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Lehigh University
Lehigh Community Research and Policy Service
Program Overview 

   Lehigh CORPS is multi-disciplinary, experiential, team-based program in regional and urban economic development.  It is operated principally by multi-disciplinary teams of undergraduate students. 
   Lehigh CORPS teams tackle real problems of economic development, planning and policy formulation, working directly on projects in partnership with external client organizations. 
   Because public policy and economic development are inherently multi-disciplinary, Lehigh CORPS teams include students from each of Lehigh’s colleges, integrating their expertise. By nature, economic development planning projects can include students and faculty across a wide range of disciplines: e.g. economics, finance, marketing, law, urban studies, political science, public administration, history, sociology, environmental science, geology, architecture, and civil engineering. 
   Each year 15-25 undergraduates from these and other disciplines participate. Two to four students work on each project. 

Example Projects 

Summaries of All Past Projects 

Example Published Project Report 

Academic Paper on Lehigh CORPS 
How to Participate 

   Students enroll in a 3-credit, one-semester course (Eco 258) intended for juniors and seniors, although exceptional underclassmen can enroll with instructor permission. 
   Organizations interested in sponsoring projects can contact the following. 

More Information 

Prof. Todd A. Watkins 
Rauch Business Center Room 447 
College of Business and Economics 
Lehigh University 
Bethlehem, PA 18015 
fax 610.758.4677 

Lynne Fuller Presenting to BEDCOLynne Fuller ’00 presents her research findings to the Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation

-Photo by Elizabeth Keegin Colley 

Changing the Face of South Bethlehem
One Step at a Time 

As finishing touches were placed on the new Perkins Restaurant & Bakery at Third Street and Brodhead Avenue, opened in January 2000, Lynne Fuller ’00 had more than just a new place for lunch on her mind. Fuller, a senior majoring in political science and economics, helped the Bethlehem Economic Development Corporation (BEDCO) survey the Perkins site for possible business use. She sees the new restaurant as another step in her efforts to inject a new vitality into South Bethlehem. And she has bigger plans in the works. Then, through an internship under the direction of Professor Thomas J. Hyclak, chairman of economics, Fuller helped develop a renovation plan for the South Side. She made “walk-by” appraisals of residential and business properties in the Five Points area and the Fourth Street corridor, taking note of their aesthetic quality, structural deficiencies, parking availability and traffic patterns. Fuller and Drew Griffin ’00 also met with BEDCO and the South Side Task Force to forge an alliance of community partners charged with finding ways to revitalize areas suffering from the loss of local business and the deterioration of buildings. “If we can influence the improvement of just one property, it may radiate out to others,” Fuller said.  With financial help from investors and developers, Fuller hopes South Bethlehem can experience an economic and community renewal, similar to the renewals experienced in other areas she has studied, such as Chapel Hill, N.C., and New Hope, Pa.  Fuller, who has conducted research at the state and local levels, cites several ways the city could improve its image, draw more business and foster pride among its citizens. These include giving landlords and homeowners incentives to improve their properties, securing low-interest loans for local investors to start businesses, allocating more parking near businesses to encourage more pedestrian traffic, and boosting advertising for existing local businesses. Born in Philadelphia and raised in Moorestown, N.J., Fuller doesn’t find it particularly unusual that she’s invested so much of her time and energy into a city that has been her home for only a few years. “Wherever I live, I want to make it a better place,” she said. 

-Kathy Frederick 
Example Projects 
Lehigh CORPS student teams usefully and professionally contribute to client needs and at the same time learn significantly on three broadly different types of projects.
1. Quantitative Analysis of Public Data. 

   The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission was interested in better understanding the dynamics of high growth regions like Raleigh-Durham, and how our area compared. So the student team did comparative statistical and econometric modeling of patterns and sources of economic growth and changes in industry mix over the past 25 years in the Lehigh Valley with ten comparable cities nationally. This study used data from the US Department of Commerce. 
   Results?  The limited diversity of this area’s industries in previous decades was similar to patterns in other low growth cities such as Rochester, the relative decline of manufacturing and expansion of several other sectors made the Lehigh Valley’s industrial diversity much more similar to high growth areas. While growth in the early 1990s remained lower than national trends, the current diverse mix, they conjectured, was perhaps a good sign for the area’s future. 
   The team did such outstanding work that their research report was released in the University’s Kalmbach Institute research working paper series, later published in a peer reviewed journal of undergraduate research, and was national runner-up for the Bernard J. McCarney Award for undergraduate research in economics.

2. Original Survey Research. 

   Undergraduate teams with guidance are fully capable of designing and implementing useful original surveys within the semester timeframe. 
   One example survey was done in conjunction with the Lehigh Valley Convention & Visitors Bureau. This team developed, conducted and statistically analyzed a (randomized) mail survey of people who have received tourist information from the bureau. 
   The survey and analysis addressed questions related to: 1) the perceptions of the Lehigh Valley as a tourist destination; 2) the effectiveness of the bureau’s promotional literature; 3) demographic profiles of those who actually visit the area and those who requested information but didn't visit the area, and 4) the spending levels and patterns of visitors. From a random sample of 1000 from the Bureau’s database, 248 people responded to the survey, an enviable 25 percent response rate to a single mailing. 
   The team found the bureau’s literature to be effective and appreciated by recipients: About 98 percent had favorable views of the Lehigh Valley after receiving the survey, compared to 60 percent beforehand. Roughly 60 percent of recipients of the guide visited within one year, and the length of stay and average spending per visit was well above national tourism norms. 
   The client publically released the report and held a news conference in 
which the students presented their findings. Stories ran in all the regional news media. 

3. Qualitative urban policy analysis and planning. 

   These typically entail researching a variety of information sources by a mix of methods in order to make recommendations about loosely linked policy questions. 
   An example: Good Shepherd Work Services (affiliated with Allentown’s Good Shepherd Hospital) was considering opening a Reuse and Regeneration Center in Allentown. The Center’s multiple goals included reducing the waste disposal volumes and costs for the County and providing work training for people with disabilities and (in conjunction with Lehigh County vo-tech) for young people from area juvenile detention programs. 
   Significant volumes of re-usable building materials and large furnishings and appliances are disposed of each year in municipal waste collection programs. A growing number of cities nationwide are opening refurbishment operations that entail retrieving these materials from the waste stream, refurbishing them and selling them through thrift-like retail establishments. 
   Good Shephard was interested in how the Lehigh Valley’s potential would compare to the experience in those other areas. The student study projected the costs and revenues and disposal savings of the Center for Good Shepherd and for the County, based on detailed comparisons to results at similar centers throughout the country. 
The team also interviewed possible local sources of used materials, such as remodelers, home supply stores, and trash haulers in order to gauge interest and possible volumes. 
   The team found that the center could be very marginally profitable within 3 to 5 years, without even including the broader savings to the County and the benefits of the work training. They recommended moving forward with planning, which the client has since done. Good Shepherd now hopes to open the ReUse Center by spring 2000. 

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