A region’s economy is often driven by the quality of its manufacturing base. That is especially important as the Diamond City Partnership, Wilkes-Barre’s nonprofit downtown management organization works with city and county government, local businesses, colleges, and other organizations to lead the Downtown Rebound efforts.
According to the Pennsylvania Manufacturing Council, nearly ten percent of Pennsylvanians work for manufacturing firms. In addition, The Institute’s Annual Indicators Report indicates that Luzerne County’s manufacturers employ nearly 14 percent of its residents. These employees earn roughly 33 percent more than those at other non-farm businesses. And for every dollar earned, workers generate $2.17 of income for other industries and businesses. Ultimately, the revenue creates a ripple effect as the money moves through our community. I believe the strength of our manufacturing community is a key ingredient that feeds urban revitalization.
Manufacturing firms provide salaries that allow people the disposable income to purchase property in our city and take advantage of the amenities that include our restaurants, stores, and entertainment venues. Urban centers like Wilkes-Barre offer an opportunity to live, work and walk to the river for exercise, the movie theater, or the Kirby Center to see a show. And make no mistake: vibrant downtowns are a recruitment tool for existing and new manufacturers.
The great news is we are rich in world-class manufacturing firms. They fill our business parks and build products within the city limits. In Wilkes-Barre, we boast the likes of Mountain Productions, McCarthy Tires, Metro, and Scent-Sations.
Ever hear of the huge music festival Lollapalooza? Mountain Productions built that stage. Whenever you drive next to an 18-wheeler, there’s a reasonable chance it has tires from McCarthy Tires. From hospitals to fast food restaurants, you’ve no doubt been within 20 feet of products manufactured by Metro, and so have a good percentage of people around the world. Scent-Sations also distributes its Mia Bella soy candles worldwide.
These world-class manufacturers represent our home community with the quality of their products and are well-worth knowing. Here’s a little background found on their websites.
For over 90 years, the mission at Metro has been to make the world more organized, efficient, and productive. Metro does this by providing the world’s most imaginative space and productivity solutions. Founded in 1929, the company is headquartered in Wilkes-Barre with global manufacturing that enables the distribution of 30,000 products all over the world.
McCarthy Tire is one of the largest retread manufacturers in the United States. Retreading is environmentally friendly, cost-effective, and safe.
Founded in 1979, Mountain Productions is North America’s leader in staging solutions and rigging equipment. Mountain Productions quickly rose to become North America’s leading live event production company.
Formed in September 2002, Mia Bella’s goal is to provide every candle lover with unsurpassed quality and unlimited opportunity, Mia Bella’s hand-poured candles combine green technology waxes with the highest quality ingredients to deliver the best products in the candle industry.
As we move just outside the city limits, there are too many manufacturing firms to cover all of them, but we should celebrate the industry leaders and global distributors of products who call our community home. For example, On Semi manufactures the semiconductor chips you’ve heard about in the national news. American Paper Bag is the fastest, greenest most efficient bag manufacturer in North America. CornellCookson is a leading door and grille manufacturer with facilities in Mountain Top. The company manufactures a complete line of overhead door and closure products, designed for commercial, industrial, institutional, and retail use. And coming soon, construction of a 250,000-square-foot building is underway for Upward Farms, the world’s largest aquaponic indoor vertical farm.
Economic development organizations like Penn’s Northeast, the Greater Wyoming Valley Chamber of Commerce, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania, and Northeastern Pennsylvania Industrial Resource Center (NEPIRC) provide support to recruit and strengthen our manufacturing industry. The manufacturing base in Northeastern Pennsylvania continues to grow. As it expands, it also becomes more diverse in size and industry type, strengthening the long-term viability of our economy.
The result of a strong economy leads to private investors purchasing and renovating buildings in our downtown. Through their efforts, they are creating newly remodeled rental units expanding the downtown as a revitalized residential neighborhood. Decades ago, people exited our urban centers; today they are finding their way back. In part, we need to thank those who grow and attract our manufacturing firms. One of the beneficiaries of this action is a strong vibrant downtown that becomes a destination for us all to enjoy.
Kenneth G. Okrepkie is the Regional Manager for Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Northeastern Pennsylvania.