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Archive for the ‘Other Interesting Posts’ Category

Although – this site focuses on products made in Pennsylvania – occassionally, I come across a company where it’s so extraordinary that they still make their products in the U.S. – that I need to give them an HONORARY Made in Pennsylvania designation.  One such company is New Balance Shoes. 

New Balance Shoes is interesting because…first, their shoes are truly well made.  I mean that – I really do, these are great shoes.  I’m terribly happy that a good number of their shoes are still made here.  Compare this to other major brands – Nike, Reebok, and Adidas – who have shipped the vast majority of their manufacturing off to lower cost areas. Admittedly, New Balance does this as well – but, they still have 5 factories in the U.S. (Maine and MA) and a large number of their shoes (especially, their running shoes) are made here.  nb

New Balance was started in 1906 as New Balance Arch Support company.  Their products were targeted towards policemen, nurses, and factory workers who spent all day on their feet.  Up until the 1960′s, New Balance primarily focuses on arch supports, but opportunely expanded its product line in 1961 to include a shoe called the “trackster”.  Sales didn’t pick-up, however, until the 1970′s, when the nation-wide running craze exploded out of Boston (I believe Forrest Gump was involved).  At the time, the company had 10 employess and sold a few dozen pairs of shoes, primarily through mail order.   The company has since exploded into a $1.5B global shoe company – they still specialize in high-grade running shoes and avoid costly, high profile marketing campaigns.

To be exact, you can shop at New Balance.com and select the “Made in the USA” shoes – some shoes are in fact made in Asia.  You can look at shoes made in the U.S. by following this link….New Balance

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Nominate a Company!

If there is a Pennsylvania company that you would like to see featured – send us an email. Happy Holidays!

paportal@live.com

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Vacon, a $320 million (2007 revenue) global engine manufacturer based in Finland, is locating its North American headquarters in Chambersburg, Pa.  The facility will hold both product development and testing facilities under the same roof and is projected to create 94 jobs.  If all goes as plan, the company will open the facility in 2009. 

Link to Press Release

Company Website

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An article in the Pittsburgh Post this week highlights the relative strength of Western Pennsylvania’s manufacturing in 2008.   The survey was completed in September, so it doesn’t include the meltdown months of October and November that have sent manufacturing into a tailspin nation wide.  What’s interesting, is the article sites the fact that 78% of the companies surveyed increase employment over the past 3 years.   That’s good news for an industry that’s been under duress from cheap imports and offshoring.

In some sense, Pennsylvania is more capable of handling the downturn that most states.  The State’s manufacturing base is diversified since the days of the Steel industry.  There is a solid number of companies – most of them private – making components and equipment used around the world.   Timing is important as well – Pennsylvania went through tough times in the 1980′s and has since rebounded  – there are a lot of smaller companies that have found niche businesses with few competitors.

Link to Article

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Governor Rendell signed an expansion of the State’s Keystone Economic Opportunity Zone (KOZ) program on July 10th.  The bill could add 15 new KOZ’s to the existing 10 throughout the state.  KOZ’s were established to reduce the tax burden on new businesses in areas that were deemed in high need.  KOZ’s are located in economically depressed areas or on industrial sites that were environmentally damaged or in urgent need of re-development.  One such site was the Philadelphia Shipyard that was vacated a number of years ago and sat vacant and in ruin in a high need area of Philadephia.  Since the KOZ status was applied, new businesses have relocated to the ship yard.  Tasty Kake established a new operations center in the ship yard as Urban Outfitters as well as many other companies.  The KOZ program has been labeled a $1billion investment in Pennsylvania’s economy.

