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LVEDC Looks Back on the First Six Months of 2020 in Lehigh Valley

By Colin McEvoy on June 26, 2020

The first six months of 2020 have presented extraordinary economic challenges, not just in Lehigh Valley, but throughout the nation and the world. But as the region enters the green phase and businesses begin to reopen, the Lehigh Valley economy remains well-positioned to recover from the coronavirus pandemic and resume the pattern of job growth and economic diversification that we’ve seen in recent years.

“Since March, it’s been challenging for many businesses but the Lehigh Valley economy as a whole remains strong,” said Don Cunningham, President & CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). “We had a record-breaking year in 2019 and that success will continue. The diversity of our economy, our talent supply pipeline, and the presence of essential industry sectors puts us in a position to recover much more quickly than many other areas.”

2020 is the 25th anniversary of the formation of LVEDC, and just as the organization was created during economic challenges caused by the closures of mills, factories, and quarries, LVEDC is as important today as it ever was as it looks to help Lehigh Valley through another period of crisis.

In this story, LVEDC looks back on the first half of the year.

Responding to COVID-19

When businesses began closing due to the COVID-19 crisis, LVEDC sprang into action. The organization immediately established a coronavirus resources and information page and began providing information about emergency funding sources available for regional companies.

LVEDC submitted 26 loan applications on behalf of Lehigh Valley small businesses to the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority’s COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program, totaling $2.3 million in loan financing. They were filed through the Lehigh Valley Economic Investment Corporation, for which LVEDC provides administrative staff.

“LVEDC made the process of securing funding through the CWCA as positive an experience as one could expect while going through these trying times,” said Joe Landrigan, President of Sage Design-Build. “The process was quick and efficient, and the LVEDC staff immediately provided straightforward and candid answers to all of our questions.”

LVEDC also distributed a survey to regional companies about how the crisis had impacted them, reached out to the business community about securing supplies for health care providers, and continued municipal and community outreach efforts throughout the pandemic.

Economic development continues

Even during the worldwide economic uncertainty created by the COVID-19 outbreak, economic development activity continued in Lehigh Valley. LVEDC kept working on projects and expansions that had been in the pipeline before the crisis, as well as fielding inquiries about potential projects for after the pandemic ends.

EcoTech Marine opened a new state-of-the-art facility in Bethlehem, Flexicon announced an expansion at its Bethlehem Township headquarters, TwinMed leased new industrial space in the region, and the beverage manufacturer Suncup Juice opened a Lehigh Valley manufacturing facility.

Additionally, Sharp Packaging Solutions acquired a new pharmaceutical packaging facility in Lower Macungie Township, Brennan Investment Group acquired three industrial buildings in the region, Allegiant Air opened a new aircraft base at Lehigh Valley International Airport, and Penn State Lehigh Valley broke ground on a $14 million expansion.

Lehigh Valley attracts national attention

The Lehigh Valley economy continued to attract national attention, starting the year with The New York Times writing a story about the region’s economic success story.

For a second consecutive year, LVEDC was recognized as one of the Top 20 economic development organizations in the United States, according to Site Selection is one of the nation’s leading real estate industry economic development publications.

A study by the Brookings Institute identified Lehigh Valley as a top 10 market for startup jobs created, LVEDC’s redevelopment program was heralded as a Pennsylvania best practice, and the essential work of a Lehigh Valley manufacturer prompted a visit by President Donald Trump.

Even after the region began to feel the effects of the pandemic, Lehigh Valley’s industrial market was singled out by the commercial real estate research organization CoStar as particularly well-positioned to weather and recover from the coronavirus crisis.

Looking ahead

As LVEDC looks ahead to the second half of 2020, private sector investment will be more crucial than ever for the organization to continue its work in economic development. Prior to the pandemic, LVEDC had received record levels of investment for each of the previous five years.

A new guide publicizing the region has been released Made Possible in Lehigh Valley, an initiative of an alliance consisting of LVEDC, Discover Lehigh Valley, and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.

In 2020, LVEDC reorganized its staff to enhance marketing and recruitment efforts, welcomed several new members to its Board of Directors, and announced the hires of Director of Research Nicole Radzievich Mertz and Director of Marketing Liz Martin. All of these changes place the organization on excellent footing as it enters the second half of the year.

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