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Lehigh Valley Featured in Story on Public Radio International’s The World

By Colin McEvoy on August 3, 2018

Bethlehem's Steelstacks was heavily featured in a recent story by The World, one of the flagship shows on Public Radio International (PRI).

Bethlehem’s Steelstacks was heavily featured in a recent story by The World, one of the flagship shows on Public Radio International (PRI).

The story of Bethlehem’s transformation from a former steel town to a vibrant city thriving with downtown neighborhoods, entertainment venues, and a diverse economy is now the subject of a story by an international public radio program.

The World, one of the flagship shows on Public Radio International (PRI) and co-produced by BBC World Service, highlighted Bethlehem last week in a story entitled “A Pennsylvania steel town reinvents itself with a future beyond steel.”

The segment by Jim Margolis investigated how the Lehigh Valley economy shifted from one based largely around Bethlehem Steel to a multifaceted economy including finance, insurance, education, healthcare, and a greater focus on foreign direct investment.

“You have this really diverse economy that is kind of insulated against any kind of significant economic shocks,” Matthew Tuerk, Vice President of Economic Development and Marketing for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), said in the segment.

“We’re looking to China, we’re looking to Germany, we’re looking to France, we’re looking to Japan,” Tuerk said. “You take (potential investors) to SteelStacks and it leads you to that natural story of, ‘This was the industrial heritage of the region and we’ve pivoted now to the 21st century.’”

The full eight-and-a-half minute radio segment, along with a print version of the story, can be found here.

Margolis also interviews Kassie Hilgert, the CEO of ArtsQuest and a member of the LVEDC Board of Directors, about how abandoned former Bethlehem Steel properties were transformed into SteelStacks, an entertainment venue for huge outdoor concerts, films, and comedy shows built behind the industrial pipes and furnaces.

“When people come to SteelStacks for the first time, what they see are five towering Gothic blast furnaces that have been rusting since they ceased operations in 1995,” Hilgert said in the segment. “When people first get here, it is like that first trip to New York where you spend most of the time with your neck craned skyward figuring out: ‘What happened here?’”

The story also includes interviews with Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez, former Bethlehem Steel workers, officials with the Brookings Institution, and Mary Beth Deily, an economist with Lehigh University.

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