York: Bracing for a tech-filled future
Kevin Schreiber has spent his career in two fields, economic development and state government, that have taught him something about how areas grow economically.
“I’ve seen firsthand how embracing and supporting technological innovation leads to job growth, increases business retention and attraction, and boosts the overall local and regional economy,” said Schreiber, a former York City economic-development director and York state representative who’s now president and CEO of the York County Economic Alliance.
“Communities that can leverage innovation, technological infrastructure and private enterprise hold a competitive advantage and are positioned well for success,” he said, and that makes Schreiber and other York County economic leaders hopeful for their region’s future.
He cites as an example the success of downtown York’s Business Information Group Inc., which in 2017 marks its 25th year in business in a competitive field: information technology.
“I don’t know if enough York Countians realize how big BIG is, and just how dynamic and trend-setting in the technological front they are,” Schreiber said.
BIG specializes in network design and implementation, virtualization, wireless communication and software consulting. A wholly-owned subsidiary, BIG Wireless LLC, created in 2005, focuses on wireless services.
John Dolmetsch, co-founder of BIG with his brother Scott, however, warns that regions like York County need to embrace technology to keep up with other parts of the country. He compared it to how the growth of highways helped fuel this region’s manufacturing, and the same could be happening now — except that the “highway” is carrying information, not tractor-trailers filled with goods.
Top private companies in York County
Ranked by total revenue
- Stewart Group Inc. DVA The Stewart Cos.
- Utz Quality Foods LLC
- Rutter's Holdings Inc.
- Kinsley Construction Inc.
- Shipley Group DBA Shipley Energy
- Arthur J. Glatfelter AGency Inc. DBA Glatfelter Insurance Group
- Wagman Inc.
- Eichelberger Construction Inc. DBA eciGroup
- I.B. Abel Inc.
- Penn Waste Inc.
“We’re trying to educate people that things are going to happen so fast that if regions don’t start to embrace technology and become more STEM-related, companies aren’t going to be able to compete globally in the York area any more,” he said.
Schreiber looks at the work BIG does, and also sees a hopeful sign in southern York County, as indications that the county is going in the right high-tech direction.
At the Shrewsbury exit from I-83 sits the $148 million Applied Development and Engineering Center for publicly held firm Johnson Controls Inc., which makes HVAC equipment for buildings, among other products.
It is the most costly project now going on in York County, and Schreiber hopes it’s a precursor to a high-tech future for the county.
The first half of the Johnson Controls project in Hopewell Township — a 107,000-square-foot office building — opened in late April, with the second half, a 286,000-square-foot testing laboratory, on schedule for a June 2018 opening, said Laura Wand, vice president and general manager of chiller solutions for Johnson.
The project is expected to bring high-skilled employees from Maryland and other states, and Schreiber feels technology is beginning to join manufacturing and other traditional sectors in offering jobs in York County.
That growth is revealed by a look at lists of both the top current projects in York County and also the number of the county’s businesses on the Business Journal’s new list of top private companies in Central Pennsylvania.
York County is represented by not only its traditional construction and manufacturing companies, but also newer ones in fields like information technology.
After Johnson Controls, the top active business projects in York County, dollar-wise, are: a $63 million natural-gas boiler conversion for Spring Grove specialty-paper manufacturer Glatfelter; a new $52 million investment by Target in an e-commerce operation; a $48 million transformation of West Manchester Town Center; and a $45 million series of facility and equipment improvements at BAE, the defense firm. The last three projects are in West Manchester Township.
The labor force in York County as of August 2016 was 238,000, up from 232,700 the previous August, according to YCEA figures.
Meanwhile, the county’s unemployment rate as of May stood at 4.6 percent, hovering just above the 4-percent mark since the start of the year.
To keep attracting potential employees to York County, tourism and economic officials this year are teaming up to offer “training” for York-area companies, instructing the firms’ personnel officials on some of the positives of the White Rose County - positives they can then emphasize to job candidates from other parts of the state or country, hoping it’s part of what attracts them to this region.