Even Amid a Pandemic, Here Are Five Things to be Grateful for this Thanksgiving
By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on November 24, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has upended workplaces, schools, sports, and just about every aspect of our lives as we battle to keep ourselves and each other safe from an infectious disease that has now claimed the lives of more than 250,000 Americans.
While challenges and uncertainty lie ahead, Lehigh Valley continues to move forward and adapt to the new normal. Even amid a pandemic, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation has found much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving:
The pandemic produced some of the biggest supply and demand shocks, arguably, since World War II. The impact was so severe that by April two-thirds of manufacturers that participated in the Thomas Industrial Survey said they would consider bringing back sourcing and production to North America.
Faced with supply and demand disruptions, some Lehigh Valley companies quickly changed the way they did business to meet immediate needs:
- Health Network Laboratories (HNL), a comprehensive diagnostic testing company, used 3-D printers to make their own swabs for COVID-19 tests it processed.
- Local craft distilleries, such as Eight Oaks and Social Still, redirected their production facilities from making spirits to hand-sanitizer.
- Fanatics, the sports apparel company that makes Major League Baseball uniforms, used its Palmer Township manufacturing facility to make masks and gowns for hospitals and emergency personnel.
Lehigh Valley is home to innovators who are supported by an infrastructure of top schools and hospitals in the country. Here are just a handful of the success stories in recent months:
- OraSure Technologies will expand its manufacturing operations in Lehigh Valley to help meet the demands for its new in-home coronavirus self-test, resulting in the creation and retention of more than 400 jobs.
- Pulse Innovations, a software integrator company based in Wilson, developed a Thermographic Monitoring System, which uses high-end cameras and software to detect fevers in people up to 10 feet away.
- Local entrepreneurs Val Arzunian and David Bougard developed Curbside Communication, which allows customers arriving at a business to check-in from their own cars through the free UBME app.
- LifeAire Systems introduced a product that uses the company’s air purification technology to disinfect and decontaminate N95 masks.
Lehigh Valley is prized for its strong transportation network and proximity to a third of the U.S. population within a five-hour drive, luring logistics giants Amazon and Fed Ex Ground. The sector became more crucial amid the pandemic as online shopping increased.
Like all industries, the logistics sector suffered initial losses during the pandemic, shedding 2,700 jobs in a month. The industry has since recovered those jobs. At 32,700 jobs, employment in that sector now exceeds pre-pandemic levels. The demand continues. New job postings for occupations such as stockers and truck drivers surpass what was advertised last year at this time.
The logistics industry employs 10% of Lehigh Valley’s work force and contributed $2.3 billion to the region’s GDP in 2018.
Lehigh Valley is blessed with the health care providers including Lehigh Valley Health Network and St. Luke’s University Health Network. Their expertise helped guide the community during the worst public health crisis of a lifetime.
Health care is a top industry in Lehigh Valley. Hospitals and outpatient facilities employ about 40,000 people in the region. There are 2,000 physicians and 8,700 registered nurses. Companies in the larger Health Care and Social Assistance industrial sector contributed $6.1 billion to the region’s GDP.
The pandemic brought new words like social distancing into our lexicon, and meetings on Zoom soon replaced the board room. Despite this shift, Lehigh Valley is flush with essential workers who report to work daily to keep America moving.
Three-fifths of Lehigh Valley’s work force are employed in industries deemed essential by Gov. Tom Wolf’s orders this spring. These are nurses, commercial truck drivers, stockers and factory workers who are reporting to the front lines daily.
The quality of that work force continues to attract companies. Lehigh Valley ranked in the Top 5 markets for industrial space under construction as a percentage of total industrial space in the third quarter. It is the only Northeast market to make the Top 20, according to CoStar.
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