The economic outlook for Berks County is very good.
Overall, the county has a very low unemployment rate and expects to have job openings in manufacturing, logistics and health care, along with in the service industry.
The county continues to see steady growth in commercial and industrial development, and official are focused on keeping and improving the opportunities for manufacturing in Berks, as well as attracting new industries.
The Berks County Planning Commission reviewed more than 60 commercial and industrial land development plans in 2017. They included a range of types and sizes of new development and also expansion of existing businesses and manufacturers.
The county has millions of square feet of logistics/warehousing development under construction, and more is expected along its major transportation corridors of Interstate 78, the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Routes 61, 222 and 422.
Significant redevelopment is expected in the urban core, both in Reading and surrounding municipalities.
Old outlet and manufacturing buildings around the urban area are proposed for mixed-use developments, including market-rate apartments to support the small businesses proposed for those developments.
The Vanity Fair Outlet buildings, in Wyomissing and West Reading, are under redevelopment for retail and office space.
Business and industrial parks are under construction and proposed, including Berks Park 183, Hamburg Commerce Park and Hamburg Logistics Park.
The health care industry, one of Berks County’s largest employment sectors, is seeing steady growth.
The newly formed Tower Health system from the former Reading Hospital and a proposed behavioral and mental health facility will help maintain this growth. St. Luke’s University Health Network also recently expanded into the Hamburg area.
THRIVING AG INDUSTRY
Meanwhile, the county’s agriculture industry also is very strong. There are many farms expanding to provide products to local and regional food-production facilities.
Poultry production is still seeing a steady increase. Local farmers are using a wide variety of tools to expand their marketing to consumers, including websites, farm stands, community-supported agriculture sharing programs and farmers markets.
The Berks County Planning Commission created a Google map, found on the county’s website (www.countyofberks.com), to help market the farm products produced in the county.
UPDATING COMPREHENSIVE PLAN
The Berks County Planning Commission continues to coordinate its efforts with the economic development community to identify future economic development sites around the county.
Previously, a web map tool was created to help developers locate sites with access to highways, water, sewer and other necessary infrastructure.
And the county is now updating the Berks County Comprehensive Plan 2030 to include an expanded economic development section and to further identify areas suitable for development.
It is expected that the plan – for updates, visit www.countyofberks.com/planning – will be completed this fall.
Shannon Rossman is executive director of the Berks County Planning Commission (www.countyofberks.com/planning). She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.