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LVEDC’s Don Cunningham Featured in NPR Story about Chinese Investment

By Colin McEvoy on May 18, 2016

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningman (second from right) during the grand opening ceremony of the Fuling Plastics facility in Upper Macungie Township.

LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningman (second from right) during the grand opening ceremony of the Fuling Plastics facility in Upper Macungie Township.

When Fuling Plastics opened its facility in the Lehigh Valley last year, it was the first Chinese manufacturer to establish a plant in the state of Pennsylvania, and part of a growing trend of Chinese companies expanding their existing operations in the United States.

All Things Considered, the flagship news program on the American network National Public Radio (NPR), has taken notice of this trend. The show’s May 17 segment on the subject spotlights Fuling Plastics and the $21.3 million facility it established in Upper Macungie Township.

The show also interviews Don Cunningham, President and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). As NPR notes, LVEDC lobbied strongly to bring Fuling Plastics to the region with the hopes that other Chinese companies would follow.

“My belief was that once one comes and breaks the ice, so to speak, there’s a comfortability that others will tend to look at the same area,” Cunningham said on the All Things Considered segment. “If someone’s already done the due diligence and it seems to work, then you have a better chance of a pipeline behind it.”

Read the story on NPR website here, and listen to the full segment below:
Fuling Plastics is China’s largest manufacturer of plastic tableware and kitchenware, providing plastic utensils and straws to fast food giants Burger King, Wendy’s, Subway, Kentucky Fried Chicken, and others, as well as national supermarket chains Walmart, BJ’s Wholesale, and Target.

The company’s 88,000 square-foot plant in the Lehigh Valley was expected to create 75 new jobs, and manufactures “a few hundred million” straws per year, according to Gilbert Lee, who runs the facility. Having a factory in the Lehigh Valley saves the company shipping time and millions of dollars in freight costs.

“Aa lot of our customers really like the fact that our products are made in the U.S.,” Gilbert told NPR. “And then we’ll be able to cut about a month of delivery time because it had to ship by ocean freight” when the straws were made in China.

Before settling on the Lehigh Valley, Fuling had considered sites in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and New Jersey, as well as five locations in Pennsylvania. Fuling officials said they ultimately chose the Lehigh Valley because of its central location, convenient transportation, strong support network, public security, and the cooperation of local officials in making the project happen.

The Lehigh Valley has been experiencing a growing trend of foreign direct investment in recent years. Eight of the Lehigh Valley’s 19 major business attraction/expansion projects last year, or 42 percent, were from international companies.

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