According to the U.S. Census Bureau, private construction spending was $659.4 billion in November, an 8.6 percent increase from a year ago.
An uptick in building is one of the strongest signs of a recovering economy, and we'll all be glad for that. As a commercial real estate developer in Central Pennsylvania for three decades, I see positive signs that 2014 will be key to crest recovery.
We believe that our largest development, the 1-million-square-foot, 165-acre Swatara Plaza at The Concourse situated on the highly visible Route 322 between Harrisburg and Hershey, will be an economic driver for construction, retail and office jobs, as well as a magnet for retailers new to our region.
During meetings at Urban Land Institute and International Council of Shopping Centers, we are encouraged by the positive conversations about Harrisburg and our fresh possibilities — the city's restructured debt plan, the region's meds and eds, the unmatched quality of life, the skilled labor force, the new life sciences industry cluster and the Harrisburg Regional Chamber's continued business support.
Swatara Plaza's permits are in approval process, and we anticipate entitlements to be complete in 2014. We have been pleased with the smooth processes of working with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to move entitlements forward at a business-friendly pace. They clearly understand that help and support to private investors and business builders is high-grade fuel for the economic engine.
Next in the development process are opportunities for new and familiar retail faces to put down roots at Swatara Plaza at The Concourse. The long journey of land development and what we term "making place" requires years of partnerships with government, private enterprise, builders, engineers, policy makers, communities, retailers, local entrepreneurs and, perhaps, the most important component, consumers.
More good news this month from the Commerce Department reflects that personal consumption — what consumers spend on everything from televisions to health care — climbed 0.5 percent in November from a month earlier, the fastest pace since June.
These are marks of consumer confidence and are buoyed by the international good news of Harrisburg's debt restructuring. Attracting top retailers and corporations to Central Pennsylvania begins with a positive spirit and collective resolve to create a built environment that will not only sustain desirable jobs but will provide retail, restaurant and office options to a region on the upswing. We're on our way.
Rick Jordan is a guest blogger this week. He is the CEO of Lower Allen Township-based Smith Land & Improvement Corp., a commercial real estate developer.