The Lehigh Valley is the fastest-growing region in Pennsylvania. We are a day's drive from one-third of the population of the United States. The ease of access to large markets, combined with a lower cost of living, affordable real estate, lower taxes and a smart, but more affordable labor pool than most of our Northeast competitors, puts us on the short list for any company looking to relocate and expand its business.
While location creates opportunities, it is our pro-business climate that makes those opportunities realities. With a regional approach, we shifted from a labor-intensive economy to one focused on health care, technology, entertainment and distribution industries. These niches have allowed the Lehigh Valley to flourish during the toughest of economic times.
The pro-business, regional approach has been successful, in large measure, because of the partnership among all levels of local and state government and the private sector. Just look at the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber or public-private partnerships, like the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp., and you will see businesses, government and nonprofits working together to grow our economy. The recognition by all of us that rebuilding our economy should unite us, not divide us, is a major factor in creating the business climate we enjoy today.
In Bethlehem, we recognize that time is money, and government needs to create the right atmosphere for businesses to move quickly from the development to the construction phase. We have shovel-ready sites and we take pride in how quickly that happens here. Our inspection process is attentive and efficient so businesses can open on time.
But in Bethlehem, and throughout the Lehigh Valley, the focus is not just on big companies. We do a great job supporting technology startups and small businesses to build the big companies of tomorrow. In Bethlehem, we are home to a world-class technology incubator, the state's premier Keystone Innovation Zone and Lehigh University. As partners, we have created a knowledge neighborhood where entrepreneurs are encouraged and welcomed. We provide these companies the opportunities to grow in places like PI, post-incubator space renovated by the city. The city recently announced it is looking to meet the demand for technology companies through another public-private partnership called Tau, on part of the former Bethlehem Steel site.
We work in creative ways to eliminate barriers for people to start their own businesses and chase down the American dream. We are fortunate to have an organization like the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley and the programs it administers, like the Rising Tide Loan Fund and the Bethlehem's Small Business Loan Fund, to help individuals get the startup dollars they need to open their doors.
We are fortunate to have a talented labor pool here, along with great institutions of higher learning to make certain we always will. Beyond our colleges and universities we also have nimble pro-active community colleges willing to develop programs to meet the needs of any employer.
Perhaps the single greatest asset why any business relocates here or remains here is the quality of life. The communities of the Lehigh Valley are wonderful places to live and raise a family. We have something to offer to everyone, from big-city amenities and historic neighborhoods, to suburban homes and quaint towns. If you want it, you can find it here.
Our health care institutions are second to none. Our children do not have to go far to get an affordable world-class education. We just need to make sure there are jobs for our best and brightest, so they stay after graduation.
In the last decade, our communities have seen a tremendous growth in the arts, cultural and entertainment amenities. This growth has altered the dynamic here. We are now home to the IronPigs baseball team and the Phantoms hockey team. ArtsQuest opened an ambitious arts and entertainment destination, along with the Levitt Pavilion to continue the revitalization of the old Bethlehem Steel. The Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem is the best-performing casino in the state and had 6 million visitors last year. These amenities enhanced the quality of life and are tremendous selling points for businesses to invest here. After all, employees are the lifeblood of any good business, and recruiting and retaining quality employees often depends on much more than the just the job.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun