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Don Cunningham Discusses Workforce Trends During WFMZ Appearance

By Colin McEvoy on December 29, 2021

WFMZ’s Nancy Werteen interviews LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham for the Workplace Lessons series.

As the year 2021 came to a close, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) President & CEO Don Cunningham spoke to WFMZ News about workforce trends, predictions for the next year, and the continued economic growth in the region despite the COVID-19 crisis.

“As horrible as things have been from a health perspective during the pandemic, the economic renaissance of the Lehigh Valley really has continued,” Cunningham said during a Dec. 21 interview on WFMZ’s Workplace Lessons.

“We’re busier than we’ve ever been at LVEDC with prospects that want to come into the market, particularly a lot of production, manufacturing and life sciences,” Cunningham said, “and the way things have changed globally coming out of the pandemic is really looking to be a benefit for the Lehigh Valley.”

The full video interview can be viewed on the WFMZ website.

Cunningham discussed various topics during the interview, including the “economic renaissance” of the region that continued despite COVID-19, thanks in part to the region’s well-balanced and multi-faceted economy that doesn’t depend too heavily on any single industry or sector.

“The Lehigh Valley has really transitioned to a very mixed-use economy,” Cunningham said. “We don’t have all of our eggs in one basket anymore; a nice balance of white collar work and blue collar work, of professional and industrial and manufacturing.”

Cunningham said that balance is supported by the region’s skilled workforce, educational infrastructure, quality of life, and central location within a day’s drive of a large percentage of consumers in the United States.

Workplace Lessons is an ongoing WFMZ News series hosted by Nancy Werteen specifically highlighting workforce-related issues. During the interview, Werteen asked Cunningham about how changes caused by the pandemic have created a greater demand for workers and driven up wages and benefits.

“Workers are really on the right side of supply and demand right now,” said Cunningham, who noted that market forces, rather than government legislation, has effectively created a $17 or $18 per hour minimum wage in the Lehigh Valley for non-skilled workers.

“We tell companies that we’re working with that are looking to come into the area, ‘If you’re not going to pay at least $15 or $16 per hour with benefits, it’s going to be very difficult to hire and sustain a workforce in the Lehigh Valley,” he said.

Cunningham added that the median family income in the Lehigh Valley is about $66,000 per year, compared to about $58,000 annually in 2015. That’s higher than the state and national average, which falls between $61,000 and $62,000 per year.

“So the economic growth is definitely translating to households and to individuals in the Lehigh Valley,” Cunningham said.

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