Halfway Through 2021, Lehigh Valley Taking Steps Toward a Post-Pandemic World

By Colin McEvoy on July 6, 2021

After a year of extraordinary economic challenges in 2020, the Lehigh Valley has taken its first steps toward a post-pandemic world over the past six months.

Economic development activity has continued, employment has begun to recover, and several Lehigh Valley companies have announced new construction or expansion projects during the first half of 2020.

Meanwhile, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has announced several new initiatives, the Lehigh Valley economy has received national media attention from multiple outlets, and Made Possible in Lehigh Valley continues to spread the word about the great opportunities and possibilities here in the region.

In this story, LVEDC looks back on the first half of the year 2021.

Economic strengths

The Lehigh Valley ranked among the Top 5 regions of any population size in the Northeast in terms of economic development projects completed, and in the Top 10 nationally for regions with a population size between 200,000 and 1 million.

Despite the challenges created by the COVID-19 crisis, the Lehigh Valley once again ranked among the Top 5 regions in the Northeast in terms of economic development projects completed. Additionally, for a fifth consecutive year, the Lehigh Valley was ranked among the Top 10 regions nationwide with a population size between 200,000 and 1 million.

The Lehigh Valley’s gross domestic product remains remarkably balanced across multiple sectors, which helped sustain the regional economy during the pandemic. The region’s life science sector in particular has experienced a growth spurt, and the Lehigh Valley is particularly well-suited for high-technology companies and the medical device industry.

“Challenges remain, and we must help bring small businesses and the region’s restaurant & hospitality sectors back to their feet following COVID-19,” said LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham. “But in other sectors, we continue to see the economic renaissance of the Lehigh Valley, from manufacturing and life sciences to commercial and industrial.”

LVEDC initiatives

Jay Garner

Jay Garner

LVEDC is undertaking several new initiatives this year, including the hiring of Garner Economics LLC to develop an updated economic development action plan for the Lehigh Valley, which will also inform the creation of LVEDC’s next strategic plan.

The organization also remains heavily involved in workforce-related issues, having partnered with Workforce Board Lehigh Valley in commissioning the firm Camoin 310 to conduct an in-depth analysis of the Lehigh Valley’s talent supply and demand.

Additionally, LVEDC completed data collection for its regional alumni survey, released a new edition of its Lehigh Valley Hot Careers Guide, and is planning an upcoming internship summit. The organization signed a Fly Local pledge with the Lehigh Valley International Airport (LVIA) this year, and attended a gathering of the nation’s foremost professional site selectors.

LVEDC also hosted several virtual events this year so far, including its 2021 Annual Meeting Program, State of the County events for both Lehigh and Northampton counties, and a virtual meeting with Lehigh Valley legislative delegations.

Regional projects

NPR correspondent Allison Aubrey interviewing OraSure Technologies President & CEO Stephen Tang for a segment in CBS News Sunday Morning.

The Lehigh Valley saw no shortage of projects and innovative efforts from its companies this year. OraSure Technologies continues to draw national attention for its at-home COVID-19 test, which recently received FDA emergency use authorization.

Sharp is once again growing in the Lehigh Valley, creating or retaining more than 1,400 jobs in the region and neighboring areas. The biopharmaceutical company Yourway is expanding its Upper Macungie Township headquarters to 300,000 feet. And Cigars International is nearly doubling its space with an expansion in Bethlehem.

Other companies who announced expansion projects or new construction in 2021 so far include Bio Med Sciences, Follett, the Lehigh Valley Health Network, LVIA, Stuffed Puffs, SunOpta, and the Waterfront. (Click the links for stories about each company and project.)

National media attention

The Lehigh Valley’s economic successes have continued to generate media attention from several national outlets.

CNN highlighted the region and interviewed Cunningham during a nationally-broadcast segment in April. The Wall Street Journal published a story about the region in the same month. And The New York Times ran a front-page story about the Lehigh Valley economy, marking the third time in a year the prestigious paper has written about the region.

These stories from the first six months of 2021 follow a year in which the Lehigh Valley had already received significant coverage publications like The Guardian, Los Angeles Times, and USA Today, and programs like CBS News Sunday Morning, NBC News, and PBS NewsHour.

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