By Frank Joanlanne
Chairman, Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry
Wilkes-Barre, PA—With all the challenges we face, it’s easy to forget all that we’ve accomplished as a community. Not too long ago, the Arena Hub was a desolate moonscape of scarred mining land, written off and deemed useless. Not too long ago, downtown Wilkes-Barre was empty after dark and few people strolled at the intersection of Northhampton and Main Street. Not too long ago, our area couldn’t attract world-class companies and industries to Northeast Pennsylvania because we lacked modern business parks and had no place for entrepreneurs to invent the future.
In those same places today, we see outstanding community assets and economic growth: The Mohegan Sun Arena in Wilkes-Barre Township with its surrounding development; the Cinema Complex and Innovation Center in downtown Wilkes-Barre; and the Chamber’s five business parks (Crestwood Industrial Park in Wright Township, Hanover Industrial Estates and Hanover Crossing in Hanover Township, Corporate Center at East Mountain in Plains Township, and Highland Park in Wilkes-Barre Township). The business parks alone represent the development of 2,637 acres of land that was considered unusable and unwanted not that long ago. Today, though, the business parks generate more than $8.7 million annually in county, municipal and school district tax revenue; not to mention the thousands of jobs for area residents.
The Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business & Industry and Chamber of Commerce continue to promote growth and economic development, either in collaboration with government and other community groups or through independent involvement in projects that benefit the region. We’re working hard to extend that important role well into the future.
Projects such as the Arena, the Theater Complex, The Innovation Center and the five business parks don’t just happen, and they certainly aren’t without their challenges. They are the result of many people and organizations having the vision, commitment and dedication to see them through to fruition. The Chamber is proud to be involved with these and other efforts to further position the Wilkes-Barre area as an attractive place to live, work and do business.
In today’s difficult environment, it is absolutely necessary to work toward growth and economic development in a well-planned and organized manner. The Chamber consistently steps up for the good of the community—even when no one else will—which enhances our community but stresses Chamber resources. We did that with the Cinema project, for example, resulting in a community asset that brings traffic and customers to downtown businesses.
Last year, the Chamber began a Strategic Initiative focused on ensuring that growth and economic development continue in a well-planned, organized, business-like manner. While we would like to be involved with every opportunity that arises, our area is best served when such opportunities are fully vetted and prioritized based on available resources as well as the anticipated community enhancement.
Thanks to a dedicated staff, great members and volunteers, we’ve weathered the storm over the last few years and are rebuilding and reinventing the Chamber to meet the needs of an ever changing business environment. A search committee is currently working through the process to identify and hire a new chief executive officer for the organization. Thankfully, we have an interim CEO—Gerry O’Donnell—who knows not only the Chamber, but also the area’s business community well. We will share news as our search for a permanent CEO progresses.
The Chamber has been a tremendous asset for the past 60 years, and we are committed to being even more helpful in the years and decades to come.
(President of Borton-Lawson, Frank Joanlanne serves as Chairman of the Board of the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Business and Industry.)
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