2016 Good News In Greater ReadingGreat

Let’s talk about 2016 in Greater Reading. So what happened? How did we do? Are there really good things happening in Berks County?  Yes! The Greater Reading community saw growth numbers on several fronts and announced successful company expansions. Our GDP is growing, private and public investment is high and Greater Reading has never been in a better position for internal growth.

For starters, in 2016 the business and community leaders came together and determined that a merger of economic development organizations would be the best way to change the condition of our community. Hundreds of volunteer hours were spent in putting together the framework for what is now known as the Greater Reading Chamber and Economic Development Corporation (GRCEDC). In fact, a new President and CEO (Randy Peers) was hired and starts at the end of this month. That merger is taking the community’s economic development and business service delivery system and kicking it up a notch.

Well first let’s talk about record setting digital marketing results in 2016:

  • Almost 25% of the leads generated were from GreaterReading.com
  • There was a 56% increase in website visits to over 25,000 visitors
  • Social media saw a 62% increase! Generating over 4,500 website visits

We successfully positioned Greater Reading as a regional partner with easy access to large metro markets. Greater Reading is part of the Lehigh Valley, part of southcentral PA and part of southeast PA and metro Philadelphia. And our location identity has paid off.

Greater Reading is part of the region ranked #3 in distribution markets in the US by Jones Lang Lasalle due to our reach to other large cities, the transportation infrastructure, good civilian labor force metrics, reasonable cost of living & a cost effective basis for logistics real estate.

As a regional partner with central PA, we leveraged over $67,000 for Berks County for international business attraction and reshoring opportunities. And we experienced a record year in international inquiries.

In 2016, 48% of the companies visited as part of GREP’s expansion and growth strategy indicated that they are in growth mode and 38% of the companies are planning a physical expansion in the next 12 – 18 months.

Greater Reading increased its ranking to 107 out of 399 national metro areas, with $1.77 Billion in export sales – up from $1.74 billion.

Greater Reading is in the top 10 in the country for minority-owned businesses. And while these businesses on average are smaller than non-minority-owned businesses, they tend to have a higher profitability ratio. 

In 2016, Greater Reading’s GDP increased by 2% coming in at $15.8 billion - that number put Reading at 153rd out of 382 metropolitan areas in the U.S.

The $7.8 M in Commonwealth of PA that came to Greater Reading is projected to bring over 1,700 new jobs to our community.

Downtown Reading solidified its position as an entertainment destination as thousands flocked to downtown for outdoor concerts and the Penn Street market became nationally known as the connector for food sustainability, economic empowerment and place making. With the Reading 120 international bike race and the internationally recognized Bronze level trail system we attracted the attention of the WCL who is considering an indoor Velodrome project.

2016 also saw a renewed commitment to ensuring that the words agricultural economic development is not an oxymoron with over $1.5 million of state funds invested in farming operations. Greater Reading also witnessed the announcement of over 70,000 of acres placed into Ag land preservation – solidifying this community’s commitment to its sense of place.  

Our office vacancy rate is on its way down. At 7%, we have high demand for Class A and B space.   Our industrial vacancy is also at an all-time low of 8.3%. For industrial buildings 100,000 +SF, the vacancy rate is .6%.

Active land development projects will create over 650 acres and almost 9.2 million square feet of new industrial building development in Berks County in next 1 – 3 years. These projects represent multiple developers committing to the Greater Reading market signaling confidence in our real estate market and the ability to attract companies to Greater Reading. 

And there is good news for redevelopment in our communities. In fact, there is $1.33 B of good news. With announcements like the redevelopment of the former Armorcast, VF Outlet complex, Abe Lincoln Hotel, and the Big Mill apartments.

So, what are the predictions for 2017? 

  1. Municipalities Step Up their Game
  2. International interest in Berks County and PA will remain high
  3. Regional Partnering will be a key component to our success
  4. Site Inventory remains a high priority because dirt is not a site
  5. Focus on addressing the workforce needs of existing companies

I think you will join me in the optimism that we see for 2017 and 2018 as the relationships, partnerships and strategies being implemented in Greater Reading bring greater attention and prosperity to our community.