In The Commercial Zone
By Michael Baxter for Pocono Business Journal
One of my first columns for the Pocono Business Journal a few years ago was about finding a balance between economic development, protecting our environment and maintaining the quality of life we enjoy in Pennsylvania.
The government’s failure to achieve that balance is having a profoundly negative effect on our economy and is costing us jobs and a healthy, balanced economic growth. What good is our quality of life if few people can afford to live or work here?
When I started in the commercial real estate business 25 years ago, we enjoyed a lot of activity from companies that were looking to escape the higher taxes and smothering regulations of New York and New Jersey while improving their quality of life by living in our beautiful region.
Now it seems that Pennsylvania’s steady increase in regulations are having the opposite impact.
An ad hoc economic development marketing group on which I serve recently conducted a study and reached out to site selection firms primarily in New York and New Jersey to learn how we can best help those companies relocate their firms to our area. While Pennsylvania’s KOZ program and the Governors Action Team (GAT) were noted as strengths, there was a comment made by one of these executives from New Jersey that “it takes too long to get into the ground up there.”
What a slap in the face! Have we gone full circle in the last 25 years to the point where Pennsylvania is considered less “business friendly” than New Jersey? Well folks, that’s where we are headed…if we aren’t there already.
DEP, PennDOT and the EPA (a federal agency) continue to add more rules and regulations to our already lengthy and expensive approval process. The NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System) approval process is already more than a year and getting longer. Project costs are escalating and driving the values of our properties down. The economic climate is challenging enough without putting more obstacles in the way to discourage companies from bringing clean industry here and creating well-paying jobs. One positive is that recently the MCCD (Monroe County Conservation District) hired an engineer with the goal of expediting the review process and that should reduce it from the year-plus now to less than six months.
I am all for preserving our environment but, as I wrote in that early column, there needs to be a balance. Statewide regulations don’t always consider the many unique aspects of our area and we have to do something to make the state take notice of the negative impact these regulations are having on our area. There should be legislation that requires a study be done to determine the financial impact the proposed regulation will have on our economic health and our quality of life.
We need to get legislators more involved; they profess to wanting job growth, yet they are the ones allowing the overregulation. We have to stand up and be heard. We need those jobs in our area. It’s time we get the leaders of our community together and make a difference. We have to do something…now!
– Michael J. Baxter, CCIM is the Broker/Owner of Michael Baxter and Associates located in Stroudsburg. He can be reached at (570) 620-1900 or via www.baxcommercial.com