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It would could be a huge boom for the solar industry in Pennsylvania, the latest Pennsylvania budget includes $650 million for tax incentives for energy conservation and use of alternative energy.  Governor Rendell pushed hard for the legislation, citing the fact that energy rate caps are set to expire in parts of Pennsylvania by 2011 – increasing the cost of electricity by $4 billion.  Such incentives have been labeled as critical to making solar energy an attractive investment for home owners – who stand to benefit from “selling electricity back to the utility companies.”  Such projects generally have a long horizon before a home owner or business sees a return on their initial cash outlay.  With the cost of electricity projected to increase substantially, such projects become a lot more desireable when coupled with a rebate, grant, or loan.

Yipee! Pennsylvania joins the small crowd of states offering such incentives

Details on Funding 

  • $100 million in loans, grants and rebates that will cover the cost of installing solar technology on homes and small businesses.
  • $165 million for businesses and local government to promote renewable energy projects
  • $40 billion to promote the development of alternative energy businesses
  • $80 million in grants and loans for economic development projects in the solar sector
  • $25 million for wind and geothermal projects
  • $25 million to promote pollution controls

These incentives in ther form of grants, loans, and rebates should stimulate demand for energy conservation and renewable energy technologies – promoting the development of new industry and small businesses, while reducing energy consumption and pollution.

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Pennsylvania’s Treasurer, Robin Wiessmann, unveiled $400 million fund-of-funds aimed at investing in state-based emerging & minority money managers.  This is part of the Treasury’s ongoing effort to increase returns to its portfolio, reduce management costs, while investing in Pennsylvania businesses.  Fund-of-funds are massive investment portfolios that invest in smaller money managers and venture capital funds.  The initiative could result in a infusion of capital into local Pennsylvania businesses.  

Link to Article

 

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Reliant Energy announced in mid-June that it would invest $50 million to install mercury emissions controls on 5 of its 19 power plants in the state.  The initiative is part of an effort to meet state mandated mercury reduction targets of 80% by 2010 and 90% by 2015.  Reliant Energy has planned investments to reduce mercury pollution of $375 million on all 19 of its PA based power plants.  In total, there are over 30 power plants in Pennsylvania – resulting in 80% of the mercury emissions in the state.  Pennsylvania is the 2nd highest mercury polluter in the country because of its reliance on plentiful coal resources to generate energy.  This is a positive step forward that will (according to Pennsylvania press release) have a negligible impact on energy producers in the state.

Link to Source Article - Link to PA Press Release

 

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Bruce Springsteen – the all-American singer – with his all-American band will be at Hershey Park on August 19th.  Tickets go on sale this Saturday at 10am at the Giant Center Box Office, Livenation.com, and Ticketmaster locations. 

 

 

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From an article in Gantdaily.com (link).  In Northwestern Pennsylvania, farmers have formed a co-op in conjuntion with Penn State Cooperative Extension to grow a promising source of biofuels – Camelina.  Camelina is a flower that produces a seed that consists of 40% oil compared to soybeans, which are only 20% oil.  A dozen farms have planted 300 acres of the flower, which has a 85-105 day growing cycle – allowing for 2 growing cycles in a year.  Once the crop was proven to be viable in Pennsylvania’s climate – interest was so high amongst farmers that they had to turn people away at the door according to the article.  Montana is the only state with significant acreage with over 10,000 acres planted last year – up from a few hundred acres just a few years ago.  The advantage of Camelina is that it requires relatively little rain (less than 20″/year) and low soil nutrient.  It also has a very low break even cost for a farmer (~$1.23 bushel) compared to similar oil seeds like rapseed/canola, which is 3-4x more expensive to produce.  Roughly – a gallon of oil from Camelina costs $1.00 to produce.  What is even nicer about the product is that it works nicely with existing crop rotations. 

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Pennsylvania produces roughly 55% of the Nation’s crop of fresh mushrooms every year and 78% of those used in processing.  The revenue from button mushrooms is close to $250 million and that doesn’t include the more valuable selection of portabellas, shittakes, and oyster mushrooms.  Amazingly, mushrooms add close to $391 million to Pennsylvania’s economy – with Chester County being the highest producer and garnering the designation as the mushroom capital of the world.  Interestingly, mushroom farms are also a major contributor to composting.  Each year, a half million tons of mulch hay, poultry manure, and other farming byproducts are used as bedding medium for mushrooms.  Article Link, Other Sources.

