Lehigh Valley Positioned Well for Continued Post-COVID Economic Growth

by Don Cunningham

The economic change wrought by the global COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges and opportunities for economic growth both across the nation and the world, and that is certainly the case in the Lehigh Valley as well. 

Change that was taking place was accelerated. The movement away from shopping in stores to ordering online was supercharged as people needed to avoid places crowded with other people. 

Office workers began working from home, sometimes in entirely different states than their employers. The availability of workers, particularly those with the right skills, became more challenging. This shifted the supply and demand balance toward employees, driving up wages, benefits, and bonuses among employers caught in an accelerating competition for talent. 

Global supply chains became disrupted, ending the reliable shipment of goods across oceans. Just in time inventory is evolving to “just in case” as companies realize they need to stockpile and pre-order goods such as pharmaceuticals, computer chips, and toilet paper to hedge against emergencies. 

Like all metropolitan areas across the country, the Lehigh Valley will have to grapple with these new economic challenges. But the region is positioned well for continued economic growth in both traditional areas of strength and in new sectors emerging in a post-pandemic economy of rapid change and development. 

Toward this end, the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) has recently adopted its new 3-year Strategic Plan. It includes a wide range of goals, priorities, and initiatives, including targeted economic development and growth in key sectors such as life sciences and advanced manufacturing. 

LVEDC commissioned the Atlanta-based Garner Economics to assess the Lehigh Valley region for its strengths and weaknesses in critical economic growth factors, as it had done twice before in the last decade. Those assessments found that the Lehigh Valley is in a stronger position for growth than it was a decade ago, and Garner’s recommendations for the Lehigh Valley to continue to thrive are contained in the plan. 

With that data in hand, one of the components of the strategic plan will be marketing the high-quality assets of the Lehigh Valley to attract and retain employers in optimal business sector selections, which were chosen based upon the specific characteristics of the economy and assets of the Lehigh Valley economy. 

The four high-value targeted sectors that were identified include life sciences & pharmaceutical, professional & creative services, advanced manufacturing & high-value production, and food and beverage products. 

We’ve already begun this work to establish a new targeted marketing campaign and a dedicated website specifically focused on the life sciences sector. This campaign will highlight, among other things, the region’s unique qualities that make it an attractive place for this sector, as well as existing life sciences companies that have thrived here. 

LVEDC will pursue targeted market campaigns aimed at specific audiences of influencers and asset managers with specific asset information on each targeted sector. We will also continue relationship building with site selectors, location advisors, and industrial and commercial real estate brokers. 

Additionally, LVEDC will continue its talent supply development efforts, using our partnership between the employers and the education, training, and workforce community to understand the region’s skills gaps and workforce needs and to help to match supply and demand. 

It is also crucially important to know thyself, and to that end, LVEDC will continue to provide research and data to increase understanding of the Lehigh Valley economy and its competitive position while staying ahead of new developments and economic and social change driving economic opportunities and challenges. 

Our goal at LVEDC is to ensure that Lehigh Valley employers have a location to prosper and that every resident here who wants to work has an opportunity for suitable employment that meets their skills and education level. 

It’s difficult to always meet that goal. That’s why it’s necessary to keep working, planning, and preparing as a region to be the best that we can be for the companies, people, and institutions that reside here and those who visit here – those we like to call our future residents and employers. 

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