Institute Insights: The numbers are in, and they are good for NEPA

Susan Magnotta - Institute Insights

Why would anyone want to live in Northeastern Pennsylvania? It turns out that many people are happy to settle in our region, and data from The Institute’s Indicators book highlights all the great reasons for doing so.

The highly coveted book is produced annually, and the latest version was presented at our Indicators Forum last week. It is full of data sets that help us track our progress on the economic and quality-of-life measures important to the future of our area.

Recent trends in tourism as well as the housing market suggest that people are visiting Northeastern Pennsylvania, relocating here and investing in the region.

Charlie Kasko, the Director of Manufacturing at Simplex Homes and a 30-year fixture in the home building industry, firmly believes that things are looking bright. He says, “The housing market is one of the best leading indicators of a region’s growth and economic strength. Our numbers are showing real promise.”

Indicators data supports Charlie’s assertion. Housing appreciation for Luzerne County is currently exceeding the state average. The median listing price for housing increased by more than $14,000 in the county – up 13 percent from last year. This is good news for people interested in selling their properties – and great news for the area!

Amounts of inventory and building permits also support the notion that the housing market is making a comeback. The county’s housing inventory has been dropping steadily, and is now significantly less than it was just five years ago. The number of building permits issued has more than doubled in the past two years; it is currently at an all-time high. People are moving here, buying homes and investing in the economy.

The local tourism industry is thriving as well. Data suggests that people are visiting for business and pleasure. In the process, they are spending money on lodging, food, entertainment, shopping and transportation. In fact, both Lackawanna and Luzerne counties outperformed the statewide visitor spending growth rate. There is no doubt that the increased economic impact of tourism and travel to the region are evidence of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s appeal as a destination worth visiting.

Is all the information in the Indicators book positive? Of course not. We certainly have things to address, and we’re doing exactly that. Although the overall poverty rate has dropped, 26 percent of our children are still living below the poverty line. Heart disease and cancer rates are trending downward but substance abuse, overdose deaths and drug offenses are still on the rise.

The purpose of the Indicators Forum is to let the data tell our story – the good and the bad – in order to better understand and confront our challenges while capitalizing on our assets and celebrating our successes. As Dr. Patrick Leahy said in his opening remarks, “If you are in this room, you care about the region.” There were more than 200 people in that room last week – individuals who care and work hard to keep the needle moving in the right direction. That also is something to salute.

Susan Magnotta

Institute Insights

Susan Magnotta is Director of Community Outreach at The Institute. Her column appears every other Monday. Institute Insights appears every other Monday.

Susan Magnotta is Director of Community Outreach at The Institute. Her column appears every other Monday. Institute Insights appears every other Monday.