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Lehigh Valley a State Leader in Beverage Manufacturing Companies

By Colin McEvoy on February 17, 2015

Lehigh County had more beverage manufacturing companies in the second quarter of 2014 than than any of Pennsylvania's 66 other counties.

Lehigh County had more beverage manufacturing companies in the second quarter of 2014 than than any of Pennsylvania’s 66 other counties. Above is a graph showing the top 15 counties.

Lehigh County is the home of more beverage manufacturing companies than any of the other 66 counties in the state of Pennsylvania, according to an analysis from the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).

There were 17 beverage manufacturing companies in Lehigh County during the second quarter of 2014, the most recent time period available, according to federal data. That’s the highest amount of any county in the state, beating out such competition as Allegheny (15), Philadelphia (11), Luzerne (12) and Chester (11).

“Lehigh County leading the state in this sector is a great illustration of why food and beverage manufacturing is one of the key targeted industries for our region,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC president and CEO. “With multiple nationally-known brands establishing a presence here, food and beverage production is becoming very identifiable with the Lehigh Valley, thanks in part to our central location, well-developed infrastructure and other economic assets.”

The Lehigh Valley as a whole has 20 beverage manufacturing companies. The only other Pennsylvania region with more is the South Central Workforce Investment Area, which has eight counties as opposed to the Lehigh Valley's two. (Click the image to enlarge.)

The Lehigh Valley as a whole has 20 beverage manufacturing companies. The only other Pennsylvania region with more is the South Central Workforce Investment Area, which has eight counties as opposed to the Lehigh Valley’s two. (Click the image to enlarge.)

The Lehigh Valley as a whole has 20 beverage manufacturing companies, which is the second-highest out of 22 regions in the state, using boundaries defined by the state Workforce Investment Act. The only region with more was the “South Central” workforce investment area, which has 27. But that region is comprised of eight different counties (Dauphin, Lebanon, Perry, Cumberland, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, York), compared to only two in the Lehigh Valley.

The Lehigh Valley is the home of several nationally-recognized companies and brands in the beverage industry, including Ocean Spray, Coca-Cola, Samuel Adams Brewing Company, Nestle, Pepsi Beverage Co. and the Dr Pepper/Snapple Group. There are several water bottlers in the region, including Ice River Springs and Niagara Bottling, as well as multiple small brewing companies, like Weyerbacher Brewing Co., Fegley’s Brew Works, and the HiJinx Brewing Company.

Food and beverage processing has been identified as one of the four target industry sectors for the Lehigh Valley based on the site-specific characteristics of the regional economy. Those targeted industries – which also include high performance manufacturing, high value business services, and life science research and manufacturing – were identified by an economic development study by Garner Economics, LLC, which has informed LVEDC’s three-year strategic plan.

In the case of food and beverage industry, the Lehigh Valley’s economic assets include central location, water and sewer capacity, a well-developed transportation infrastructure, availability of water and sewer lines to industrial sites, a strong existing local pool of high-demand occupations, quality of place assets, and annual post-secondary completions in critical fields from local educational institutions, according to the Garner study.

The federal data used in this analysis does not specifically identify the Lehigh Valley’s 20 beverage manufacturing companies by name, according to John Lamirand, LVEDC research specialist. That data comes from the Quarterly Census of Employment, a cooperative program between the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. Department of Labor, and state employment agencies.

A breakdown of Pennsylvania regions as defined by the Workforce Investment Act. This is the criteria LVEDC used when comparing the Lehigh Valley to other regions in this analysis. (Click the image to enlarge.)

A breakdown of Pennsylvania regions as defined by the Workforce Investment Act. This is the criteria LVEDC used when comparing the Lehigh Valley to other regions in this analysis. (Click the image to enlarge.)

A total of 1,856 workers are employed by the 20 Lehigh Valley companies, according to the data. The Quarterly Census of Employment uses North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) codes to categorize beverage manufacturing industries as including such sub-sectors as soft drinks, bottled water, ice, breweries, wineries and distilleries, Lamirand said. There are a total of 222 such companies across all 67 Pennsylvania counties, according to the data.

Several of the Lehigh Valley’s food and beverage companies are located in Upper Macungie Township industrial parks. Ocean Spray celebrated the grand opening of its 300,000-square-foot plant there last year, an investment of $110 million, which employs 180 workers. Bimbo Bakeries built a new $75 million plant off Route 100. Coca-Cola undertook a $46 million expansion to its Upper Macungie plant, creating 50 new jobs and adding Powerade, Vitamin Water and Fuze to the stable of brands distributed there.

In addition to its location, proximity to highways and infrastructure, the Upper Macungie area has a major economic asset in its pre-treatment wastewater plant, which was built by Lehigh County in the 1990s and cleans waste before it enters the sewer. This has resulted in a superior quality of water, and companies like Ocean Spray and Coca-Cola were able to taking advantage of the pre-treatment facility without building their own such facilities, saving millions in construction dollars and ongoing maintenance costs.

The Lehigh Valley has also seen the establishment several smaller beverage companies in recent years. The Bridgeworks Enterprise Center, the Allentown Economic Development Corporation’s business incubator, has become home of The Colony MeaderyHiJinx Brewing Company and County Seat Spirits, one of the region’s first distilleries along with the Social Still, which opened within Bethlehem’s City Revitalization and Improvement Zone (CRIZ).

The data from the second quarter of 2014 will have included A-Treat Bottling Co., which was headquartered at 2001 Union Blvd. in Allentown, but announced last month that they were ceasing operations. However, local media outlets have reported that several potential buyers were interested in reopening the company, and that Allentown businessman and entrepreneur Paul Eifler has signed a formal letter of intent to purchase A-Treat.

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