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Lehigh Valley in the Spotlight at National Industrial Conference

By LVEDC Staff on June 3, 2014

Don Cunningham, president and CEO, LVEDC, will have a lot to discuss at the I.CON Industrial Real Estate Conference on Thursday.

Don Cunningham, president and CEO, LVEDC, will have a lot to discuss at the I.CON Industrial Real Estate Conference on Thursday.

The annual and nationally-recognized I.CON 2014 Industrial Conference convenes Thursday at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Jersey City, N.J. This year’s event shines the spotlight on Lehigh Valley with an acknowledgement that we’re one of the greatest emerging markets in the nation.

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham was invited to serve as a panelist at a session entitled “Anticipation, Expectation and Performance of Emerging Markets.” Russell Held, senior vice president of business development with the Virginia Port Authority, will join Cunningham at the dais.

The speakers will explain why both markets are now experiencing and anticipate additional sustained dramatic growth. Cunningham isn’t going into the presentation empty-handed, but rather with a complete set of tools in his work belt:

– The Lehigh Valley is the 68th largest metropolitan region in the United States out of 381 metropolitan areas.

– Our region has a $33 billion economy with more than 15,000 businesses.

– On May 29th the Lehigh Valley welcome Fuling Plastics USA to the region, where they will establish a manufacturing operation in Upper Macungie Township. A total investment of $21.3 million, and the creation of 75 new jobs.

– On April 29th internationally-recognized Ocean Spray formally opened their state-of-the-art new $110 million facility, which will serve as the crown jewel of the company’s operations in North America. A total of 160 new jobs created.

–  Third-party logistics provider National Freight Industries recently built a massive 980,000-square-foot warehouse to meet Ocean Spray’s needs.

The I.CON 2014 Industrial Conference attracts industrial commercial real estate leaders from across North America. The focus is on current trends, insightful data and business strategies that impact the industrial sector.

“After a competitive process, the Lehigh Valley was one of two communities, along with Norfolk, Virginia, to earn the ‘emerging market’ designation and the nod to speak at this important event,” said Jarrett Witt, LVEDC vice president of business development.

NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, got its start in 1967 and has retained its core group of developer members. The association began as a small group of owners and developers of industrial parks in the Eastern U.S. These members formed a group they called the National Association of Industrial Parks (NAIP) to facilitate a forum for the open exchange of information on development, according to the organization.

Commercial real estate is a hot topic across America. Development and construction of new commercial real estate — office, industrial and retail — continued its climb in 2012, supporting approximately 2.3 million American jobs and contributing $303.4 billion to the nation’s economy, marking the second year that the sector posted gains since 2007.

Last year, DC Velocity, a respected trade publication that provides salient information and trends to distribution center managers and executives, designated the Lehigh Valley as an emerging “hot spot” for distribution centers in the Northeast.

The article noted: “Indeed, this section of Eastern Pennsylvania offers labor rates and land taxes that are lower than the more urban areas of the Eastern Seaboard. Additionally, transportation costs are quite favorable, as the area has strong rail service and a good road network, including I-78, which provides a direct route into New York City, Newark, and the surrounding ports. The area also has more land available than the congested regions around the major metropolitan areas and the ports.”

These factors have helped spark a regional growth explosion over the past 15 years.

“The Lehigh Valley has gone from having 16 million square feet of total distribution space in 1997-1998 to the current total of 41 million square feet. Companies with distribution centers in the region include BMW, Amazon, and Walgreens,” the feature stated.

Since the publication of that article, National Freight Industries (NFI) has constructed a 980,000-square-foot warehouse and distribution facility that is now operating on behalf of Ocean Spray, which opened their largest facility here ion Lehigh Valley on April 29th.

As DC Velocity reported, “Interest in the region is still flourishing, as evidenced by an industrial vacancy rate of just 6 percent and the fact that real estate firm Liberty Property Trust recently spent $60 million on spec for a 1.2 million-square-foot warehouse. Development is not limited to distribution. More and more companies are also moving their production facilities into the region to take advantage of cost efficiencies from producing and distributing from the same spot.”

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