Plains Twp., Luzerne County, PA -
Thanks to a boom in online shopping and e-commerce, about 70 million square feet of new construction is planned along the Interstate 81 corridor in Luzerne, Lackawanna and Schuylkill counties, Penn’s Northeast president and CEO John Augustine said.
He said there has been high demand for space from food and plastic manufacturers, warehouses, and e-commerce businesses for space as the Lehigh Valley has become saturated with warehouses and there is almost no space left in that region.
“We’re seeing a scramble from companies trying to buy land and put it under development for future plans,” Augustine said Friday at NEPIRC’s Manufacturing Day Friday at Mohegan Sun Pocono.
He could not yet identify which specific industries and companies are planned for the new developments but he said “warehousing is going to be a big one” as well as manufacturers. Food manufacturers and agribusinesses have become the fastest-growing markets, he said.
“As food becomes so important and so expensive, the proximity to the customer is so important,” he said.
Augustine also sees high demand for space from plastics manufacturers that make containers for food and other products. International companies are looking at the area as well, he said. He said most new developments will be built on speculation and some companies will build to suit their needs.
“People are wanting to move in fast but we have to wait eight months for steel so the fastest we could get a building up will be eight, nine or 10 months,” he said. “What we’re seeing is companies are buying a couple hundred acres to put up a lot of buildings like an industrial park and some companies are just buying 10, 20 or 30 acres and just building one.”
Augustine expects about 30 million square feet of space of new construction will be in the Hazleton area, 10 million in the Wilkes-Barre and Pittston areas in Luzerne County, 20 million in Lackawanna County and 10 million in Schuylkill County.
“We expect to be making lots of announcements next year,” he said. “You’re going to see some record announcements next year.”
Augustine said more companies want to locate to Northeast Pennsylvania because the land is “still affordable” and because of its infrastructure, Augustine said.
“How quick you can get your products to market is super important,” he said. “You order something on Amazon yesterday, you want it today. If you order it today, you want it tomorrow. That doesn’t happen if the product is in California.”
He said the COVID pandemic accelerated e-commerce and the growth in online shopping for food and other goods and people want to receive their products within 24 hours.
The boom in online shopping has led to a shift in the way consumers purchase products and has led more companies to look to Northeast Pennsylvania for space, he said.
“Last year, we had more manufacturing leads than we ever had before,” he said. “We added more industrial space and companies during the COVID period than we have in 10 years.”