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Lehigh Valley is a Region That Embodies Meaningful Evolution

By Colin McEvoy on April 10, 2019

This column first appeared in the spring edition of Network Magazine released on April 8, 2019.

This column first appeared in the spring edition of Network Magazine released on April 8, 2019.

This column, written by LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham, originally appeared in the spring edition of Network Magazine on April 8, 2019. The digital version can be found here. (Click here to read Cunningham’s previous columns.)

Those of us who live and work in the Lehigh Valley every day already know what a special place it is. Now we want to make sure the rest of the world knows as well.

It’s not difficult to demonstrate the economic success our region has continued to experience. Just take a look at our gross domestic product (GDP) – the measurement of a region’s economic output – which reached a record-high $40.1 billion this year.

Don Cunningham

Don Cunningham

That’s the first time we’ve ever surpassed the $40 billion mark, which means that, once again, the Lehigh Valley economy has never been better. Our GDP is larger than that of Vermont ($27.4 billion) and Wyoming ($34 billion), as well as 112 other countries in the world. In fact, if we were a country, we’d be the 88th largest in the world in terms of economic output.

Not only is our regional economy strong, but it’s also very well-balanced. In many metropolitan areas, much of the economic output comes from one single sector, and then there is a significant drop-off among the rest.

But that’s not the case in the Lehigh Valley: our top two sectors are very close together, with finance, insurance, and real estate making up $7.6 billion, and manufacturing making up $7.4 billion. Likewise, our next two highest sectors are nearly even, with education, health care, and social assistance comprising $5.5 billion, and professional services at $5.2 billion.

What all of this means is, simply put, all our eggs are not in one basket. An economy that depends too much on a single sector means when that industry suffers, so too does the region. That’s not the case in the Lehigh Valley; the days of depending too much on a single employer like Bethlehem Steel are long gone.

And yet manufacturing is not just a thing of the past in the Lehigh Valley: it’s part of our present and future as well.

Manufacturing made up 18.4 percent of our overall regional economy last year, which is a much higher percentage than the 11.6 percent it represents in the overall U.S. economy. Manufacturing was also our fastest-growing economic sector, having grown just over 10 percent compared to the previous year.

This balance of our history and deep roots and the forward-thinking evolution of the Lehigh Valley economy is directly at the heart of a new marketing campaign LVEDC is rolling out this year, which will be anchored by the phrase: “Made Possible in Lehigh Valley.”

We’ve commissioned this campaign to increase outside awareness of the Lehigh Valley, develop a positive image of the region, and market it as a desirable and attractive place to live to drive talent acquisition and retention.

The availability of skilled labor is now the single largest important factor driving company locations, even more so than overall operating costs, which had been the primary consideration for many years. That’s why we’ve been focused at LVEDC on strategies and initiatives that will help the region attract, develop, and retrain talent.

That’s why we commissioned a year-long study to analyze the regional talent market, the findings of which we are executing on right now. It’s also why LVEDC has created a new five-person work group responsible specifically for research and analysis, and directing initiatives to support retention and growth of companies in the region.

Our “Made Possible in Lehigh Valley” marketing campaign was purposely designed so that companies and other stakeholders in the region can leverage it to attract new talent. This campaign will let people know we are a region that has something for everyone, with small-town charm and big-city amenities, where people can create the life they want, on their terms.

The Lehigh Valley exists today because of where it’s been, but it’s also a region that embodies meaningful evolution. It’s a community rich with opportunity and driven by hard work, resourcefulness, and reinvention. This is nothing new for those of us already here, but soon, the rest of the world will also know what’s been made possible in Lehigh Valley.

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Lehigh ValleyQuick Facts

By the Numbers
$40.1 Billion

Gross Domestic Product

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City Center Lehigh Valley
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11% of Labor Force
Employed in Manufacturing

By the Numbers
$3.65 Billion

Exports

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Air Products
By the Numbers
$62,489

Median Household Income

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PPL Electric Utilities
By the Numbers
26,000

New Jobs Created Over Past 5 Years

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National Penn
By the Numbers
669,899

Population

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Olympus
By the Numbers
345,260

Labor Force

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Lutron Electronics
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26.1% of Labor Force
Employed in "Eds & Meds" sectors

By the Numbers
5,073

Technology Patents

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Mack Trucks
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UGI
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NFI
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14% of the total community college degrees awarded in PA

By the Numbers
$7.4 Billion

Manufacturing Contribution to GDP

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BB&T
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69th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. by population

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Seedcopa
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10,328 degrees awarded by colleges and universities

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Fuling
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81,000 employed in "Eds & Meds" sectors

By the Numbers
26.97%

Population between ages 18 and 34

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