Planning Pike’s economic growth

By Peter Becker Managing Editor, THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2014

Tafton
Outlining stunning successes for Pike County’s economy in the last few months, remaining challenges and advantages Pike has to offer, a marketing campaign for new business has been put forth. The strategy was presented Feb. 18th by Michael Sullivan, Executive Director of the Pike County Economic Development Authority (EDA), at a special dinner at Ehrhardt’s Waterfront Banquet Center.

With full support of the Pike County Commissioners, the EDA will be sending a series of colorful postcards to almost 1,800 companies highlighting different aspects of why locating a business in Pike County would be to their benefit.

• • • Stream of headlights
Sullivan has recently returned to head the EDA again after six months as the business attraction director for the Orange County Partnership in New York. He cited copious data comparing economic vitality in Pike County and neighboring counties, including Orange where he said a large number of Pike residents head to work each morning. Approximately 15,000 people from Pike work elsewhere. He said early in the morning in Milford you can see the “stream” of headlights as people follow their commuting ritual away from home turf.

The long daily commute away from Pike County hurts the family structure as well as tax base, Osterberg noted. They are also bound to spend money where they are working rather than back home. It also means less volunteers available at home for emergency response. A full 53% of Pike’s labor pool works outside the county borders.

About 130 people were in the audience, including many business people, local government officials, engineers and property owners. The movement towards a strategic plan was boosted in November at an Economic Summit held in Matamoras, stated Commissioner Matthew Osterberg. Referring themselves as ambassadors of the County, the Commissioners and EDA is working to move Pike County forward. Existing businesses need to be assisted as well as new companies encouraged to locate here.

Although there is good news in the unemployment rate: the latest data showed an 8.8% rate compared to 10 or 11% in recent years, Pike County continues to relay heavily on two main industries, tourism and construction. The number of building permits issued has plummeted. Osterberg, calling the construction trade “flatter than flat”, said, “We have an unsustainable job market in Pike.”

About a quarter of Pike’s jobs are in the government sector; more private job producers are needed, the Commissioner stated.

• • • Like a revival meeting
Team work is needed. Osterberg likened the current push towards prosperity in Pike to a revival meeting. “We all need to get under the tent,” he said.

Recent good news in Pike County has include Kahr Arms’ purchase of the Pike County Business Park, announcement of a new company, Econo-Pak, plans to expand LP Cylinder and report of Middletown Health Center planning to locate in Milford.