Biden’s Allentown-area visit will highlight the community as an economic success story

The president is expected to meet with small businesses and community leaders in the Lehigh Valley

By: - January 12, 2024 5:00 am

A view of the skyline in Allentown, Pa. (Getty Images)

President Joe Biden will travel to the Allentown area on Friday, where he will visit with small business owners and local officials to make the case that Bidenomics is to thank for the region’s economic rebound.

Michael Negron, Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy, said on a Thursday call with reporters that Biden’s visit would serve to “highlight how communities that for too long had been left behind by the failed trickle-down economic policies of the past are now making an economic comeback.”

During the pandemic, Negron said, unemployment in Allentown reached 16% and many businesses closed their doors.

“But today, with the support of this administration’s policies, Allentown is amongst the many communities across our country making a comeback since the President took office,” he added.

The White House didn’t provide any details about which businesses Biden would be visiting, but the Lehigh Valley News noted there was also a “special event” planned in the borough of Emmaus on Friday that included parking restrictions. The Morning Call reported that several school districts in the Lehigh Valley planned early dismissals Friday ahead of the president’s visit.

The president is expected to arrive at Lehigh Valley International Airport in the early afternoon.

According to the White House, since Biden took office, Allentown has seen “historic” employment growth, small business creation and investments. Personal income in Allentown is up more than 3% after adjusting for inflation, compared to before the pandemic, the White House said.

The Allentown metro’s unemployment rate was 3.4% in November, the most recent data available according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), an apparent 20-year low.

“Allentown residents have seen their wages increase under President Biden’s economic agenda as the Lehigh Valley economy has grown through investment in small business,” Mayor Matt Tuerk said in a statement.

A fact sheet from the White House listed some of the recent investments the Biden administration has made in the Lehigh Valley, including $5 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation for renovations at Lehigh Valley International Airport, $2.3 million in American Rescue Plan funding that allowed Allentown to invest in a new fire training facility and emergency operations center, and $1 million from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for a climate action plan for the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. And the Department of Commerce designated Allentown a “Recompete area,” making it eligible to compete for an award of up to $50 million to support small manufacturers and workers.

The White House also pointed to recent local workforce investments by two large companies in the Allentown area. Pratt Industries, an Australian corrugated packaging company, announced in September it would invest $500 million into the five plants it has in Pennsylvania, including its Macungie and Emmaus facilities in the Lehigh Valley. The company’s plans called for hiring several hundred workers over the next decade, the state announced at the time.

The state Department of Economic Development (DCED) provided Pratt with more than $1.3 million in funding in 2011 to locate the plant in  Macungie, which the DCED says helped created more than 125 jobs. Pratt has more than 800 employees in Pennsylvania, according to the DCED.

And in June, Gov. Josh Shapiro announced that Schless Bottles, a premium plastic jars and bottles manufacturer, would relocate from its New Jersey manufacturing facility to Allentown, bringing an investment of more than $7.5 million and creating 98 new full-time manufacturing jobs in the next three years.

The White House noted such investments create a “ripple effect,” creating jobs and bringing more customers to small businesses in the region.

The Biden administration also announced on Thursday that new Census data showed  5.5 million new business applications were filed in 2023. In Allentown, new business applications grew by a record 30% in 2022 over pre-pandemic levels, the administration said.

Friday will be Biden’s second visit of the year to the battleground state of Pennsylvania. On Jan. 5, he kicked off his reelection campaign with a speech at Montgomery County Community College, where he warned that American democracy is at stake in the 2024 election.

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Kim Lyons
Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons is a veteran western Pennsylvania journalist who has covered people and trends in politics and business for local and national publications. Follow her on Threads @social_kimly