In January, Beijing Oriental Yuhong Waterproof Technology Co. Ltd opened a new research and development facility in Pennsylvania, located at Lehigh University’s Mountaintop Campus. The firm is conducting advanced material research on waterproofing coatings, with plans for a full corporate launch in the US. It currently employs two Chinese researchers to collaborate with a former Dow scientist, hoping to share their respective expertise in different technological and research approaches. The new investment came with the support of Ben Franklin TechVentures, a venture capital firm. The partnership is noteworthy because Ben Franklin usually supports small, local start-ups with their developments in technology, while Beijing Oriental Yuhong is a large, state-certified firm with 3600 employees and a $4.1 billion market capitalization. Ben Franklin’s spokeswoman, Laura Eppler welcomed the firm, noting that there is substantial potential for the creation of high paying technology jobs in the Lehigh Valley area once full-scale operations begin. Ben Franklin is providing business plan reviews, marketing advice, technical and logistic resources, and a small laboratory space where experiments are conducted in association with Lehigh University professors who have been working on similar technology.
This latest project in the Bethlehem/Allentown area follows the investments of other large Asian companies. In recent years, China’s Taizhou Fuling Plastics established a manufacturing plant, while Japanese pharmaceutical company Daiichi Sankyo opened a packaging facility. Due to a combination of favorable conditions including proximity to the large urban market of Philadelphia, tax credits, funding, and availability of skilled labor, Lehigh has seen an influx of foreign companies. Taizhou Fuling Plastics invested $21 million in its facility, while creating 75 full time jobs, and also received $150,000 in tax credits for creating jobs in the region, $150,000 in grants and $33,750 to train its workforce from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development. Similarly, Daiichi Sankyo also spent $21 million on its facility and employs at least 40 local residents.
Lehigh University lies within Pennsylvania’s 15th congressional district, which sends roughly 25% of its total exports to countries in Asia. Bethlehem also shares a sister city relationship with Tondabayashi, Japan, and that relationship marked its 55th anniversary in 2014.
Bowrun Hou is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and a student at the University of Sydney.