Advantages Add Up for Pocono Mountains Region
Natural attractions and a location advantage draw investment to the region
An unparalleled combination of advantages including a network of spectacular natural attractions, a skilled workforce and a high quality of life in a convenient, low-cost location between two major metro areas makes the Pocono Mountains region a magnet for attracting fast-growing companies.
“Our proximity to major markets is one of the biggest advantages that we can offer to companies. Within a three-hour drive, you can access 80 million people, and 25 million people visit our region each year,” says Chuck Leonard, executive director of Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corp.
The four-county region — Carbon, Monroe, Pike and Wayne counties — has a population of nearly 300,000. One of its key advantages is direct access to Interstates 80, 84, 380 and 476, with Interstate 81 in close proximity.
“We have an available workforce ready to go to work, and our excellent highway system allows employers access to a large pool of potential workers,” says Leonard.
Long a center of hospitality and tourism, the Pocono Mountains has developed key industry sectors that include advanced manufacturing, life sciences and logistics.
“The Pocono Mountains region offers lower operating costs compared to New York and New Jersey and is only 90 minutes from New York City. We have fantastic recreational assets that offer a quality of life for employees who enjoy the outdoors,” says Mary Beth Wood, executive director of the Wayne Economic Development Corp. (WEDCO).
A developed farm-to-table industry is another advantage of the region, offering a wide selection of locally grown and produced foods that support a healthy lifestyle.
“Sustainability is a key component of the business culture, and preserving the pristine resources of the Pocono Mountains attracts companies that value environmental initiatives,” says Wood.
Tourism helps drive the region’s economy. In 2017 alone, 26.6 million people visited the region, spending more than $3.2 billion and supporting 33,753 jobs. They came to visit family and friends, to stay at a resort, enjoy the outdoors and special events, go skiing or visit a casino or a theme park, among other reasons, according to the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau.
“Tourism continues to be a strong economic driver for the Pocono Mountains region. During 2017, we realized strong growth in basic industry metrics such as overall hotel occupancy and average rate charged per room,” says Christopher Barrett, president and CEO of the Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau.
“The strength of our indoor water park products was also a key to the overall market success. The Pocono Mountains offers a great mix of natural beauty and strong outdoor activities combined with exemplary attractions,” he says.
Along with health care, tourism is a top employer in Carbon County, says Kathy Henderson, director of economic development for the Carbon County Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corp.
“The term quality of life seems so overused these days, but that is exactly what Carbon County has to offer,” she says.
The region’s four-season outdoor offerings include whitewater rafting, Blue Mountain Resort, which has the highest vertical drop in Pennsylvania for downhill skiers, and a portion of the Appalachian Trail.
The Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor offers biking and hiking through the scenic Lehigh River Gorge State Park, says Henderson.
The Heritage Corridor follows the path of the coal industry in Carbon County and the part it played in fueling the industrial revolution.
“But we aren’t just about the outdoors and history. We have manufacturers who are at the forefront of their respective industries. From building firetrucks to architectural molds for construction, custom water pumps and electrical components, and the largest producer of aluminum powder in the country, our manufacturers ship their products worldwide,” says Henderson.
The region offers resources that promote investment and business. Keystone Opportunity Zones, for example, provide tax advantages for qualifying companies. The Keystone Innovation Zone (KIZ) program provides tax credits to businesses that meet certain conditions.
Institutions of higher education include East Stroudsburg University and a network of community and technical colleges that work closely to meet the needs of employers.
“We take a regional view of economic development and strive to cooperate with all of the regional and statewide economic service providers,” says Leonard.