ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Allentown is growing, and whoever is the next mayor needs to keep it going.

Don Cunningham, the executive director of the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, knows a thing or two about the job. He was a mayor of Bethlehem.

He says the economic health of Allentown is critical to the whole region.

"Nothing replaces the personal leadership of a mayor when it comes to convincing companies to come to his or her community," Cunningham said.

And in order to drive more growth we have to spread the wealth, says Tony Iannelli, president and CEO of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.

"Will that filter out into the residential areas? Will everyone in this new, diverse community have a piece of this economic pie?" Iannelli said.

Alan Jennings, executive director of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley, agrees.

More than a third of the city is now at or below the poverty line. He says if that doesn't change the city will stagnate.

"The issue is not about how can I sustain your life of poverty. What can I do to help you move on and do better?" Jennings said.

And that includes investments in jobs, housing, education, and transportation.

"It's imperative for the cities to work on this live/work/recreate balance of having jobs available for people of all skill levels within the city boundaries," Cunningham said.

So, all three agree that improving the quality of life, especially in the downtown, will be key to sustaining the growth in Allentown and in turn throughout the Lehigh Valley.

The question now is who will be the one who has to do it.

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