Job Growth Doesn’t Always Mean Smart Growth
By Michael Sutherland
Where is job growth happening in the Lehigh Valley? And is it smart growth?
When looking at the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton, PA-NJ metropolitan area we can see that from 2000 to 2012, more people were working closer to where they live. In the map above the darker shades of blue symbolize a higher percentage of nearby jobs gained while the darker orange colors represent a loss of nearby jobs.
The Lehigh Valley has had an overall 12.5 percent increase in the number of jobs nearby. This is great news when considering the national trend of a seven percent when looking at jobs near the nation’s residents.
And as great as this job growth is, most of it is in the periphery of the suburbs. So what does this say about the proximity of jobs to people in poverty?
The map below highlights the areas of the Lehigh Valley where greater than 20% of the population is in poverty.
So even though we are gaining jobs, the people who need them the most still get the short end of the stick when it comes to job growth near their homes.
The Lehigh Valley has been gaining jobs but many of them are not related to smart growth.
For example, truck traffic through the region is expected to double in the next 25 years, according to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.
These trucks will be headed to the warehouses built on our fertile land for businesses that provide a low return on investment with very few jobs for the amount of space they use.
I mention this because although jobs are coming back to Allentown in the NIZ, the majority of the job growth is still in the suburbs, with companies looking mostly for unskilled labor.
Sure, the distance between jobs and residents in the Lehigh Valley is smaller than the national average, but that does not mean those jobs are in areas that follow smart growth principles.
As the Lehigh Valley continues to grow, we need to plan for jobs in our urban cores – perhaps by using vacant land in our cities — rather than in warehouses that pave over paradise.
Are we willing to fight for this in the Lehigh Valley?