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LVEDC Shares Good News on Lehigh Valley Economy at Annual Meeting

By Colin McEvoy on March 27, 2017

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) held its annual meeting last week, and fortunately for the region, there was no shortage of positive economic news to report.

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham announced that the organization had tracked 31 business attraction/expansion projects either announced, under construction, or completed in the Lehigh Valley in 2016, creating 4,827 jobs and retaining 2,205 existing jobs.

The organization also provided access to $240 million in financing for 2016, supporting more than a dozen projects that created 1,461 jobs, Cunningham told the crowd of more than 450 people at the ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem on March 23.

“Some of us log a lot of air miles telling our story to very specific audiences, opinion shapers and influencers, and those making decisions on plant and company locations and relocations,” Cunningham said. “It is working. We are now often invited to present on, ‘What in the world is going on in the Lehigh Valley?’”

The LVEDC 2017 Annual Meeting highlighted economic development in the Lehigh Valley over the past year and recognized notable projects, organizations, and people that contributed to the region’s success.

Cunningham highlighted the fact that the Lehigh Valley ranked in the top five overall regions in the Northeastern United States for economic development, according to Site Selection magazine, and was the top region of its population size in the Northeast. It ranked behind only the New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Boston metropolitan statistical areas.

“The Lehigh Valley punches well above its weight class,” Cunningham said. “Our competition is larger than us and, frankly, spends more money than us.”

But that was just one of the economic success stories from 2016 that Cunningham shared. He also noted that the Lehigh Valley’s gross domestic product reached $37 billion for the first time in its history, and that  manufacturing is once again the region’s top economic sector, making up $5.6 billion – or 15 percent – of the Lehigh Valley’s overall GDP.

“This may all seem hard to believe, particularly following the rhetoric of a presidential election that focused on finding a way to return to America’s manufacturing past,” he said. “We know America’s manufacturing past. We lived it. Today, we are leading the way, as the Lehigh Valley is building America’s manufacturing future.”

For the third straight year, Cunningham said, the Lehigh Valley had the best post-Recession job growth out of any other major metropolitan area in Pennsylvania. We have 3.5% more jobs today than we did before the Great Recession began, compared to a statewide average of 1.1%.

The Lehigh Valley industrial market grew by 7 percent over the course of 2016, reaching a total inventory of 113.6 million square-feet, he said, and the regional office market saw 356,338 square-feet in deliveries in 2016, for a total inventory of 25.6 million square-feet.

Cunningham highlighted several successful business attraction/expansion projects from the past year, including:

  • Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, which consolidated its corporate headquarters into a new office complex, in Hanover Township, Northampton County, retaining 1,600 jobs
  • Amazon.com, which doubled its space in the Lehigh Valley to more than two million square feet, adding 700 jobs
  • Norac, a French bakery products company establishing its first American manufacturing facility in Forks Township, creating 62 jobs
  • Mack Trucks, which is investing $70 million in improvements to its Lower Macungie Township plant, including a 75,000 square-foot expansion
  • Stitch Fix, an online personal shopping service that established its first Northeast distribution center in Lower Nazareth Township, creating 500 jobs
  • Tyber Medical, a manufacturer of orthopedic and spinal implants, which relocated its corporate headquarters from New Jersey to the Lehigh Valley, and is now expanding
  • Michelman Steel Enterprises, a steel fabricator that manufacturers structural steel for large building projects, which is expanding and renovating its Allentown facility

LVEDC welcomed four new members to its Board of Directors during the annual meeting, Kassie Hilgert, President of ArtsQuest; Silvia Hoffman, President of MKSD Architects; Eric Luftig, Vice President of Victaulic; and Stuart Shaw, Vice President and Chief Actuary at Guardian.

The organization also presented awards in recognition of three outgoing members of the LVEDC board: Tom Garrity, Managing Partner with Compass Point Consulting; Michael Gigler, Senior Vice President, Senior Relationship Manager with Wells Fargo Bank; and Sally Handlon, Founder and President of Handlon Business Resources.

Cunningham also presented Tony Iannelli, President and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, with LVEDC’s first-ever Special Recognition Award for his efforts to advance regionalism in the Lehigh Valley.

Don Cunningham Discusses ‘The Year in Lehigh Valley Economic Development’

Don Cunningham, President and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), delivered a speech about "The Year in Lehigh Valley Economic Development" [...]

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