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2022 Year-in-Review: Lehigh Valley Economy Reaches New Heights, Fueled by Manufacturing

By Colin McEvoy on December 29, 2022

Freshpet CEO Billy Cyr talks to employees at the company’s manufacturing facility in Hanover Township, Northampton County. Manufacturing was once again the Lehigh Valley’s top economic sector this year.

With each passing year, it seems that a new chapter is written on the economic renaissance of the Lehigh Valley, and 2022 was no exception. The regional GDP reached new heights, manufacturing is fueling economic growth, and the region has seen a full recovery of the jobs lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those were just a few of the Lehigh Valley’s economic successes in 2022, a year that saw several new projects and expansions, continued growth in high-value target sectors, an update of the region’s successful talent strategies, economic milestones, and initiatives and events organized by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).

A few of these stories, as well as links to additional posts with more information about them, can be found below in LVEDC’s 2022 Year-in-Review story.

Manufacturing leads the way

The Lehigh Valley gross domestic product reached a record-high $47 billion in 2021, bigger than the GDP of the states of Alaska, Vermont, and Wyoming. Manufacturing has grown to become the region’s top economic sector, with an economic output of $8.4 billion.

Employment in the Lehigh Valley’s outsized manufacturing sector grew at a rate 11 times faster than the nation as a whole in the last five years, primarily because the popular products made here helped drive the economic recovery during the pandemic.

LVEDC has continued touting the region’s manufacturing sector, highlighting it at the organization’s Fall Signature Event (see below), as well as in the release of a new video:

Continued economic growth

The Lehigh Valley once again ranked among the Top 10 regions in the Northeast in 2022 in terms of economic development projects completed in 2021, and was among the Top 10 nationwide among regions with a population size between 200,000 and 1 million.

The Lehigh Valley led Pennsylvania’s job recovery from the sharp economic downturn caused by COVID-19, tracking well ahead of the national recovery. By June, employment in the Lehigh Valley reached a full recovery of the jobs lost two years earlier due to the pandemic.

The region will be well-positioned for continued growth thanks to the reduction of Pennsylvania’s corporate net income tax and several other business tax reform measures. LVEDC had long advocated for these changes, which will help fuel economic development across the state.

New projects, expansions

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham speaking at the B. Braun Medical Inc. ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 22 for its new 310,000 square-foot expansion in Hanover Township, Lehigh County.B. Braun Medical Inc. held a ribbon-cutting on Sept. 22 for its new 310,000 square-foot expansion in Hanover Township, Lehigh County.

The Lehigh Valley saw several new business attraction or expansion projects in 2022, including several in the region’s thriving life sciences sector.

B. Braun Medical Inc. completed a 310,000 square-foot expansion at its manufacturing facility in Lehigh County. The Evonik Corporation opened a new Innovation Hub in Upper Macungie Township. OraSure Technologies completed an expansion in Bethlehem that will allow it to manufacture almost 2 million in-home COVID-19 tests per week.

The region also saw several new projects in food and beverage processing. Freshpet announced plans for new manufacturing operations in Northampton County, and pet food manufacturer Spot & Tango opened a new manufacturing facility in Upper Macungie Township.

Other companies to announce new projects or expansions in 2022 included Corporate Environments, Da Vinci Science Center at PPL Pavilion, Easy Signs, Evident Corporation, FLSmidth, iDEAL Semiconductor, National Kitchen & Bath Association, People First Federal Credit Union, Phoenix Tube Company, Pianca Packaging, Shift4 Payments, and more.

Talent strategies

A panel discussion at the Elevate Rapid City building as part of the visit to South Dakota communities in which LVEDC participated.

LVEDC and the Workforce Board Lehigh Valley unveiled a new Lehigh Valley Talent Study in March, part of the organizations’ ongoing efforts to ensure a continued understanding of the needs of Lehigh Valley employers for the attraction, development, and retention of talent.

LVEDC’s talent supply initiative has repeatedly been recognized as a best practice in the nation. It was highlighted in a report about the country’s most effective talent programs, and has won several awards, most recently from the Council for Community and Economic Research.

