Lehigh Valley is Top 5 in Northeast for Second Straight Year, LVEDC Announces at Annual Meeting

By Colin McEvoy on March 15, 2018

For the second consecutive year, the Lehigh Valley is the top region of its size in the Northeast for economic development, and one of the Top Five overall regions of any size, according to Site Selection magazine.

That was among the positive regional economic news that was announced at the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) 2018 Annual Meeting, which drew a crowd of more than 600 people at Bethlehem’s ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks on March 14.

“Our economy is growing. Our renaissance is well under way, but far from finished,” LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham said during his featured remarks.

“While we suffer some of the growing pains, let us remember that what’s happening here is the envy of many communities and regions across America who’ve yet to find their way back from economic change,” Cunningham said. “We have looked forward together, and because of that, our todays and tomorrows are even brighter than our storied past.”

Striking the right balance

Attended by the Lehigh Valley’s most influential business professionals, the LVEDC Annual Meeting highlighted economic development projects and activity over the past year and recognized the companies and people that have contributed to the region’s success.

In total, LVEDC worked on 31 major Lehigh Valley economic development projects in 2017, which accounted for 2,224 new jobs and 1,357 retained jobs, Cunningham said. In total, 24,246 jobs have been added in the Lehigh Valley over the last five years.

“Economic growth is about balance: the balance of jobs in cities and suburbs, in manufacturing and offices, and for workers of both low and high skills,” Cunningham said. “It’s also about the balance of jobs created by companies staying and growing at home and companies from other states and countries entering the market.”

The LVEDC 2017 Annual Report was also distributed for the first time. It provides a synopsis of the year in economic development and highlights the majority of point discussed at the meeting. It can be found online here, and hard copies can be made available upon request.

Commitment to the region

LVEDC also presented Air Products with a Leadership Award for its continued commitment to the Lehigh Valley. It was accepted by Jennifer Grant, Senior Vice President and Chief Human Resources Officer with the Fortune 500 industrial gas company.

Cunningham praised the company for going “above and beyond” in its contributions to the regional economy, its participation in the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council, its role in the rejuvenation of Allentown, and its commitment to keepings its world headquarters in the Lehigh Valley.

The Fortune 500 industrial gas company is planning a new corporate headquarters, and while the final location has not been determined, Grant reaffirmed that it is committed to remaining here in the Lehigh Valley.

“The Lehigh Valley has consistently produced outstanding talent that have met our needs,” Grant said, “and withe everything the Lehigh Valley has to offer, we’ve been able to attract and retain very high-quality talent to Air Products.”

Site Selection’s economic development ranking for the Northeast places the Lehigh Valley at #5, behind only New York City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and Boston. It was the only region in the population range between 200,000 and 1 million to make the Top Five.

“You only need to take a look at the names that make up that Top Five list to see what an exceptional accomplishment this is,” said Dan McCarthy, Vice Chair of the LVEDC Board of Directors. “We are right up there with the heavyweights. … Clearly, we’re starting to get people’s attention.”

Site Selection is one of the highest-read and most well-respected publications in the country, with a readership of power brokers who make major economic development decisions. It has circulation base of about 44,000 executives involved in corporate site selection.

Economic success stories

Cunningham discussed various news stories from the Lehigh Valley economy in 2017, including the region’s record-high $39.1 billion GDP, its manufacturing sector growth, and the expansion of many existing regional companies, including Air Products, Mack Trucks, Nestlé Waters, Victaulic, Avantor, Sharp Packaging Solutions, Uline, and Vastex.

“The Lehigh Valley is the 65th largest economy in the United States, jumping up eight spots from the year before,” he said. “More economic output is generated here than in the entire states of Vermont and Wyoming. If the Lehigh Valley were a country we would be the 87th largest in the world.”

Jane Long, Chair of the LVEDC Board of Directors, spoke about several initiatives LVEDC undertook in the past year, including its newly-released three-year strategic plan, its ongoing talent supply initiative and study, its recent reaccreditation, and its role in the Amazon second headquarters application.

“We may not have the same amount of resources as many of our competitors in economic development, but that only means that we must use the resources that we have in the most effective way when it comes to marketing the economic assets of the Lehigh Valley,” Long said. “We may not be the biggest, but we can be the smartest.”

LVEDC Vice President Jaime Whalen also announced that the organization experienced a record-breaking year in investment, with $660,000 coming from private sector investors and public partners. The organization recently took out newspaper ads to thank those investors.

‘Make no mistake: the Lehigh Valley economy could never have experienced the levels of growth and success that we’ve seen in recent years without the investment of the region’s private sector, as well as our public sector partners,” Whalen said. “We are fortunate to have so many companies in the Lehigh Valley that understand the importance of investing in economic growth.”

Several slides were featured during remarks in the LVEDC 2018 Annual Meeting. They can be seen below:

LVEDC Talent Supply: Four Successful Models by Employers

Each week, Karianne Gelinas, Director of Talent Supply with the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), will provide an update and additional information a[...]

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