Technology-driven manufacturing is thriving in the Pocono Mountains region, where a deep pool of skilled workers, lower cost of living, outstanding quality of life in a scenic, rural setting and an integrated transportation network providing quick links to major cities are key advantages.
“We have the best of both worlds,” says Harold Schafer, CEO of Technical Process & Engineering Inc. (TPEI) in Lehighton, a maker of continuous mixer and single screw extruders for the plastics and rubber industries.
“Our employees can enjoy outdoor activities, including white water rafting, camping, fishing and hunting, with quick access to water parks, ski slopes and lakes. Yet we are within two hours of Manhattan or you can be in Washington, D.C. in three and a half hours and enjoy all they have to offer,” he says.
Advanced manufacturers in the region, which comprises Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties, produce everything from military hardware and food packaging to fire protection apparel and precision machinery.
Average Mfg. Wages
Source: U.S. BLS, 3Q 2015
% of Mfg. Jobs
Source: PA Department of Labor & Industry
Tradition Meets the Future
In Wayne County, New Wave Custom Woodworking produces custom furniture created by a unique combination of traditional artisanship and computerized equipment that includes 3D laser scanners and computerized numerical control (CNC) wood carving machinery. New Wave, which opened as a one-person operation in 1991, now employs 30 people and has a 55,000-square-foot manufacturing space.
In Lehighton, Majestic Fire Apparel manufactures fire retardant hoods, accessories and apparel, as well as visibility products and illumination devices that are relied upon by firefighters, the military and industrial users.
Small Town, Big Advantages
For Clarion Safety Systems, being located in Pike County offers an unparalleled combination of advantages. The company’s 44 employees manufacture safety labels, and environmental and facility safety signs for customers in more than 180 industries.
“When it comes to our employees, one of the main advantages that they can benefit from is the quality of life that they can enjoy by living in this beautiful, rural area of the country while still receiving competitive wages,” says Annette Martin, vice president of human resources.
“We love our location in Milford. It’s a small town with a beautiful setting, adjacent to the Delaware River, in the northern edge of the Pocono Mountains in some of the most pristine state and national wilderness on the East Coast. Not only are we situated where the states of Pennsylvania, New York and New Jersey meet, but since we’re only 90 minutes from New York City’s international airports, we’re strategically well-suited to the domestic and international travel Clarion staff regularly take,” Martin says.
Econo-Pak, a provider of packaging services, arrived in Pike County in 2014. In Milford, the family-owned company handles cookies, crackers, muffins and candy produced by companies with household names.
Tobyhanna Army Depot, located in Monroe County, is the place all branches of the armed forces turn to for the repair, upgrade and integration of command, control, computer, communications, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. Army aviation officials recently brought together Tobyhanna Army Depot and Rockwell Collins expertise to repair cutting-edge technology used on the CH-47F Chinook helicopter.
The most important advantage offered in the region is the skilled workforce, says Schafer. He credits the schools and education resources, particularly Carbon County Vocational Technical School. “One of the strongest things in the community is the working relationship we have with our vocational school and the overall education system. Students graduate ‘job ready,’” Schafer says.