It is slated to be a vital year for economic development in Berks County.

There are a number of critical initiatives that are going to be occurring to move our community forward. In 2014 we addressed areas of opportunities and Prosperitychallenges. Whether an opportunity or challenge, all identified priorities require a long-term commitment to create momentum and ultimately change.

Among the issues:

Decreased Inventory of Sites and Properties

To address the ongoing lack of sites, various organizations, including Greater Reading Economic Partnership and the Berks County Planning Department, are focused on trying to get more sites and properties “shovel-ready.”

This includes all appropriate infrastructure so that properties truly are ready for commercial and industrial opportunities. This is an effort that includes several municipalities throughout the county.

Skills Gap

Workforce and talent development continues to remain a top priority. Various initiatives will be concurrently occurring this year to address the skills gap.

A collaborative effort to reach ninth-grade students during a week-long partnership between local businesses and Berks County schools has become an annual event.

The existing Careers in 2 Years campaign will be continued in 2015 with an effort to get more people who are completing high school and thinking about getting skills training for high-paying and existing manufacturing jobs.

In addition, a second iteration of the Careers in 2 Years campaign will be rolled out, targeting an older demographic, which includes returning veterans and people who are under-employed or unemployed.

Quality of Life

In early 2015, the Greater Reading Convention and Visitors Bureau will have the results of an in-depth analysis by an outside and expert tourism consulting group. Efforts will be made to implement suggested strategies with the goal of bringing more tourists to the region, as well as enhancing the overall quality of life for existing Berks residents.

Entrepreneurship

Efforts will continue to drive more entrepreneurship and innovation concepts and create new companies.

We are fortunate to have the Jump Start Incubator for growing businesses in the region. This is in addition to the Latino Business Resource Center’s entrepreneurial and incubation efforts, which are going to continue to expand.

Downtown Revitalization

Double Tree Reading PA

Double Tree Hotel under construction in Downtown Reading, PA

Reading will experience several positive enhancements, which would include the adaptive reuse and redevelopment of several properties on the city’s main artery – Penn Street.

Additionally, construction work is underway at a fast pace to complete a 209-room DoubleTree Hotel opposite Reading’s Santander Arena. The hotel is slated to open in late fall.

The success of downtown Reading is imperative to the continued economic growth of the Greater Reading region. There have been positive steps made toward downtown revitalization — such as the formation of the Main Street Board and the ongoing good work of the Reading Downtown Improvement District.

Continue reading on LVB.com

This article originally appeared in the Lehigh Valley Business on December 30, 2014

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