WILKES-BARRE — Teri Ooms, executive director of The Institute for Public Policy & Economic Development at Wilkes University, said many of the region’s industrial/business parks came to fruition during a time when private investment in Northeastern Pennsylvania was lackluster at best.
Ooms said non-profit economic development organizations began to emerge as the primary real estate developers of the area and CAN DO, Inc. — the subject if this Times Leader special publication — made real estate investments that span Carbon, Luzerne and Schuylkill Counties.
“These business have proven to be true economic development engines, boosting livelihood throughout southern Luzerne County,” Ooms said.
The CAN DO business and industrial parks — four in total — represent diverse and lucrative hubs of economic activity.
• They are home to 112 manufacturing, distribution, office, and service companies employing more than 14,000 individuals.
• About nine million square feet of space is dedicated to distribution, with over eight million square feet dedicated to manufacturing.
• The number of employees is almost equally split between manufacturing and distribution, and nearly 25 percent of the workers from 11 companies are in the food processing industry.
Ooms said the future of the CAN DO business parks looks even brighter. Recently, The Hershey Company broke ground on a $60 million expansion project at the Humboldt Park. That’s also where IRIS USA, a manufacturer of top-quality clear plastic storage containers, pet products, and furniture is investing $84 million in a manufacturing and distribution facility.
”This kind of commitment only solidifies the value of the location, the community, and the workforce,” Ooms said.
Ooms said a high-level impact analysis shows that the manufacturing sector in the CAN DO business parks supports an additional 3,000 jobs in a number of other local sectors, and that the economic impact — direct, indirect, and induced — to the area is over $2.4 billion.
She said distribution industry supports an additional 2,000 jobs in other sectors and generates nearly $112 million in economic impact — direct, indirect, and induced.
The business parks house both domestic and international firms. CAN DO’s list of companies includes a number of familiar brands such as Amazon, American Eagle, Autozone, Bimbo Bakeries, Burger King, Cargill, Dial, Fed Ex, Hershey, Penske, PPL, and Web.com.
“The locations of these business parks are ideal due to the proximity of the intersection of Interstates 80 and 81 and the capacity to reach a number of major markets with product in less than one day’s time,” Ooms said.
Furthermore, Ooms said the businesses support employees from all over Northeastern Pennsylvania.
“These individuals have the earnings not only to support themselves and their families, but to funnel through other businesses in the area,” Ooms said. “The ripple effect on NEPA’s economy is unmistakable. In sum, the investment by CAN DO and the greater Hazleton community in the business park infrastructure has truly been an asset to the increasingly vibrant region.“
Reach Bill O’Boyle at 570-991-6118 or on Twitter @TLBillOBoyle.