Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce Hosts 2020 Economic Outlook

By Colin McEvoy on January 28, 2020

More than 700 people attended the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 Economic Outlook at SteelStacks at ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem.

More than 700 people from the regional business community attended the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 2020 Economic Outlook on Jan. 28 at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.

The event opened with a video highlighting Made Possible in Lehigh Valley, a regional marketing initiative that seeks to market the positive attributes of the region and attract a talented workforce here.

The Made Possible campaign was launched by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), and is supported by an alliance that includes LVEDC, the Chamber, and Discover Lehigh Valley.

“The combined strengths of our three organizations and others who will join in allow us to truly let the rest of the world know the amazing things that are made possible in Lehigh Valley,” said Chamber COO & Executive VIce President Frank Facchiano.

Among the speakers at the event was Jay Bryson, Managing Director and Acting Chief Economist with Wells Fargo, who gave a presentation of economic data, insights, and a financial outlook for the region and nation.

Bryson said he expects the national economic expansion to continue in the coming quarters, though he believes the pace of growth will remain modest. Growth in real consumer spending should remain generally solid, he said.

Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Tony Iannelli speaking at the 2020 Economic Outlook.

“Our forecast is the expansion will continue, but it’s probably going to be more like last year than 2018,” Bryson said. “2018 was a very, very strong year due in part to the tax cuts that took effect in the end of 2017. we don’t have that this year, so growth will be fine this year, but probably wont be super-charged.”

The U.S. economy is currently in its longest economic expansion on record, with 127 straight months of growth dating back to 2009, Bryson said. The longest before that was the 120-month expansion that began in 1991.

Bryson said employment growth remains solid, and rates of consumer price inflation currently stand below the Federal Reserve’s target. He believes lingering uncertainty about trade policy will continue to exert some headwinds on business fixed investment spending.

Workforce Board Lehigh Valley (WBLV) Executive Director Nancy Dischinat also presented at the event. She said employment in Lehigh Valley is at 95.3%, and U.S. unemployment rates are at their lowest in 50 years. However, she said more than 5,000 people attended more than 270 target-specific job fairs the organization hosted last year.

“Our job, yours and mine, is now to mitigate the barriers of the people not only entering the workforce system, but entering your employment doors,” she said. “Remember, we are in this together.”

WBLV has five CareerLink Lehigh Valley locations in the region. Dischinat said 52% of the people who have visited those offices for information have a high school diploma or GED, and about one-third have at least an associate degree. She added that WBLV is currently developing college and career readiness centers in the Allentown School District.

Iannelli conducted a live Business Matters interview with Brian Nester, President & CEO of Lehigh Valley Health Network. Additionally, the Chamber’s Community Partner Award was presented to Tony Cioffi of Adams Outdoor Advertising.

Presentations were also made by Concannon Miller’s Tony Deutsch, who discussed tax insights for 2020, and The Morning Call Marketing Manager Christine Campbell discussed the biggest regional economic stories from the past decade.

Iannelli said the Lehigh Valley chamber is in the process of merging with the Nazareth Chamber of Commerce, and has grown to become the sixth largest Chamber of Commerce in the United States, out of more than 4,000.

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