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Can You Dig It

From out of the rubble … a fast moving economy of industrial growth

This warehouse, which will go up near Amazon in the industrial park off Route 33 in Palmer Township, is one of many to come.
This warehouse, which will go up near Amazon in the industrial park off Route 33 in Palmer Township, is one of many to come.

It seems like every week, if not almost every day, I’m writing about a new warehouse going up or tenant moving into a distribution center in the Lehigh Valley.

I’m not complaining, it certainly keeps me busy and keeps me in the know about what’s going up and where.

What’s surprising is the amount of growth, particularly in logistics and warehousing, that I’ve seen in the six years I’ve been a reporter at Lehigh Valley Business.

When I began in 2010, the economy was still pulling itself sluggishly through the muck. Unemployment was at or near 10 percent, and people were increasingly worried about their financial future. It was a sentiment that carried over to the next year and continued on to the gradual pickup we are experiencing today, getting better and better but by small increments.

On the flip side, what seems to have skyrocketed was the arrival of large distribution centers, some as big or (even bigger than) 1 million square feet, cropping up all over vacant cornfields and some brownfields of the region.

Driving through the industrial park off Route 33 in Palmer Township the other day was a humbling experience to see the massive structures housing companies such as Amazon and FedEx in spaces that look like they are filling up fast. These buildings are not only big, but clean, bright, well-lit and in many cases energy efficient.

Granted, the new, nearby Tatamy interchange helped spur that development, but in 2010 this was all vacant land except for the lone Porsche Logistics facility built in the late 2000s. There was chatter then that this development was on its way, but it took several years before any new buildings went up.

Farther south off Route 33, in Lower Nazareth Township, long dormant land near an intersection with Route 248 is now home to two new companies, UPS and Central Garden & Pet, which sit in two new warehouses.

UPS is outfitting its space with conveyor systems for hub processing and will be a transit hub for UPS Ground packages that are moving to other points, said UPS spokeswoman Susan Rosenberg.

“This hub is part of similar property leases around the country for operations that give us flexibility and help us manage the spike of holiday volume,” Rosenberg said.

Though the building won’t be operating until November, it will join other distribution properties in the Valley that seem to be sprouting up everywhere you look.

From the FedEx Ground megahub under construction in Allen Township to the multiple industrial properties under construction near Route 100 in western Lehigh County, it’s clear the economy, in some respects, has made a significant turnaround over the past six years.

This growth extends elsewhere too, into Berks County with two big industrial parks on the way.

It’s a sign of the times – that our increasingly automated economy is making this progress happen.

As long as people keep ordering products online and demanding faster shipments, it’s a trend that’s clearly not going away anytime soon.



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