Lehigh Valley Economic Growth Discussed on WDIY Radio Program

By Colin McEvoy on March 30, 2022

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham (left) was a guest on WDIY’s Lehigh Valley Business Beat, hosted by Sally Handlon (right).

Don Cunningham, President & CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), discussed the regional economy and ongoing efforts to facilitate economic growth during a recent appearance on a WDIY radio program.

Cunningham was the guest on Lehigh Valley Business Beat, during which he discussed target sectors of the regional economy, the Lehigh Valley’s balanced and diversified economy, and LVEDC initiatives like its new strategic plan and its talent strategies development initiative.

“The Lehigh Valley is a suburb of nowhere,” Cunningham said. “We are our own entity, and while we sit here nestled between New York and Philadelphia, and certainly benefit greatly from being part of this northeast metro conglomerate in the United States, we are our own market and we are very authentic.”

The half-hour episode first broadcast on March 17 and can be found online here. Lehigh Valley Business Beat airs the third Thursday of every other month, providing an exploration of the topics and developments impacting the region’s booming business scene.

The show is hosted by Sally Handlon, an active member of the Lehigh Valley business community and non-profit community for over 40 years. She is the founder and president of Handlon Business Resources, and a past member of the LVEDC Board of Directors.

“The Lehigh Valley is particularly noteworthy for its unusually balanced and multifaceted economy,” Handlon said during the episode. “Far from depending on a single industry, the top four subsectors of the regional GDP are all extremely close to one another (in economic output), which ultimately means a healthier, more vibrant regional ecosystem.”

Cunningham discussed the four high-value target sectors for which LVEDC seeks to attract and retain employers: life sciences & pharmaceutical, professional & creative services, advanced manufacturing & high-value production, and food & beverage products.

Health care and medicine remains the region’s largest employment sector, and Cunningham said the Lehigh Valley is particularly well-poised for growth in the medical device industry, which has seen nationwide growth due to domestic production of bio pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and medical diagnostics during the COVID-19 crisis.

Despite the pandemic, the Lehigh Valley has seen a continued growth in manufacturing output, Cunningham said, launching the region into a Top 50 manufacturing market in the United States. Manufacturing made up $7.9 billion – or more than 18% – of the Lehigh Valley’s $42.9 billion gross domestic product for 2020.

“If somebody would have said that 20 years ago – when we were in the process of lamenting the loss of Bethlehem Steel and the loss of textiles – that 20 years into the future we would be even higher-placed in manufacturing output, nobody would have believed it,” Cunningham said. “That’s a really extraordinary thing; it’s part of the culture and DNA of the area.”

Cunningham discussed other topics like the implementation of its new three-year strategic plan, efforts to fortify the talent pipeline between regional employers and educational institutions, and the opening of LVEDC’s new office building in Bethlehem.

He also discussed recent changes to the Lehigh Valley population, which includes an increase in diversity as well as particular growth in the 18 to 34 age demographic.

While white people are 70% of the regional population, every minority race grew by double digit percentages in the last decade, accompanied by a decrease of about 10% in white population, Cunningham said. Hispanic population fueled the overall population growth, increasing by nearly 46%.

“The Lehigh Valley is becoming younger and more diverse,” Cunningham said. “People are moving here from other countries and other markets, and to me that shows we’re evolving, we’re growing, we’re moving forward, and we’re not just trying to recreate our past or hang on to some economy of yesterday in the Lehigh Valley.”

New episodes of Lehigh Valley Business Beat air the third Thursday of every other month from 6:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., following All Things Considered.

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