Lehigh Valley Economic Development Activity Continues During Pandemic
By Colin McEvoy on April 21, 2020
Economic development activity has continued in the Lehigh Valley during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has continued work in recent weeks on projects and expansions that had been in the pipeline before COVID-19 crisis, as well as fielding inquiries about potential projects for after the pandemic ends.
“Economic development interest remains strong in the Lehigh Valley, particularly in the industrial sector,” said LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham. “Despite this unprecedented public health crisis, companies and site selectors know the fundamentals of the Lehigh Valley have not changed and are even more important.”
Some companies have announced new construction projects or expansions to existing facilities in recent weeks, despite the coronavirus pandemic, said Matthew Tuerk, LVEDC Vice President of Business Attraction, Retention and Expansion.
TwinMed, a medical supply distributor in the post-acute care market, announced this month the lease of 190,000 square feet of industrial fulfillment space in the city of Bethlehem, consolidating and expanding their existing Lehigh Valley and northern New Jersey operations.
Additionally, aquarium equipment designer and manufacturer EcoTech Marine announced it will be leasing 88,000 square feet in Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII. Construction began in the fall of 2019 and is slated for completion by Q4 2020.
Beyond these projects, LVEDC has been working with a manufacturer that is close to finalizing a project that would relocate its production operations from New Jersey to the Lehigh Valley, creating more than 100 jobs in the region, Tuerk said.
Advanced talks are also underway between LVEDC and an existing Lehigh Valley manufacturer that is seriously pursuing a large expansion in the region. These companies cannot be identified until the projects are completed due to confidentiality agreements.
“It is even clearer to us now how critical the production, manufacturing, distribution and fulfillment base is to the Lehigh Valley economy,” Cunningham said. “Most of these workers remain engaged on the front lines in life-sustaining work and other companies are looking to enter our market.”
LVEDC has also been in close contact with nearly three dozen ongoing development projects that had chosen Lehigh Valley prior to the coronavirus outbreak, to help ensure those projects remain on track, Tuerk said.
Ben Atwood, market analyst with the commercial real estate research organization CoStar, said in a webinar last week that he remains optimistic about the future of Lehigh Valley’s industrial market.
While speculative construction that had already been underway may see some short-term vacancies, Atwood feels the shipping sector will weather the pandemic well and those Lehigh Valley properties could end up becoming more valued and bring in higher prices.
“They’re going to be a stable asset in very unstable times,” said Atwood. He also expects that consumers will increasingly adopt online shopping as a result of the coronavirus outbreak, potentially giving a boost to Lehigh Valley’s e-commerce sector.
LVEDC has been maintaining communication with about two dozen other prospects who had been strongly considering the region for development projects. Some of those plans have been temporarily delayed by the pandemic, but LVEDC remains engaged with them so they can resume at the appropriate time.
In addition to ongoing projects and expansion, LVEDC has fielded new inquiries from companies interested in pursuing new projects in the region, Tuerk said.
LVEDC has received eight such calls in the past three weeks alone, Tuerk said. Some are from companies interested in manufacturing protective masks to help combat COVID-19. Others come from such industries as manufacturing and distribution.
Some construction projects related to expansions that had been underway before the COVID-19 outbreak continue are continuing to progress. Among them are the Freshpet expansion in Hanover Township, Northampton County, and plastics recycler Ultra-Poly‘s consolidation into the Portland Industrial Park.
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