Growing Strong: Penn's Northeast Celebrates 20 Years in Development, Continues to Attract Business



Penn’s Northeast created over 11,000 jobs with an investment of more than $18 billion during its first 20 years, said John Augustine III, president and chief executive officer.

Penn’s Northeast, an economic development organization, is wrapping up a successful first 20 years by taking stock of its accomplishments and refocusing its efforts to continue to attract businesses to the eight-county region.

The consortium, which covers Carbon, Columbia, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Monroe, Pike, Schuylkill, and Wayne counties, notably increased business growth in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

In 2021, the organization received kudos from the Governor’s Action Team for leading the state in job creation.

“For the second year in a row, our region was tied as one of the top U.S. Metros in the northeast, according to the Site Selection magazine,” Augustine said.

Due to their success, the annual Penn’s Northeast Real Estate Summit is postponed to allow the members to take stock of existing available business space.

“The region has experienced unprecedented growth in the past two years,” Augustine said. “ Developers have entered the northeast market to build on large and small tracks of land.”

The impacts of COVID-19 and the transition to work from home opened up large amounts of office space, he said.

Penn’s Northeast’s volunteers are currently reviewing the area’s current office market inventory and analyzing older buildings to see how to repurpose them, he said.


Penn’s Northeast began in 2002 “at a time when regional marketing groups were proliferating across the country as communities looked for more efficient ways to attract new business investments,” Augustine said.

“At the time, everyone was looking for a way to make our efforts (to attract businesses) more successful,” said Charles Leonard, one of the former founders of Penn’s Northeast and executive director for Pocono Mountains Economic Development Corporation.

In an email, Augustine said local utilities like PPL, UGI, community and economic development leaders, and private companies such as PNC and Mericle Commercial Real Estate began discussions to create an organization that would pool regional resources for external marketing.

Leonard said Penn’s Northeast began focusing on Wayne, Monroe, Lackawanna, and Luzerne counties.

Many of the preliminary groups that worked towards the formation of Penn’s Northeast did not join, Leonard said. Today, the organization has about 50 volunteer members.

“The (group’s) mission was to generate more job leads for its members, build a strong external image and ‘brand’ for the region to attract quality employers to Northeastern PA,” Augustine said.

The group first had to learn what the area could offer potential business investors to reach this goal. The information uncovered formed the basis of a successful marketing plan.

Augustine said that NEPA has a lot to offer, including a network of major interstates that crisscross the region, providing access to a third of the United States population and a half of Canada in a day’s drive.

Also, the Commonwealth has “one of the most diverse energy portfolios in the country,” Augustine said.

“These choices and low cost and outstanding reliability give us an edge over other states.”

NEPA offers a reliable and skilled workforce that ranks as one of the most productive, with low turnover rates, he said.

Augustine also touted the region’s 18 colleges, universities and trade schools, which enroll over 50,000 students annually.

Highlighting the region’s assets was only one side of the story. Targeting business investors whose needs match what the area offers is another story.

One example of matching a business to a region’s resources was back in the 1990's when Saturn was looking to establish a vehicle manufacturing plant, Leonard recalled.

“We had to examine the local transportation infrastructure,” he said. Car manufacturing plants require deliveries by triple-decker trains, Leonard said.

“Our local bridges cannot accommodate these trains,” Leonard said. Penn’s Northeast was able to attract many new businesses and recent additions include:

• Re-Match, an international artificial turf field recycler, will locate a facility in Hanover Township, bringing in nearly 40 new jobs.

• Chewy Inc., an e-commerce pet retailer, announced expansion plans to create a pet pharmacy and dietary service and is estimated to bring in 550 jobs.

• Lion Brewery, Wilkes-Barre, announced plans to build a 250,000-square-foot canning facility in Pittston Township, bringing 40 -50 new jobs.

• Amazon will open a new fulfillment center in Lackawanna County. The facility will create over 500 new jobs.

• Upward Farms, an indoor aquaponics company, will locate the world’s largest vertical farm in Hanover Township, creating over 100 jobs.

Augustine noted the region’s business spike is a “spill-over development” from Lehigh Valley’s marketing campaign.

The next ideal location is Northeastern Pennsylvania, he said.

“If you build it, they will come,” Augustine said.