Scranton, PA, which copied Casper WY’s Painted Horses to bring in tourism, has a few more tricks up its sleeve. For a city with a lot of ancient history, it is seeing good growth in newer parts of the city and surrounding areas. One college-age student we had a chance to talk to says that most college-age kids are trying to find a way to make their place in the world outside of their hometown of Scranton. their way in. Scranton, of course, is known for its history in coal mining and its proximity to the Pocono Mountains, which are still an East Coast favorite to get away.
Mining in PA goes way back to the mid 19th century and it was always dangerous, if you google the mining accidents in the state you will see what we mean. The demographics are good in Scranton, although it has been economically challenged lately. Underrepresented with minority groups, but it’s a good market nonetheless. Of value are the many industrial estates in the North Eastern Penn area and the good road conditions south of town on I-81, if they ever complete the project. Scranton has a bit of an alcohol and drug situation probably because of the harsh cultural history there. But all in all, if you’re not looking for it, you probably wouldn’t notice it. We view Scranton as a second tier market for our expansion into PA and a worthy market for many types of businesses.
If you talk to Dan Walsh, clerk of the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce (who needs a signboard perpendicular to Mulberry Street so you can find it), he’ll tell you about the many new projects happening in and around the city take place. Places like the Jessup Small Business Center and Valley View Business Center. But we also found projects nearby in the Covington Township, namely “The Business Park”. Cool name? Easy.
The Scranton Enterprise Center downtown seems like an uplifting idea, and there could be a little more foot traffic there. As the new parts of the city and box offices go up on the 6 bus in the Dickson City Limits. Everyone is there, a regional mall, Home Depo, Wal-Mart, etc. Sort of cutting off the buyers that come from vacation homes in the Poconos. But it still works for residents of Scranton and the other metropolitan townships.
The south side of town is ripe for fleets and distribution along I-81. You have the Stadium Office Park, Southside Industrial Area, Glenmaura Corporate Center and Rocky Glen Industrial Park. Below that in Luzerne County is the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Airport, the Vogelbacher Industrial Park, the O’Hara Industrial Complex, and the Eastern Distribution Center that looks like a mini-enterprise zone or mini-FTZ (if it wasn’t, they’d be there have to make one). Being at the intersection of I-84 and I-81 and having a 380 and 476 toll road that doubles as a beltway from the west of town, it seems all set for business. Perhaps not as ideal a location as the Bethlehem-Allen Town area (so close to Philly, but the Scranton area has its advantages and during a recession it will certainly be a good recovery situation as it has a good population base and pro- active approach to economic development.
I-80 is just a little too far from the Wilkes-Barre Scranton corridor to be of significant value. The best deal for this city would be to do what Tulsa OK has to do with the turnpike to OKC. Ditch it. If 476 became a freeway instead of a toll road and opened up that area, the straight into Philadelphia could fuel the fire and make Scranton easier to access for travelers and distribution companies. The I-84 is a straight line to CT, the 476 straight line to Philly and Allentown, the I-81 is a shortcut to I-80 and a straight line to Harrisburg and allows travel through the DC subway mess for those traveling south without the huge mountain ranges further east, which is good for freight and distribution.
People from the Scranton area have banded together and are hard chargers, they are not giving up, but could use some help. The big talk in Scranton right now, of course, is the small business incubators and that’s been very smart and well received and has the blessings of local banks and SBA. The SEC, not to be confused with the Security Exchange Commission that destroys America’s best companies with media headlines and extortion scare tactics, this SEC is the Scranton Enterprise Center that appears to be on track to create 1,000 new jobs in the area within five years. The Jessup Park looks good and when full it could house about 4500 jobs.
In Schuylkill County, they are building a gasification coal plant, which would be a $400 million project and would employ many highly paid professionals and numerous construction workers in the construction process, which is happening right now. Many things are challenging the economy of PA and the Scranton area. First, the state’s economy has shifted from manufacturing and factories to retail and services and many jobs have left the state to NAFTA trading partners and of course to China, ouch. The regional growth patterns, in my humble opinion, are better in favor of other PA areas due to its proximity to the Metorplexes of Pittsburgh, Cleveland, DC. Scranton is preferred because it is close to NYC and New England areas such as Boston, Hartford, Manchester, New Jersy, and Albany. However, there is fierce competition from item makers in all of those states as well, especially where rural areas try to make a living with antiques, agriculture, small specialty manufacturing, and flea markets.
