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Pennsylvania Wins National Recognition, With Help from the Lehigh Valley

By Colin McEvoy on June 3, 2015

A screenshot of the zulily website. The online realtor's plans to establish a Bethlehem facility helped Pennsylvania receive a Silver Shovel award.

A screenshot of the zulily website. The online realtor’s plans to establish a Bethlehem facility helped Pennsylvania receive a Silver Shovel award.

For a third straight year, Pennsylvania has received a national recognition for its development projects and job creation. And, for a third straight year, the Lehigh Valley has been a major factor in helping it earn that recognition.

Pennsylvania has received a 2015 Silver Shovel from Area Development, the leading national publication covering site selection and facility planning. The Gold & Silver Shovel Awards honor states with the most significant groundbreakings and expansions, with a particular emphasis on job creation.

Last year’s announcement that zulily inc, an online retailer, would invest $43.6 million to establish an 820,000-square-foot facility in Bethlehem, creating 1,200 new jobs, was one of the biggest factors that led to Pennsylvania receiving the award, according to Area Development.

“This demonstrates that the Lehigh Valley continues to be recognized throughout the state and the nation as a leader in economic growth and development,” said Don Cunningham, President and CEO of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC). “It’s no wonder that the Lehigh Valley has been recognized as the top-performing region of our size in the Northeastern United States.”

The zulily facility ranked second in 2014 Pennsylvania Top Projects considered by Area Development for the awards program. The only state project with a higher amount of job creation was a $1.2 billion, 59-story skyscraper being built in Philadelphia to host Comcast Corp., which will create 1,500 jobs.

Each of the past three years, Lehigh Valley projects have played a major role in securing Pennsylvania Silver Shovel award. In 2014, Wal-Mart’s $96 million investment in a Bethlehem distribution was one of the four highest-ranking projects for the year. In 2013, the Ocean Spray’s $110 million facility in Upper Macungie Township was the state’s highest-ranking project.

“The states and their communities receiving 2015 Shovel Awards have proven that they understand the makings of successful economic development strategies,” said Geraldine Gambale, editor of Area Development. “They deserve special recognition for their efforts to grow their economies and provide well-paying jobs in a time of intense competition for new investment.”

The zulily facility will become the online retailer’s first East Coast location, and will make it the 16th Lehigh Valley business with 1,000 or more employees, putting it in the same league as such regional mainstays as Olympus and Crayola.

The project was a significant victory for the Lehigh Valley’s economic development attraction efforts. Zulily selected the Lehigh Valley largely based on location, due to its proximity to the New York and Philadelphia markets, as well as the Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII’s access to Interstate 78 and rail service.

Founded in 2010, zulily’s corporate headquarters is based in Seattle, with additional fulfillment centers in Reno, Nevada, and Columbus, Ohio. The company attracts 4.1 million active customers and features more than 15,000 brands.

Pennsylvania was one of only four states in the country to receive a Silver Shovel Award in its population range of 12 million or more, along with California, Florida and New York. The states of Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, South Carolina and Nevada received Gold Shovel awards.

Earlier this year, the Lehigh Valley was ranked the 2014 top-performing region for economic development in the Northeastern United States for metropolitan areas with populations between 200,000 and 1 million, according to Site Selection magazine. It was only two regions of its size to make the magazine’s Top 10 list for seven consecutive years, along with Dayton, Ohio.

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Lehigh ValleyQuick Facts

By the Numbers
$43.3 Billion

2020 Gross Domestic Product

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City Center Lehigh Valley
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10.6% of Labor Force
Employed in Manufacturing

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Lehigh Valley Health Network
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$3.8 Billion

Exports in 2019

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Air Products
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Lehigh Valley Electricians
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$66,865

Median Household Income

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PPL Electric Utilities
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676,700

Population

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347,612

Labor Force

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26.6% of Labor Force
Employed in "Eds & Meds" sectors

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5,073

Technology Patents

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UGI
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NFI
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14% of the total community college degrees awarded in PA

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$7.1 Billion

Manufacturing Contribution to GDP

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Truist
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69th largest metropolitan area in the U.S. by population

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Key Bank
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10,754 degrees awarded by Lehigh Valley colleges (2017-18 academic year)

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82,270 employed in "Eds & Meds" sectors

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149,000

Population between ages 18 and 34

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FirstEnergy