2014 Will Bring Continued Economic Growth to Lehigh Valley
By Don Cunningham on December 16, 2013
EDITOR’S NOTE: Don Cunningham wrote this look ahead for the Dec. 16, 2013 issue of Lehigh Valley Business.
Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.
Sounds like something Yoga Berra may have said but it was Danish physicist Niels Bohr. And brilliant it is.
Past is not always prologue to tomorrow but in the case of economic growth in the Lehigh Valley all indicators point to the robust growth that began in 2013 continuing into 2014. This year seemed to shake loose the remaining shackles of the economic recession that had companies holding back on expanding or adding capacity and new facilities.
The ever growing direct to consumer retail market has launched a wave of new fulfillment centers for major consumer product companies and retailers. Wal-Mart, Amazon, Target, Crayola built or took space in larger and larger facilities. The Lehigh Valley has emerged on the national commercial real estate scene as a top five region to deliver consumer goods to most of the major East Coast market.
The trend will continue. FedEx Ground is eyeing former Lehigh Valley International Airport land in Allen Township for its major East Coast mega hub. If it comes, you can be sure the retailers will follow. In an industry that now employs bicycle couriers for the final leg of delivery in large cities and is developing drones to bring packages to your door within the hour, the lure of a major FedEx hub will be magnetic in the rush to get products to doorsteps within hours of being ordered.
The FedEx delivery person is becoming the store clerk and checkout person of old.
Several key infrastructure projects – and development incentives – will serve as the foundation to more growth and development in 2014: none larger than the first wave of downtown revitalization created by the state Neighborhood Improvement Zone, or NIZ, development incentive in Allentown. This year the new PPL Arena will open with the first season of the Phantoms minor league hockey team. The National Penn office building also will open, returning a strong mix of professional office users to the downtown.
A new interchange on Route 33 in Palmer Township will foster development of 800 acres of Chrin Co. property into the Lehigh Valley’s next industrial and commercial office park. And, if Bethlehem is awarded designation as one of Pennsylvania’s first cities for a City Revitalization and Improvement Zone, or CRIZ, a range of projects from residential to retail to office and commercial will launch.
There are many other possibilities in the works, enough to safely predict that 2014 will bring continued economic growth to the Lehigh Valley.
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