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Editorial: Growing midstate offers greener grass

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The first sentence of our front page story on commercial real estate says it all: If they haven't already, local investors should sit up and pay attention to what's happening in their midstate backyard.

Central Pennsylvania is attracting outside capital, not only boosting property values and rents but in many cases raising the quality of the holdings.

It's a case where being second best is all good and everybody wins. As competition among institutional investors heats up in the major metros and drives up prices astronomically, smaller groups with a yen for real estate are seizing opportunities in the secondary markets of Harrisburg, Lancaster and York.

That greener grass the smart money is always seeking? It can be found right here, because the midstate is stable and growing at a sustainable rate.

A more complex yet intriguing indicator of economic health is shipping. Cargo going through Harrisburg International Airport promises to hit prerecession levels for the second year in a row, with more cargo going out than coming in.

It's tempting to read too much into a fact like that, especially in terms of manufacturing health. Central Pennsylvania likely is a net exporter of goods, but outgoing cargo also reflects a strong transportation and distribution industry. For much of that tonnage, the airport is just one more stop on an intermodal network stretching along the East Coast that includes highway and rail.

No one can say for sure how much of that cargo originates in the midstate, but that's something airport officials say they want to step up efforts to understand. Such information would be useful not only to HIA in planning for the future but would assist anyone concerned with economic development regionally.

A more detailed picture would yield quantifiable insight into the region's existing skills and knowledge pool. This, in turn, could lead to more business activity in the midstate, through expansion, relocation or new enterprises, thanks to the additional data points available to decision-makers.

Investors of any stripe want to have confidence before they act — whether that's confidence in their numbers, confidence in the market or confidence in a region's business climate and potential for growth. They look at a mosaic of factors before taking the plunge. Here we see two more reasons to have confidence in the midstate as a great place to invest and do business.

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