LVEDC Hosts Meeting of Lehigh Valley Legislative Delegations

By Colin McEvoy on March 7, 2016

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham speaking to a gathering of the Lehigh Valley's legislative delegations during a meeting at The Hamilton Kitchen & Bar in Allentown.

LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham speaking to a gathering of the Lehigh Valley’s legislative delegations during a meeting at The Hamilton Kitchen & Bar in Allentown.

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.

About 18 local legislators and staff members attended this year’s luncheon meeting, held March 3 at The Hamilton Kitchen & Bar in Allentown, which touched upon everything from Lehigh Valley’s success stories to growing competition from neighboring states.

“The strong working relationships LVEDC enjoys with the Lehigh Valley’s legislative delegations is an important factor in driving regional economic development,” said Don Cunningham, LVEDC President and CEO. “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.”

Pennsylvania Reps. Marcia Hahn, Julie Harhart, Ryan Mackenzie, Dan McNeill, and Justin Simmons were all in attendance, along with members of some of their staffs and representatives from the offices of state Reps. Mike Schlossberg and Peter Schweyer.

Other attendees included Carol Halper (representing U.S. Rep Charlie Dent’s office), April Niver (U.S. Rep Matt Cartwright), Mark Conway (U.S. Sen. Bob Casey), and Marta Gabriel (U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey), as well as Joe Kelly (state Sen. Lisa Boscola), Ellen Millard-Kern (state Sen. Pat Browne), and Kristine Bush (state Sen. Mario Scavello).

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham highlighted several of the major development project successes from the past year.

Among them were Safran, an aerospace company establishing a wheel and brake repair facility in Lower Nazareth Township; Guardian Life Insurance, which is establishing a new three-story corporate office building in Hanover Township, Northampton County; and C&S Wholesale Grocers, which is adding 600 new jobs through an expansion project in Hanover Township.

Cunningham also discussed the trend of foreign direct investment, or companies abroad locating within the United States, growing in the Lehigh Valley. Eight of the Lehigh Valley’s 19 major business attraction/expansion projects last year, or 42 percent, were from international companies.

In addition to Safran, some of them include Primark, the Irish fashion retailer who established a 677,000 square-foot distribution center in south Bethlehem, and SunOpta, the Canadian food product company that finished a $25 million expansion in Upper Macungie Township. Additionally, the Japanese medical device manufacturer Nihon Kohden announced this year it is opening a technical and product support facility in South Whitehall Township.

To take advantage of this trend, LVEDC has prepared written brochures and digital materials in eight different languages and is sending them directly to their corresponding countries, including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

These materials are being distributed through the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development’s (DCED) Office of International Business Development. Cunningham said the partnership between LVEDC and DCED has been extremely beneficial, citing a business development tour both offices undertook through Western Europe last summer.

However, Cunningham also stressed the need for continued state engagement in economic development issues, particularly as Pennsylvania’s neighboring states have become more competitive in this arena in recent years.

“New York and New Jersey have dramatically increased incentive programs and marketing programs, while Pennsylvania has not,” Cunningham said. “There is a demonstrated need for an increase in flexible economic development spending at the state level.”

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