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Do you know where your fruit and vegetables are grown? Do you know if pesticides cover your fruits and vegetables? In Boyertown, PA, on Saturday mornings, shoppers can find in season fresh fruit and vegetables at the Boyertown Farmers Market located on W. Reading Ave in the parking lot of the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles. The produce and meats come from the local farms so you can actually talk to the people that are providing the food. Some of the items that can be purchased at the Boyertown Farmers Market are in season fruits and vegetables, cage free chicken, grass-fed beef and woodlot pork. All the poultry and meat products are anti-biotic and additional hormone free which means that the meat is tastier and juicier and healthier then factory farm meat products. Since a clean environment is necessary in order to raise healthy animals, the risk of e-coli infection is extremely low. Also, small farmers can’t afford to have “downer cows” or sick animals on their premises because of possible cross contamination with healthy animals. With that in mind, there is no risk of “mad cow disease”. There’s another benefit to buying from local farmers which is less fuel is needed to transport the food. And then there’s the taste… yum… nothing like fresh from the garden. Support your local farmer.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Some “Buy Local” resources:

PASA

Rodale Institute

Rodale Institute Farm Locator

So if you find yourself in the Boyertown area on a Saturday morning, stop by the Boyertown Farmers Market.

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In what might be a very positive sign of good things to come, one of the Philadelphia areas major commercial & industrial real estate companies, Liberty Property Trust, announced this week that it is opening the first LEED registered industrial complex in the Lehigh Valley.  The facility is located in Breinigsville and is the regions “first sustainable-design industrial property.”  The design allows for a 30% reduction in water use and uses natural ventilation for cooling and solar power for hot water.  The facility also has extra recycling dumpsters to promote appropriate disposal of materials.  Liberty Property Trust is based in Malvern, PA and manages over 700 properties across 12 states, with a high concentration of properties in Pennsylvania.  They manage 73 million sq. ft. of commercial and industrial space – if they are dedicated to making more of their facilities sustainable, it will attract high end tenants and cut waste, pollution, water, and energy.  Company Website.

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It was announced today that BMW is going to invest $170 million in 2 distribution facilities in Pennsylvania and Illinois (article link).  BMW is also investing $100 million in its U.S. headquarters in New Jersey and its South Carolina manufacturing facility.  The distribution facility in Pennsylvania will be based in Lower Nazareth and create 118 new jobs.  BMW’s vice president of aftersales, Alan Harris, said that BMW is “very proud that this new distribution center in Lower Nazareth will incorporate state-of-the-art, energy efficient and environmentally friendly features and technologies.”  Link to State of Pennsylvania article.

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State College-based Rex Energy earned $390k in 2002 and few would have thought that it could be closing in on $80 million in revenue within 6 years.  The company does oil and gas exploration in the Illinois Basin (Illinois and Indiana) and in Texas and New Mexico, but has also made some headlines because of successful exploration in West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania.  There is alot of buzz around the company because many people are wondering if its sitting in a prime position to take advantage of the natural gas boom in Pennsylvania.  Perhaps, this is a perfect storm for the company.  Rex Energy had $18M in 1Q08 – a 40% increase over last year with a helping hand from $130 per barrel oil and skyrocketing natural gas costs.  The company had an IPO last year at around $10 per share and the stock has shot-up to $25 per share and Wall Street is pegging the target price at $33.

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There’s a great resource that you can tap into if you want to go for a hike this weekend.  Visit the PA Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources and you can click on you region and they website will tell you of all the hiking trails on your region (within 1 hr. drive approximately).  Link to Map. This is a nice resource because it can be a real pain finding a nice place to hike.  There just aren’t that many great, centralized resources for day hikers.  The website was put together for Hiking Week (ended June 1) – but, you still get the benefit of the map they put together.  Also – heck out the Pennsylvania Trails Association – they, have maps of the major trails, lists of the hiking clubs around the state. 

