Yes… that's $1.5 BILLION.
That was just one of the numbers Discover Lehigh Valley President Mike Stershic tossed out last night during a discussion of the economic impact of the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail.
The event that was held at Vynecrest Winery in Breinigsville was organized by Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW) of LehighValley.
According to Stershic, a majority of the billion-and-a-half figure goes to the transportation industry, with entertainment and recreation and food and beverage close behind in terms of contributions to the community. Shopping and lodging account for 29 percent of the total contribution.
Stershic said a large chunk of the money spent here goes toward taxes. That's a fact that goes largely unnoticed by local residents.
"This saves the average homeowner $500 or more in property taxes annually," Stershic said.
Tourism also accounts for 22,500 jobs in the Lehigh Valley.
The Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem and Dorney Park amusement park are major employers.
Approximately 300,000 visitors come to the area simply for a taste of the eight wineries thriving here in the Lehigh Valley, Stershic said. These wineries contribute $52 million annually from the growing and bottling side to the events side.
"It's a great agri-tourism story," Stershic said.
The region began to attract more attention for its wineries in 2008 when it was designated an American Viticultural Region. The designation allows vintners to better describe the origin of their wines and to allow consumers to better identify wines they may purchase.
According to Stershic, these strong numbers are indicative of the success of the region as a whole.
"The impression that visitors get that's coming from our industry is important. They need to know that where they're coming to is a quality place," he said.