State Focus: Pennsylvania – Built To Advance

By Robert Tilton
From the March/April 2014 issue

Copper tubing
Cambridge-Lee Industries, a world leader in the manufacturing and distribution of copper tube for water supply, air conditioning, refrigeration and other applications, has added a fourth plant in Greater Reading. (Photo: Greater Reading Economic Partnership.)

Pennsylvania’s rich industrial heritage supports the advanced industries of today, and more importantly, uniquely positions the state to support the industries of tomorrow. With the world’s second largest energy field, strategic location, a skilled workforce and robust university collaboration, PA is determined to reinvent business innovation and growth.

Pennsylvania puts jobs first. Under Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett’s leadership, Pennsylvania’s unemployment rate stands at a five-year low and jobs have been growing on a consistent basis for nearly four years.

Gov. Corbett makes economic development a top priority with his JOBS 1st PA initiative developed in 2012 to encourage private-sector investment by removing barriers to job creation, reducing taxes and reigning in government spending. While job growth flourishes, exports in the manufacturing sector saw exports grow $2.1 billion from 2012 to 2013, totaling $40.9 billion.

“My policy for growing the Pennsylvania economy is simple—more jobs, less taxes,” says Gov. Corbett. “Keeping taxes low bolsters confidence and that’s what drives investment and business growth.”

Simplifying taxes is another economic catalyst. Gov. Corbett led the drive to reform the state tax appeals process, which earned Pennsylvania “the most improved” state in the nation designation from the Council on State Taxation in 2013.

Pennsylvania is fueling business growth. Pennsylvania is home to the world’s second largest energy field, and through its first statewide, Energy = Jobs plan, Gov. Corbett strategically articulated four core concepts for leveraging Pennsylvania’s vast energy resources to further reduce energy costs for businesses: harness abundant, affordable and domestic energy; enhance the environment; embrace free markets; and ensure security through energy independence.

While Pennsylvania has a diverse energy portfolio, the shale gas boom in Pennsylvania, has resulted in a 50 percent decline in natural gas prices. The commonwealth’s diverse electric generation portfolio has aided consumer savings: electricity prices are down 40 percent.

A supportive business climate, lower energy costs, strategic location and superior workforce are all reasons why companies throughout the world are calling Pennsylvania home. In the last quarter of 2013 alone, well-respected brands like Comcast Corporation, Urban Outfitters, Inc. and Google Pittsburgh committed to investing in the innovation and invention of the Commonwealth.

In January 2014, Governor Corbett, Comcast Corporation and Liberty Property Trust announced the construction of Comcast Innovation and Technology Center in Center City Philadelphia, a $1.2 billion, 59-story tower. Expected to be one of the tallest buildings on the East Coast, it will become the dedicated home for the company’s growing workforce of technologists, engineers and software architects.

“This expansion of Comcast’s vertical campus in Philadelphia will create tens of thousands of jobs and drive billions of dollars in economic development in the Commonwealth and the City,” said Brian L. Roberts, Chairman and CEO of Comcast Corporation.

Urban Outfitters, Inc. announced its expansion of the corporate headquarters at the Philadelphia Naval Business Center and construction of an East Coast fulfillment center in Lancaster County. The firm will invest more than $200 million in both projects and expects to create at least 500 new jobs in central Pennsylvania and another 2,000 new jobs in Philadelphia. Richard A. Hayne, Chairman, President & CEO of Urban Outfitters, founded the company in Philadelphia in 1970 and credits location with part of Urban’s success.

In western Pennsylvania, Google is continuing to expand, recently announcing plans to add another 66,000 square feet to its current 140,000 square feet at Bakery Square 2.0, the 100-year former Nabisco Factory in Pittsburgh. Innovative Pennsylvanians fill out the Google Pittsburgh workforce of engineers and product managers working on search, ads and ads-shopping products used by hundreds of millions of people.

Pennsylvania is a business gateway. Its strategic location with one-day access to six of the 10 largest U.S. markets and over half of North America’s population, coupled with a well-connected support structure, propels foreign direct investment (FDI). Pennsylvania was one of only three U.S. states to have positive FDI growth last year and has started off 2014 with five successful FDI projects totaling more than $42 million. Countries of origin include Austria, Australia, Brazil and Canada.

Pennsylvania’s universities are world-renowned and include four of the top 50 educational institutions in the nation1. In addition to providing employers with a highly educated and skilled workforce, Pennsylvania universities produce industry innovations through partnerships with businesses, enabling the easy transfer of technology into commercial projects.

For example, in July 2012, Penn State University introduced a new intellectual property (IP) agreement, allowing companies to retain the IP from their industry-sponsored research, one of only two educational institutions in the nation to take this approach. For Avery Dennison, a global manufacturer and distributor best known for self-adhesive labels, a process that used to take months transformed into a one-page agreement signed within days, and the Penn State-Avery Dennison research project started within a week.


