LVEDC Fall Signature Event Highlights Manufacturing Growth, Easton’s Transformation

By Colin McEvoy on September 21, 2022

This past year was the largest in the 119-year history of the Crayola, eclipsing each of the prior two years, which had then also been the largest. The company’s market share in the United States has never been higher, and international growth is up about 9% over the last three years.

And it’s all been made possible by the company’s location in the Lehigh Valley, according to Rich Wuerthele, President & CEO of the iconic manufacturer of crayons, arts and craft tools, and creative toys. Seventy percent of Crayola’s products are made at the company’s Forks Township facility, and the company has benefitted from the region’s central location, access to markets, transportation infrastructure, and high-quality talent, he said.

“Quite simply, the Lehigh Valley has been instrumental to our success over our 119-year history,” Wuethele said. “It’s not only been instrumental in our overarching success, but really critical to the heartbeat of our business, which is manufacturing.”

Wuerthele was the keynote speaker at the sixth annual Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation Fall Signature Event, held on Sept. 20 at the State Theatre Center for the Arts in Easton, Pa. It marked LVEDC’s first in-person since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and more than 300 people were in attendance.

The event highlighted the Lehigh Valley’s thriving manufacturing sector – which is now a Top 50 manufacturing market in the United States with job growth that outpaces that of the nation – as well as the dramatic transformation of Easton, which has reinvented itself as an entertainment, arts, and culinary destination.

“Lehigh Valley manufacturing is once again a powerhouse and a national story,” said LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham. “We still make things here. Just as manufacturing in the Lehigh Valley of yesterday drove the industrial revolution of the last century, Lehigh Valley manufacturing 2.0 serves the new diversified economy of today.”

Manufacturing panel discussion

The event featured two panel discussions, with one about manufacturing that featured executives from top Lehigh Valley companies, including Rick Bucher, President & CEO of Victaulic; Jean-Claude Dubacher, President & CEO of B. Braun Medical; Fred Horowitz, President & CEO of A.P. Deauville; and Michael Tierney, founder & CEO of Stuffed Puffs.

Several of those companies have expanded or opened new facilities in recent years. Stuffed Puffs opened a 165,000 square-foot facility in Hanover Township, Northampton County; B Braun will host a ribbon-cutting Thursday for a 310,000 square-foot expansion in Hanover Township, Lehigh County;  and Victualic built a 400,000 square-foot manufacturing facility in Lower Nazareth Township, employing 280 people.

“We could’ve built it anywhere, but we decided on the Lehigh Valley for a number of reasons,” Bucher said. “We gave our employees who are already here in the Lehigh Valley growth opportunities. … And there’s work ethic, the pride, the loyalty is here in the Lehigh Valley. It seems like people here love manufacturing and take pride in it.

A.P. Deauville relocated last year from New Jersey to a 180,000 square-foot facility in Forks Township. Horowitz said operating costs and property taxes were much lower in the Lehigh Valley than in New Jersey, and he found it much easier to find high-quality talent in the region.

“We couldn’t get good people anymore in New Jersey; they couldn’t afford the property taxes and the income taxes,” he said. “They basically moved to Pennsylvania. … We came here and we could get incredible talent. It’s changed our company.”

Cunningham also unveiled a new video about manufacturing in the Lehigh Valley, which was commissioned by LVEDC and produced by FireRock Productions. It can be viewed and shared on YouTube here, and viewed below:

Easton’s transformation highlighted

The other panel discussion featured some of the changemakers behind the transformation of the city of Easton.

It included Nicole Hurd, President of Lafayette College; Mark Mulligan of VM Development Group; Mike Pichetto, owner of 3rd & Ferry Fish Market; and Bill Strickland, editorial director of Hearst Enthusiast Group. The discussion was moderated by Shelley Brown, President & CEO of the State Theatre.

“We’re an urban environment that’s still open for people to shape, so it’s very exciting for people,” Strickland said. “It’s easier to recruit employees here than in other places. … It’s like a very affordable Brooklyn. In fact, I call Brooklyn ‘the Easton of New York.’”

The city has experienced almost $1 billion in public and private investment and the creation of hundreds of new jobs, Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. said in a video introduction. Additionally, crime has gone down for the last 14 years, and property taxes have not risen during that same period.

The panelists discussed the amenities and cultural assets that have contributed to Easton’s growth and made the city so attractive for residents, talent, and businesses.This includes new modern apartments, two hotel projects, attractions like the Easton Farmers’ Market and the Crayola Experience, several major festivals, and the presence of Lafayette College.

“I love the direction the city is going in,” Pichetto said. “We have all these things coming in in the next few years that will make Easton more of a center, more of a walkable town. And then you’ll get more people down here that live, work, eat, and are entertained down here rather than just driving in, seeing a show, and leaving.”

Future stories forthcoming

LVEDC plans to release a number of additional stories in the upcoming weeks focused specifically on the individual panel discussion and keynote remarks. Check back at or subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter for those future stories.

The event was made possible with support from presenting sponsor Capital Blue Cross. The event’s gold sponsor is The Morning Call, and the cocktail sponsors are BSI Corporate Benefits, and Klunk & Millan Advertising.

Silver sponsors are Boyle Construction Management, Fitzpatrick Lentz & Bubba, Lehigh Valley Health Network, Moravian University, St. Luke’s University Health Network, D’Huy Engineering, and Herbert, Rowland & Grubic, Inc.

Community sponsors are Penn Community Bank, DGI, Barry Isett & Associates, Manufacturers Resource Center, Goodwill Keystone Area, MKSD architects, HMK Insurance, LaBella Associates, Keystone Food Products, Earthres, Unity Bank, Vastex International Inc. and Service Electric.

Don’t Miss the LVEDC Fall Signature Event on Tuesday

Registration is closed, but walk-ins are still welcome for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) Fall Signature Event on Tuesday, Sept. 20, at the Sta[...]

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