Lehigh Valley Economic Development

Regional Economic Development

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) is a not for profit regional agency founded to promote and foster economic prosperity in the Lehigh Valley, while creating a culture of collaboration and regionalism in order to retain, create and grow jobs in the region.

In 2013 LVEDC retained Garner Economics, LLC to develop a sustainable economic development strategy that will build on the LVEDC’s 2009 Strategic Plan and identify ways to effectively grow the Lehigh Valley economy. The goal of this strategy is to support the region’s rich natural, cultural, and historical resources and to meet the goals of the HUD Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant.

The end result, A Blueprint for Success: An economic development strategy for sustainable growth in the Lehigh Valley, is a road map that will help the LVEDC strengthen the region’s existing industries and assist the Lehigh Valley with getting to the next level. For the region, this will mean a stronger focus and emphasis on economic development so that the Valley builds a high-caliber business climate and infrastructure that positions it well against peer regions and attracts the types of high-quality jobs its citizens seek. This Blueprint will ensure that the Lehigh Valley fully leverages its many assets to create an environment where cutting-edge companies and world-class talent will want to locate. Similarly, it will help the LVEDC (and other partners and stakeholders) identify and market to emerging industries that are an optimal fit for the region and will ensure economic prosperity for the Lehigh Valley. 

For the full report see: A Blueprint for Success: An economic development strategy for sustainable growth in the Lehigh Valley

State of the Economy

Economic development can be measured by a several factors including number of jobs created, the high quality of employers and the continued increase  in the size and quality of the workforce. The Lehigh Valley has an exceptionally strong business climate with companies of all sizes in virtually every industry – from global leaders to small start-ups  who are thriving.
The region’s largest private employment sector is health care at 19 percent.  Retail trade and manufacturing are next in line at 12 percent.

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Prior to the recession that started in 2008, unemployment was at 4.5 percent.  According to the U.S. 2010 Census Lehigh Valley’s median household income was higher than the national average ($56,151 vs. $51,914).  However, the range of median household income in the region varies from $36,202 up to $95,107 per year depending on the municipality. 

From 1990 – 2010, Lehigh Valley was one the fastest growing regions in the Northeast
  • Adding more than 100,000 people in 20 years
  • Lehigh Valley -1990 (538,233), 2000 (579,159), 2010 (647,232) 
  • A total of 41,000 Net New Jobs created between 1996 -4Q2010 (18 percent  increase)
In the Lehigh Valley the major employers include:

Manufacturing Corporate Headquarters
  • B Braun Medical
  • Lutron Electronics
  • Mack Trucks
  • Victaulic
  • LSI Logic Corporation
  • Bosch Rexroth
  • Air Products & Chemicals
  • PPL Services Corp.
  • Crayola
  • Olympus America 
  • Just Born
  • CF Martin
Healthcare & Education Food & Beverage
  • Lehigh Valley Hospital
  • St Luke’s University Health Network
  • Lehigh University
  • Lafayette College
  • Coordinated Health
  • Muhlenberg College
  • Ocean Spray
  • Nestle Waters
  • Ice River Springs
  • Coca-Cola
  • Niagara Waters
  • Kraft Foods
  • Sam Adams/Boston Beer
Transportation and Logistics Financial Services
  • BMW
  • Walgreens
  • Amazon.com
  • Nestle Logistics
  • Bridgestone
  • DSC (Kellogg’s)
  • Hartford Insurance
  • Guardian Life
  • Dun & Bradstreet
  • Receivable Management Services (RMS)
  • Cigna
  • Capital Blue Cross
  • Wells Fargo
  • ADP Payroll Services

Building on Solid Foundations

According to Garner Economics, LLC 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.
·         Best practice redevelopment programs.
·         Developing workforce talent.
·         Creative local funding streams.

The Blueprint for Success developed by Garner Economics, LLC also included a detailed Competitive Realities Report (CRR). The CRR is a compilation of local facts and data points with quantitative analysis and some subjective opinions noted in the Assets and Challenges Assessment.

Together, the Assets and Challenges Assessment, Benchmarking Scorecard, and Stakeholder Input documented where the Valley stands against its benchmark regions, its assets and challenges as a business location, and provided feedback and perceptions from a broad range of stakeholders.

In the Assets and Challenges Assessment 66 variables were analyzed, 38 are considered an Asset and 11 a Challenge (17 rated as Neutral). This ratio of Assets to Challenges is one of the strongest positive ratios Garner has analyzed over the last 11 years. They commented that “The diverse and rich assets of the Lehigh Valley have made the region a global competitor. Better leveraging the region’s assets will be key as the Lehigh Valley capitalizes on its position among the top-fifth of metropolitan areas nationwide.”

Optimal Targets

The third phase of the report by Garner Economics, LLC was an optimal industry target selection is based on the site-specific characteristics of the Lehigh Valley economy. Using results from the previously completed Competitive Realities Report, the Assets and challenges Assessment, focus groups, and field visits, four industry targets were chosen that best match the unique competitive advantages in the area to the needs of particular industry sectors. Special attention was given to industries in the midst of significant change or innovative transformation with the strong likelihood that there will be increased interest in adding or moving operational sites. Each sector selected has a record of above-average wages, projected positive growth, and participation in commercial activities that will create wealth in Lehigh Valley in both the short- and long-term.


Lehigh Valley is well positioned to take advantage of expanding opportunities in the manufacturing sector. After several decades of employment decline, US manufacturing switched direction mid-2010 and has since been adding workers at an annual pace of more than 200,000 net new jobs. The High Performance Manufacturing target is a select group of high-wage industries that are expected to experience exceptional growth and align well with Lehigh Valley’s unique assets.


The High Value Business Services target leverages Lehigh Valley’s unique asset mix with a select group of industries benefiting from the convergence of significant economic and technological forces (Table 4).
Subsector targets are responding to the demands of corporations that are seeking to adapt to rapid changes in customer expectations (increased online commercial operations, cloud computing, debit/credit card use, and smart phone transactions) while desiring to maintain focus on their core business activities.


The Life Sciences Research & Manufacturing target aligns Lehigh Valley’s competitive advantages in the
Life, Biological & Biomedical Sciences fields with new opportunities emerging in the fast-changing life sciences commercial environment. Firms seeking to survive and potentially prosper in the current uncertain market will be actively seeking to advance new products and services and, along with the expected increase in mergers and acquisitions, should afford Lehigh Valley attractive new prospect possibilities.


The Food & Beverage Processing target represents a distinct area focused on leveraging Lehigh Valley’s economic assets with numerous new subsector opportunities driven largely by the industry’s response to changing customer demands.
The Food & Beverage Processing sector is in the midst of significant upheaval and presents substantial opportunities for new firm attraction and development. Consumer demand divided across a wide range of eating preferences is rapidly fragmenting the industry. Product innovation is being driven largely by evolving consumption desires in variety, health, and convenience. A sample of the developing food categories demonstrates the immense variety in the sector: ethnic, fresh, organics, restaurant-quality frozen, meal kits, handheld entrees, fortified, and gluten-free. Growth of the beverage market, characterized in the breweries and wineries subsectors, demonstrate the rising appeal of craft and unique local offerings
For the full report see:
A Blueprint for Success: An economic development strategy for sustainable growth in the Lehigh Valley
For details about LVEDC:  www.lehighvalley.org
EnvisionLV 3-24-14 - LVEDC
EnvisionLV 3-24-2014 - Community Conversation Highlights
EnVisionLV - Economic Development Presentation
Lehigh Valley Economic Development - What do we do?
Virtual Meeting May 13, 2013
PBS 39 Tempo in Depth - LV Eeconomic Development
LVPC Regional Planning Dinner + Community Awards
10/23/2014 5:30:00 PM
Lehigh University, Iacocca Hall
Summit for Smart Growth and Sustainable Communities
12/5/2014 8:00:00 AM
Hotel Bethlehem
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