LVEDC Discusses Lehigh Valley With Irish Trade Representatives

By Kat Schneider on April 22, 2020

LVEDC Director of Business Recruitment and Lending Doug Warfel (back, center) at the networking event organized by Littus.

Before travel restrictions and quarantines began last month, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation met with a visiting delegation of trade representatives from Ireland to discuss possible foreign direct investment opportunities in Lehigh Valley.

LVEDC Director of Business Recruitment and Lending Doug Warfel attended meetings with the representatives on March 11 and 12 during a networking event and panel discussion in Philadelphia organized by the consulting firm Littus.

Titled “The USA Diaspora and Networking with Irish Economic Development Agencies in 2020,” the event featured a networking breakfast with a panel discussion on the Irish diaspora and ongoing cooperation between economic development agencies in the Tri-State Region and Ireland.

“Obviously from a business recruitment perspective, there’s no greater value than being able to meet with actual decision-makers from companies to understand what their specific needs are and how Lehigh Valley can help accommodate them,” Warfel said.

The timing of the event was intended to capitalize on Irish delegates and business owners who travel to the United States around St. Patrick’s Day every year to help promote tourism and economic opportunities in Ireland, Warfel said.

The event allows those individuals to gain a better understanding of various markets in the northeast that could provide landing spots for Irish companies looking to expand or relocate to the states, he explained.

“Despite having very different physical and economic landscapes, there’s a lot Lehigh Valley has in common with much of Ireland and we’re able to highlight those traits to Irish business leaders to help attract those companies to our region,” Warfel said.

Foreign direct investment has historically been an important component of the Lehigh Valley economy.

In 2019, 14% of LVEDC’s major business attraction or expansion projects were from international companies. Among them was the Irish company Sharp Packaging Solutions, which invested $21 million to expand U.S. packaging capacity and capabilities to its campus in Upper Macungie Township.

Other companies from 2019 included four from Germany B Braun, Brenntag North America, Evonik, and Julabo as well as, Nestle Purina (Switzerland), Norac (France).

As part of its international recruitment and attraction efforts, LVEDC has regularly engaged with international representatives through the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) and the Pennsylvania Office of International Business Development (OIBD).

Most recently, LVEDC officials completed overseas business development tours to market Lehigh Valley as an attractive place for foreign direct investment. Matthew Tuerk, LVEDC Vice President of Business, Attraction and Retention and Expansion, previously embarked on a 10-day visit through China.

Additionally, LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham and Director of Business Development Jarett Witt underwent on a tour of Western Europe that included stops in Germany, England, and France. This tour helped directly lead to the French baked goods company Norac establishing its first American facility in Lehigh Valley.

The March 11 and 12 event was supported by the Pennsylvania DCED and OIBD, Enterprise Ireland, Invest Northern Ireland and the City of Philadelphia and was held before any quarantines or warnings about large gatherings in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, though Warfel practiced social distancing measures as a precaution.

Moderated by Rob Rae, a founding partner of Littus, the panel included Peter Hynes, Chief Executive, Mayo County Council; Michael Conlon, Global Business Development Invest Northern Ireland New York; and Ciaran Hayes, Chief Executive, Sligo County Council.

Littus was created in part by Paul Maguire, an Irish native who came to the United States roughly 30 years ago to open an accounting firm and has since taken those skills to directly assist Irish based firms to operate between the states and Ireland.

Littus has since morphed into more of an international consultant for breaking down barriers of entry into the US with focuses on Ireland and beyond, Warfel said.

Littus brings together companies looking to grow their business in North America with partners, prospects, government programs and investors that will be the pillars of their successful global expansion.

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