There’s a renaissance in Upper Bucks County.
Business growth and development are booming in the area, including in downtown Quakertown and neighboring Richland and Milford townships.
An improving overall economy, an interest in available properties, lower finance interest rates and a willingness by local officials to work with new investors have fueled steady growth, area officials said.
“Upper Bucks is probably the last place in Bucks County [which] can still be built out,” said Tara King, executive director of the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce, based in Quakertown.
Upper Bucks, known for its rural character, working family farms and small-town approach to community life, also is positioned attractively for transportation logistics and business operations. The region, Philadelphia and points north in the Lehigh Valley, has major highways including the Pennsylvania Turnpike’s Northeast Extension Quakertown interchange, Routes 309 and Routes 663/313.
“You have [proposals and construction] along Route 663 in Milford Township; a commitment by United States Cold Storage (based in Voorhees, N.J.), for phased construction in Richland Township, and continued downtown revitalization efforts in Quakertown Borough,” said Robert Cormack, executive director of the Bucks County Economic Development Corp., based in Doylestown. “These projects are positioning Upper Bucks for continued growth.”
Cormack said commercial and industrial development in the region remains strong.
Since building large facilities requires a significant amount of available land, Upper Bucks continues to be an attractive alternative to locate new business.
“They’re always looking for incentives – whether it’s tax abatement, credits – anything to make their bottom line better,” King said.
The size and scope of many recent projects are anticipated to bring new jobs in manufacturing, logistics and technology.
Meanwhile, Quakertown and Richland Township have a tax abatement incentive – Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance – to help stimulate growth.
“Quakertown Borough approved its LERTA in 2009 with the purpose of revitalization in the downtown and to offer abatement improvements to properties,” Cormack said.
King and Cormack attribute a shift in business interest to an improved economy and a proactive business mindset by local officials.
“Quakertown Borough has a very proactive business council that supports enhancement,” Cormack said. “They support Quakertown Alive! [a downtown revitalization program] and they welcome with open arms the business clients [we] bring to them. You don’t see that everywhere.”
A summary of economic activity in the region includes:
• RICHLAND TOWNSHIP
United States Cold Storage is building a similar operation to its existing plant which is at 15 Emery St. in Bethlehem. The Richland Township site is part of a LERTA program, Cormack said.
LERTA programs provide tax abatements to companies within a designated district or zone. The abatement can be five to 10 years, and at the end of the time, the property would revert to its full tax assessment.
United States Cold Storage offers refrigeration warehouse and transportation services.
A 100,000-square-foot facility, phase one, is underway on 40 acres bounded by Heller and East Pumping Station roads, Cormack said.
“There are provisions for phases two and three [to allow] for expansion as needed over the next 10 years,” he said.
The planned new construction of a three-story, 30,000-square-foot mixed use building is expected on the existing parking lot adjacent to Triangle Park. Meanwhile, rehabilitation and expansion of available properties in the borough continue to gain momentum.
The new building is being developed by David Halliday, owner of Village Center Properties Inc., based in Blooming Glen. Construction will begin after January, Halliday said.
Best Made Center, the home of the former Spinlon textile mill, is being converted to office, technical and laboratory space for tenants (including Synergis Technologies) by Gorski Engineering Inc., a design-build engineering firm in Collegeville.
Owner Jerry Gorski said his goal at the site, at 18 S. Fifth St., was to return the building to its 1930s original looks.
“We’ve reduced the footprint to 46,000 square feet from 60,000 and added a courtyard,” Gorski said.
• MILFORD TOWNSHIP
Gorski plans to build a day care center on roughly 55 acres on AM Drive.
AM Drive is a cross road off Route 663, just east of the turnpike’s Quakertown interchange.
Gorski has plans to develop more projects in Milford and Richland Township, as well.
The heavily traveled Route 309 corridor – north toward the Lehigh Valley and south toward Montgomery County – is important, according to Cormack.
“Upper Bucks is one of the fastest growing areas in Bucks County, [along with] the Route 309 service corridor. Upper Bucks has been overlooked for the past 30 years,” Cormack said.