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LVEDC Looks Back on a Successful First Half of 2016 for the Lehigh Valley

By Colin McEvoy on July 1, 2016

Julien Caron, president of Norac Group USA, speaking about Norac's investment in the Lehigh Valley during the LVEDC Annual Meeting.

Julien Caron, president of Norac Group USA, speaking about Norac’s investment in the Lehigh Valley during the LVEDC Annual Meeting.

We’ve reached the halfway point for 2016, and it has been remarkable year for the Lehigh Valley so far in terms of economic development, job growth, and business attraction and retention projects.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has compiled a list of some of the biggest stories from the past six months, including major business project announcements, newly-released economic data, and new marketing initiatives from the organization.

Norac chooses the Lehigh Valley

Norac, a French manufacturer of natural bakery snacks that employs more than 3,700 worldwide, announced in March that it will build its first American manufacturing facility in Forks Township, establishing a 79,160 square-foot facility that will create 62 jobs over three years.

Speaking at LVEDC’s 2016 Annual Meeting, Julien Caron, president of the subsidiary Norac Group USA, said the company was attracted to the Lehigh Valley’s central location, access to highways, proximity to ports, and the “industrial and manufacturing culture in the region.”

LVEDC and state officials met with Norac during a business development tour through Western Europe last summer to attract foreign direct investment. Caron said that was a factor in the company’s decision, as no other region directly visited with them.

Other international investment

Fuling Plastics, the first Chinese manufacturer to invest in Pennsylvania, celebrated its first year in the Lehigh Valley this May.

Fuling Plastics, the first Chinese manufacturer to invest in Pennsylvania, celebrated its first year in the Lehigh Valley this May.

Norac is just one of several success stories this year when it comes to foreign direct investment, which has become an increasingly important element of the Lehigh Valley economy. Forty-two percent the region’s major business projects last year came from overseas companies.

Nihon Kohden America, Inc., a Japanese manufacturer and distributor of medical electronic equipment, announced in February that it will build a new East Coast facility in South Whitehall Township, providing technical and product support to key installations across the East Coast.

Additionally, Fuling Plastics, the first Chinese manufacturer to invest in Pennsylvania, in May celebrated its first year in Upper Macungie Township, where it produces straws for the world’s top fast food franchises. Fuling Plastics and LVEDC were each featured in an NPR story about increased Chinese investment in the United States.

Business attraction, expansion projects

In addition to exciting new companies coming to the Lehigh Valley, this year saw the announcement of the biggest business retention and expansion announcement the region has seen in at least four years.

Mack Trucks formally announced plans in April for $70 million in improvements at its Lower Macungie Township plant, to improve manufacturing quality and efficiency, and modernize the facility. LVEDC has been significantly involved with Mack Trucks, which was the host of the organization’s Fall Signature Event last year.

Additionally, the payroll services provider Paychex Inc. revealed plans in March for a $1.3 million expansion in South Whitehall Township, which will create 100 full-time jobs, and StitchFix, an online personal shopping service, announced it will create 500 new jobs after choosing Lower Nazareth Township for its first distribution center.

Strong regional economic numbers

Mack Trucks announced plans in April for $70 million in improvements to its Lower Macungie Township plant this year.

Mack Trucks announced plans in April for $70 million in improvements to its Lower Macungie Township plant this year.

An LVEDC analysis last month found that the Lehigh Valley ranked highest among major metropolitan areas in Pennsylvania in terms of post-recession job growth. The region has 3.53 percent more jobs today than it did before the Great Recession began.

The region also recovered from the recession faster than any region in the state other than Pittsburgh, the study found. That is in part due to the region’s unusually balanced diversified and economy, which has reached a record-high $35.4 billion GDP as of 2014.

Another LVEDC study in January also found the Lehigh Valley falls within the top 20 percent nationwide for patent development, a key measure of an innovative economy. Compared to regions of a similar size, the Lehigh Valley ranks even higher, falling within the top 13 percent.

New LVEDC marketing initiatives

LVEDC unveiled several major initiatives this year as part of its mission to market the region’s economic assets, including a set of marketing campaigns and videos drawing specific attention to the sub-regions of the Lehigh Valley.

The organization has also begun to roll out a series of six planned videos highlighting the region’s four target sectors, entrepreneurial community, and redevelopment projects. Videos released so far have focused on the Lehigh Valley’s manufacturing sector, life science industry, and food and beverage sector.

In keeping with the growth in international investment in the Lehigh Valley, LVEDC has also translated its regional marketing materials into eight different languages, and is distributing them directly to their corresponding countries including Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

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