Lamont McClure, a Democrat, just completed his second full year as executive of Northampton County.
Northampton County has a population of just under 303,000 and is home to many major and nationally known employers including C. F. Martin & Co in Nazareth, the maker of Martin Guitars; candy maker Just Born Inc. in Bethlehem, and art products manufacturer, Crayola Inc., in Easton.
McClure said his main economic development goals are to grow manufacturing in the county, but to manage it in a way that balances all of the county’s needs.
LVB: What industries are currently the most important to the Northampton County economy?
McClure: If you look at the statistics on employment, health care dominates in every way. We have two fine systems (Lehigh Valley Health Network and St. Luke’s University Health Network) so we are very well represented.
Most business are attracted to Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII, the Chrin Commerce Center and we’re hoping the new LERTA, Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance, development in Upper Mount Bethel Township will be attracting business, too.
LVB: What are issues that are impacting economic environment in the area?
McClure: Land management. People here have had it. They don’t want to lose any more land to warehouses. Warehouses are needed, but let’s place them in areas that are already prepared for it. We’re not opposed to them. We just need to find a middle point. There’s a tension between land preservation, quality of life issues and the need to create jobs that pay living wages so you don’t need a second job to put your kids through school.
Automation is also a concern that in the next few decades it will lead to a reduction in the workforce. The point of government being involved in economic development is to create jobs.
LVB: What kind of industry would you like to attract to Northampton County?
McClure: What we’re trying to do in our partnering with the LVEDC [Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corp.] is to recruit more manufacturers to Northampton County as compared to logistics and warehousing. We think business involved in manufacturing like medical devices or in the food and beverage industry and packaging will pay a better living wage and they will be here for a long time.
LVB: Do you think the Northampton County economy has room to grow?
McClure: I think our economy in Northampton County is doing good and I hope it continues to grow. I think it will grow, but we want to manage it – and say ‘these are the businesses we want to come here.’
By Stacy Wescoe