Does The Pocono Mountains Have An Infrastructure Advantage?
Distribution companies can depend on good transportation options in the Poconos.
It helps to have connections, and the Pocono Mountains region provides a convenient transportation network for distribution companies looking to access ideal interstates, rail service and airports. Located strategically between New York and Philadelphia, Poconos cities like Honesdale, Jim Thorpe, Milford, Stroudsburg and many more offer easy connectivity to I-80, I-81, I-84, I-380, I-476, PA Turnpike and several other major highways, plus there is an extensive supply of well-positioned business parks that have numerous shovel-ready sites available for distribution companies looking to develop. Those parks include Arcadia North Business Park in Monroe County, and Sterling Business & Technology Park in Wayne County.
In 2016, a number of distribution and warehousing companies are already enjoying success in the Pocono Mountains, including Walmart that operates a center in Tobyhanna with a workforce of more than 1,200. Also in the region is GENCO, a subsidiary of FedEx that provides supply chains for technology, retail, consumer and industrial goods from its Mount Pocono warehouse that employs more than 400 workers.
While interstates and highways help drive the transportation sector, rail is also a key component of the area’s freight-moving capabilities. Class I rail carriers Norfolk Southern Railroad and Canadian Pacific serve the region, and shortline operator Reading Blue Mountain & Northern Railroad serves nine Eastern Pennsylvania counties. In addition, Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority owns and oversees 100 miles of active rail lines in a territory that includes Monroe and Wayne counties, with Delaware-Lackawanna Railroad Co. contracted as its carrier to provide all freight-hauling services.
“We started our rail authority in the early 1980s and hauled less than 500 carloads during the first year, and nowadays we handle more than 8,000 carloads annually,” says Larry Malski, president of Pennsylvania Northeast Regional Railroad Authority (PNRRA). “Our 100 miles of track stretch from Carbondale to Scranton, and from Scranton through the Poconos to East Stroudsburg and the Delaware Water Gap. We serve about 25 active freight industries that depend on our railroad, plus we own several land parcels adjacent to the tracks for more companies to locate.”
The largest customer hauling freight via Delaware-Lackawanna railcars is Ardent Mills flour processing facility in Mount Pocono, with its wheat hauled to the plant from North Dakota, South Dakota and Canadian provinces. Other major rail clients include Bestway Lumber in Cresco, Keystone Propane in Tobyhanna, Linde Bulk Transfer Facility in Carbondale, and Monadnock Non-Wovens paper mill in Mount Pocono. Malski adds that the PNRRA works closely with the Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corp. and others to attract companies to locate along the rail lines.
“We are in conversations with several prospects and are currently working with three good leads for the near future,” he says. “Rail is the most environmental friendly way to move freight, and it is also the least expensive. For example, hauling cargo in one railcar is equivalent to five truckloads on the highways.”
Let’s Take the Jet
Also accommodating the Poconos region are a number of airports, including Cherry Ridge Airport in Honesdale, Spring Hill Airport in Sterling, and Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport in Tobyhanna. Three years ago, Pocono Mountains Municipal extended its runway to 5,001 feet to accommodate more corporate jets, and its business has increased every year since.
“Area companies like Sanofi Pasteur, Johnson & Johnson and Walmart use our airport along with many tourists who visit Camelback Mountain Resort, Mt. Airy Casino Resort, Kalahari Resort & Convention Center and two annual NASCAR races at Pocono Raceway,” says Dave Moyer, chairman of the Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport Authority.
Moyer adds that the airport is vital as well as convenient to the region because the next closest facilities are Wilkes-Barre/Scranton International about 25 minutes away, and Lehigh Valley International 45 minutes away.
“Also attractive is that two industrial parks border Pocono Mountains Municipal Airport,” he says. “We have a lot of good things going for us, including accommodating a Medevac Air Ambulance service.”