With its rolling hills and valleys and access to spectacular natural settings like the Delaware Water Gap, the four-county Pocono Mountains region has long attracted honeymooners and vacationing families to its bevy of resorts and attractions. But it's the amenities of another type – among them a strategic location, a highly skilled labor pool and lower cost structure – that have drawn relocating businesses, as well as workforce talent to Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties.
The Right Address
Proximity to the New York and Philadelphia markets have lured companies, such as Kahr Arms firearms manufacturer, which moved its operations last year from New York to Pike County, and Lehighton Electronics, a global leader in the semiconductor industry that chose the Pocono Mountains over Silicon Valley.
“We’re close to those northern New Jersey and New York City urban markets. We’ve got Interstate 84 providing a direct access to those markets and also the New England markets,” says Mary Beth Wood, executive director of the Wayne Economic Development Corp. “When you cross the Delaware River into Pennsylvania, you see much lower costs for doing business. Then you factor in the high quality of life you can offer your employees. The cost of everything is generally lower than you would find in our neighboring states. That's a very important factor that brings people here."
Ready for Work
The region’s workforce development efforts begin early as evidenced by a commitment to high-quality primary and secondary education. Workforce development is also supported by the region’s higher education institutions, including East Stroudsburg University, Northampton Community College, Monroe Career & Technical Institute and Lackawanna College. Organizations such as the Wayne Pike Workforce Alliance help facilitate coordinated training efforts in a systematic way.
"If I have a business relocating here, I simply call the Alliance," Wood says. "They’ll not only work with that company to find the workforce they need from our current pool of employees, but they’ll also work with the area schools to make sure the curriculum is in place to support that business going forward.”
While health care, technology and manufacturing continue to grow, the tourism industry continues to occupy the top spot in the region’s economy. Tourism contributes some $3 billion to the region’s economy and accounts for more than a third of the job market. Carl Wilgus, executive director of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau, says the region’s visitor attractions, which include lakes and rivers for fishing and rafting, vacation resorts, golfing, skiing destinations and hunting lodges, not only draw more than 26.6 million visitors each year, but also enhance the quality of life of families who live in the area.
“I think it's lifestyle that we talk about. If you appreciate a lifestyle that allows you to work and have your recreation leisure activities close at hand, and if a lot of that leisure activity is based upon outdoor activities, I don't know of any place better than the Pocono Mountains,” Wilgus says. “It's a great place to live, work and raise a family, because it's all here, and it's close and convenient. If you want the big urban activities – the Broadway or the big sporting events – they're within a couple hours drive.
“Where 30 years ago, people use to go to where the jobs are, now people go where they want to live and then try to find a job or create a job. To that degree, I think recreation and leisure are critically important to people making relocation decisions, and as the future evolves, our region will stand and prosper and do very well because of that.”