By Bill O’Boyle - [email protected]

WILKES-BARRE —Penn’s Northeast’s partners offered testimonials about the organization and its work on behalf of improving the economic outlook in the region.

Alana Roberts, PPL: “PPL Electric Utilities is a strong supporter of economic development throughout our service area and is a founding member of Penn’s Northeast. We continue to make significant investments to improve the electric delivery system — replacing aging facilities and building new to meet customer needs and to make our network even more reliable, resilient and secure.

Don Brominski, UGI: “UGI Utilities is proud to be a founding member of Penn’s Northeast and its mission to promote economic development in the region. We understand the value of coordinating the marketing efforts for the multi-county region that Penn’s Northeast represents. Their successful efforts support the growth and economy of the area.”

Peter Danchek, PNC Bank: “My involvement with Penn’s Northeast was born out of my participation with the Greater Pittston Chamber at the time. Touting and marketing our area with the strength of one voice rather than several smaller competitive ones made so much sense and has proven to generate the outcomes we collectively wanted for and continue to benefit from in Northeast PA.”

Bob Durkin, Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce: “At the inception of Penn’s Northeast, The Scranton Plan, the economic development marketing affiliate of The Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce, and founding Penn’s Northeast partner, recognized the important role marketing a region played in the site selection process. As we look to the future, highlighting the assets of our region’s business opportunities still remains a key component of our marketing plan. We are pleased to be an active partner and supporting member of Penn’s Northeast, working to grow business investment and job creation in Northeastern Pennsylvania.”

Brian Hansbury, Schuylkill Economic Development Corporation: “Our investment in Penn’s Northeast is vital to the economic development efforts in Schuylkill County. Given the rural nature of our county, small staff size and limited budget, pooling our marketing dollars together with counterparts from the other counties in the region has proven to be very impactful. The number of new prospects we have seen as a result of this relationship is not something we could accomplish on our own.”

David Pedri, Luzerne County Manager: “The Luzerne County Office of Community Development is a founding member of Penn’s Northeast and has been an unwavering supporter of the organization since its inception. A regional economic development strategy continues to be the best way to promote the many positive attributes of Luzerne County and the thousands of jobs created with the assistance of Penn’s Northeast is proof positive of its success.”

Michelle Bisbing, Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corporation: “As a founding partner of Penn’s Northeast, the Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corporation (PMEDC) truly believes in the mission of this organization. Prospective companies and site selectors don’t see county boundary lines, they look for regions where their businesses can prosper so regional economic development marketing is more efficient and cost effective for all of us. Anytime a company decides to locate or expand anywhere in Northeast PA it is a win-win for all of us.”

Jim Cummings, Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services: “In my career, I have served as Vice President of The Scranton Plan and President of Penn’s Northeast and provided site selection services to businesses from both chairs. My experience tells me that the Penn’s Northeast ‘hub and spoke’ system is the right one for Northeastern Pennsylvania.

“For the most part, businesses from outside of our area don’t know one NEPA town or county from another. That’s not how they choose a community for a new industrial or office operation. They typically look at a larger region first and then begin to narrow down their search using factors such as real estate availability, last mile truck access, labor quality, utility access, incentives, and quality of life.

“These businesses and the real estate brokers who represent them, strongly prefer making their first call to a regional entity like Penn’s Northeast rather than calling having to call multiple local economic development agencies. In a sense, Penn’s Northeast is their “easy button.” Once a client’s specific site selection needs are assessed, Penn’s Northeast is then able to identify all of the properties in Northeastern Pennsylvania that will work for the project. Penn’s Northeast basically cuts through the red tape so that when the business is ready to tour our area, it knows which local economic development groups need to be contacted.

“In the end, it is critical that the businesses receive stress-free, timely, and accurate service from beginning to end and that’s what Penn’s Northeast provides.”

Mary Beth Wood, Wayne Economic Development Corporation: “WEDCO was one of the founding partners of Penn’s Northeast and my predecessor, Robert Suhosky, was very influential in helping the organization develop its business model and expand its marketing and operational budget to one that could be influential in the realm of regional economic development marketing. At the time, Penny Cannella was providing staff support and also administering the Business Retention and Expansion Program (BREP), which was the State’s business outreach program.

“I was hired by WEDCO in 2001 during the time of PNE’s incorporation. I do know that the leadership within the founding organizations recognized the need to work collaboratively as a region, worked diligently to gain cooperative agreements from the county organizations and utilities, and built the membership base. Jim Cummings was hired as the first President. Once the administrative side of incorporation was complete, the real action took place in the marketing committee. Michelle Bisbing chaired that committee very capably for many years, and John, Amy and Joe have been at it forever.”

Wico van Genderen, President/CEO, Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business & Industry: “The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business & Industry has long believed that the secret to success is found in collaboration. We were one of the first organizations to be at the table when discussions were being held regarding the creation of a regional economic development partnership.”

John Augustine, Penn’s Northeast: “I’m proud to be the President and CEO of Penn’s Northeast and I’m happy to have the support of so many members — both public and private organizations across 5 counties. Our partners know that the key to job growth is through regional economic development. We all realize that when a company locates to any specific area, employees travel from many different communities. When we work together, we all win.”

Kevin O’Donnell, , President, CANDO: “CANDO was an original partner in the creation of Penn’s Northeast. We are firm believers in regional economic development and have benefited from our partnership with them. Through Penn’s Northeast, we recently landed IRIS USA which will invest more than $80 million into a new facility and will bring more than 90 manufacturing jobs into the Greater Hazleton area.”

Michelle Mikitish Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce: “In the early 2000s, many economic development players began to recognize a need to combine resources to better represent the value of NEPA as a whole region to employers looking to expand into our area. Representatives from Pittston Area Industrial Development (PAID) and the Greater Pittston Chamber of Commerce were eager to be a part of the team that helped Penn’s Northeast grow into the valuable organization it is today.

“PNE has been instrumental in helping those involved in the economic development of Greater Pittston where in the last 20 years or so, Greater Pittston has realized unprecedented industrial growth in Grimes, O’Hara, Barnum and Quackenbush Industrial Parks as well as CenterPoint Commerce & Trade Parks. The collaboration of private industry, local utilities, government and economic development organizations has led to a level of success that none of us could have reached alone.”

John Cognetti, Hinerfeld Commercial Realty: “We are partners in Penn’s Northeast because it’s the right thing to do for the future of Northeastern PA.”

George Kelly, Lackawanna County: “Economic Development is truly a community effort with many partners. Penn’s Northeast is a driving force in marketing the region across county lines to show the value proposition of locating to Northeastern PA.”

Patrick M. O’Malley, Chairman of the Lackawanna County Board of Commissioners: “Penn’s Northeast has played a major role in ‘spreading the good news’ about Northeastern Pennsylvania to prospects nationwide. It has had a tremendous impact on giving developers an insight into our region and encouraged them to take a look at the area. When they do, the clients realize that it is a great place to live, work, relax, locate a business, and raise a family.

By Bill O’Boyle

[email protected]

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.

Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.