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Don Cunningham: International Investment in Lehigh Valley is Growing

By Colin McEvoy on February 24, 2016

This column, written by LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham, originally appeared in Lehigh Valley Business on October 19, 2015. (Click here to read Cunningham’s previous columns.)

Don Cunningham

Don Cunningham

The recent announcement of Japanese medical device manufacturer Nihon Kohden opening a technical and product support location in the Lehigh Valley is part of a trend of international investment in the Lehigh Valley.

Nihon Kohden will create 27 new jobs in a 7,000 sq. ft. facility in South Whitehall Township. As a stand-alone development that is modest job creation but Nihon Kohden is part of a recent wave of businesses based in other countries to find their way to the region.

Eight of the Lehigh Valley’s 19 major business attraction and/or expansion projects last year – 42 percent — were international companies, including:

  • Safran/MBD (France) – Aerospace company established 25,000 sq. ft. wheel & brake repair facility in Lower Nazareth.
  • Primark (Ireland) – Fashion retailer established 677,000 sq. ft. distribution center in south Bethlehem, will provide about 100 jobs.
  • SunOpta (Canada) – $25 million expansion for the food product company’s Upper Macungie facility, creating 48 jobs and retaining 52 existing jobs.
  • Fuling (China) – A plastic flatware manufacturer that supplies major American fast food chains, such as Wendy’s and Burger King. The company’s $21.3 million, 88,000 square-foot facility in Upper Macungie Township is the only Chinese manufacturer in the state of Pennsylvania, employing about 75 people.
  • I2R Nanowave (Canada)– Canadian aerospace equipment manufacturer established new office building in Lower Macungie, created 73 jobs.
  • Malmadie (Germany)– Semiconductor & electronic component manufacturer established office in Upper Macungie Township.
  • Ricoh (Japan)– Japanese imaging & electronics company established distribution facility in Hanover Township (Northampton).
  • Inditex (Spain)– Clothing & apparel retailer established distribution facility in Forks Township.

International based companies are not new to the Lehigh Valley. The region has long been a home to prominent companies from around the world, such as Olympus, Bosch Rexroth, B. Braun, Hydac, and others. In fact, international companies own many companies long-associated as American brands, such as Mack Trucks, which is owned by Volvo. The Lehigh Valley is home to more than a dozen companies based in Germany, which has the largest presence in the Lehigh Valley.

The significance of international investment is growing. Much like the immigration patterns of people, international-based companies are often most comfortable finding a place in the American market in proximity to companies from their home countries. The Lehigh Valley’s location on the East Coast, proximity to New York City and availability of talent and technical support from professors at places like Lehigh University and Lafayette College are attractive assets.

To further that growth, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. (LVEDC) has been active in international recruitment. This year we’ve translated the region’s economic asset information and marketing into eight languages including Mandarin, Chinese, Dutch, French, Germany, Japanese, Portuguese, and Spanish. The website is available in those languages but in addition printed materials have been sent to all of Pennsylvania’s Office of International Development’s 26 field offices around the globe.

Last year, I spent eight days in Germany, France, and England with state development personnel and American business executives talking to European business owners about the assets of the Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania. Those visits played a role in two French companies opening divisions in the Lehigh Valley.

For the last several decades, the Lehigh Valley has seen tremendous business growth from an outmigration of companies relocating from New Jersey and New York to a better economic climate in Lehigh and Northampton counties. Officials in those states are doing all they can to stem that tide, and that trend is unlikely to continue at the same pace. The Lehigh Valley has the opportunity to be the home for companies from throughout the world that want to be in the American market, which remains the strongest economy and largest consumer market in the world.

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