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LVEDC Discusses Population Changes, Workforce with Lehigh Valley Legislators

By Colin McEvoy on April 26, 2019

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham speaking to legislators at Zest Bar & Grille in Bethlehem.

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham speaking to legislators at Zest Bar & Grille in Bethlehem.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) discussed economic trends and pertinent issues during the organization’s bi-annual gathering of the region’s legislative delegation this week.

More than two dozen legislators and staff members from federal and state offices representing the Lehigh Valley attended the event on April 25, which was held at the Zest Bar & Grille in Bethlehem.

“LVEDC has always had excellent communication and cooperation with the Lehigh Valley’s legislative delegations, and we are committed to continuing those strong relationships and keeping our elected representatives informed about the region and the key initiatives of our organization,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO.

Those in attendance included Pennsylvania Reps. Jeanne McNeill, Ryan Mackenzie, Steve Samuelson, Mike Schlossberg, Peter Schweyer, Zachary Mako.

“I appreciated the information presented; keeping us up to date on the latest trends in the Lehigh Valley is extremely valuable,” Schlossberg said. “I especially appreciated the public policy suggestions in terms of tax reforms and talent attraction.”

Other attendees included representatives of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, U.S. Reps. Matthew Cartwright and Susan Wild, state Sens. Pat Browne and Mario Scavello, and state Reps. Joe Emrick, Marcia Hahn, and Justin Simmons.

Cunningham gave a presentation about talent attraction analysis and marketing. Nationally, the United States is seeing its lowest population annual growth rate (0.62%) in 80 years. The percentage of U.S. population under 18 decreased by 1.05%, he said, and the percentage of Pennsylvania’s population under 18 decreased by 5%.

The Lehigh Valley, however, is one of the few growing regions in the state. Lehigh County has seen an 18,424 population increase from 2010 to 2018, and Northampton saw 7,113 in that time.

“Lehigh and Northampton are among only 18 of 67 Pennsylvania counties with population growth since 2010,” Cunningham said. “And Lehigh County is tied for first in the state in growth year-over-year.”

The Lehigh Valley has also seen a larger portion of growth in the 18 to 34 age demographic than other areas of Pennsylvania, Cunningham said.

The region saw a 5.1% growth in that age range, he said, and millennials make up 31.1% of the population of Bethlehem, 30.5% in Easton, and 28.2% in Allentown, compared to only 22.4% across the entire state.

Cunningham also discussed the newly-launched Made Possible in Lehigh Valley marketing campaign, which will spread the narrative of regional employers and people alike, increase outside awareness of the region, and let everyone know the amazing things that can happen here.

Additionally, LVEDC Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Research Karianne Gelinas discussed key findings from a year-long study commissioned by LVEDC to assess the regional talent market and identify wide-ranging strategies to grow, recruit, develop, and retain talent.

Among the report’s key findings, Gelinas said, were that employers consider a skilled workforce essential to growth, and that regional employers are hiring, but consider finding the right people is a challenge and say “soft skills” are necessary and lacking.

Gelinas also discussed work groups formed by the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council to help execute on the study’s findings. Those groups are focused on such areas as employability skills, career pathways, internships, attracting and recruiting talent, and talent research initiatives.

“The council has prioritized the study’s recommendations and established smaller goal-focused work groups that will concentrate on specific types of strategies and recommendations and advance ideas for execution,” Gelinas said.

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