12C —April 24 - May 14, 2020 — Spring Preview — M id A tlantic Real Estate Journal


E conomic D evelopment

By Pamela Shupp Menet, Greater Reading Chamber Alliance We are learning the COVID-19 Pivot (and it is not a new dance move!)


here are a lot of opin- ions on the impact to local economies and

likely see some companies who own their main operational location and leased space for expansion will give up those leased spaces. I don’t think this will result in immediate reduc- tions in s/f prices, but we may certainly see some landlords who are willing and able, get more aggressive in pricing. On the construction front and what is coming into the pipeline could be trickier yet to predict. If this were just a slowdown in the economy, it would probably be easier for development projects to stay on track because during slow times, there is no battling for

resources. Permit applications are few and far between, banks are eager to talk about lending, workers are eager for employ- ment and contractors sharpen their pencils on pricing. How- ever, we are operating in a new project development normal. Municipalities permit coun- ters are either physically closed or have gone virtual. Most town- ship buildings are closed to the public. This can delay the abil- ity to receive, review and issue permits. If a project requires a variance or special exception, there could be a delay in getting in front of an approving body like a Zoning Hearing Board or Plan-

ning Commission. Most Berks County municipalities have a note on its door and/or on its website indicating “Public meet- ings are delayed or cancelled.” Meetings with development teams, bankers, and investors aren’t impossible, but those can add time and cost to a project. The result is that moving proj- ects forward is more challenging because we are navigating the virtual world of meetings and approvals. We should expect projects to be delayed or can- celled, and a decrease in newly proposed projects as a result. So, what are we going to do about this? We need to be nimble

and flexible. We need to do the COVID-19 Pivot – pivot being a euphemism for rapidly adapting. We need to be in dialogue as much as possible with all our companies – those who closed, those who stayed open, and those that pivoted. The future is uncertain even for those companies that started producing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). We will also be faced with the harsh reality that some companies are not going to survive COVID-19. We need to be thinking each day about how we can support entrepreneurs. How do we support long time legacy businesses who are in a down cycle and struggling to return to normalcy? And the biggest question will be: What is the new normal? While there is no specific date things will return to “normal,” there will be a back-to-normal evolution that will challenge our social, professional, and business-to-business relation- ships. Commercial and indus- trial development projects that still have time and resources may decide to modify building footprints, building entrance and egress, worker and traffic circulation and production flow. In Berks County, we are blessed with a diversity of pri- vately owned and family owned companies who are pivoting. Companies such as American Crane & Equipment, whose CEO is living its #GritMat- ters culture, is offering weekly encouragement messages to employees. L&H Signs retooled one of its production lines to produce PPE face shields. Boscov’s Department Stores donated candy to hospitals and local shelters. Reading Distill - ing Guild, a craft distillery, began offering curbside bottle pick up. Berks PPE Network, an incredible educational/busi- ness/entrepreneur mash-up, came together to produce face masks with 3D printers. These are just a few examples, but there are many more compa- nies in Berks County leading the charge in innovation. In the brighter days ahead, Berks County is going to get high grades on how we survived and effectively embraced the COVID-19 Pivot. We will be well prepared for the new normal. #GreaterReadingResilient Pamela Shupp Menet is VP of External Affairs at Greater Reading Chamber Alliance. 

COVID-19’s i mp a c t t o the real es- tate market. Many believe that compa- ny closures and failures will far out- pace com- pany births

Pamela Shupp Menet

and start-ups in 2020. The impact on our commercial and industrial inventory will mean more space back on the market. In Berks County, we will most

To learn about available sites and buildings, contact Pamela Shupp Menet. PSHUPP@GREATERREADING.ORG | 610.898.7787 | GREATERREADINGSITES.COM 606 COURT ST., READING, PA 19601

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