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LVEDC, Regional Coalition Pursuing Tech Hub Designation for the Lehigh Valley | WDIY Local News

Maxence Pira

The Lehigh Valley’s economic development agency is calling for the region to be designated as a Tech Hub.

The Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp. announced Tuesday that has filed a Tech Hub application on behalf of a regional coalition of partners.

The group includes tech companies, colleges and universities, state and local government officials, industry and community partners.

Formally known as Regional Technology and Innovation Hubs, Tech Hubs were created by the CHIPS and Science Act of 2022 to boost innovation and funding for technologies deemed important to economic and national security, like artificial intelligence, data storage, biotechnology, or robotics.

20 such hubs will be designated across the United States by the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The LVEDC said at least three Tech Hubs will be selected in each of the six EDA regions. The Lehigh Valley is in the Philadelphia EDA region, which covers the East Coast from Maine to Virginia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In a release, the LVEDC said the Lehigh Valley is seeking to be designated as a Tech Hub for semiconductors, specifically where production overlaps with advanced manufacturing and advanced material sciences.

The organization also said the designation could qualify the region for $50-$75 million in CHIPS Act funding to grow the industry so it can contribute to a secure domestic supply of components.

In a statement, LVEDC President and CEO Don Cunningham cited the Lehigh Valley’s history of innovation, from the first mass production of transistors in Allentown in 1951, to the array of semiconductor technology firms currently operating in the area.

“The history of the Lehigh Valley is very rich but one aspect that few realize is the role this region has played in the birth and development of the semiconductor industry,” Cunningham said.

“We were the first Silicon Valley and still have many of the country’s leading technology firms – and some great new ones – thriving here.”

These companies include AAYUNA, Broadcom, Cisco, Coherent, Infinera, iDEAL Semiconductor, Intel, and POET Technologies, and together employ around 1,500 people.

These firms are supported by a number of Lehigh Valley companies that supply components and raw materials including Air Products, Evonik, EMD Electronics, and LBN.

The LVEDC noted that while most semiconductor companies are based in the U.S., most manufacturing takes place in Asia, which it says raises “economic, national security, and supply chain concerns.”

The Tech Hub program aims to bolster domestic production to eliminate those problems.

“The Lehigh Valley is part of the nation’s semiconductor history and its present. With the investment that could results from a Tech Hub designation, the Lehigh Valley will help the U.S. to once again lead the world in the development of technologies that support national economic and security interests,” Cunningham said.

The LVEDC’s application was hailed by Congresswoman Susan Wild, who has long called for the region to be designated a hub. She sent a letter to Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development Alejandra Y. Castillo in support of the application.

Wild outlined the Tech Hub program in the Regional Innovation Act of 2021, which she introduced. This was then passed as part of the CHIPS and Science Act.

“I’m very proud to be working with partners from across our community to advance this Tech Hub application, because I believe there’s no better place for a Tech Hub than the Greater Lehigh Valley,” Wild said in a statement.

Wild previously urged the Biden Administration to select the Lehigh Valley for Tech Hub in December 2022, and in May she re-upped the call, saying that the greater Lehigh Valley was “uniquely situated” for such a designation.

“I think PA-07 is uniquely situated to be designated as such a tech hub thanks to the integration and collaboration already present between our academic sector, our many colleges and universities and technical schools and community colleges, our workforce development programs, our nonprofit and business community,” she said in a May press call.

“And, of course, our geographic proximity to major metropolitan areas and the ability to drive goods to most of the Eastern seaboard in a single day.”

A total of 31 letters were sent in support of the Lehigh Valley's application. Apart from Wild, supporters include:

  • Industry: Intel, Ideal Semi, Coherent, Infinera, Broadcom, Olympus, Evonik, and EMD Electronics;
  • Government:  Sen. Bob Casey, Sen. John Fetterman, Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development Secretary Rick Siger, State Sen. Lisa Boscola, State Sen. Nick Miller, State Rep. Mike Schlossberg, Allentown Mayor Matt Tuerk, and Upper Macungie Township;
  • Education: Lehigh University, Lafayette College, Lehigh Carbon Community College, Northampton Community College, Penn State Lehigh Valley;
  • Economic Development: Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and the Manufacturers’ Resource Center;
  • Workforce and Labor: Workforce Board Lehigh Valley and IBEW Local Union 375;
  • Other Community Organizations: Allentown School District, Da Vinci Science Center, The Literacy Center, and the Lehigh and Northampton Transportation Authority.

(Original air-date: 8/17/23)

Sarit "Siri" Laschinsky was WDIY's News and Public Affairs Director until 2023.
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