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Gov. Shapiro: Lehigh Valley's economic strength, growth a model for Pa.

BETHLEHEM, Pa. — Gov. Josh Shapiro applauded the Lehigh Valley's economic successes Tuesday, saying the region is a model for the type of changes he hopes to bring to the rest of the Pennsylvania.

The keynote speaker for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.'s annual meeting, Shapiro said Lehigh and Northampton counties have a well-earned reputation for manufacturing and innovation.

  • Gov. Josh Shapiro was keynote speaker for the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.
  • LVEDC held its annual meeting Tuesday at the ArtsQuest Center in Bethlehem
  • Shapiro hailed the Valley's economic success stories

But the region's growth is more than just the sum of investments it's seen, he said. Shapiro said he admires the Lehigh Valley's unique tradition of building partnerships across political, municipal and business sectors to achieve its visions.

"We want to see the kind of successes you've had here in the Lehigh Valley not just continue here but spread out across all of Pennsylvania."
Gov. Josh Shapiro, at LVEDC's annual meeting

"We want to see the kind of successes you've had here in the Lehigh Valley not just continue here but spread out across all of Pennsylvania," Shapiro said to the standing-room crowd of about 700.

Shapiro delivered his remarks from the third floor of the ArtsQuest Center at SteelStacks, which he cited as an example of the vision the Lehigh Valley has proven it can accomplish. The building, with its view of the long-quiet Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces, honors the region's heritage while creating new opportunities for local businesses and the next generation.

But while the Steel may be gone, the Lehigh Valley remains a powerful manufacturing hub.

Pa. Gov. Josh Shapiro Addresses annual LVEDC meeting
Donna S. Fisher
For LehighValleyNews.com
Gov. Josh Shapiro, left, addresses the annual LVEDC meeting Tuesday, March 21, 2023, at SteelStacks in Bethlehem.

LVEDC President Don Cunningham trumpeted the region's balanced economy, which is led by a strong manufacturing sector with contributions from international businesses such as Crayola and B. Braun. But other sectors, including education, logistics and health care, played a significant role in creating a GDP of $47 billion — larger than the states of Vermont, Wyoming and Alaska.

'Ringing up the wins'

The region, he noted, is one of the top in the Northeast for seeing new business projects proposed. Among metropolitan areas with a population between 200,000 and 1 million, the Lehigh Valley finished second in the country behind Greenville, S.C.

"We’ve been ringing up the wins. 2022 continued that streak," Cunningham said.

Shapiro has been hammering on his desire to deliver similar results across the state since he took the oath of office in January.

In remarks echoing his budget address earlier this month, Shapiro said he wants to show that Pennsylvania is open for business by demolishing the red tape that hampers companies.

He encouraged business leaders to speak with Acting Revenue Secretary Pat Browne, a former Lehigh County state senator, and Acting Community and Economic Development Secretary Rick Siger, during the cocktail hour so they could find help local companies.

Shapiro has also created an Office of Transformation and Opportunity, which is intended as a one-stop-shop for businesses interacting with state government.

Planting the flag

Shapiro also vowed to create reasonable deadlines for state government to meet on applications and forms submitted by businesses. If the state fails to meet those timelines once established, companies will be reimbursed any fees they submitted with the form.

"I want to be a governor that plants a flag right here in the Lehigh Valley and across Pennsylvania to show the country we are going to be the best. We are going to land the big deal. We are going to have a government that is flexible and works in partnership with you so we can got those big things done," said Shapiro, a Democrat who previously served terms as attorney general, state representative and Montgomery County commissioner.

Other speakers at the event included U.S. Rep. Susan Wild; a panel with Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk, Bethlehem Mayor J. William Reynolds and Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr.; as well as a panel of young business leaders who have founded or expanded companies into the Lehigh Valley.