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LVEDC Gives Economic Update to Lehigh County Commissioners

By Colin McEvoy on August 26, 2016

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham gave an economic update before the Lehigh County Commissioners.

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham gave an economic update before the Lehigh County Commissioners.

It was a homecoming of sorts for Don Cunningham this week, as the former Lehigh Valley Executive appeared before the county’s Board of Commissioners to provide an update about the regional economy from the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC).

Cunningham, the President and CEO of LVEDC, provided an economic development overview and presented videos and collateral materials from a new marketing campaign highlighting the specific economic assets of the region’s three cities, two counties, and the Slate Belt.

Lehigh County Commissioner Chairman Brad Osborne complimented Cunningham for his work at LVEDC over the last four years, adding he is particularly impressed with the amount of behind-the-scenes work the organization does to attract major business prospects.

Don Cunningham discussing the regional GDP, which at $35.4 billion is larger than the entire state of Vermont.

Don Cunningham discussing the regional GDP, which at $35.4 billion is larger than the entire state of Vermont.

“When it hits the headline, you think it’s happened in the last couple weeks, but as I’ve learned, sometimes it’s a couple years in the making,” Osborne said. “I don’t know if your organization gets its full due for all the work that it does leading up to that process.”

Cunningham said a development project usually takes two to three years to come to its culmination, and LVEDC is unable to discuss the projects publicly during that period because companies are often looking at multiple sites and discussing sensitive financial information.

The Aug. 24 presentation was one of several Cunningham had made to governing bodies across the region in the past four months to present the sub-regional marketing campaigns for Allentown, Bethlehem, Easton, the Slate Belt, and Lehigh and Northampton counties.

LVEDC developed videos, websites, high-quality photography, and printed brochures for that campaign, which explains why companies should invest in each sub-sector. The campaigns are branded with the word Select, and Cunningham presented the websites and videos for “Select Lehigh County” or “Select Allentown.”

“With these videos and websites, we’re trying to appeal not to visitors or leisure travelers, but we’re trying to appeal directly to site selectors and industrial brokers,” Cunningham said.

The Lehigh County and Allentown videos Cunningham presented can be seen below:

In addition to the marketing campaign, Cunningham discussed explained that the Lehigh Valley’s $35.4 billion GDP is larger than that of the entire state of Vermont and 94 other countries in the world. He noted that Site Selection magazine has ranked the Lehigh Valley the top-performing region for economic development in the Northeastern United States.

Cunningham touched on several market trends, including the rapid growth of the e-commerce industry in the Lehigh Valley, and the fact that nearly 5 million square-feet of industrial space is currently under construction in the region, much of which is being built on spec.

Manufacturing remains a strong sector for the Lehigh Valley, Cunningham said. It constitutes $4.95 billion of the region’s overall GDP and grew by 4.1 percent over the previous year, making the region at 64th largest output of manufacturing out of 351 major metropolitan areas in the United States.

“We’re swinging above our weight class there, because we’re not the 64th largest metropolitan region in the United States,” Cunningham said. “The number of manufacturers in the Lehigh Valley is growing, and we want to continue to see more growth there.”

Cunningham also discussed the growing importance of foreign direct investment in the Lehigh Valley. Forty-two percent of the major business attraction or retention projects for 2015 were from international companies, including such Lehigh County projects as Nihon Kohden (Japan), SunOpta (Canada), I2R Nanowave (Canada), and Malmedie (Germany).

“We’re seeing a lot of interest and demand coming in from Europe, Asia and Canada coming into the U.S. market and eyeing the Lehigh Valley as a location,” he said.

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