By Stephanie Goodling
Editor’s note: Shalom Lehigh Valley is an initiative of the Jewish Federation of the Lehigh Valley to welcome newcomers to the Lehigh Valley Jewish community. Part of this project is the biennial publication of Shalom Lehigh Valley magazine. Delayed a year due to COVID, the 2021-2023 issue is set to be published both in print and online versions early this fall. This year, Federation is partnering with Made Possible in Lehigh Valley to help distribute the magazine.
While Shalom Lehigh Valley aims to welcome newcomers to the Jewish community, Made Possible has a similar goal with the greater Lehigh Valley community. Made Possible in Lehigh Valley is a regional branding and marketing initiative that shows off all the amazing things that are possible here in Lehigh Valley, and why it’s such a great place to visit, work, learn and live. The initiative is championed by Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC), Discover Lehigh Valley, the Lehigh Valley Chamber and the Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors.
Don Cunningham is President and CEO of LVEDC and the founder of Made Possible.
“The Lehigh Valley is underrecognized for the size and quality of the region,” said Cunningham.
His simple idea a few years ago was to bring partnering organizations together to let the world know what makes the Valley special. The goal of Made Possible is to attract people and businesses to visit, move to and live in the region. Cunningham thinks that there are plenty of reasons why that’s a great idea.
“Diverse populations with a diversity of talent and skill sets are the regions that are retaining and attracting companies,” Cunningham said. “We have that in the Lehigh Valley, along with a good quality of life for people at all different stages of life. From schools to neighborhoods to restaurants, nightlife and cultural arts or access to trails, mountains and rivers -- the Lehigh Valley has it all.”
Cunningham, who served as Mayor of Bethlehem and Lehigh County Executive among other positions in the public and private sectors before his current job, also contributes a monthly column on business and economics to The Morning Call newspaper in Allentown. A recent article highlighted some of the dynamics of population growth in the area.
“Diversity of ethnicity, of race, of religion, that has been the Lehigh Valley’s story, and it is an interesting one,” Cunningham said. “The strength of the Lehigh Valley for centuries has been its diversity. Immigrants have come here from the time of the millworkers, when there were 53 different languages spoken in a few square miles in Bethlehem, for example, to now. It’s our heritage, and we want to broaden that.”
One of the things that makes the Valley unique is that “we’re not a suburb of anywhere,” according to Cunningham, “We’re our own market.” Though he adds that the close proximity to big cities like New York and Philadelphia is a plus.
With nature always close by, multiple colleges and universities, two large health networks and other growing industries, Made Possible believes that young professionals and families will see the beauty that the Valley has to offer.
“You have all the assets of a larger city and the pastoral elements of a more rural community in an area with a good quality of life and employment opportunities. It’s a little bit of the best parts of cities, suburbs and rural areas all in a nice-size community. It’s kind of like a large city and small town mixed together,” summarized Cunningham.