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LVEDC Launches Strategic Economic Development Planning Process

By LV Staff on August 14, 2013

Atlanta-based site selector to help identify the Lehigh Valley’s strengths and weaknesses as part of developing a strategic economic growth and marketing plan

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation is in the process of forging a regional strategy to help guide the Lehigh Valley’s economic development initiatives for the next decade.

LVEDC has engaged the services of Garner Economics, LLC, of Atlanta, Ga., a nationally-recognized site selector and economic development consultant, to conduct a review of the region and to recommend economic development and marketing strategies for the Lehigh Valley. The initiative is being funded through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities Regional Planning Grant award – the same grant that launched Envision Lehigh Valley, a public outreach effort designed to engage Northampton and Lehigh County residents on a variety of issues to enhance a sustainable Lehigh Valley.

“We live in a period of tremendous economic change across the world, the United States and our Lehigh Valley,” said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC. “The economy here has changed tremendously just in my lifetime and we can be sure that the explosion of technology and innovation will continue to affect every aspect of the economy. It is more critical than ever that we take a hard look at ourselves, our strengths, our weaknesses, our assets and our liabilities and to develop a smart and strategic approach to how we purse economic growth as a region and how we market ourselves. 

“We are fortunate that the Lehigh Valley economy continues to grow and that opportunity for job creation and economic expansion remain in front of us. But like the quarterback who throws a ball to where the receiver is going not to where he was, as a region we need to be looking ahead at what is possible, what is sustainable and how we can grow in the best way possible for the businesses and the people of the Lehigh Valley.” 

Garner Economics, based in Atlanta, Ga., is led by Jay Garner, a 33-year veteran of the economic development, chamber of commerce and site-location consulting professions. As a site selector, Garner Economics works for corporate clients to evaluate regions on their economic assets and makes recommendations to companies on where to locate. Garner also works for economic development organizations and local and state governments providing expertise in industry targeting, analytical research, site selection, strategic planning and organizational development.

“We need to take a hard look at ourselves in comparison to other regions and understand our strengths, weaknesses and opportunities and to develop our plans and strategies from an informed and realistic perspective,” Cunningham said. “We can’t afford to guess at things. We need to understand our own backyard fully, how we compare in the marketplace and our unique assets to market. This will make our strategies and efforts informed and cost-effective.”

The objective of the study is to develop a regional approach to development and growth in the Lehigh Valley that can help all entities that engage in development issues. It also will help to align efforts around funding and policy issues between governmental entities and non-profits to better meet the long-term goals of the entire Lehigh Valley.

 “This new plan will serve as a roadmap not only for LVEDC but for all entities across the Lehigh Valley engage in economic growth issues, particularly Lehigh and Northampton counties and larger regional organizations and governments,” said Holly Edinger, Envision Lehigh Valley study director.

As part of the study, Jay Garner will conduct a series of focus groups on Sept. 10 and 11 with invited stakeholders from key businesses, organizations, governments and academic institutions across the Lehigh Valley. He also will appear at a meeting of local government officials from both counties and all 62 municipalities on Sept. 12 at Whitehall High School. A virtual town hall will take place at 8 p.m. on September 16th.  For additional information on the virtual town hall, please visit www.envisionlehighvalley.com

The scope of the study includes:

–       Producing a comprehensive inventory of businesses in the Lehigh Valley;

–       A cluster analysis of existing business types and a targeted industry analysis of business types that would be well suited to the area;

–       A study of the makeup of the regional workforce with statistical detail based on job classification;

–       An evaluation of the Lehigh Valley’s economic strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats along with an emphasis on how the region’s assets can be used to attract desirable targeted industries;

–       An identification, evaluation and prioritization of key development areas;

–       An examination of existing business retention efforts with a focus on preventive measures to assist at-risk companies.

The project will be approached in three phases:

–       A discovery period where the region is evaluated from a competitive site selection perspective that includes labor and economic analysis along with an assets and challenges assessment (SWOT) and cluster analysis and business target identification.

–       A strategy phase that includes short- and long-term planning, business recruitment and marketing strategies, along with product improvement.

–       An implementation period where action is taken on marketing, promotion, workforce development recommendations and organizational recommendations for best practices.
The expected completion date for the study is January, 2014. For more information on Garner Economics, visit the company website at www.garnereconomics.com/.

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