By Peter Becker Managing Editor
MILFORD -Trumpeting significant progress in the economic front, Pike County officials are planning a dinner to celebrate and help chart strategies they move forward, seeking to overcome remaining hurdles.
Michael Sullivan, Executive Director of the Pike County Economic Development Authority (EDA) told the Commissioners, September 2nd, that the currently posted jobless rate of only 6.2% is even better than that when you count the jobs promised by five new businesses or business expansions underway in the past 16 months.
He said when you figure then drops to an outstanding 4.99%. Just three and a half years ago the unemployment rate in Pike County was 12.6%.
“Pretty cool,” Sullivan said.
When the Pike EDA’s 2015 Dinner is held Wednesday, September 30th at Ehrhardt’s Waterfront Resort, the five companies are slated to receive a shared award for economic development. These include LP Cylinder Service, Inc., Shohola, which recently went through 56,000 square foot expansion; Econo-Pak, RT. 6/209 near Milford, which opened in March 2015; Middletown Community Health Center, Milford; Kahr Arms in Blooming Grove Township, which held its grand opening in August and All Fresh Farms, Greene Township, which is preparing to start growing hydroponic vegetables this fall.
The momentum continues.
Sullivan stated that just the day before, he showed a potential client from outside Pennsylvania a site for a 100,000 square foot building at the Blooming Grove Business Park, which is now owned by Kahr Arms. Another firm has been in touch with the Pike EDA, looking for a three story building where 100 employees would be expected to work.
The guest speaker at the dinner is former Pennsylvania Senator, Michael Brusker, who is now the CEO of Blackford Ventures, LLC. While serving the 36th District in Lancaster County for two terms on the Senate, he served as chairman of both the Agriculture and Rural Affairs Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Currently he is in charge of a prestigious Pennsylvania investment company.
Commissioner Matthew Osterberg noted that Brubaker has been in Pike County twice before, and sees the potential here for economic investment. Sullivan stated that Brusker will discuss how venture capital might work in Pike County.
Sullivan said that landowners, builders and those in the financial industry should make it a “must” to attend this important dinner program. Last year Pike EDA had 145 guests at the dinner.
“This is very important to the future of this county…,” Commissioner Chairman Richard Caridi said. “We’re out there fighting for every nickel and dime we can to bring jobs, and keep our kids at home after they get out of high school or go to college… As we have increased sheriff sales and foreclosure, the tax base shrinks. What does that do? It puts the burden on everyone else that’s paying taxes. We’re trying to expand this tax base, and the best way to do it is with commercial entities and investment in our communities because they will share most of the burden and relieve that burden on the rest of us.”
Osterberg noted that 70 applications were received during the last two months for jobs at All Fresh Farms, most of them from Pike County residents. Kahr Arms is also being “flooded with applications,” he said.
“The more we can bring here, the more we can keep people here and close to their homes,” Osterberg added.
The tough part is how long it takes to locate an interested client and go through the process before a new business is finally open and ready to hire. Someone asked why it is so much easier in Lehigh County and even Monroe County.
Osterberg pointed to the lack of infrastructure in Pike County, including central sewer and water. Building projects happen a little quicker on Route 6/209 thanks to the central sewer system in Westfall Township. “Three or four years is too long,” Osterberg said. He added that are also looking to see how the state permitting process can be expedited.
Kahr Arms was fortunate in that they purchased the business park in Lords Valley which had lots ready to go, Sullivan noted. The process only too Kahr about 14 to 18 months.
The program at the September 30th dinner will not only celebrate recent success. Sullivan noted that strategies will be discussed about how Pike will enhance its capacity to create jobs and how they plan to overcome existing hurdles.
Reservations are required for the Pike EDA dinner, which cost $35 a person. Anyone interested should contact Tammy Savarese at 570-296-7332. The dinner is from 5 to 8 p.m. Ehrhardt’s is located at 205 Route 507, overlooking Lake Wallenpaupack in Tafton.