Competitive, Creative and Sustainable Region
Our dynamic economy draws on our location, people and natural assets. Nearly 100,000 people commute to the
Lehigh Valley daily for its bustling job market. Another 15 million flock here each year to experience recreation and cultural attractions. To keep the region’s advantage in a global economy, we need to leverage our prime location and unique character, diversify the regional economy and train the workforce of tomorrow. A key part of that plan includes supporting agriculture and natural resources as economic assets and giving everyone equal access to attainable housing, jobs and transportation. Cooperation among local governments and institutions will be essential to reaching these targets and preparing the region for the challenges to come.
Enhance growth by rooting economic development strategies in the unique competitive advantages of the region.
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Economic Development Agencies, Lehigh and Northampton Counties, 62 Municipalities, Financial Institutions, Educational Institutions, Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, Preservation Organizations, Business Community
Continue diversification of the regional economy to strengthen economic resilience.
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Lehigh and Northampton Counties, 62 Municipalities, Financial Institutions, Educational Institutions, Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, Business Community
Shopping Mall Redevelopment Concept
Whitehall Mall at Macarthur Road and Grape Street, Whitehall Township
Post-War Centers are good places for new mixed-use development because they are centrally located and connected to transportation. Many of these areas are changing as the retail economy evolves—creating opportunities for new growth and development. These large sites can accommodate two- to six-story buildings with a mix of housing, businesses, public spaces and recreational uses that support investments in bicycle, pedestrian and transit infrastructure. Furthermore, transforming declining malls and shopping centers helps stabilize the tax base by recapturing existing infrastructure investments, while meeting new market demands for apartments, recreational facilities and smaller commercial spaces.
Design Renderings by PennPraxis
Entrepreneurialism drives innovation, business development and job creation. The Lehigh Valley has a long history of entrepreneurialism that has led to the creation of great industries and has remained adaptive as economic conditions have changed, thanks to the region’s spirit, access to resources and proximity to major markets. Fostering that culture of innovation will be key to continuing economic growth of the region and maintaining competitiveness in an increasingly global and new economy.
Fostering new entrepreneurial businesses is key because they create new jobs and support the innovation needed to compete in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution. The challenge will be to balance local innovation with mega-regional and global connectivity that ultimately supports and enhances the position of the local talent and businesses, creating stable, well-paying jobs that drive regional stability and growth.
To be successful, these businesses need an educated and adaptable workforce. The Lehigh Valley needs to ensure the workforce is ready with the technological know-how and skills in life-long learning necessary for this rapidly changing environment. Partnerships between educational institutions, businesses, planners and economic development agencies will be important to meeting this demand, but so will creating the kinds of communities that these new workers want to live in—with easy access to transportation options, unique shops, fresh food and attainable housing. Partners will need to be simultaneously hyperlocal, local, regional, mega-regional, statewide, interstate, national and global, as educational and economic systems are now this interconnected. People attend classes and training in London from their desks in the Lehigh Valley, and researchers collaborate with others all across the globe. Business is global. Learning is global.
To position the region for short-, mid- and long-term success, new businesses and innovators need affordable places to start and grow, access to markets that allows them to quickly scale up, and test products and services before going national or global. Many of the spaces needed to incubate these start-ups can be modest in size and can easily be incorporated into plans to revitalize historic centers. Once established, larger facilities are often needed—which can fit well into the redevelopment of post-war centers and growth along major corridors. At all stages, these businesses can benefit from the Lehigh Valley’s easy access to adjacent, larger metropolitan areas, New York City and Philadelphia, and the supply chain afforded by the Lehigh Valley’s role as a transportation hub, making the world physically accessible to more people and businesses within a day’s drive or hour’s flight. When coupled with enhanced access to communications networks, the Lehigh Valley is an instantly available, truly connected and an ideal economic and political environment for entrepreneurs. The region has a history of incubating, thriving and growing industry, from mining to cement and steel production to the more recent cross-sector medical innovations. The Lehigh Valley will continue to grow entrepreneurs and their businesses, as long as we rise to the educational, training, technological and communications needs of the fourth industrial revolution.
Why the Lehigh Valley Thrives as a Business Center
Location, Location, Location!
As simultaneously part of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic mega-regions and gateway to the Midwest while distinctly autonomous, the Lehigh Valley provides connectivity and the kind of flexibility not available in larger metros
Low taxes and less overall regulation and cost to do business than neighboring Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and communities
Attainable housing options compared to nearby markets
“I asked, where’s the next East Coast Austin, Texas or Boulder, Colorado? I was looking for something special. I needed to be near smart people and have easy access to the world. I drew a circle around the Lehigh Valley. I told prospective startups, if you want to learn how to do this - if you want to go to the Harvard of food, beverage and pet health products, you gotta move to the Lehigh Valley.”
