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U.S. Sen. Bob Casey: Lehigh Valley Economy Should Be Emulated Across State, Nation

By Colin McEvoy on August 31, 2016

When U.S. Sen. Bob Casey looks at the economy of the Lehigh Valley, he sees something that should be emulated throughout the entire state and beyond.

“What you’ve figured out here in a lot of ways is something we need to replicate, or imitate, across Pennsylvania and across the country,” Casey said to a crowd of more than 120 at the State Theatre in Easton on Aug. 30.

Casey, who has served in the U.S. Senate since 2007, was the host of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s (LVEDC) Conversation & Cocktails event, which gave LVEDC investors the opportunity to have targeted interaction with members of the legislative body in an intimate setting to discuss pressing economic issues.

Casey lauded the Lehigh Valley’s $35.4 billion gross domestic product, which is larger than that of the state of Vermont, and is one of the most balanced and diversified in the state of Pennsylvania, not overly dependent on any one single industry.

He also cited figures from LVEDC’s recent Lehigh Valley Commercial Real Estate Report, which found there are currently more than 5 million square feet of industrial space under construction in the Lehigh Valley, and that about 10 million square feet of industrial space has been delivered in the region since 2014

“There’s a lot of good news here,” Casey said.

LVEDC has long enjoyed a strong working relationship and open lines of communication with Casey, who visited LVEDC’s offices earlier this year to learn more about economic development efforts in the Lehigh Valley, and to discuss how he can continue to advocate for the region at state and federal levels.

“I don’t think you’re going to find somebody who is more of a diplomatic, intelligent, and thoughtful public servant,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO. “We thank you for always being at the disposal for those of here in the Lehigh Valley.”

Casey praised the economic turnaround the Lehigh Valley has experienced since the Great Recession.

At the peak of the recession, unemployment rates reached 9.7 percent in Lehigh County and 9.2 percent in Northampton County, Casey said, while Philadelphia exceeded 10 percent and other counties in the state exceeded 11 percent. Today, unemployment is at 5.4 percent in Lehigh and 5.2 percent in Northampton, according to the state.

Casey also praised the entrepreneurial community of the Lehigh Valley, which was recently highlighted in a new LVEDC-commissioned video. Casey drew attention to a story that recently ran in The Express-Times with the headline: “Tech startup: Could Easton be the next Silicon Valley?”

From a statewide perspective, Casey said one of his priorities is investing in pre-kindergarten and early education. In the U.S. Senate, he introduced legislation to make high-quality pre-K available to more than three million children whose parents earn less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level, but it has not passed.

“Pennsylvania has moved to the forefront of states investing in early education, but I would say not enough,” he said. “We need to do a lot more as a state, but I also believe the federal government has to play its role.”

Casey also listed reforming the tax code, which he said is overloaded with “special deals and amendments,” many of which have been added since 1986, due to the influence of lobbyists and interest groups. This particularly hurts small businesses who cannot afford expensive lawyers and accountants, he said, and has greatly damaged the nation’s ability to compete across the world.

“We basically have a tax code today that says to a company, ‘Please leave the country and we will help,’” Casey said, “instead of the reverse, which is, ‘We want you to stay, we want to create incentives for you to stay here, we want you to invest in the United States of America.”

Casey closed his remarks by emphasizing the importance of the country coming together after not only a “divisive and ugly” election season, but also multiple years of divisiveness in American politics in the years that preceded the current election.

“We cannot have another seven, eight, or nine years like the last several we’ve just had,” he said. “We’ve got bring people together and try the best we can to appeal, like Lincoln said, to the ‘better angels of our nature.’ And I think that’s possible.”

The Conversations and Cocktails series is sponsored by Air Products. For more information about upcoming LVEDC events, visit and bookmark lehighvalley.org/events.

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