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LVEDC Hosts Legislators for Discussion on Lehigh Valley Economic Development

By Colin McEvoy on April 3, 2017

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham speaking with legislators at the 3rd & Ferry Fish Market in Easton.

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham speaking with legislators at the 3rd & Ferry Fish Market in Easton.

More than one dozen Lehigh Valley legislators and staff members from federal and state offices attended a discussion hosted by the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) about pertinent issues and strategies related to economic development in the region.

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham provided an overview of the Lehigh Valley economy and regional success stories from recent months during a March 31 gathering at the 3rd & Ferry Fish Market in Easton.

“I think it was a great presentation,” said state Rep. Bob Freeman, whose 136th district includes Easton and other Northampton County municipalities. “It really shows the Lehigh Valley is doing well and is projected to do even better.”

Held at least once each year, the goal of these meetings are to build on the strong working relationships LVEDC maintains with the legislative delegations, to inform them of key initiatives the organization is working on, and to continue to be a resource for them if any constituents have economic development issues.

Attendees included Freeman, state Reps. Gary Day, Marcia Hahn, Ryan Mackenzie, Zachary Mako, and Steve Samuelson, as well as staff representatives for U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, U.S. Rep Charlie Dent, state Sens. Lisa Boscola and Mario Scavello, and state Reps. Dan Cartwright, Mike Schlossberg, Peter Schweyer, and Justin Simmons.

“We really appreciated the discussion about all the economic development happening in the Lehigh Valley every day,” Samuelson said. “It’s great to see we’re also looking forward to the future and making sure we continue to focus on educating out workforce.”

Cunningham discussed the LVEDC Education and Talent Supply Council, an unprecedented partnership of Lehigh Valley educational institutions, major employers, and economic development and workforce agencies focused on strategies that help maintain a workforce and talent supply for the region.

“The availability of trained workers is now the number one factor driving company locations, even more so than the total operating costs,” Cunningham said. “The regions that best solve the talent supply equations are the ones that will score the big wins in economic development competition.”

He also highlighted the regional GDP, which has reached the $37 billion mark for the first time in history, and Site Selection magazine’s recent announcement that the Lehigh Valley ranked in the top five regions in the Northeast for regional development, and the number one region of its population size in the Northeast.

Cunningham also discussed various Lehigh Valley market trends, including the fact that manufacturing has become the region’s top sector for economic output, that available land and properties are at a premium, and that industrial space is being built on spec due to e-commerce driving growth.

The Lehigh Valley industrial market grew by 7 percent over the course of 2016, reaching a total inventory of 113.6 million square-feet, according to a recent LVEDC report. Job creation has exploded in the logistics, e-commerce, and transportation sectors, which will soon exceed 30,000 workers, compared to less than 20,000 five years ago.

“Anytime someone in the Northeast orders a product online, it sends a ripple through the Lehigh Valley economy,” Cunningham said. “We’re in a prime location with good infrastructure smack dab in the middle of the East Coast metropolis where one-third of America’s consumers live, all of whom can be reached in a six-hour truck drive.”

Cunningham emphasized the importance of continued support for economic development programs at the state level, including an enhanced business outreach program, modernizing commonwealth financing programs, and greater funding for discretionary job creation programs.

He also urged continued support for the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development’s Office of International Business Development (OIBD), which supports a network of international offices across dozens of countries and markets that encourage foreign companies to invest and set up their U.S. operations in Pennsylvania.

Cunningham and other LVEDC representatives participated with OIBD in a 2015 business development tour through Western Europe to attract foreign direct investment. That tour played a significant role in Norac, a French bakery products company, deciding to establish its first American facility in the Lehigh Valley.

LVEDC Releases 2016 Annual Report in Print, Digital Formats

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