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LVEDC Engages Firm to Develop Economic Development Action Plan

By Colin McEvoy on June 8, 2021

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation has engaged a nationally-recognized consulting firm to develop an updated economic development action plan for the Lehigh Valley, which will also inform the creation of LVEDC’s next strategic plan.

Garner Economics LLC, an economic development strategy and location advisory firm, will once again conduct a detailed analysis that will identify the Lehigh Valley’s strengths and weaknesses, and recommend ways LVEDC can enhance the economic vitality of the region

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.

Jay Garner

Jay Garner

“It’s been seven years since we first conducted an entirely new economic development action plan for the Valley, and to say much has changed since then is an understatement,” said Jay Garner, President & Founder of Garner Economics.

“When I was recently in the Valley doing my due diligence, my reaction on 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.”

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham said Garner’s analysis will seek to ensure an understanding of the economic changes in both the Lehigh Valley and global markets, and how that new environment will affect LVEDC’s future direction and strategic approaches.

“At LVEDC, we have always stressed the importance of knowing thyself,” Cunningham said. “The regions that will succeed are the ones with the deepest understanding of its own strengths and weaknesses, and which have the economic intelligence needed to create external marketing and in-market strategies focused on high-quality growth and job creation.”

A major part of developing that understanding are focus groups and surveys, which Garner distributed to regional businesses and economic development stakeholders. That process sought to solicit input on the current state of the area’s business climate. Focus group participants included more than 50 business and community leaders, and commercial real estate brokers and developers.

The surveys address such topics as associations they have regarding the Lehigh Valley, how friendly the region is for entrepreneurs, and what innovative programs or initiatives exist that help enhance the competitiveness of the Lehigh Valley.

They also sought feedback about the Lehigh Valley’s workforce and labor pool, as well as the region’s biggest assets and greatest obstacles when it comes to attracting and retaining businesses.

Nearly 150 surveys were completed and returned over the course of April and May, and the survey process concluded in late May. The results of the survey are confidential, and the data will be reported only in the aggregate.

Garner is also the current board chair for the Site Selectors Guild, an association of the world’s foremost professional site selection consultants. Site selectors, location consultants, and national industrial commercial brokers are involved with virtually every major company relocation.

“LVEDC makes it a priority to engage with these site selectors and connect with them directly at events whenever possible, so we can keep Lehigh Valley in front-of-mind for them,” Cunningham said. “This is important because if they don’t know our region exists, they can’t recommend that a company come here.”

Cunningham will be attending the Site Selectors Guild 2021 Annual Conference this month, which allows an exchange of ideas and networking between Guild members and economic developers and investment promotion professionals from around the world.

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