More than just an affordable, strategic location, Greater Reading is home to a supportive business community that encourages innovation and creativity. This heritage of continuous improvement and a resilient past is the foundation for an even stronger future. With abundant natural beauty, cultural offerings and low cost of living, Greater Reading offers a combination of assets rarely found in a community this size.

Among the top competitive advantages a community can tout is a readily available and skilled workforce. It’s an economic development driver in terms of retaining existing Greater Reading companies and attracting new ones, especially given the evolving demographics that will continue to affect the workforce.

Pew Research reports that approximately 10,000 Boomers will retire each day for the next 16 years. It’s a fact that has given birth to concerns from manufacturers who rely on well-trained employees—and excitement from younger demographics who see opportunity in a job market that has been decidedly challenging over the past few years.

The need for skilled technicians in manufacturing has always been important. As a result, Greater Reading Economic Partnership champions Careers in 2 Years, a regional campaign designed to target high school aged students and their parents, encouraging them to consider a career in technology school as a very viable option.

Careers in 2 Years focuses on professions in welding, mechatronics, robotics, machining and information technology. In addition to training a new generation of highly-talented employees, the program has gone a long way toward dispelling any misconceptions that exist about career and technology schools. In fact, Careers in 2 Years encourages an entrepreneurial spirit in many of the students.

Greater Reading has a progressive, business-oriented community with a vision for the future. It is focused on creating new opportunities for growth and enabling greater possibilities. Take, for instance, two area success stories:

In 1990, Bill Thomas founded Bills Khakis in his hometown of Reading. Now his 30+ employee company distributes 200,000 pairs of pants and shorts annually to more than 500 retailers around the country. In Reading, he has a workforce with apparel manufacturing experience, a close-knit and supportive business community and comfortable space for growth.

When Cambridge-Lee Industries decided to expand operations, they chose to build a new plant in Greater Reading. Greater Reading gave them access to a skilled workforce, a choice of excellent properties and a well-connected business community that streamlined the approval process. That way, they could break ground months ahead of schedule.

Cambridge-Lee has become one of the world’s leaders in the manufacturing and distribution of copper tube for water supply, air conditioning, refrigeration and a variety of commercial applications. The expansion adds a fourth plant to the Greater Reading community.

Andrea Funk, CFO of Cambridge-Lee, commented that “Greater Reading Economic Partnership helps connect the dots and get quick resolution of problems.”

Greater Reading is like no other place. The business community is exceptionally proactive and interconnected. This network makes it easier for businesses to find and take advantage of new and profitable opportunities. Additional perks include:

  • Class-A office buildings, industrial parks, manufacturing sites and prime retail locations
  • Reliable electric grid
  • Good management relations
  • Foreign Trade Zone (FTZ) 147, allowing companies to bring foreign goods to the US without formal customs entry for warehousing assembly, manufacturing, display or other processing
  • Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ), location-based and offering a greatly reduced or no tax burden for qualifying businesses and property owners

To find out more from the Greater Reading Economic Partnership, visit The organization will connect you to all the right resources to make your business successful, including:

  • Introductions to a dynamic network of service providers and business leaders
  • Comprehensive database of available commercial and industrial properties
  • Workforce development resources
  • Access to funding and incentive packages
  • Regional data and demographics

Greater Reading Economic Partnership is an Accredited Economic Development Organization that is recognized by its peers as a leader in the industry. The group consists of high energy, passionate individuals who live in and love their community. They work daily to drive economic development by attracting new companies to the region, helping existing businesses grow and creating opportunities for entrepreneurs to bring their dreams to life. For more than 10 years the non-profit organization has made over 5,500 contacts, resulting in more than 1,000 prospects and leads. That has led to more than 130 companies and more than 11,200 jobs in the Greater Reading region.


The Port of Philadelphia notched its fourth consecutive year of double-digit cargo growth, in 2013, handling more than 5 million metric tons of containerized and breakbulk cargoes (a gain of more than 15 percent over 2012).

Virtually all cargoes at the Port of Philadelphia showed gains—often large ones—last year. The following are among the highlights. There was a 27 percent increase in the amount of forest/paper products arriving at the port; cocoa beans showed a big 34 percent gain and sugar, which returned to the Port in 2012 after an absence of many years, continued its strong return by doubling the amount of shipments in 2013.

All told, 1,208,350 metric tons of breakbulk cargoes were handled at PRPA facilities in 2013, a 20 percent gain over the 1,007292 tons handled in 2012.

“With a 15 percent jump in total cargoes, you might think we’d be somewhat satisfied,” said PRPA Chairman Kopp. “But with so many exciting things on the horizon, including a deeper Delaware River and new cargoes that will begin arriving here in the months to come, I’m confident that next year’s numbers will continue our trend of regular, sizable growth.


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