LVEDC Interview : Discover Lehigh Valley’s Mike Stershic

By LVEDC Staff on October 15, 2013

Editor’s Note: Michael Stershic is the president of Discover Lehigh Valley and serves as vice-chairman for Lehigh Valley Community Foundation, and is a member of the board of directors for Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation. He is also a member of the executive committees of Pennsylvania Associations for Travel and Tourism and Restaurant and Lodging, the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Lehigh Valley Chapter of Pennsylvania Restaurant Association, and the Renew Lehigh Valley Leadership Council.

LVEDC: There’s been a relationship forged between LVEDC and Discover Lehigh Valley – how do you envision both entities best working together to bring business and consumer dollars to Lehigh Valley?

MIKE STERSHIC: I think there are several areas where we can work together:

  • Branding Lehigh Valley: I’m not talking about logos or tag lines, I’m talking about developing a strong statement about what Lehigh Valley represents and the direction in which we are moving and using that to assist in our marketing efforts.
  • Marketing Synergy: As the two organizations tasked with marketing Lehigh Valley outside the valley, we need to work closely together to develop a library of photographs, videos and other materials that we can use to better tell the story of Lehigh Valley.
  • Serving as a platform for local communities to work with us in telling the local part of our regional story.  This will provide them greater exposure and show the true personality of our Lehigh Valley.
  • Internal Marketing: Often natives of our region know the least about what is going on throughout the entirety of Lehigh Valley.  While this is not unusual, we need to consistently remind people about not only how much we have to offer here but also the high quality of what we have.

LVEDC: Time to brag a little – how much of an impact has Discover Lehigh Valley had on the region?

STERSHIC:  You will have me bring up my favorite statistic. When we were founded as the first regional economic development organization in Lehigh Valley in 1984, Lehigh & Northampton counties accounted for 2.464 percent of the total visitor spending in the state. In 2011 we accounted for 4.731 percent. That’s $1.76 billion in visitor spending and employment of more than 22,000 people.

LVEDC: What are some of your newest marketing campaigns – and how do you see them ratcheting up the number of people who will visit Lehigh Valley?

STERSHIC: We are in the midst of what is becoming the largest e-marketing campaign we have ever undertaken – The Ultimate Lehigh Valley Experience.  Through this program we are building our email list as well promoting twelve distinct themed experiences that can only be experienced here.  An example was around the Triple A National Championship, in which a family was able to watch warm up, participate in batting practice, front row game seats, with hats and personalized jerseys, dinner and two nights in a local hotel.  We have a different on each month for 12 months. Each winner also wins an Olympus camera that they can use to take pictures of their experience so we can tell their story. These experiences provide a detailed look into part of all that we have to offer the leisure traveler.  Plus, we will have incredible word of mouth promotion and social media support.

LVEDC: List a few of the biggest events/attractions that never fail to draw large crowds… and include a few of the lesser-known but lucrative events/attractions that local residents may want to consider but usually don’t.

STERSHIC: We have so many quality events and few of them are lesser-known, but let me talk about some surprises. The Great Allentown Fair continues to draw significant numbers of out of town visitors especially from New York and New Jersey. Why? Agriculture.  The Fair has stayed true to its Agricultural roots and it’s one of the few truly agricultural fairs close to them.  Drum Corps International in specific, and marching music in general, draw large and passionate crowds to J. Birney Crum Stadium. The venue, as a one-sided stadium is tailor-made for marching music.  Races are big draws.  The Lehigh Valley Half Marathon, The Via Marathon, Runners World races in Bethlehem, the D&L Trail Marathon all draw locals and visitors alike. Surprisingly the Easton Farmer’s Market events draw visitors to what is arguably the best market anywhere.  I also need to mention the number and quality of visual art events throughout the valley from Art in the Park (in West Park Allentown) to the Bethlehem Fine Arts Sale (on Main Street) to the Riverside Arts Festival (Easton’s Riverside Park).  Last but not least, there are the transportation events at Macungie Memorial Park. They host the Antique Truck event in June, Das Awkscht Fescht and Wheels of Time Street Rods in August. All of these draw many out of town visitors.

LVEDC: Is there a need for a Lehigh Valley convention center – and, if so, where do you think it should be located?

STERSHIC: The number one reason we lose meetings and conventions to other areas is the lack of appropriate facilities.  Our largest facilities cannot compete, as a result we need to develop a convention/conference facility that will allow us to comfortably accommodate meetings on more than 250 people. Ideally, we would like to see a large facility that would be able to host shows like the Greater Lehigh Valley Auto Show under one roof. Many of the larger shows bypass us or shrink to meet the space we do have. As to where it should be located, my personal preference is for it to be located in an urban area where those attending can walk to other restaurants, attractions and events.

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