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Innovative Manufacturers Thrive in I-99 Corridor

Learn why sophisticated manufacturers are thriving in Pennsylvania's I-99 Corridor while other regions have witnessed a decline.

By Bill Lewis on June 14, 2016

Thanks to a lower-cost location close to major East Coast and mid-Atlantic cities, an unparalleled quality of life that makes it easy to recruit and retain talent, a highly developed transportation network and a deep pool of highly skilled workers, advanced manufacturers are thriving in the I-99 Corridor.

“There is a job-ready workforce already available to be hired,” John Bonislawski, president of Homeland Manufacturing Services (HMS), says of the region.

HMS, which manufactures military, aerospace and medical-grade electronics in State College, is growing much faster than expected, says Bonislawski. HMS quickly outgrew that space and moved to a 2,000-square-foot location that was supposed to last for the foreseeable future. Just nine months later, the company expanded to its current 6,000 square feet of space and, with 15 employees and plans to hire more, is already outgrowing that. HMS is part of a manufacturing sector that employs more than 13,000 workers who produce products ranging from electronics to heavy equipment, chemicals, paper and other high-value products sold around the world.

Skilled Workforce

Recruitment of talented employees is simplified by the presence of Penn State University campuses in State College and Altoona. “Penn State provides a foundation of youth, brains and an open-mindedness,” says Ben Lawrence, vice president of sales for KCF Technologies in State College.

[infobox alignment=”right” title=”Manufacturing in the I-99 Region”]

353

Establishments

13,579

Employees

$907

Average Weekly Wage

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 3Q 2015

[/infobox]

The company specializes in wireless sensors, energy harvesting, underwater navigation and smart-material devices. It developed a wireless sensor system that issues alerts when a machine is going to fail before it actually does. Revenues have grown at an average annual rate of more than 60 percent.

“Quality of life – climate, access to outdoor recreation, no traffic, great entertainment, festivals, etc. – is outstanding here, and that’s a powerful recruitment-retainment tool for our employees,” says Jeremy Frank, the company’s president and co-founder. “A large percentage of our employees ride bikes or walk to work, and that’s really important to us.”

Unparalleled Advantages

Being located in the I-99 Corridor is a key element in the success of Rockland Manufacturing, which has been in the heavy equipment manufacturing business for 60 years.

“We’ve seen our small little shop grow into a national brand that supplies products to many parts of the world. That wouldn’t have been possible without the folks of Bedford County helping to make it happen,” says Bo Pratt, Rockland’s president.

A skilled workforce is at the top of his list of the region’s advantages. Second is its location and quick access to customers across the country. “Third, often overlooked, it’s a great, clean place to live,” says Pratt.

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