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Dissecting the diversified economic base of Lehigh Valley

By LVEDC Staff on October 18, 2013

Editor’s Note: LVEDC CEO and President Don Cunningham was guest speaker at the Oct. 18 March of Dimes’ 2013 Commercial & Industrial Real Estate Awards Breakfast. Here is an abridged version of his presentation.

The Lehigh Valley region’s economy is large. It ranks number 72 out of the 366 largest metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) in the United States. The total economic output of the region, measured in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is $30 billion, making it an economy larger than 104 countries in the world. In the United States, regions with similarly sized economies include Columbia, S.C. ($32.2 billion), Fresno, Calif. ($31.4 billion), Worcester, Mass. ($30.3 billion) and Charleston, S.C. ($28.9 billion).

Privately held firms and small business are cornerstones to the strength of the economy here. Overall, nearly 80 percent of the companies in the Lehigh Valley employ fewer than 100 people. That, however, doesn’t mean their revenue is small.  There are many companies with 100 employees or less with $15 to $20 million in annual revenue.

It may surprise some that manufacturing remains a very strong sector of the economy here. Manufacturing is far from dead, it’s just different. Manufacturing contributes $4.5 billion to our regional economy. And, since manufactured goods are sold outside of the region, strength in this area drives a healthy trade inflow to our economy.

With Ocean Spray moving its East Coast production facility to Lehigh County and Bimbo Bakery, which contract bakes for more than a dozen national brands, like Sara Lee and Pepperidge Farm, building a $100 million state-of-the industry bakery, the region has become a hub for food and beverage. Ocean Spray and Bimbo join a long list of brand name food and beverage producers including Nestle, Kraft Foods, Bazzini, Coca-Cola, Alpo and Freshpet.

Small, and large, privately held firms employ tens of thousands of people here in the Lehigh Valley and are a central part of the economic fabric of the Lehigh Valley.

It’s also important to recognize that the economies and workforces of the counties of Lehigh and Northampton, commonly referred to as the Lehigh Valley, are very interwoven with the neighboring counties of Carbon, Monroe and the upper areas of Montgomery and Bucks.

As of the last quarter of 2012, 282,000 people worked in the region but they all do not live in the Lehigh Valley. According to census data about 180,000 of those workers live in the Lehigh Valley with the rest (85,292) coming overwhelmingly from the neighboring counties, such as Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery and Monroe counties. Carbon and Monroe counties send a large share of their total workforce to employers based in the Lehigh Valley. More than a quarter of the Carbon County workforce is employed in the Lehigh Valley.

The Lehigh Valley’s economy is very diverse. There is no simple answer to categorize our economic base but we are fortunate to have a very rich and robust economy that is being led by successful privately held businesses with manufacturing remaining bedrock of the Lehigh Valley.

Brokers & Developers Council hears presentation on the economy

The Brokers and Developers Council of LVEDC held a Conversation and Cocktails event on Thursday, Oct. 10 at the Lehigh and Northampton rooms of the Sands Bethlehem Hotel. The[...]

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$43.3 Billion

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14% of the total community college degrees awarded in PA

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149,000

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