Northeastern Pennsylvania (NEPA) – also known as the Northern I-81 Corridor – has become a relevant location for companies seeking to locate operations in the Northeast U.S. NEPA communities such as Scranton, Pittston, Wilkes-Barre, and Hazleton, have seen an industrial resurgence in recent years. Approximately 16 million s/f of bulk industrial space, which is about 22% of the total class A and B bulk industrial space in the entire market, has been constructed and occupied in NEPA since 2007.
The region’s quick access to major metro areas (more than 51 million people live within 200 miles), available and affordable labor, and abundant and reliable utilities, have all played roles in this growth.
However, it’s been a unique site development and speculative construction program, which has led the way.
Anyone who has been to NEPA knows that its terrain is both a blessing and a curse. The region’s mountains provide for beautiful views and are home to numerous residential areas. However, the shortage of flat land combined with environmental challenges left over from past coal mining activities, has at times made industrial development difficult and time consuming.
Over the years, local economic development organizations had convinced numerous companies that NEPA was the best, most cost-productive location for new business operations, only to lose those projects when the region was unable to produce a level site with infrastructure or an existing building that met those companies’ needs.
Enter the ReadyToGo! Program
The program was created by Wilkes-Barre developer Robert K. Mericle. His company, Mericle Commercial Real Estate Services (Mericle), is fully preparing 90 sites in 11 NEPA business parks. Mericle’s ReadyToGo! Sites are cleared, graded, and compacted (think pool table) and have all permits, approvals, and utilities in place. To date, Mericle has completed work on 37 of the 90 sites. Almost all of these sites are located in tax-free zones. Mericle has even designed buildings for each site.
These sites are so “ready-to-go”, that from the date a lease is signed, Mericle can have a tenant in a newly constructed building in nine months or less. The sites range in size from a few acres to more than 100 acres and have been developed for buildings ranging from 10,000 s/f to more than 1,000,000 s/f.
Mericle is also constructing speculative industrial, office, and flex buildings on its ReadyToGo! Sites. During the recession which began in early 2008, Mericle’s speculative development program continued unabated. Mericle constructed 15 buildings on speculation on its ReadyToGo! Sites in NEPA from 2008 through 2014 with two currently under construction.
Mericle is using its own resources to develop these sites and buildings. Mericle is a vertically integrated “master builder” with approximately 200 employees with expertise in all aspects of commercial real estate development and construction. Mericle’s employees include heavy equipment operators, licensed architects, land planners, professional engineers, surveyors, licensed electricians, plumbers, carpenters, certified public accountants, in-house legal counsel, leasing and marketing professionals, licensed brokers, property managers, and more.
The ReadyToGo Program has paid dividends for NEPA. Since 2007, Mericle has provided commercial real estate solutions on its ReadyToGo! Sites to dozens of companies which have created thousands of jobs for local residents. These companies include Amazon.com, American Eagle Outfitters, Benco Dental, Corning, Discount Dance Supply, GENCO ATC, The Home Depot, Kimberly Clark, Lowe’s, Men’s Wearhouse, Neiman Marcus, Tucker Rocky, Tech Packaging, PRO-CON, and United Sporting Companies. These firms all occupy at least 190,000 s/f -- more than 7,000,000 s/f combined.
To learn more about the ReadyToGo! Program, visit www.mericlereadytogo.com.
James A. Cummings is responsible for coordinating all marketing programs for Mericle’s Development and Brokerage Divisions.