A Georgia-based real estate industry economic development publication ranked Lehigh and Northampton counties among the top five regions for economic growth with fewer than one million people in the U.S. last year.
The region also became the fastest-growing region of its size in the Northeast for a third consecutive year.
In its U.S. listing, Site Selection magazine credited the Lehigh Valley with 25 economic projects in 2018, compared to 31 in the greater Boston area. It also ranked Lehigh Valley fifth among metropolitan areas with a population between 200,000 and one million. According to the magazine, that put the valley ahead of all but Omaha, Nebraska; Des Moines, Iowa; Toledo, Ohio; and Lincoln, Nebraska.
Each March, Site Selection releases a Governor’s Cup Awards ranking, which ranks states and metropolitan regions based solely on the number of development projects, the amount of economic investment and job creation during the previous year.
“We’ve consistently been in the top five in the Northeast, this year we broke into the top five in the nation,” said Don Cunningham, president and CEO of Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.
Cunningham described the region’s growth as balanced.
Each of the three cities, Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton are all doing well, as is the region’s corporate and regional office development, he added.
“All of our top sectors are growing equally,” Cunningham said. “It’s nice to see in numbers what we intuitively sense is going on in the economy of the Lehigh Valley. The best way to measure success is to look at what’s happening in comparison to other regions.”
This balanced growth in the valley is in professional office development, advanced manufacturing, food and beverage, e-commerce, and fulfillment centers, he said.
“The job creation is in varying categories of skill and pay,” Cunningham said. “I would say the Lehigh Valley has arrived on a national level.”
The Lehigh Valley ended up behind larger metropolitan regions in the northeastern U.S. such as New York City, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and Boston, all of which had more development projects last year.
Site Selection does not disclose which 25 projects it considers eligible for these rankings.
LVEDC recorded 33 business attraction, expansion and retention projects for 2018.
Last year saw a number of large projects unveiled, including Freshpet’s expansion and renovation project; Air Products’ plans for a new headquarters; and the opening of FedEx Ground.