Berks County appears to have gone through an economic revival in recent years.

In 2013 alone, numerous existing companies set their sights on growth and expansion while other large conglomerates moved into the area. Berks Park 78 Map

“What is happening is that we are starting to see signs that we are returning to pre-recession levels,” said Tom McKeon, executive director of the Berks County Industrial Development Authority. “There are still some weaknesses in the economy, but we are certainly better off than we were during the recession.”

As a new year begins, economic development prospects continue to look promising in Berks County, according to McKeon, who said the Berks County IDA is concentrating its efforts on 155 acres of industrial property near the Reading Regional Airport. In its preliminary findings, IDA estimates that particular acreage can accommodate 500,000 square feet of commercial space.

Berks County IDA was one of the organizations instrumental in establishing Berks Park 78, which is the home of distribution centers for Dollar General and PetSmart. While big-name companies anchor the Bethel industrial park, the proposed venture near the Reading airport is expected to house much smaller businesses, McKeon added.

“There are several steps in this process, as we first have to do the market analysis, looking at what revenue we can generate from the property. Then, we need to look at our financing option,” McKeon said. “As we get into the market analysis, we may have a name for the industrial park, but we do not have one at the current time.”

Jon C. Scott, president and CEO of the Greater Reading Economic Partnership, has been behind the scenes of some of Berks County’s largest economic development successes in the last couple of years.

Scott said Berks County is a great place for existing businesses to expand and for new companies to house their central operations, manufacturing facilities and distribution centers.

“There are 100 million people within overnight delivery of Reading. … Companies like Dollar General and PetSmart see it as a great artery to reach those on the East Coast and Mid-Atlantic regions,” Scott said. “We are in close proximity to places like Philadelphia, New York, Washington, D.C. and Boston.”

He said that nationally-known site selectors have indicated that Berks County and Lehigh Valley are known for their high quality workforce and for people who have a strong and positive work ethic.

“We have a strong base for supporting businesses. All you have to do is look at banks, financial institutions and those in the insurance industry in our region,” Scott said, adding that these institutions play a pivotal role in helping businesses relocate to Berks County.

Marketing manager Aaron Costenbader at GREP said that in 2013 there were 31 new prospects and 17 projects involving businesses entering Berks County. From the influx of new companies and expanding entities, Costenbader said, 1,467 jobs were created. Of that total, 894 were new jobs and 573 were retained jobs. In addition, 900,000 square feet of space were leased or sold last year.

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