly, Lehigh University’s Vice President and Vice Provost for International Affairs. She noted Lehigh has about 1,568 international students, who represent a $55.2 million financial contribution to the economy and support 900 jobs. Additionally, about 40 percent of Lehigh students study abroad before graduation.

Foreign direct investment has become increasingly important for the Lehigh Valley economy in recent years. About one-third of LVEDC’s current prospects are from outside the country, and 42 percent of the region’s major business attraction and expansion projects in 2015 were from international companies.

Among these including the French aerospace company Safran, the Irish fashion retailer Primark, the Canadian food product company SunOpta, the Japanese imaging and electronics company Nihon Kohden, and others.

LVEDC regularly works together with the OIBD to foreign direct investment in the Lehigh Valley. The two organizations partnered together for an international business investment tour in Western Europe in 2015, and is also collaborating on a similar tour in China this month.

The tour in 2015, which included stops in England, France, and Germany, helped directly lead Norac, a French manufacturer of natural bakery snacks, to establish its first U.S. facility in the Lehigh Valley. The Forks Township facility was expected to create 62 jobs over three years.

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