From large warehouse sites available for lease to smaller spaces for high-tech firms, Pottstown offers prime real estate for development, according to the organizers of a conference this week.
The Hill School, a boarding school in Pottstown, and Hobart's Run, a neighborhood revitalization initiative of the school, will host the second Pottstown Investors' Conference at 8 a.m. Friday to share details about Pottstown's economic development opportunities.
The free conference at The Hill School’s Center for the Arts, 760 Beech St., is open to the public.
Designed to encourage economic development throughout the borough, the conference will highlight success stories that came from last year’s conference and include a working session on collaborative revitalization efforts.
From 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., the conference offers registration and a continental breakfast. They are followed by a keynote speech by Dave Zellers, commerce director for Montgomery County; reports on economic development-related news; and discussions that include the local business permit process and financial support such as grants and tax incentives for developers.
Aliyah Furman from the state Department of Community & Economic Development will share details about the strength of using neighborhood tax credits.
Pottstown restaurateurs will provide lunch, featuring food from area restaurants in an effort to encourage eating local, according to Twila Fisher, manager of community and economic development at The Hill School.
The event also includes four student-led pitches and a judging panel as an introduction to the concept of the first Pottstown Area Social Innovations Lab, modeled after the successful Philadelphia Social Innovations Lab, she said.
Fisher said the conference’s goals this year are to assess last year’s accomplishments, look at goal-setting for the coming year and examine the big picture through a long-range work plan.
Part of that effort involves changing people’s perceptions of Pottstown’s image.
“A lot of people have this perception that Pottstown is this post-industrial town that’s vacant, and it’s not,” Fisher said.
Many of the prime real estate properties in the main part of the downtown either are under agreement or purchased, and there are still available sites, she said.
“I think investors are still coming because real estate is cheap compared to other areas,” Fisher said.
“It seems to be one of the more trendy and upcoming areas to invest in.”
She said The Hill School wants to leverage its resources to work with Pottstown to attract investors.
“We are looking for highly innovative businesses, anything in the STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] field,” said Peggy Lee-Clark, executive director of Pottstown Area Industrial Development Inc. “We believe innovators are people in those areas. We have available land that lends itself to a more technical workforce and professional development.”
While her organization is not looking for traditional manufacturing companies, it is open to having conversations with them, she said.
“Certainly, we are looking for diversity in the workforce,” Lee-Clark said. “We’d like to see hospitality jobs. I’d like to see hotel investment. There’s great opportunity here.”
The borough offers many recreation and entertainment assets and diverse areas of available land, she said.
“Our focus in 2018 is on getting properties in the downtown revitalized and occupied,” Lee-Clark said.
She wants investors who will not only invest in the properties but also get them occupied.
Her organization is available to help, she added.
TEAMING WITH WEST POTTSGROVE
One key element of the revitalization effort is a request for interest that the Montgomery County Planning Commission will send out mid-summer through various channels called the Keep Project (Keystone Economic and Employment Plan), Lee-Clark said.
This project, along Keystone Boulevard, offers 103 acres available for development, which includes land in West Pottsgrove as well as Pottstown.
Once the project earns approval, the two municipalities will have the same zoning, she added.
“The concept plan is mixed-use industry as well as multi-unit residential, [and] retail.”