PA has had declining tax revenues since the mid 1970s with trade changes and the early 1990s with a change of focus. If you think of PA as a hole we see things like steel, textiles, factories, mining and energy leaving the system and the tradeoffs being promoted from academia include technology, communications and environment but the flow of money for such things is not as it is in Boston, TX, CA and other on-the-go tech areas like the latest Bio-Tech. Which maybe there’s schooling for, but not a lot of big deals get done in PA.
PA’s rural areas are segregated by toll roads and cash flows escape through Wal-Mart, which accounts for 11% of our nation’s consumer spending. The money flows into Wal-Mart, they pay local wages, donate to charity, and the rest leave the state, even though PA has a stake in companies that make things for Wal-Mart and Wal-Mart buys in the US first, and it has to and Sam used to promise that less and less things are made in the US because of too many regulations and laws about nothing like ADA, OSHA, EPA, etc. Many items are now made in China, or some still made in Mexico, less than before since Monterrey is also dead. The money flowing into China is not coming back fast enough, due to Patriot’s act delaying the money entering the country and cracking down on money launderers, leaving the money out once it has left. It’s remarkable to look at things like where does the money also flow. I worry about rural America and feel upset and sick every time I see a boarded up small business in a country town. You see they slow you down to 25 mph for speed traps, but at that speed you see things much deeper than the sign, which is gone. You see and feel the tears of the small business owner who lost everything, the employees sitting at home with no air conditioning on, you read the mind of the owner of an income who gets no ROI on the building he so painstakingly built on the property of his family that they have owned for generations. Looking at the rusting awning, paint chips and flakes, bugs flying in and out of the broken windows. You feel the fear and the sadness, that’s all there is, that’s what you see and feel as you drive by. So here’s an idea, maybe it can lead someone to a solution to this problem. Here it is; Certain dollars entering such towns of 2,000 to 12,000 residents that are not within 5 miles of a major highway are allowed to stamp the dollar bills coming in at a local municipal court at up to 15% and those bills must remain in circulation locally for three years or until they wear out and are exchanged at the bank. Or a similar situation to keep the money flowing locally. Wal-Mart could then pay the people locally with those dollars or redeem them for purchases from local manufacturers of items they could sell in their stores. Or Wal-Mart could partner with a local bank in the area and bank on the property so that those dollars can be redistributed into loans to those who want to start small businesses or homes. improving the economic climate across the board. Wal-Mart wants in the banking business anyway, they’ve proven their worth in the distribution business, again, this is just a thought. Something needs to be done about rural America, it is more evident than anywhere else on the back roads of PA. This is a serious problem and it won’t go away any time soon. It requires proactive attention from the most brilliant economic minds, otherwise we need two currencies in our country.
PA generally sees from what we’ve seen a change in dining options along major highways, changes in supermarkets and changes in the supply and distribution chains. PA is the leader in all sorts of things, but none of them break any records during this period. A study by Ag and Econ’s Penn State College reported that 15 of the 20 major sectors of the PA economy had collapsed. Today, there are a few things in the works, such as recreational manufacturing, RVs, boats, and homes. However, in recent years we have seen an increase in matters such as insurance, real estate, wholesale, distribution and utilities. But when you look at what has taken a hit Lumber, furniture, travel and manufacturing in rubber, steel, wood, fabrics, metal, etc. It’s a bit bleak. PA has good education and it has weathered the storms. But apart from the bigger cities, things aren’t going so well, they’re just doing well. But today, Okay is good enough and the people of PA are not bending over this. We were lucky enough to talk to a Dempsey Uniform Services delivery driver. He said business was good and they had had some slow payments, but most of their bills were corporate and they were doing well. Some companies had gone out of business last year, but others added staff and sales gained a few extra accounts. The competition had increased, but they were doing well. We thank him for the insight and here’s the pitch;
“So give it a try…we think you’ll be impressed”
So this company, a very good image company, did well in working with B2B services. We believe this is an example of what we expect from hard work, over time and doing what you say you will do. You see in Scranton, bull crap walks. It’s about doing what you say you’re going to do, and a man is only as good as his word. That’s what they expect there, that’s what they say in Missouri, show me. Any service industry company willing to prove it will save it or criticize it for their integrity, and you know what? We wouldn’t expect anything less from the humble miner’s beginnings of a town that has grown into a town where you need to talk. Scranton, they’ll do whatever it takes, it’s still that kind of town.