Harrisburg City and Dauphin County Commissioners to fund disparity study on Harrisburg’s diverse businesses

The City of Harrisburg and the Dauphin County Commissioners announced that they will be entering a funding partnership to launch a new disparity study. 

The study is aimed at presenting more work opportunities for the city’s diverse business vendors and contractors. Harrisburg-based non-profit Impact Harrisburg will steer the contract and study. 

It will focus on minority-owned businesses and businesses owned by women, veterans, lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/queer (LGBTQ), and people with disabilities. 

Dauphin County Commissioners, the City of Harrisburg and Impact Harrisburg will each pay a one-third share of $83,333 to Econsult Solutions, LLC to perform the study at a total cost of $250,000. 

Harrisburg Mayor Wanda Williams emphasized the importance of the city partnering with local entities on projects like the study. 

“Partnering is going to be a cornerstone to how we operate a different City Hall in Harrisburg,” said Williams. 

Dauphin County recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding to fund the study, which is expected to begin this year. 

“We welcome Mayor Williams and her administration and look forward to a new day of partner projects and initiatives that will help the residents and business owners we serve,” Dauphin County Commissioner Chairman Mike Pries said. 

“This worthwhile project fortifies our commitment to doing what it takes to accommodate hard-working entrepreneurs,” County Commissioner Chad Saylor said. 

“Access to opportunities in regard to resources is huge” for business owners, said Karl Singleton, chief equity and compliance officer and a board member of Impact Harrisburg. 

Harrisburg rents drop, annual rent growth remains high 

Harrisburg rents dropped 1.1% in January but are still 22% higher than a year ago, according to the newest data from Apartment List. 

In the capital city, median rents are $1,034 for a one-bedroom unit and $1,252 for a two-bedroom apartment. January was the second consecutive month they declined. 

Still, the year-over-year jump in Harrisburg is well above the state’s annual rent growth of 13.9% and comfortably exceeds the national figure of 17.8%. 

“As a national trend since the start of the pandemic nearly two years ago, rents have been rising faster in suburban cities than in larger, more urban ones,” Rob Warnock, senior research associate with Apartment List, wrote in an email. 

“And I think this is playing out across the handful of PA markets that we have data for.” For example, annual rent growth was 13.6% in Philadelphia and 13.1% in Pittsburgh, much less than the 22% in Harrisburg and 19.5% in Allentown. 

Since the pandemic began, many people relocated to smaller metro markets, creating a lot of new demand for rental housing, he explained. As a consequence, rents jumped because vacancies were limited. 

“We’ve seen this in suburban regions of Seattle, Boston, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Denver – pretty much everywhere,” Warnock said. 

Harrisburg, however, is still more affordable than most large cities in the U.S. The median rent for a two-bedroom unit – $1,252 – is less than the national median of $1,285. 

In comparison, Apartment List reported, a two-bedroom rental in San Francisco was $2,681 in January. 

While rents in major cities aren’t generally increasing at the pace they are in smaller ones, there are exceptions, including New York City (33.5%), Phoenix (27.9%) and Miami (27%). 

Nationwide, Apartment List’s rent index rose 0.2% in January. 

The report noted that increases slowed significantly the past four months, which could be due to seasonal factors. 

Also, after bottoming out at 3.8% in August 2021, Apartment List’s vacancy index has risen five consecutive months and stands at 4.4%. That remains well below the 6% prepandemic level. 

The spring will probably bring a return to faster rent increases, the report concluded. “Despite a recent cool down, many American renters are likely to remain burdened throughout 2022 by historically high housing costs. 

The midstate’s fastest growing businesses continue to invest in Cumberland County 

In September two major Pennsylvanian employers, Harsco Corp. and Rite Aid, announced they would be leaving their headquarters in Cumberland County to open new main offices in Philadelphia. 

Harsco explained in its announcement of the planned 2023 move that it was leaving the region to expand its infrastructure and have access to a more diverse hiring pool. For Rite Aid, the move is part of the company’s new “remote-first” strategy that could see it opening a regional office in the midstate. 

While Harsco and Rite Aid plan to leave their Cumberland County headquarters in the coming years, it is anything but a sign of things to come, said Ryan Unger, president and CEO of the Harrisburg Regional Chamber and CREDC. 

“Both companies made the decisions that they did based on their own employees and market competition and things like that,” said Unger. “Whenever you look at a region and its industrial heritage, you will see times where companies evolve, grow and shrink and this is part of that process.” 

So, while Rite Aid and Harsco are moving, other local employers are doubling down on the region, citing its assets for raising a family, and proximity to major cities and the state capital. 

A Giant investment 

Nicholas Bertram. PHOTO/PROVIDED

In the last three years, Carlisle-based The Giant Company has grown its employee base by 5,000, acquired four companies and launched multiple new services and partnerships. That growth has been mirrored in the company’s Carlisle headquarters, which received an expansion this year that included remodeling, upgraded technology and a new auditorium. 

