Meet the new boss…Tom Garrity

By LVEDC Staff on May 7, 2013

On March 28, Tom Garrity, managing partner of Compass Point Consulting, was named chairman of the board of directors of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation. While many of you may know Tom, you may not know his views on the economy and the Lehigh Valley. Read his answers to our five questions and you’ll have a better understanding of the man helming the reorganized LVEDC board.

As new chairman, what’s your vision for LVEDC and its initiatives?

In a macro sense, the field of economic development is changing rapidly. The onslaught of Big Data is a game changer, and something we must become proficient at in order to win. Talent will be a key factor to success. And it’s not about quantity, but rather workforce skills and work ethic that will be the differentiators.

It used to be that people followed businesses. Now, businesses go to where the people are – the people with the right skills. This is a major challenge that we will face with our partners. Locally, I see an increase in our external and internal marketing to attract and retain businesses.

We will be working hard to develop our Board, giving them the knowledge and information so they can be impactful as we navigate these new waters. We will also be focused on retention of our businesses through one to one visits and making connections to local resources.

What’s your take on “the state of the local economy?”

The local economy has a lot of good things happening.  Our cities continue to develop and transform – each with their unique identity and attraction. Businesses, the arts, sports and recreation, eateries – along with a myriad of other amenities – make the Lehigh Valley a great place to live, work and play.

But there are changes in the wind. It’s a big challenge for economic development organizations to figure out the future economy when they can’t even figure out what it looks like next year. The computer and Internet are changing everything.  Current economic development models were designed for another era, one that was pre-computer, pre-Internet and pre-globalization. We have a lot of work to do to adapt to these changes.

What are the things being done well locally – the projects and programs that are putting the Lehigh Valley on the map?

There are some high-profile projects such as Allentown’s arena and surrounding development, as well as all the great things on Bethlehem’s South Side and Easton’s continued downtown renaissance, led by some fantastic restaurants and entertainment.  But from the Slate Belt, down through our three cities, and out to Western Lehigh, we have a number of development projects going on.

And let’s not forget about our non-profit community and all the good things they do for our region and its people. Our region continues to be a high-profile selection for relocation and expansion.

How can the federal and state governments improve the business climate for the region and its business owners?

When government sucks all the fun out of starting, building and running a business, people just leave. And that creates a downward death spiral for the economy.  “Government” isn’t some cosmic body that exists out there. They are real people, who face a significant challenge – breaking with the status quo.

Just like talent is the game changer for economic development, leadership in government is the game changer. Continued work toward a balance of fiscal responsibility and social responsibility are going to continue to be big challenges faced by government.

Finally, how can LVEDC and other area groups work together to achieve even greater success for all parts of the Lehigh Valley?

I believe our CEO, Don Cunningham, is leading this effort well. Leadership is messy sometimes – and not always so glamorous. Making the tough decisions, doing the blocking and tackling that is sometimes required, reaching out to people, listening, creating a vision that people can hang onto… these are things that I think Don does very well and they are the things that bring people together around a common cause.

It is not going to be easy, but we are on the right track.

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