The Solid Foundations That Fuel Our Economy
By LVEDC Staff on June 3, 2014
EDITOR’S NOTE: As we get down to the final chapters of our consultant’s report, A Blueprint for Success: An Economic Development Strategy for Sustainable Growth in the Lehigh Valley, we stop to look at the solid foundation laid for economic success – today and tomorrow.
The Lehigh Valley has a rich history of creating and investing in economic development foundations and assets to make it a good location for business. This asset base is key to the region’s competitiveness.
The principles upon which the foundations have been built will serve the region well as it looks to take the next step in targeting and coordinating its marketing efforts and telling the world of the varied attributes of the Lehigh Valley.
Among these economic development principles that the Valley should continue to build are:
– Effective use of available land and sites: The region has long known that it must be able to provide suitable and ready sites in order to attract companies to locate in the Valley. In 1959, the region recognized the need to diversify the regional economy and established Lehigh Valley Industrial Park, Inc. (LVIP). Its original mission was “to secure new business and industries in the Lehigh Valley area—provide suitable sites and increase employment.” Today, the seven parks within the LVIP system are home to more than 470 businesses employing more than 22,000 people. The concept is touted by many as a best practice in industrial park development as well as a sustainable and effective public-private sector partnership.
• Best practice redevelopment programs: The region has put a premium on redeveloping its downtowns and industrial sites. The Land Recycling Initiative run by LVEDC is a model program to reuse brownfields. The nearly complete redevelopment of the 1,800-acre former Bethlehem Steel site is evidence of that. The Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ) in Allentown is not only spurring nearly $800 million in redevelopment projects that are transforming the core of Allentown with a minor league hockey arena, new office buildings, apartments, retail, and restaurants, but the program is looked to nationally as a best practice example for reinvigorating urban cores. The addition of the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone (CRIZ) in Bethlehem is expected to encourage similarly transformational change. Together, these Districts have done, and will do, much to enhance the quality of place of the region and attract private investment.
• Developing workforce talent: While workforce concerns were often voiced in the focus groups and within the electronic survey, many in the region have developed innovative approaches to filling their talent pipeline. One example is the partnerships that St. Luke’s University Health Network and the Lehigh Valley Health Network have established with existing medical schools. By setting up the programs with Temple University and the University of South Florida respectively, the hospitals are taking advantage of their proximity to the New York/New Jersey and Philadelphia markets and relationships on the East Coast.
• Creative local funding streams: Recognizing the need for a consistent funding source for economic development initiatives, the region instituted a hotel tax for Northampton and Lehigh counties to fund economic development efforts in the two counties and the operations of the Lehigh Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau (now Discover Lehigh Valley). In 2005, the tax was increased to fund the AAA Baseball stadium. Through an agreement negotiated by the Lehigh Valley Partnership, a portion of the funding for Discover Lehigh Valley is given to LVEDC.
NEXT WEEK: See what tactics our consultants recommend to ensure an even brighter tomorrow here in Lehigh Valley.
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