Every year we take a look at the economic development trends at the global, national and state level to better understand how they will affect our local strategies in the coming year. Developing predictions in response to recent trends allows us to proactively develop strategic actions, and better position Berks County for business attraction and retention. 

The good news for 2017 is that through all of the political uncertainty, there is a lot to be optimistic about in our community. So, here are my thoughts for 2017. 

1. Municipalities Step Up their Game 

Active municipal involvement is key to proactive economic development because municipalities play a critical role in the attraction and retention of companies. We need to support the willingness of municipal officials to proactively engage in determining local development and economic growth. Streamlining the permitting process and approaching commercial and industrial development with a business friendly message, continues to be critical in a municipalities’ ability to attract and retain commercial and industrial users. 

2. International interest in Berks County and PA will remain high 

Even with the uncertainty brought about by our Presidential election, foreign companies continue to look for an east coast U.S. location and we have positioned Greater Reading to be considered by these companies. With the help of the proactive international team at the Commonwealth of PA and their global network, Berks County is well positioned to accommodate companies looking for a mid-Atlantic location with a close proximity to international airports and large metro markets, but at a much lower cost. Which is why… 

3. Regional Partnering will be a key component to our success 

Berks County is grouped in a lot of different geographic categories. We can either allow this to foster identity schizophrenia or use it as a strength. We choose to use it as a strength. Identifying with the Southcentral PA, Southeast PA, metro Philadelphia, and the Lehigh Valley allows Berks County’s diverse base of industry and cultures to become our greatest strength. We are diverse, and we are proud of it. 

4. Site Inventory remains a high priority. Dirt is Not a Site. 

We need more developable and ready-to-go site inventory. This continues to be critical for Berks County’s economic growth and expansion of our commercial and industrial base. So look for us to map out our strategy for short and long term inventory pipeline. 

5. Focus on addressing the workforce needs of Existing Companies 

Many existing Berks companies are expanding and they are looking for employees with specific skill sets. And they are having difficulty finding those skills. In addition, there is a general labor availability issue. Companies will make location decisions based on where they can find and keep the best workers. Resources will be focused not only on technical education geared to our manufacturers but also on our professional service sector so that they can attract the educated talent they are seeking.