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LVEDC Attends Gathering of Nation’s Foremost Professional Site Selectors

By Colin McEvoy on June 29, 2021

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham attended attended the 2021 Annual Conference of the Site Selectors Guild. (photo courtesy Jeff Pipkin of Hoosier Energy)

A group of the nation’s foremost professional site selectors and corporate location consultants gathered for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and the Lehigh Valley was well represented among them.

Don Cunningham, President & CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), this month attended the 2021 Annual Conference of the Site Selectors Guild, the national professional association of site selectors, location consultants, and national industrial commercial brokers.

“Members of the Guild are key advisors involved with company relocation and corporate real estate decisions,” Cunningham said. “It’s crucially important for LVEDC to remain connected with them so they are aware of the Lehigh Valley for business location decisions.”

The conference also included panel discussions and expert presentations about various trends and forecasts related to economic development, including creative ways to win projects, emerging factors in site selection, and next practices for economic development organizations following COVID-19.

The future of the office market was one of the key topics discussed at this year’s conference, Cunningham said. This included whether office projects will increase or decrease in the next few years, and how work-from-home arrangements will impact commercial space and downtown neighborhoods.

Keynote speaker Spencer Levy, Global Chief Client Officer and Senior Economic Advisor for CBRE, the largest commercial real estate firm in the world, said he is more bullish than many others about the return of commercial office space leasing and development.

“The office will come back because productivity is more important than efficiency,” Levy said. “You can be efficient working remotely, but productivity comes from collaboration, innovation, and working with others.”

However, Scott Redabaugh, Managing Director in the JLL Business Consulting group, said he expects to see fewer investment projects for office due to a greater demand for remote work or hybrid arrangements from the workforce.

“Labor shortages give employees the upper hand, and they prefer remote or hybrid work,” Redabaugh said.

Another major topic of discussion was reshoring and the shortening of supply lines coming out of the pandemic, Cunningham said. Companies that previously depended on products or component parts manufactured in overseas countries like China might consider getting them from closer to home, to avoid delays from other potential global crises.

The Site Selectors Guild includes representatives from such major consulting firms as JLL, CBRE, Cushman & Wakefield, Biggins Lacy Shapiro, Deloitte, Newmark Grubb Knight Frank, and more.

Jay Garner, President & Founder of Garner Economics and current board chair for the Site Selectors Guild, is currently developing an updated economic development action plan for the Lehigh Valley, which will also inform the creation of LVEDC’s next strategic plan.

LVEDC previously retained Garner Economics in 2013 to produce a roadmap to help strengthen the region’s global competitiveness. The firm updated that plan in 2017, which informed LVEDC’s priorities and goals in its 2017–2020 strategic plan.

“When I was recently in the Valley doing my due diligence, my reaction to a number of developments that have occurred was a ‘Wow,’” Garner said. “At the same time, there are still some fundamental issues impacting the Valley from reaching its fullest potential, which we will highlight and offer recommendations when we deliver our final report later this summer.”

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