— Richard Thompson, Managing Partner, The Factory, LLC, Bethlehem
Improve equity by encouraging the creation of living wage jobs, the expansion of technology
access, the development of a
well-trained workforce and the
removal of barriers to
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Lehigh and Northampton Counties, 62 Municipalities, Developers, Educational Institutions, Workforce Board Lehigh Valley, Economic Development Agencies, Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority
Support agriculture and open space as essential components of the regional economy and identity.
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Lehigh and Northampton Counties, 62 Municipalities, Preservation Organizations, Economic Development Agencies, Lehigh Valley Greenways, Penn State Extension
FARMING AS A BUSINESS
Lehigh Valley residents value farming—probably because they like food and appreciate the scenic open space—but most don’t value farms enough as businesses. This region reaps the benefit of a wide mix of farm types that add more than $115 million a year to our local economy, ranging from corn to soy to dairy to alpacas.
So how do we preserve the farms we have before we lose them, and thus a piece of our regional identity?
Mostly, we can value these farms for the important role they play in this region. They not only raise the quality of life for everyone, but they’re a huge asset to our regional economy. As long as it’s easier—and more profitable—to just sell off the land for development, we’re going to continue to lose our farms. Unless we’re going to be okay with that, our farming community needs our support.
Farms in the Lehigh Valley
Of all Lehigh Valley Farms are
Of all Lehigh Valley Farms are
smaller than 50 acres
Farms lost between 2012 and 2017
Farms preserved between 2012 and 2017
Acres preserved between 2012 and 2017
Acres lost between 2012 and 2017
Provide a wide variety of attainable housing in locations that maximize social and economic opportunities for everyone.
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Lehigh-Northampton Airport Authority, Lehigh and Northampton Counties, 62 Municipalities, Developers, Housing Organizations, Workforce Board Lehigh Valley
Promote the fiscal health and
sustainability of municipalities.
Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, State of Pennsylvania, Lehigh and Northampton Counties, 62 Municipalities, Council of Mayors
Suburban Infill Concept
Granny flats and cottage houses are an efficient way to increase density, diversity and affordability in suburban areas. Expanding housing options is critically important to attracting younger adults who cannot generally afford large suburban homes, and it makes it easier for older adults looking to downsize to stay in the community. Such multi-generational communities have longer and healthier lives, and support investments in parks, trails and green infrastructure that improve quality of life.
Design Renderings by PennPraxis
Funding the services residents need is becoming more difficult. A fast-growing region means increasing demand for water, wastewater and stormwater systems, schools, fire, police and ambulance services, park and recreation facilities and transportation infrastructure. Aging infrastructure means increasing costs for rehabilitation or replacement of these systems. Stricter state and federal requirements mean higher costs, whether for improving the quality of our rivers and streams, the safety of our infrastructure or the quality of the air we breathe. Even the weather is increasing the stress on our infrastructure. Traditional assistance from state and federal governments for funding needed improvements is unstable or diminishing.
Funding infrastructure costs and services will require innovative approaches to raise funds, whether through taxes or dedicated fees. Many municipalities are working together to share costs of emergency services and plan together to minimize future impacts of growth on infrastructure or services. School districts also make up the largest portion of taxes in communities. While the school facilities are themselves infrastructure, education taxes fund services and programs as well. Examples and opportunities for school systems to partner with neighboring districts are abundant and can help mitigate the costs for institutions themselves and for taxpayers. Communities and school districts need to focus on maintenance, rather than expansion, of infrastructure and services. Generally, taxing entities should look for ways to cooperate, to spread the burden of increasing infrastructure and services costs and provide the highest quality, most financially and environmentally responsible services possible.
Water infrastructure in the
Lehigh Valley is aging and facing increased
public water systems face an estimated $10 billion funding gap over the next ten years
Education costs are
already the largest
portion of tax bills in the
Lehigh Valley—10 times that of municipal tax rates in 1/3 of all communities—and the
Valley population increase
will require a greater
investment in education
The 300,000 volunteer
firefighters statewide in the 1970s have declined to about 38,000
As climate change
increases the incidents of extreme weather and flooding, about 250 critical infrastructure facilities,
including bridges, water and wastewater facilities and electric power facilities, are at risk of damage because they are partially located within the floodplains
of the Lehigh Valley
“The decline in volunteers has forced us to install a 2-mill fire tax. We had to find a way to pay for the training that’s now required of every volunteer.”
— Portland Borough Mayor Lance Prator