Significant development is occurring in several downtown districts in the region’s largest cities. Major revitalization is underway in the cities of Scranton, Hazleton, Pittston, Wilkes-Barre and Carbondale, where millions of dollars in private capital have been invested, resulting in thousands of new and planned employment opportunities. Downtown amenities are important in building a knowledge-based economy.
Over the past several years, significant attention and priority has been given to entrepreneurial-related projects to help new to market businesses. Strong attention has also been placed on establishing knowledge based, technology-led economic development. This is extremely important from an economic development, youth retention, and image-related perspective.
Northeastern Pennsylvania enjoys a diversified economic base. This region continues to be extremely competitive and successful as a location for warehousing and distribution centers, back office call centers, medical and health related office facilities and processing centers, and food processing and distribution. Employment reflects diversification efforts, and is not concentrated in any business sector.
Northeastern Pennsylvania’s business base is overwhelmingly dominated by small businesses. According to “County Business Patterns,” a publication by the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2012, there were 22,070 businesses in the region, and 73.4 percent of these businesses employed between 1 and 9 people. The single largest industry sectors by employment are: 1) Health Care and Social Assistance; 2) Retail Trade; and, 3) Manufacturing. Employment in the manufacturing sector is dominated by electronics, fabricated metal products, plastics and rubber products, and food and chemical industries.
Due to its location by having proximity to major markets, excellent interstate highway connectivity and available land, coupled with an available and trainable labor force, the Northeastern Pennsylvania region (especially the I-81 Corridor) has been able to attract considerable investment from logistics – related businesses.
The region now has a medical school, The Commonwealth Medical College in Scranton, which had its first class of graduating physicians in May 2013.
Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs recently completed a hotel which has 218 standard rooms and 20 suites. Employment at the hotel is 250, bringing total employment at the casino to 2,000. Additional hotels are being constructed in the Wilkes-Barre area to accommodate visitors to the area, and the adjacent Pocono Mountains.
According to 2011 “County Business Patterns” from the U.S. Census Bureau, the region, at 12.8 percent, has a higher percentage of workers employed in the Manufacturing industry as compared to the state and nation with 10.8 percent and 9.7 percent, respectively.
Improvements to access roads, which will improve truck traffic flow, have been made to the Humboldt Industrial Parks in Hazleton.
The Pocono Mountains provide many recreational activities attracting visitors to our region. According to a 2012 Visitor Report about the Pocono Mountains, from Longwoods Travel USA, there were an estimated 25 million total person-trips that consisting of 9.1 million in overnight trips, and 15.9 million day trips during 2012. Total spending resulting from overnight visits was $1.3 billion and total spending from day visits was $936 million. According to the 2012 Annual Report of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, meetings generated an estimated economic impact of $6,586,910 within the four-county region.
Housing costs within the region are lower than the state and nation. According to the 2009 – 2011 American Community Survey, 3-year estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, the region has a lower median housing value and median rent than the state and nation.
The region’s largest employer is Tobyhanna Army Depot, which is the largest full- service electronics maintenance facility in the Department of Defense. The Depot overhauls, repairs, tests, modifies, converts, demilitarizes, and provides technical assembly and installation for airborne and electronic warfare systems, as well as associated equipment for the Joint Warfighter.
Kalahari Resorts, a resort property under construction, will provide lodging, convention space, restaurants, a large waterpark and other recreational amenities. It is slated to open in Monroe County during the summer of 2015.
Construction of a three-building campus, replacing the existing building at the Monroe Campus of Northampton Community College, in Tannersville, PA is scheduled for completion in 2014. The new campus, which is being constructed with materials and technologies with the lowest environmental impact by following Leadership Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), U.S. Green Building Council Gold standards, will accommodate 5,000 students as compared to 2,000 students at the single building campus.
Kahr Arms, a major handgun manufacturer, intends to locate a plant in the Pike County Business Park. As many as 80 jobs are expected.
The seven (7) county Northeastern Pennsylvania region includes an area of 4,476 square miles. Its major urban centers are primarily concentrated in the 87 miles stretching from Carbondale in Lackawanna County, through the Wyoming Valley, to Nanticoke, and then following Interstate 81 south to Hazleton and Pottsville. The major cities within this belt are Scranton and Wilkes-Barre.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the population of Northeastern Pennsylvania in April 2010 was 1,028,926 and in July 2013 the estimated population was 1,021,027.
The population has become more diverse. In 2000, the region’s population consisted of 5.9 percent minority, and in 2010, the region’s population had a minority percentage of 13.4 percent. In 2012, the percentage rose to 14.4 percent.
This region is home to eighteen (18) colleges and universities offering numerous opportunities for higher education. Curricula are broad, and include many areas of STEM curricula.