LVEDC Officials Meet with Institute of Supply Management Chapter
By Colin McEvoy on October 22, 2020
Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) officials provided an economic overview and discussed the future of economic development in the region to the local chapter of the Institute of Supply Management (ISM) on Oct. 20.
LVEDC President & CEO Don Cunningham and Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Research, spoke virtually on Zoom to the group, which includes purchasing and supply management professionals in the Lehigh Valley.
Among the questions posed by the members were how the COVID-19 crisis may impact the regional economy. Cunningham said some sectors have certainly been negatively affected, particularly commercial office, leisure and hospitality, and smaller employers.
However, Cunningham said certain industries, particularly the industrial manufacturing sector, have actually seen tremendous growth, as the demand for direct-to-consumer products and perishable goods have only risen with people quarantine at home due to the coronavirus.
“So a market like the Lehigh Valley, which is really attractive on the East Coast because we can make product and move it to such a large portion of the country’s consumers in a short period of time, that side of it has really continued if not accelerated,” Cunningham said.
LVEDC has been making economic presentations for the local ISM chapter annually for the last several years. The organization provides educational and networking opportunities for supply chain management professionals in the Lehigh Valley business community.
LVEDC has worked to connect Lehigh Valley companies with supply chain companies and resources in the past, including through its participation with the Meet the Buyers Expo, a bi-annual event that helps buyers develop leads and discuss procurement deals.
During the Oct. 20 presentation, Cunningham highlighted the Lehigh Valley’s record-high $41.2 billion gross domestic product, its Top 3 economic development ranking by Site Selection, population changes in the region, and the Made Possible in Lehigh Valley marketing initiative.
He also discussed current economic projects in the region, as well as ongoing prospects. LVEDC has tracked 96 projects between 2017 and 2019, of which 44 were manufacturing, 28 were distribution and logistics, and 24 were office projects.
Those projects resulted in $2 billion in investment and 12,200 new jobs created. Cunningham said there is often a misconception that all new development in Lehigh Valley is warehousing, because manufacturing today takes place in rectangular box buildings in industrial and commercial parks, which the public mistakes for warehouses.
“In the old days, we had cool funky buildings like Bethlehem Steel or Mack Trucks, and you could see it and the smokestacks and know that’s a manufacturing building,” Cunningham said. “Today, that takes place in the same buildings everybody calls a warehouse.”
Cunningham said the commercial office sector has been slowed – both regionally and nationally – as companies cope with increased telecommuting and reduced square footage. But he noted that Lehigh Valley’s proximity to major East Coast cities like Philadelphia and New York make the region an attractive office alternative to large, densely-populated urban areas.
“Sitting 80 miles out of New York is really appealing to a lot of companies because a lot of companies are rethinking the dense urban centers where you have reliance on public transportation,” he said.
Gelinas discussed the efforts of the LVEDC Education & Talent Supply Council, a partnership of Lehigh Valley educational institutions, major employers, and economic development and workforce agencies focused on creating and executing regional strategies that help the Lehigh Valley maintain a competitive workforce and talent supply.
“When we talk about attracting people to a place, the easiest way is to attract those already familiar with the region, so we spend a lot of time working with our K-12 system students and colleges and universities making sure those students are aware of career pathways here,” Gelinas said.
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