LVEDC Hosts Bi-Annual Gathering of Lehigh Valley Legislative Delegation
By Colin McEvoy on December 14, 2018
Twice each year, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) hosts a gathering of the region’s legislative delegations to discuss pertinent issues and strategies related to economic development in the region.
More than a dozen legislators and staff members attended this year’s luncheon meeting, held December 13 at The Hamilton Kitchen & Bar in Allentown, which touched upon everything from the Lehigh Valley’s growing economy to the legislative agenda for the upcoming new year.
“The strong working relationships LVEDC enjoys with the Lehigh Valley’s legislative delegations is an important factor in driving regional economic development,” said LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham. “That’s why it’s important that we hold these meetings so we can continue to be a resource for our elected representatives and inform them about the key initiatives our organization is working on.”
Cunningham discussed the Lehigh Valley’s record-high $40.1 billion gross domestic product (GDP), which ranks 64th highest among metropolitan areas in the United States and is higher than those of the entire states of Wyoming ($34.1 billion) and Vermont ($27.4 billion.)
The Lehigh Valley economy is unusually balanced and diversified, much more so than that of the national economy, Cunningham said. Manufacturing is driving much of the economic growth, contributing $7.4 billion – or 18.4 percent – of the overall regional economy.
“For comparison purposes, manufacturing makes up just a little over 13 percent of the national GDP,” Cunningham said. “The Lehigh Valley is unique among major metropolitan areas in the United States in that manufacturing is responsible for such a large percentage of our growth.”
Those in attendance included Pennsylvania Reps. Gary Day, Steve Samuelson, Mike Schlossberg, and Peter Schweyer, as well as Connor Corpora on behalf of U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, and April Niver on behalf of U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright.
“The overview was so useful that I asked for the information to be sent to us so we could share it on our social media sites,” Schlossberg said.
“It provided a fantastic, birds-eye view of where we are as a Lehigh Valley, where we are heading and what we need to do in order to continue our growth,” he said. “Perhaps most striking, at least to me, was the role of immigration as a growth-driver in our community.”
Other attendees included Joe Kelly (representing state Sen. Lisa Boscola), Ellen Millard-Kern (state Sen. Pat Browne), Bob Kilbanks (state Rep. Joe Emerick), Dustin Raines (state Rep. Justin Simmons), Bill Royer (state Rep. Ryan Mackenzie), and Steve Strella (state Rep. Zach Mako).
Cunningham discussed a number of successful economic development projects from the past year, including ADP moving into Five City Center, Air Products announcing its new global headquarters in the Lehigh Valley, FedEx Ground opening its distribution hub, and major expansion projects by companies like Air Liquide, B Braun, Evonik, and Freshpet.
The Lehigh Valley has added 24,246 jobs in the last five years, Cunningham said, and has a total workforce of 344,623 people as of 2017. Health care is the region’s largest employer by far, employing 57,646 people, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor, followed by retail (34,139), manufacturing (32,522) and transportation (30,682).
Cunningham also discussed shifting demographics in the Lehigh Valley over 10 years. If all measures stay equal, the Lehigh Valley could face a net deficit of nearly 10,000 workers, as incoming workers (population ages 6-15) are at 80,673, but outgoing workers (ages 55-64) are 90,665.
The event also included a discussion of the 2019 legislative agenda, which includes continued state, financial support for LVEDC’s Education and Talent Supply Council, full restoration of funding that was transferred from the Manufacturer’s Equipment Loan Fund (MELF) and modernization of Pennsylvania’s business financing programs.
“Continued state funding for the Education and Talent Supply Council, which Sen. Pat Browne has been leader on, is important, but it is also critical that the MELF program have its funding fully restored,” Cunningham said.
“MELF has been a key part of recruiting a number of manufacturers to the Lehigh Valley,” he said. “It is a highly effective loan program that provides necessary business financing to manufacturers looking move into to grow in the Lehigh Valley.”
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