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Lehigh Valley Manufacturing Recognized at 25th Annual March of Dimes Event

By Colin McEvoy on November 2, 2018

The 25th annual Lehigh Valley March of Dimes Commercial & Industrial Real Estate Awards was held at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks on Nov. 2.

The 25th annual Lehigh Valley March of Dimes Commercial & Industrial Real Estate Awards was held at the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks on Nov. 2.

For the last quarter-century, the Lehigh Valley March of Dimes Commercial & Industrial Real Estate Awards has recognized individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to the local community, as well as the projects that have helped create jobs and advance economic development in the Lehigh Valley.

But in honor of the event’s 25th year, rather than choosing a traditional “Project of the Year,” the event committee has decided to recognize the manufacturing sector as a whole in the Lehigh Valley and its crucial role in the regional economy.

“Over the last 25 years, we have raised $1.5 million for the March of Dimes, which is a really great accomplishment,” Christa Duelberg-Kraftician, chair of the Commercial and Industrial Real Estate Awards Committee.

More than 450 people attended the event, which was held on Nov. 11 at the ArtsQuest Center at Steelstacks in Bethlehem. This year’s event raised $95,000 for the March of Dimes, Duelberg-Kraftician said.

The event spotlighted the sector by highlighting three of the Lehigh Valley’s largest manufacturers: B. Braun Medical, Mack Trucks, and Crayola. Other various manufacturing companies from the region were also highlighted throughout the event.

The Individual/Organization of the Year honor went to Frank T. Smith, Principal with NAI Summit, who has more than 30 years of experience in the areas of construction, real estate development, property management and brokerage.

“During the course of any day in our business world, it’s very competitive; it is an infrequent occurrence that the commercial real estate practitioner come together to collaborate,” said Smith, who sits on the March of Dimes board of directors and event committee. “However, over the past 25 years, it’s amazing to see how many professionals in my industry do in fact come together to make this a huge success.”

Catharine Aboulhouda speaking at the Lehigh Valley March of Dimes Commercial & Industrial Real Estate Awards.

Catharine Aboulhouda speaking at the Lehigh Valley March of Dimes Commercial & Industrial Real Estate Awards.

Each year, the event also features an ambassador family to represent the March of Dimes. This year it was the family of Catharine Aboulhouda, who was born 16 weeks early weighing just 1 pound, 10 ounces, and just 12 inches tall.

At birth, her eyes were still fused shut and she suffered from a heart defect, bleeding in her brain, jaundice, and a heart murmur. She spent 113 days in the NICU, but had no lasting consequences of her extremely premature birth, thanks in part to medical advances developed and funded by the March of Dimes.

“The March of Dimes helps babies, moms, and families to grow strong,” said Aboulhouda, who is now 16. “My strength comes from how hard I had to fight to come home to my family.”

Funds raised by the Commercial & Industrial Real Estate Awards help support prenatal wellness programs, research grants, neonatal intensive care unit family support programs, and advocacy efforts for mothers and babies.

It has been 15 years since Bethlehem Steel officially closed its doors for good, but manufacturing remains alive and well in the Lehigh Valley. It is the second largest sector in the regional economy, making up $7.4 billion (of 18.4 percent) of the Lehigh Valley’s record-high $40.1 billion gross domestic product in 2017.

Manufacturing was also the region’s fastest growing sector in terms of economic growth last year. There are about 680 manufacturers operating in the Lehigh Valley, employing about 32,000 people, and making everything from aeronautic components to medical supplies.

“There are an abundance of jobs being made in manufacturing right now,” said Jack Pfunder, President & CEO of the Manufacturers Resource Center. “Manufacturing is enjoying the largest growth streak that it has seen in the last 30 years.”

Braun Medical Inc. is a medical and pharmaceutical device manufacturer that works in the areas of hospital care, outpatient markets, renal therapies, and original equipment manufacturing.

Braun is planning to add a 192,000 square-foot expansion to its facility at 939 Marcon Blvd., located in the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park III in Hanover Township, Lehigh County. The company estimates this expansion will create 250 new jobs in the region.

Based in Forks Township, Crayola is known across the world for its crayons, which have 99 percent name recognition in U.S. consumer households. The company’s products are marketed and sold in more than 80 countries, and in addition to crayons include markets, colored pencils, water paint, modeling compounds, toys and activities, chalk, and much more.

“The Lehigh Valley has evolved to be a substantial logistics network in the United States, so we’ve been able to bring our whole supply chain together, from manufacturing to logistics, to be able to serve our customers very effectively,” said Pete Ruggiero, Crayola Executive Vice President, Global Operations & Information Solutions.

One of North America’s largest manufacturers of heavy-duty trucks, engines and transmissions, Mack Trucks has operated its Lehigh Valley plant since 1975, and all of its trucks built for the North American market are manufactured there.

In December 2017, Mack Trucks announced it is adding another 400 workers to its Lower Macungie Township plant, which had already employed about 2,000 people, bringing employment at the facility to an all-time high.

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