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Lehigh Valley Conference Hosts International Trade Representatives

By Colin McEvoy on September 23, 2016

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham speaking at the "Bringing the World to You" event at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem.

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham speaking at the “Bringing the World to You” event at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem.

The Lehigh Valley’s premier international conference was hosted this week, allowing participating companies to meet with international trade representatives one-on-one and discuss important issues facing the global economy.

The annual “Bringing the World to You” event, organized by Lehigh University’s Small Business Development Center, was held at Ben Franklin TechVentures in Bethlehem on Sept. 22. The theme of the event was “Global Security Challenges: Safety and Sustainability.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) was a sponsor for the event, and LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham made introductory remarks, discussing the fact that the Lehigh Valley set a new record for exporting in 2015.

The region saw a 9 percent increase in exporting revenue, rising to $3.4 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s International Trade Administration. That’s $287 million increase over 2014, Cunningham said.

“Chemical manufacturing remains our largest export sector, followed by machinery manufacturing and food manufacturing,” Cunningham said. “Chemical manufacturing in the Lehigh Valley in particular rose to $1.1 billion.”

Trade representatives were available for one-on-one meetings at breakout tables from such countries as Australia, Canada, Czech Republic, Germany, India, Indonesia, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

The event also included workshops including “Guarantee Your Good Name,” “International Finance Options,” and “Data Breaches: Big Problems for Small Businesses.” FBI Special Agent Charles Kelly was a guest speaker, discussing such topics as economic espionage and overseas and travel security.

Kelly said the FBI has a strategic partnership program in every field office that goes out to businesses and academic partners to make people aware of counterintelligence threats, like corporate or foreign entities attempting to steal technology, intellectual property, or trade secrets.

Cunningham discussed the regional economy, noting this week’s announcement that the Lehigh Valley’s gross domestic product (GDP) has grown to a record-high $36.97 billion in 2015, a $1.6 billion increase from the previous year, making it higher than the state of Vermont ($30.4 billion) and 97 other countries in the world.

The region saw particular growth in manufacturing, which went from the third-largest output sector of the Lehigh Valley economy in 2014 to its largest sector last year in 2015. Manufacturing now generates $5.56 billion – or 15 percent – of the region’s overall $36.97 billion GDP.

“The manufacturing of the Lehigh Valley does not have a predominant sector: it ranges from everything from medical device manufacturing to food and beverage manufacturing, from small machine shops to heavy companies like Victaulic and Follett that are making bigger products,” Cunningham said. “This is good for us, that we’ve got this space that we can grow, and one of the keys for this is for our companies to be able to export product.”

Cunningham also discussed the importance for the Lehigh Valley business community of international access to the Port of New York and New Jersey, which would offer the region an entry point it does not currently have and would make the Lehigh Valley an even more attractive region for companies to invest.

Pennsylvania products and services travel to 221 markets worldwide and represent 7 percent of the state’s GDP, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED), which offers one of the largest, most comprehensive state-sponsored export development programs in the United States. Visit their website for more information.

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