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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Cunninghan Shares His Recipe For Success

At a Gettysburg conference earlier this week Lehigh County Exec Don Cunningham gave his recipe for success to a statewide audience at “Destination PA: The Governor’s Conference on Tourism” today.

Cunningham described the challenges he faced as Bethlehem Mayor between 1998 and 2004, when the city lost of its main employer, Bethlehem Steel. His father, a steelworker, saw little change in Bethlehem during his worklife. “Our challenge was convincing Bethlehem community members, like my father, that the influx of new residents from New York and New Jersey to the region meant the possibility of new businesses and new jobs—but different jobs from the ones that had built Bethlehem.”

“The Sands BethWorks is an example of the success that can be achieved through preservation, restoration, and revitalization,” said Cunningham. “The Sands casino is just a tiny portion of the complex -- which also includes a performing arts center -- and which is luring more investment capital to the city.”

Addressing a major conference theme of local resident concerns about tourism initiatives, Cunningham used the example of Bethlehem’s Musikfest. “Every year, a million people converge on Bethlehem for the 10-day festival,” he said. “Sure, that creates some inconveniences, but that’s a million people to whom we can market other Lehigh Valley tourism destinations.” Bethlehem’s booming Christmas season is another event that brings large numbers of tourists to the city, which lies roughly at the region’s geographical center.

Cunningham believes that the key to tourism as a driver of economic development is a focus on the Commonwealth’s downtown areas. “My basic rule is, ‘Make it safe, make it clean’ if you want to make a city appealing to visitors,” he said.

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