We stumbled upon Bedford, PA (population 3,141) when we were doing a site search for one of our industrial clients at Agracel. They were looking for a site in the NE for contract production operation. We had done projects for the company in the Midwest and SE.
Todd Thoman who handles virtually all of our site selection work kept coming back to Bedford in doing this project and when he would return to the office would rave about the town. We ended up doing the project there and I was there last week doing a tour of the town and giving my Boomtown presentation. After I took the tour I understood why Todd was so excited.
Bette Slayton, Kathy Davis and their staff are top notch economic developers. They were recognized as the best ED organization in the state in 2005 by the Pennsylvania Economic Development Agency for having the highest percentage job growth in the state, $98 million in investment and assemblage of a package over $100 million for the restoration of the most endangered historical landmark in the USA (more on that tomorrow).
Wal-Mart had chosen Bedford in 1998 for one of their three distribution centers in the state of PA. Their 850,000 sf facility has 650 employees and has won Wal-Mart's Grocery DC of the Year Award for five of the past six years. Our research has shown that Wal-Mart overwhelmingly sites their DCs in rural communities and various experts have indicated that other companies will follow their lead in where to put distribution. It has been my contention for sometime that Wal-Mart is an average retailing company but is a "light-out, world class" distribution company. I did a calculation of the tax payments vs. services of a project like
Wal-Mart, which was given a graduated 10 year tax abatement. Net gain for the taxing bodies with this project was $19.8 million over a 50 year life of a building.
Recreational Equipment Company, a recreational distribution co-op out of Seattle recently decided to locate their east coast 550,000 sf, 300 employee operation in Bedford. Others will follow.
Bedford is a quaint town that dates back to the 1750s. Sitting in a valley with wondrous wooded hills, in the full bloom of fall foliage, it has a very inviting appeal. Its historic downtown is one that has a very special feel to it, with numerous shops, restaurants and a wonderfully restored hotel added to its appeal. Some wonderful brochures on birding, historic area, covered bridges, orchards and fall foliage enhance the image of the town and region.
Tomorrow, I'll blog on the renovation of a 200 year old resort hotel that is going to totally transform Bedford.