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These wheels turn our economy

The Greater Lehigh Valley Auto Dealers Association just wrapped up its annual auto show at Lehigh University, an event that is a microcosm of what the association and its people are all about.

The show is about three things: selling vehicles, giving back to the community and fueling the economy. And that is precisely what the auto dealers are about all year long.

The show draws thousands to Lehigh’s Goodman Campus to see the latest and greatest in vehicles. That, of course, drives sales for the 52 new-auto dealerships – covering 85 franchises – that are represented by GLVADA.

But the show is not just about commerce.

A gala on the eve of the show raised money for St. Luke’s University Health Network’s HealthStar community health vans. Last year, the gala benefited Lehigh Valley Health Network’s children’s hospital.

And, of course, the four-day auto show stimulated the economy in the Bethlehem region.

All of that influence is multiplied many times over when one looks at the annual impact of GLVADA members.

In terms of giving back, association members donated $1.25 million to charitable causes in 2012, the latest available figures.

Meanwhile, the new-auto dealerships provide the infrastructure for what is a $1.9 billion industry in our region.

That number of $1.9 billion in total sales for GLVADA members is worth repeating, because it translates to 4,190 jobs with family sustaining wages.

It also means $76.4 million in state and local taxes collected or paid by the dealerships.

And it means $217 million in total earnings for area residents as a result of dealership operations.

That is a lot to pump into the economy.

In one way, GLAVADA franchises are like those muscle cars of the 1970s that had big, powerful engines that dominated the streetscape.

But those cars were loud and brash.

The impact of new-car dealerships – despite their television and radio commercials – is not always heard. But they comprise an important engine that drives our regional economic landscape.

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