Today, with a population exceeding 270,000 and growing as rapidly as any county in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Northampton County is a diverse, thriving and prosperous community. It’s a great to place to live, work, raise a family, and do business. Today, Northampton County is home to thousands of individual businesses and enterprises that contribute in so many ways to our county’s economic prosperity. These companies, large and small, are responsible for the jobs and the future of hundreds of thousands of men and women and their families. These employers are one of the reasons that Northampton County is a special place to live.
Historically, the first jobs in Northampton County were basic labor – farmers, masons, loggers, tanners, butchers, blacksmiths, innkeepers, and a hundred other specialized trades that provided goods and services to a growing community. With the opening of the Lehigh Canal and the introduction of David Thomas’ radical new method to burn anthracite coal to smelt iron ore, those jobs became less important, though still very necessary, in the over-all scheme of things in Northampton County. From that time on, Northampton County entered the industrial age and was a leading producer of the hard goods that made America the strongest nation in the world. Iron, steel and cement from this prosperous county helped to build this country.
The exciting, but quite basic, blast furnace that David Thomas and his men built in Catasauqua on the bank of the Lehigh in 1840 evolved into one of the world’s greatest industrial companies. The giant Bethlehem Steel Corporation, one of the most powerful companies of its time, dominated the economic growth in this region for close to 150 years. Bethlehem Steel created unimaginable wealth for many of its leaders and investors. It created hundreds of thousands of high paying industrial jobs and created prosperity for families that made Northampton County, and particularly Bethlehem, their home. Throughout the region, Steel left a legacy of philanthropy, community service, education, and arts and culture that will serve this community for a long time to come.
Even though the giant that made Northampton County one of the premier industrial communities in all of America has fallen, prospects for economic development have never been brighter. Don’t let anyone tell you that this community is suffering. Business prospects throughout the county and the region are optimistic to say the least.
1,000 acres of prime Bethlehem Steel property have recently been acquired by Lehigh Valley Industrial Parks, Inc. The Common-wealth of Pennsylvania has pledged its resources to help facilitate the redevelopment and reuse of this exceptionally exciting property – the largest “brownfield” project in the country. Although this is certainly a daunting project, no one in Northampton County doubts that the end result will be anything but positive, and that thousands of new, high technology jobs, in dozens of industries, will be developed, sooner than later. The resources the community is bringing to the project – human and capital – are just as impressive as those that David Thomas brought from Wales in 1839. The prospects for success are just as bright.
Steel was never totally dominant in Northampton County. Yes, it was a large player, but this community had many other, significant companies that produced exceptional products of national and international renown.
C.F. Martin and Company in Nazareth was established in 1833. That’s seven years before that first blast furnace forged in Catasauqua produced its first smelt of iron. The Martin Guitar Company has been continuously producing acoustic instruments that are acknowledged to be the finest in the world. Anyone who has ever watched an installment of “Antiques Roadshow” on Public Television knows about Martin Guitars, and the quality and the sound that is produced, lovingly by hand by Martin’s exceptional craftsmen in the factory in Nazareth. The list of musicians that own and play Martin Guitars represents a “who’s who” list of American musical stars – of every style.
Binney and Smith – manufacturers of Crayola Crayons. The company began to produce slate school pencils in its newly opened Easton mill in 1900. Listening to the needs of teachers, Binney & Smith introduced the first dustless school chalk two years later. It was so successful that it won a gold medal at the St. Louis World Exposition. In 1903, noticing a need for safe, quality, affordable wax crayons, the company produced the first box of eight Crayola crayons. They sold for a nickel. The Crayola name, coined by Edwin Binney's wife Alice, comes from "craie," the French word for chalk, and "ola," from "oleaginous."
Majestic Athletic Wear – Manufacturer of Professional Sports Uniforms in Bangor. Over fifty years ago, a small sewing mill opened in Bangor to try to compete in the highly competitive women's apparel industry. Today, the small firm that Faust and Mary Capobianco started is now a leading provider of quality authentic team uniforms and athletic wear. Majestic Athletic Wear supplies uniforms and accessories, including a vast assortment of fan apparel, for the NBA, MLB, NFL, and NHL.
Just Born in Bethlehem is a family-owned candy manufacturer that has been in business for more than seven decades and three generations. They make the popular candies: Mike and Ike®, Hot Tamales®, ZOURS®, Teenee Beanee® Gourmet Jelly Beans, and seasonal Marshmallow Peeps®. Originally started by Russian candy maker Sam Born, who invented the process of inserting wooden sticks into lollipops in San Francisco, Just Born came to Northampton County in 1932.
Today, thanks to the leadership of companies like Just Born, Martin Guitars, Majestic Athletic, and Binney and Smith, manufacturing is alive and well in Northampton County. In addition, the retail, professional and service industries, along with a healthy mix of education and government employment, contribute to a stable, even thriving, community.
If you are thinking about Northampton County as a place to start a business, relocate a business, find a job, get an education, raise a family, or retire, we look forward to your joining our family. You’ll love it here, right in the middle of everything.