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Lehigh Valley Cracks Top Five in U.S. for Economic Growth in 2018

By Colin McEvoy on March 5, 2019

The Lehigh Valley was listed fifth among metropolitan areas with a population between 200,000 and 1 million. (photo by Ashli Truchon)

The Lehigh Valley was listed fifth among metropolitan areas with a population between 200,000 and 1 million. (photo by Ashli Truchon)

Lehigh Valley, Pa., was one of the top five fastest-growing regions with under a million people in the United States last year, and the fastest-growing region of its size in the Northeast U.S. for a third consecutive year.

The eastern Pennsylvania region of 670,000 people encompasses Lehigh and Northampton counties and is the third largest metropolitan area in Pennsylvania. It’s also the country’s 51st largest manufacturing center by GDP.

The principal cities in the region are Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton. It’s located 80 miles from New York City and 60 miles from Philadelphia

The ranking come as part of Site Selection magazine’s annual Governor’s Cup Awards, which ranks states and metropolitan regions based solely on number of development projects, amount of economic investment, and job creation during the previous year. Site Selection magazine, one of the leading real estate industry economic development publications in the U.S., released its much-anticipated Governor’s Cup issue this week.

“The economic renaissance of the Lehigh Valley and its cities continues at a remarkable pace,” said Don Cunningham, President & CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). “For some time we’ve been a leader in Pennsylvania and the Northeast U.S., but breaking into the top five growth regions in the U.S. with under a million people confirms that what’s happening here is unique.”

In the Northeastern U.S., only much larger metropolitan regions – New York City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Boston – had more development projects last year. Boston was just one ranking above the Lehigh Valley with only six more projects.

Site Selection credited the Lehigh Valley with 25 economic projects in 2018, compared to 31 in the greater Boston area.

In the U.S. listing, the Lehigh Valley is fifth among metropolitan areas with a population between 200,000 and 1 million, finishing ahead of all but Omaha, Neb.; Des Moines, Iowa; Toledo, Ohio; and Lincoln, Neb., according to the magazine.

No other metropolitan area in the Northeast in the Lehigh Valley’s category was in the national top 10 list.

“What is great about the growth of the Lehigh Valley is its balance,” Cunningham said. “Our projects include regional offices, corporate headquarters, advanced manufacturing, food and beverage, and major e-commerce facilities. It’s taking place in our cities and suburbs and creating jobs in a variety of categories.”

Site Selection does not disclose which 25 projects it considered eligible for these rankings. LVEDC has tracked 33 business attraction, expansion and retention projects for the year 2018, resulting in the creation of 4,419 new jobs and the retention of 3,005 more.

Among some of those projects were Air Products announcing a new global headquarters, Air Liquide creating 270 new jobs with an expansion, and Freshpet announcing a major renovation and expansion project.

Additionally, ADP announced a new office in Allentown’s Five City Center, FedEx Ground opened its Lehigh Valley distribution hub, the Evonik Corporation detailed the expansion of its technology and business capacities in the region, and B. Braun announced plans to add 250 jobs with an expansion.

Air Liquide opened the expanded manufacturing facility in the Slate Belt area of Northampton County, creating the additional advanced manufacturing jobs.

“We here know what’s going on in the Lehigh Valley,” Cunningham said. “The most important part of the Site Selection ranking is that the magazine is read by leading economic development and real estate professionals and C-suite executives and corporate real estate decision-makers across the country and the world so the right people are hearing about what’s going in the Lehigh Valley.”

These projects and more will be highlighted at the upcoming 2019 LVEDC Annual Meeting on March 19, as well as in the 2018 LVEDC Annual Report, hard copies of which will be distributed for the first time at that event. Attendance is free, but pre-registration is required.

The Lehigh Valley’s 25 tracked projects tied with Tulsa, Ok. on Site Selection’s list of Top 10 regions with a population between 200,000 and 1 million. Others on the list included Greensboro-High Point, N.C. (24 projects), and a three-way tie between Lexington-Fayette, Ky.; Reno, Nev.; and Savannah, Ga., all of which had 23 projects.

The greater Chicago area topped the list of metropolitan areas with a population size over 1 million. With 422 total projects tracked, it more than doubled the second-place finisher on the list, which was the Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington area of Texas with 207 projects.

Published by Conway Data, Site Selection is the senior publication in the corporate real estate and economic development fields and is the official publication of the Industrial Asset Management Council.

The magazine has a circulation base of 48,000 subscribers, most of whom are involved in corporate site selection decisions at the CEO/President/COO level.

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