Annual Report: Lehigh Valley Finished 2021 With Historic Industrial Growth

By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on March 30, 2022

Project Manager Matt Kennedy of a tour of the new Martin Guitar facility at 130 Commerce Lane in Tatamy.

Martin Guitar. Nike. A.P. Deauville.

Those industrial employers and more expanded in and moved into the Lehigh Valley at a historic pace in 2021.

Fueled by the demand for popular products made here and the surge of e-commerce, the Lehigh Valley’s industrial footprint grew by more than 8 million square feet to 139.7 million square feet last year, among the largest growth spurts in the region since leading real estate analytics company CoStar began tracking the data in 1997.

The inventory did not sit idle. Tenants moved into 9.4 million more square feet of industrial space than was vacated, a high point in at least 25 years. The already low vacancy rate fell to 4.2% by the fourth quarter while rent rose at an epic pace, peaking in the third quarter at $8.14 a square foot, according to the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation’s Annual Report.

Vacancy rates for industrial and flex space fell and asking prices grew in 2021. (Source: CoStar)

Logistics development drove demand, adding companies like Nike to the list of iconic brands with a Lehigh Valley footprint. Manufacturing leaders such as OraSure Technologies added more space to keep up with growing operations amid demand for its new COVID tests.  A.P. Deauville, among the nation’s leading marketers and manufacturers of personal care products, relocated from New Jersey, and Stuffed Puffs, a rising star among confectionary makers, opened a new facility with proprietary manufacturing process.

“We wanted a footprint where we would be able to leverage our supply chain and also be in an environment where we can get really good people to be on our team, people who understand manufacturing, engineering and food processing,” said Richard Thompson, whose Factory LLC invested in Stuffed Puffs and helped it grow. “The Lehigh Valley is rich with those things.”

More industrial expansions for employers including B. Braun and Cigars International are underway. At the end of 2021, the Lehigh Valley had 4.4 million square feet of industrial space under construction. That’s nearly half of what was under construction at the end of 2020 but on pace with years before the pandemic accelerated industrial demand.

“In 2021, we once again ranked a top U.S. region for economic development,” LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham said in the Annual Report. “LVEDC tracked about 50 major expansion or new development projects last year which created or retained 5,000 jobs.”

Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation tracked 51 projects in 2021, totaling 10.4 million square feet.

Of the 51 projects LVEDC tracked last year, 36 were industrial developments.

Investors took notice of the hot industrial market. More than a half billion dollars in property changed hands, including the region’s largest property transaction in five years. The Rockefeller Group of New York sold its 1 million-square-foot building, leased by Geodis, for $201.5 million to Centerpoint Properties of Illinois.

Ranked by Colliers International as a Top 5 emerging U.S. industrial market, the Lehigh Valley is prized for its skilled workforce, educational support of three technical schools and 11 colleges and universities, and location with easy access to nearby ports and 50 million people within 200 miles.

It is a Top 50 manufacturing market in the United States and ranks a Top 10 region of its population size for economic development projects and a Top 10 region in the Northeast of any population.

Lehigh Valley Economic Growth Discussed on WDIY Radio Program

Don Cunningham, President & CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), discussed the regional economy and ongoing efforts to facilitate economi[...]

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