The campus also houses Giant’s sister companies Retail Business Services, ADUSA Supply Chain Services and Peapod Digital Labs. 

Giant views each of its 190 locations as a headquarters given the company’s emphasis on community, however, investing in the midstate as the center of the company’s operations has proven fruitful, said Nicholas Bertram, president and CEO of Giant. 

“The people who grew up here absolutely love it and the people who came here, like me, absolutely love it,” Bertram said. “There are great schools, great infrastructure—It’s a wonderful place to live. If you look at the growth in Cumberland County, it’s clear that a lot of people are moving into this area.” 

Bertram pointed out out another major asset to the company, the region’s highway system, which it relies on for its distribution center in Cumberland County, dry grocery storage in York and frozen storage campus in Lancaster. 

As Pennsylvania’s second largest employer, Giant also values its proximity to Harrisburg. 

“For those companies with more influence on the Commonwealth, it makes sense to be closer to the capital,” Bertram said. 

Calling the West Shore home 

Philip Brenckle. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Home remodeling company West Shore Home in Mechanicsburg has expanded to 11 states over three years—a feat the company attributes to a consistent and predictable strategic growth plan and an initial acquisition that brought the company into North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. 

“We are focused on making home remodeling fast, easy, convenient and having a focus on customer service,” said Philip Brenckle, CFO at West Shore Home. “For right now, as we scale nationally, we are staying within our verticals to make sure we offer the best experience in windows, doors, showers and baths.” 

West Shore Home employs about 1,700 people, which is up 750 employees since the pandemic started. 

“We grew just as rapidly prior to the pandemic as we did during, and we look to continue to grow,” said Brenckle. “We saw a surge during the pandemic. The biggest opportunity we seized during the pandemic was the labor force. Many companies were going to shed labor and once we realized that we decided to go on the offensive.” 

West Shore Home’s employee growth caused the company to add more corporate positions in human resources, legal, accounting and more, adding up to 400 corporate positions. 

The remodeling company opened a new corporate headquarters in Mechanicsburg this year. The open design concept features 56,184 square feet and room for more than 560 employees. It has an in-house coffee café, employee training center, private breakout rooms and a podcast studio. 

West Shore Home’s investment in the midstate comes from its origins in the region as well as the positives that the region holds for employees, said Brenckle. 

“Our founder was born and raised in Pennsylvania, this is the birth place of our company,” he said. “Just as importantly, we believe that Central Pennsylvania has a lot to offer: exceptional costs of living, it’s close to a lot of major cities and there’s access to large major markets.” 

Selecting the midstate 


Select Medical in Mechanicsburg is the country’s largest post-acute care company at $6 billion in revenue. 

This year the company joined the ranks of the Fortune 500, something that Bob Ortenzio, co-founder and executive chairman attributed to the region the company started in. 

“This area supported the company and helped us grow from a pure startup to a Fortune 500 Company,” Ortenzio said. “It supported us as a small company, through huge growth years and it supported us in being a national leader in what we do.” 

In the last five years, Select Medical has doubled in size from $3 billion in revenue to $6 billion and currently operates 140 specialty hospitals, 1800 outpatient clinics and 522 occupational medicine centers. 

Within the midstate alone Select Medical operates four hospitals, two occupational medicine locations and 40 outpatient clinics.  

The company’s campus consists of six buildings in Mechanicsburg with a majority of its services centralized to the campus. A portion of its operations are also located at an office building in Camp Hill. 

“We would never move from Central Pennsylvania. We want to continue to invest in the region, invest in our people that are here,” said Ortenzio. “It may not be the best to access our West Coast operations, but we do a lot of work in DC, a lot of our banks are in New York and we have a lot of operations in the South—we have access to the whole Eastern seaboard from here.” 

Select Medical has found success recruiting staff for its Mechanicsburg headquarters thanks to the state’s strong educational institutions and the growing economies of the region’s cities, said Ortenzio. 

“I believe in the continued growth for the city of Harrisburg. The company and I have supported places like Harrisburg University which continue to grow,” he said. “This area has grown a lot. It’s been great for our employees and we are a big advocate.” 

Ortenzio also pointed out Harrisburg International Airport as a nearby asset for Select Medical, noting that while it is not as big as an Atlanta or Philadelphia airport, the company still brings clients to the region through the airport. 

“We have a lot of people who travel here and say that Harrisburg is a joy to fly out of. You can get to Atlanta, Chicago, Charlotte, Nashville and Philadelphia,” he said. “We have an airport; we have a great base for education and we have good housing. What more does a growing company need?” 

Improving on a good thing 


Part of the region’s success as a place for businesses to grow as quickly as organizations like Select Medical, West Shore Home and Giant have, is that the midstate’s economic centers follow the “15-minute city” residential urban planning concept, according to Unger. 

