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Lehigh Valley Lending Network Members Share Insights on Regional Trends

By Colin McEvoy on November 22, 2019

Jaime Whalen, LVEDC Vice President of Administration & Investor Relations, speaking to members of the Lehigh Valley Lending Network at Edge in Bethlehem.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) held a roundtable discussion with members of the Lehigh Valley Lending Network this week for a conversation about trends affecting economic prospects and projects across the region.

Established by LVEDC in 2015, the Lehigh Valley Lending Network is a revolutionary partnership of local financial institutions with a goal to create efficiencies for clients to access credit and other resources within the private commercial lending community.

“As bankers, you have insight into what’s happening right here in the economy by the very nature of what you do,” Jaime Whalen, LVEDC Vice President of Administration & Investor Relations, said to about two dozen attendees at the Nov. 22 roundtable discussion.

“You have access to all types and sizes of companies, from small mom and pop shops all the way to large corporate entities,” Whalen said. “So it’s very important for us to hear from you on what you are seeing in the market.”

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham discussing regional economic trends with the Lehigh Valley Lending Network.

The gathering was held at Edge restaurant in Bethlehem. LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham began with an overview of the regional economy, but sought for most of the event  to be a back-and-forth discussion directly with the Lending Network representatives.

Chris Brown, Senior Vice President & Commercial Market Executive with Fulton Bank, said activity has been strong in the Lehigh Valley, across a wide and diverse variety of sectors.

“Eds and meds, manufacturing, and transportation are all very active,” Brown said. “The economy has been in a growth mode for a long time, but we’re still seeing a lot of activity out there. I think that’s a huge positive.”

Steve Kalamar, Senior Vice President and Commercial Loan Officer at Univest, said he has seen a large demand for small-footprint manufacturing and flex space in the 40,000 to 100,000 square foot range, something LVEDC has long advocated for as well.

Matthew Tuerk, LVEDC Vice President of Economic Development & Marketing, said LVEDC is currently working with 40 active prospects, and that 16 of them are from the manufacturing sector. Another 10 come from food and beverage processing sector, while five come from the bio and life sciences industry.

Brown brought up the issue of “brain drain,” or students who graduate from colleges and universities in Lehigh Valley only to leave the area afterward. He believes Lehigh Valley has made great strides to improve in this area and keep those students engaged in the region, and believes those efforts should continue.

Cunningham noted this is one of the objectives of Made Possible in Lehigh Valley, a new marketing initiative launched by LVEDC to share the success stories of the people and companies in our region and market Lehigh Valley as an attractive location for businesses and talent.

“Companies today want to go where the talent is, or where they know they can easily recruit talent tomorrow,” Cunningham said. “So we need to change our focus and market the region as a place that has a lot to offer young people. Quite frankly, we need to show that the Lehigh Valley is cool.”

The Lehigh Valley Lending Network streamlines the process for businesses seeking financing and new bank relationships, allowing them to simultaneously access and shop commercial lending institutions and economic development resource providers, all in one spot.

The Lending Network has received national recognition as an innovative model, and previously won the prestigious Excellence in Development Finance Program Award from the Council of Development Finance Agencies (CDFA).

2019 Lending Network members include: Bank of America Merrill Lynch, BB&T, Embassy Bank for the Lehigh Valley, ESSA Bank & Trust, First Commonwealth Federal Credit Union, First Keystone Community Bank, FNCB Bank, Fulton Bank, Key Bank, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Merchants Bank, New Tripoli Bank, Peoples Security, PNC, Provident Bank, TD Bank, Unity Bank, Univest, and Wells Fargo.

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