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If you would like to take a weekend this summer to visit a regional county fair – take a few minutes to check out pafairs.org.  The website is a state-wide association that has dates and locations of over 117 county fairs.  The biggest fairs are the Allentown Fair,  Bloomburg Fair, and York County Fair with each surpassing 500,000 in attendance per year.  The York County Fair is in early September and will feature Brooks & Dunn, ZZ Top, Larry the Cable Guy and Daughtry.  The Allentown Fair is the week before York and will feature Brooks & Dunn, ZZ Top and Toby Keith.  This year’s Bloomsburg Fair its 153rd and will kick-off on Sept. 20th – the entertainment is still not set – but, will feature similar oustanding artists.  Other large fairs that are excellent at the Ephrata Fair and the West End Fair.

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There was an article in Earth Times today (link) that highlights the progress in the re-establishment of Peregrine falcons to Pennsylvania.  The falcons were wiped out in the 1950′s largely because of DDT.  The return of the falcon has been very difficult in part because the young falcons are easy prey for owls.  Since the 1990′s, 2 dozen or so nests were successfully established on bridges and buildings – out of the reach of owls, but only 3 nests have been established on cliffs – a more hospitable and natural environment for the birds.  All 3 nests are in Lycoming County in north-central Pennsylvania in the Susquehanna area.  In edition to the falcons, the Game Commission also re-introduced the Fisher – which had been erased from PA in the early 1900′s because of large-stand timber cutting and unregulated trapping.  The fishers were reintroduced in the 1990s and have established a sustainable, breeding population. 

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Do you enjoy biking, hiking, walking or running? There’s a database that is available that has dirt and gravel trails mapped. Currently there are only a few States that have the trails marked and Pennsylvania is one of these States. So far, Center County and Berks County are the only two places in Pennsylvania that have mapped trails.

This website, Dirt Roads Database, is a “wiki” type database so members can map trails as they are discovered. You can even add comments about the trail that you mapped. If you find yourself on some interesting trail that you want to share with others, you can map it at Dirt Roads Database.

“Happy trails to you.”

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According to an article on Innovation Philadelphia, there are over $500 million in film projects planned in the Philadelphia area over the next 3 years.  Pennsylvania boosted tax incentives for film making last year and mega movies have responded by sending more business to Pennsylvania.  Local resident and favorite M. Night Shyamalan is currently filming The Last Airbender in the region.  The comedy, Tenure, set to star Luke Wlson and Gretchen Mol, started filming on the Main Line in April.  In Old City, The Dream of the Romans is being shot, starring Jeff Daniels and Lauren Graham.  To add to the list, the drama Happy Tears, starring Demi Moore and Parker Posey, also started filming in the area and the move Transformers 2 is set to kick-off filming later this year.  Philadelphia offers a colorful back drop for movies without some of the hassles of filming in New York or other popular cities.  The city has “old” charm and has the attractive everyday hustle of a vibrant community.  Having Pennsylvania as the background in movies and TV shows boosts the local economy – local talent is called upon to create sets, fill in as extras, run equipment, and work with local businesses to facilitate operations.  It is also a great driver of tourism among other things.

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There’s an article in State College based Centre Daily Times (link) that points out some of the developments in natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania.  Since 2000 – the number of wells drilled has gone from 1,350 to 4,180 in 2006.  According to the article – there was a 21% increase in the number of gas and oil drilling permits processed in 2006 over the year.  A lot of the drilling is a result of high natural gas prices making it sensible to shell out more money to drill through the Marcellus layer of shell that runs through Pennsylvania into New York and Ohio.  The shale layer has created a type of seal – trapping vast amounts of natural gas below it (almost 200 trillion cubic feet by some estimates), but also creating a formidable barrier (in both cost and difficulty) for drillers as it is hundreds of feet thick.  Pennsylvania may regain its reputation for being a key energy producing state that was partially lost with the rise of oil as the key energy commodity in the U.S.  Individual land owners are already taking phone calls from gas companies – some offering as much as $2k per acre per year to drill on their property.  That seems like a small price, but consider that it takes anywhere from $800k to $3M to drill through the shale. With careful and considerate extraction, this could very well be a gift to Pennsylvania. 