In residential planning, the 15-minute city refers to the idea where a resident is able to get their daily necessities by foot or by bike within 15 minutes—an idea popularized by French cities expert Carlos Moreno. Those necessities include education, health care, arts and culture, parks and recreation, grocery stores and walkability and transit. 

“You want to check all of those boxes off. When we speak with businesses that want to come here, we highlight that,” Unger said.  

Organizations like the Harrisburg Regional Chamber continue to find ways to create workforce development programs with area business leaders to ensure that midstate businesses continue to have access to talent. That doesn’t mean that the region doesn’t already have a diverse talent pool to draw from, said Unger. 

“We have a great workforce here. (West Shore Home, Select Medical and Giant) wouldn’t be able to grow if they didn’t have employees and access to talent,” he said. “We want to continue to work on that. We have all the assets we need here in the region to succeed.” 

Derry Township apartment complex sells for $2.5 million 

A 20-unit apartment complex in Derry Township, Dauphin County was purchased this week for $2.5 million. PHOTO/PROVIDED

Palmyra, Lebanon County-based Dalane Management purchased a 20-unit apartment complex in Derry Township, Dauphin County this week for $2.5 million. 

The property, at 1310-1360 Columbia Drive, Hershey, was sold by Landmark Commercial Realty in Harrisburg. It is made up of five four-unit brick buildings first built in 1986. 

The apartment units are 850-square-foot two-bedroom and one-bath units, each offering a private front entrance and rear deck area, Landmark wrote in a press release. 

“This is the first time the property was offered for sale since the late 1990s,” said Chuck Heller, executive vice president of Landmark. “It is also located in one of the region’s most desirable school districts. I anticipate it being a legacy property in the new owner’s portfolio.” 

Landmark sold the property to Dalane at $125,000 per apartment unit. 

Dauphin County Library System begins $3.5 million expansion of historic riverfront library

A rendering of Dauphin County Library System’s incomming expansion to its McCormick Riverfront Library. PHOTO PROVIDED.

The Dauphin County Library System broke ground on a $3.5 million project on Thursday that will combine two historic Harrisburg properties. 

The library system’s project will expand its McCormick Riverfront Library by connecting it with the 5,458-square-foot Front Street residence of Sara Haldeman Haly, who seeded the Dauphin County Library System in 1896. 

When finished, the combined building will boast more than a 3,400-square-foot family area incorporating STEAM learning support, a 950-squaure-foot public meeting space, added public computer resources and more, said the library system in a press release. 

“We’re excited to get started and look forward to standing here about a year from now and welcoming everyone to a dynamic educational and cultural center,” said Karen Cullings, the Dauphin County Library System’s executive director. “The demand for our services has never been higher, and this location in the heart of downtown Harrisburg is easily accessible.”   

The project is expected to be finished in 2022 and the library will remain open during that time. 

The library system is paying for the project with funds from its “Your Place to Belong” campaign. The campaign has raised $2.6 million, or 76% of its goal. 

“For more than a century, this community has generously donated its time and treasure to The Library,” said Your Place to Belong campaign co-chair Andrew Enders. “Now, The Library is returning the favor by investing in the community. We are well on the way to creating an ideal space that models the direction of libraries for the 21st century and beyond.” 

Pa. College of Health Sciences picks C&J Catering for on-site food service

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences has selected C&J Catering and Events, a full-service catering and events company based in Middletown, Dauphin County, as the college’s food, beverage and on-site catering services provider.

The college, based in Lancaster, which is focused exclusively on academic programs in health sciences, offers over 30,000 square feet of multipurpose event space and a variety of on-campus food service options.

“C&J Catering (a certified Women’s Business Enterprise) and PA College share a common dedication to health and wellness,” said C&J Catering CEO Jamie Berger. “That common dedication will be reflected in the broad range of food and beverage options we provide on campus. Also known for our event design and décor talent, we look forward to partnering with the college to bring special events to life in its many event spaces, including business gatherings, training programs, social occasions and conferences.”

“With C&J Catering as our food and beverage partner, our students, faculty, staff and guests will enjoy delicious and healthy on-campus options, whether a full meal, quick snack or grab-and-go,” said Dana Shive, PA College conference and events manager. “C&J Catering also will complement our pristine event facilities, providing full-service catering and event design to help our event clients create the perfect experience for their guests, whether formal, casual or anything in between.”

PA College offers space to host events ranging from multiday conferences and board retreats to charitable events and social functions. The college’s High Auditorium, its largest space, can accommodate 400 guests, while other spaces are suitable to accommodate 15-240 guests. All rooms include state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment.

In addition to providing on-site event catering at PA College, C&J Catering is operating three campus food service options: The Marketplace, serving fresh, made-to-order lunch options as well as pre-packaged selections; Commons Café, offering snacks, pastries, grab-and-go meals and Starbucks beverages; and The C-Store, a self-service convenience store offering food, beverages and sundries.

Pennsylvania College of Health Sciences offers more than two dozen academic programs and serves almost 2,000 students. The college is affiliated with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health.