Lehigh Valley Promoted at Prestigious Foreign Investment Summit
By Nicole Radzievich Mertz on July 1, 2022
Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) leaders spent four days highlighting the region’s economic assets to executives, investors, and high-ranking government officials in June at the annual SelectUSA Investment Summit, the nation’s highest profile event dedicated to attracting foreign-owned companies to the United States.
The event, organized by the U.S. Department of Commerce, provided access to a record 2,000 international participants from 70 countries at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center just outside Washington, D.C. The event was also an opportunity to learn the latest trends in the international market from 300 speakers, including U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo.
The conference comes as companies are reconsidering their global footprints amid supply shocks brought to light during COVID-19. Expenditures by foreign direct investors to acquire, establish, or expand U.S. businesses totaled $333.6 billion in 2021, up $192.2 billion from $141.4 billion in 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.
“SelectUSA was a great opportunity for LVEDC to connect with companies from all over the world and explain why the Lehigh Valley is the right place for them to expand their business,” said Kristin Cahayla-Hoffman, LVEDC Vice President of Business Attraction and Development.
Foreign Direct Investment is an important part of LVEDC’s work because of the family-sustaining wages many of these companies bring. Average wages from foreign-owned companies are typically 14% higher, according to SelectUSA.
Lehigh Valley’s diverse economy includes a strong portfolio of recognizable foreign-owned companies. German-owned B. Braun Medical has manufacturing facilities and its U.S. headquarters is in the Lehigh Valley. Mack Trucks, owned by Volvo in Sweden, begins the assembly for all its trucks for the North American market in Lower Macungie Township, and Olympus of the Americas, a global medtech leader based in Japan, has its U.S. headquarters in Upper Saucon Township.
A SelectUSA analysis conducted last year shows the Lehigh Valley ranks within the top 10% on the Foreign Direct Investment Attractiveness Index.
At the conference, Cahayla-Hoffman and Business Attraction and Lending Director Doug Warfel explained why the Lehigh Valley is attractive for foreign investment and fielded questions about the Lehigh Valley from companies particularly in the life sciences, food production and other manufacturing industry sectors.
The conversations centered on the Lehigh Valley’s attractive location in the heart of the Northeast market, breadth of talent support provided by the region’s educational institutions, the tax benefits of the Foreign Trade Zone that LVEDC administers and the region’s strength in manufacturing. The Lehigh Valley is among the nation’s top 50 manufacturing markets and home to companies that make iconic products like Crayola crayons and Martin Guitars.
The prospects were also offered swag from Lehigh Valley companies. Mack Trucks donated a box of company-branded items, including the iconic Bulldog hood ornament and collectible trucks to that were raffled to participants. Just Born donated its popular candies: Peanut Chews, Mike and Ike, and Hot Tamales.
Lehigh Valley companies played a prominent role in conversations at the conference.
A panel discussion on health care included Robert Albert, senior vice president and chief marketing officer of B. Braun Medical. He was the featured speaker in a discussion about the competitive advantages of the United States,. The session examined the select subsectors of the industry and areas of interest for foreign investors.
Albert noted 80% of B. Braun’s products for the U.S. market are made in the United States, and that the country ranks No. 1 in science and technology, with $245 billion spent on medical and health R&D in 2020. On the eve of the pandemic, the company made the decision to invest in the U.S. market, committing $1 billion to modernize its facilities and bring medical product manufacturing closer to our customers and patients. The decision was made long before the pandemic exposed supply chain issues and prompted conversations about reshoring.
B. Braun’s investment includes a 310,000-square-foot expansion of its manufacturing plant underway in Allentown. About 1,500 employees currently work at that facility, and the expansion will mean the hiring of 250 more.
“With our more than $1 billion of investments in US manufacturing facilities, B. Braun is doing its part to ensure the reliable, long-term supply of vital IV fluids and infusion therapy products that healthcare providers depend on for patient treatment,” Albert said. “The expansion of our Allentown facility reflects B. Braun’s long-time commitment to grow our business in the Lehigh Valley. With its central location, high quality workforce, vibrant communities, and ability to partner with leading healthcare and academic institutions, the Lehigh Valley is an ideal location for a company like ours.”
The United States ranks as the No. 1 destination for foreign direct investment. In 2019, the latest state data reported by SelectUSA, Pennsylvania had 1.3 million jobs from companies based in the United Kingdom, 898,800 in Germany, 793,400 in France, 587,200 in the Netherlands, and 509,600. Manufacturing accounts for 36% of those jobs, the largest share.
In 2012, the latest local employment data available, the Lehigh Valley has nearly 24,000 jobs supported by foreign-owned companies, according to SelectUSA. The average salary of workers at foreign-owned companies in the Lehigh Valley then was $55,368. That was $10,500 more than the average of all the region’s companies.
Lehigh Valley has landed more foreign-owned companies in the last decade. Before the pandemic, LVEDC leaders traveled on international mission trips to England, Germany, France and China to promote and assist companies investing in Lehigh Valley and Pennsylvania. Among the recent successes from those trips was Norac Foods/bakerly, a French maker of baked pasta and frozen desserts that opened a new facility in Forks Township. Fuling, a plastics manufacturer from China, opened its first U.S. manufacturing operation in Bethlehem, and SunOpta of Canada announced its plans to expand its Upper Macungie Township facility.
LVEDC is tracking more than 80 foreign-owned companies in the two-county region.
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