BETHLEHEM – Friday, January 18 – The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., LVEDC, today (1/18) announced a series of personnel changes as part of a restructuring to reduce administrative costs, increase marketing and improve business development and recruitment efforts.
The restructuring eliminates two vice president positions and retitles the chief operating officer position to vice president of administration and investor relations. Along with the reductions, it adds a vice president of marketing position and two business development staff to focus on business growth and expansion, and research and data gathering.
“It’s critical that our resources be used wisely and shifted to the direct benefit of our marketing and development efforts,” said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of LVEDC. “This restructuring will increase our marketing of the Lehigh Valley and put more boots on the ground to help companies to come here, grow here and start here.”
The changes coincide with the retirement of Stephen Melnick, a long-time area economic development professional who, prior to joining LVEDC in 2001, worked for the Bethlehem Economic Development Corp. Melnick retired from LVEDC as vice president of entrepreneurial development, where he focused on developing entrepreneurs and start-up companies.
“Steve has been a tremendous asset to burgeoning entrepreneurs during his 11-year career with LVEDC and throughout his more than four decades in economic development,” Cunningham said. “His efforts have resulted in the formation of nearly 60 companies in Southside Bethlehem’s Keystone Innovation Zone and the creation of several facilities that house resources to support entrepreneurship.”
Melnick will serve in an advisory capacity to LVEDC during the first quarter of 2013.
As part of a ramped up focus on the retention and expansion of existing Lehigh Valley companies, Robert Bilheimer has been named to the newly-created position of director of business retention. Bilheimer has been with LVEDC since 2009 serving as vice president of fund development and business relations. In the new position, Bilheimer will coordinate a Lehigh Valley-wide effort, working with other regional organizations and governments, to visit existing companies and to develop micro and macro strategies for their retention and expansion.
“About 80 percent of new jobs in the economy come from the growth of our existing businesses,” Cunningham said. “We will always need to work on recruiting news businesses, but it’s equally important to work with our existing companies to help them to grow. Bob is a veteran of the Lehigh Valley business community and has existing relationships with key companies and organizations here. It’s a logical move to have him coordinate this effort by working with our economic development partners and county and local governments.”
In addition to the business retention position, LVEDC will add the new position of director of research and innovation to coordinate and direct the gathering of economic development data and research and to work with start-up companies and entrepreneurs.
Cunningham announced the hiring of Matthew Tuerk, currently the assistant director of the Allentown Economic Development Corp., to fill this new role at LVEDC.
Tuerk has been with AEDC since 2008 where working with Director Scott Unger he founded a co-working space and hacker space in an existing manufacturing facility and led an effort to improve business retention and incubation. Tuerk has a Bachelor of Science degree in International Business and a Master of Business Administration degree with a concentration in international economic development. He is also fluent in Spanish.
“AEDC is a key partner of LVEDC and Matt Tuerk is a true talent in economic development,” Cunningham said. “He is very passionate about the Lehigh Valley, our urban cores and is smart and aggressive. He is perfect to work with our entrepreneur community and to develop a stronger research and data component to support LVEDC’s strategic planning and marketing.”
As part of the restructuring, LVEDC created a vice president of marketing position in addition to increasing its marketing and advertising budget by reducing overhead costs.
John McGran, currently the editor of Lehigh Valley Business, will be LVEDC’s vice president of marketing. McGran has nearly 25 years of experience as an editor and writer working for daily newspapers, weeklies, on-line publications and magazines.
“John has done a phenomenal job with the turnaround and transition of Lehigh Valley Business from the former Eastern Pennsylvania Business Journal into a timely and comprehensive source of business news in the Lehigh Valley, both in daily e-mail blasts and its weekly print product,” Cunningham said. “I am confident he has the skills, the experience and the ability to tell the story of the Lehigh Valley and all of our cities and regions in a consistent and comprehensive way both here and beyond our borders.”
McGran will work with Steve Althouse, director of communications at LVEDC, and also a former journalist. A former news reporter at The Express Times, Althouse joined LVEDC in 2009.
Both McGran and Tuerk will start at LVEDC the first week of February. Melnick’ s retirement was effective Dec. 31. Bilheimer has begun his new role as director of business retention.