The Pocono Mountains have long enjoyed a reputation as a four-season destination that boasts enviable ski, snowboarding and snow tubing opportunities in winter and a diverse array of options the rest of the year—including hiking, biking, boating, fishing, and adventure sports like zip-lining and skydiving. But the region—a two-hour drive from both New York and Philadelphia, with both Boston and Washington, D.C. within five hours—has also developed a reputation as a great place for young professionals to live and work, owing to both its career opportunities and high quality of life.
Among the many resources available are programs that support entrepreneurship, including incubators and accelerators like the Business Accelerator at East Stroudsburg University, which was established in 2001 to encourage innovation and support local startups by providing affordable office space, as well as managerial and technical support. One of the ESU accelerator’s success stories is Marathon Studios, a web publishing startup that builds and maintains websites and apps, with a focus on open government and visualization of data. Its most popular properties include FederalPay.org, an open government information portal, and SalesTaxHandbook.com, a resource for small business owners.
“The ESU accelerator has provided a number of benefits for Marathon Studios,” says company founder Jonathan Weber, who recently finished a season-long stint as the senior computer technician at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station. “One of the most important has been the ability to network and collaborate with other businesses in the accelerator—including the ESU Wildlife DNA Laboratory, which resulted in the launch of TickChek.com, a Lyme disease testing startup. We also have access to grant programs through the accelerator, and the opportunity to hire ESU students.”
Weber praises the local entrepreneurial community, saying one of the key benefits he's enjoyed in starting a business in the region is the value local government and educational institutions have placed on entrepreneurship and how they have made encouraging it a priority.
Resources that support entrepreneurship can be found across the region. In Honesdale in Wayne County, the Stourbridge Project, operated by the Wayne Economic Development Corp. (WEDCO), is free co-working space and a business incubator that allows rural entrepreneurs to connect, work and share ideas. In addition to providing professional meeting space and work areas, the Stourbridge Project offers entrepreneurs access to high-tech tools including 3D printers, Solidworks software to create 3D objects, graphic design software, animation and film editing software, and ProTools for audio and music creation.
The region has been attuned to the way lifestyle options influence talent attraction, and it has continued to build on its strength as a mecca for active, outdoor recreation. The four-county region is home to ski resorts like Big Boulder Ski Area and Camelback Mountain, the latter featuring the biggest snow tubing park in the U.S.
For its part, Camelback Mountain Waterpark is the biggest outdoor water park in the state, with Aquatopia, the featured attraction at Camelback Resort. Camelback Mountain Adventures offers the chance to “climb through the forest canopy” on its TreeTops adventure course, not to mention 1,000-foot dual zip lines and the Appalachian Express, the Keystone State’s only mountain coaster. Other adventure sports attractions include the Run for the Red marathon, half-marathon and 5k race, the Sky’s the Limit skydiving center in East Stroudsburg, and the Warrior Dash obstacle course race, the latter held at Pocono Raceway in Monroe County. Delaware Water Gap National Park is also a favorite destination for local professionals, with the canoeing, kayaking and rafting trips offered by Adventure Sports a popular choice for those looking to enjoy the crystal clear waters of the Delaware River.
“Young people are really getting attuned to nature these days and wanting to have a real outdoor adventure,” says John Jacobi, owner of Adventure Sports, who offers a ringing endorsement of the quality of life in the region. “I’ve been to 111 countries, a lot of it for adventure travel, and the fact that I’ve decided to stay here says something about the Poconos," he says. "I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”