The fourth annual Lehigh Valley Internship Summit was held in August, and LVEDC released its annual Internship Resource Guide and Lehigh Valley Hot Careers Guide.

Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Vice President of Regional Partnerships and Talent Strategies, also visited South Dakota communities this summer to discuss economic strategies and goals, which was organized by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

National media attention

The Lehigh Valley’s economic success story continues to attract attention in a wide variety of national and international media outlets.

In 2022, the Lehigh Valley economy was highlighted on American Public Media’s Marketplace radio program, in a segment on CBS Sunday Morning, and in Pennsylvania’s Work Smart, Live Happy magazine.

The transformation city of Easton was spotlighted in a story by The New York Times, marking the fourth time in the last three years that the world’s most prestigious newspaper has written about the Lehigh Valley’s economic revitalization.

In the past, the Lehigh Valley has also been covered by such outlets as The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, NBC News, PBS NewsHour, CNN, CNBC, USA Today, City Journal, and more.

LVEDC initiatives

LVEDC highlighted the Lehigh Valley during the U.S. Senior Open Championship at the Saucon Valley Country Club this summer.

The 42nd U.S. Senior Open Championship was held from June 23 to 26 at the Saucon Valley Country Club in Upper Saucon Township.

The 42nd U.S. Senior Open Championship was held in the Lehigh Valley this summer, and LVEDC used that opportunity to highlight the regional economy for decision-makers in business development, site selection, and commercial real estate who attended the event.

Additionally, LVEDC unveiled its new three-year strategic plan in 2022. It included such initiatives as “Telling Our Story,“Targeted Recruitment,” “Talent Strategies Development,” and “Knowing Thyself and Seeing the Horizon, and “Focusing on the Hard-to-Do.”

LVEDC was once again recognized as an accredited economic development organization in 2022. It also won two prestigious awards from the IEDC: one for its microsite dedicated to the Lehigh Valley’s life sciences sector, and one for the LVEDC Annual Report.

The organization also continued its participation in the Made Possible in Lehigh Valley marketing initiative, which included radio advertisements, airport displays, and a partnership with the Lehigh Valley With Love podcast.

LVEDC events

A panel of Lehigh Valley business executives discussed manufacturing at the LVEDC Fall Signature Event, held on Sept. 20 at the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Easton, Pa. (photo by Marco Calderon)

LVEDC resumed hosting in-person events in 2022, starting with its annual Fall Signature Event. Held at the State Theatre, this year’s featured panel discussions about the region’s manufacturing successes and the Easton’s transformation, as well as keynote remarks from Crayola President & CEO Rich Wuerthele.

The organization also organized State of the County addresses by Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong and Northampton County Executive Lamont McClure.

LVEDC also participated in several other events, including a visit with international trade representatives, a prestigious foreign investment summit, and the world’s largest meeting of economic development professionals.

Lehigh Valley’s Economic Strength Explained in Six Data Points

The Lehigh Valley has consistently ranked among the top 10 regions in the Northeast in terms of economic development because the eastern Pennsylvania region has the talent, lo[...]

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Lehigh ValleyQuick Facts

By the Numbers
$43.3 Billion

2020 Gross Domestic Product

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City Center Lehigh Valley
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10.6% of Labor Force
Employed in Manufacturing

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Lehigh Valley Health Network
By the Numbers
$3.8 Billion

Exports in 2019

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Air Products
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Lehigh Valley Electricians
By the Numbers
$66,865

Median Household Income

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PPL Electric Utilities
By the Numbers
676,700

Population

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Olympus
By the Numbers
347,612

Labor Force

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26.6% of Labor Force
Employed in "Eds & Meds" sectors

By the Numbers
5,073

Technology Patents

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Mack Trucks
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UGI
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Magestic Realty Co
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NFI
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14% of the total community college degrees awarded in PA

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Wells Fargo
By the Numbers
$7.1 Billion

Manufacturing Contribution to GDP

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Truist
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69th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. by population

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Key Bank
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10,754 degrees awarded by Lehigh Valley colleges (2017-18 academic year)

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St. Lukes University Health Network
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82,270 employed in "Eds & Meds" sectors

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Workforce Board
By the Numbers
149,000

Population between ages 18 and 34

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FirstEnergy