Link to another article on Penn State Live. Link.

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Lee Stoetzel bases his studio workshop out of Chester Springs, Pa.  He is best known for his full-size wood replicas of everyday things…like a jeep or a computer.  The patience and persistenct to create one of his pieces is incredible.  Artist’s Website.

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Since they were established in 2004 through Governor Ed Rendell’s PA Economic Development Program, Keystone Economic Zones have aided the creation of 187 early-stage companies according to Pittsburgh Tribune Review article.  The program was intended to promote economic development and attract technology companies and start-ups to the State of Pennsylvania.  It is also aimed at keeping college graduates within the state.  Companies who participate receive grants from the State and compete for $25M in tax incentives each year.  According to some measures – the program has resulted in over a 100%  rise in Pennsylvania start-ups.  Check out the article for more details.

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It was announced earlier this Spring that Coskata, a cellulosic-ethanol start-up, will build a 40,000 gal per year prototype in Madison, Pa.  A small, but notable win for those trying to establish Pennsylvania as a healthy location for alternative energy companies.  Coskata received an investment from an unlikely source this year – GM purchased part of the company in January.  GM obviously liked what they saw.  Coskata has an innovative technique for producing ethanol – they burn agriculture waste, wood, old tires, and other materials – the gas output is then converted to ethanol using bacteria.  What results is ethanol at about $1 per gallon – much cheaper and efficient than processes using corn.  Alternative energy companies have been booming because of the high price of oil and gas – suddenly, it is now cheaper to use alternatives.  In 2007, over $5B of venture capital money went to alternative energy companies…a huge amount that reminds you of 1999 and web start-ups.  Ed Rendell is trying to push the Pennsylvania Legislature to pass an energy independence bill, which is loaded with incentives to consumers and alternative energy companies - he certainly has ample backing from a number of peope with gas being over $4 per gallon.  Link to Article.

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Despite the rough patch in housing and financial services – Pennsylvania added close to 16,000 jobs in the past year.  According to this article - Pennsylvania added jobs in healthcare and education, business and professional services, and even manufacturing.  According to the article, it is the 94th consecutive month that Pennsylvania added manufacturing positions – which is incredible…

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They didn’t name Pennsylvania the keystone because of its importance to national distribution – but…they could have.  PA is becoming a hot bed for state-of-the-art distribution operations – drive down I 80 or  I 76 and you’ll see new mega distibution centers popping-up.  Amazon.com just announced a new 600,000 sq. ft facility near Hazelton that will emplyee ~1200 Pennsylvanians.  Although they are sometimes eye soars if constructed in the wrong location, they are keeping the economy vibrant.  Distribution facilities often attract company regional headquarters – adding to the diversity of employment. 

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This isn’t something that you see very often – a Collegeville company, Superior Tube Company, Inc. announced in February that it is going to stop using highly toxic trichloroethylene (TCE) in its plant. TCE is known to cause cancer in humans and often contaminates water supplies and the air downwind from a facility. Superior Tube, the 4th largest TCE polluter in the U.S., was under no legal obligations, but was under pressure from citizens and environmental group, PennFuture.  The DEP had previously struck down emission controls on the grounds that it wasn’t cost effective.  PennFuture engaged with company Matson & Associates to demonstrate that there were several cost-effective ways of reducing TCE pollution.  The win should put pressure on another regional TCE polluter who is listed as the 5th largest such polluter in the country.  If the pollution controls stay in place and they are indeed cost effective – what a win for everyone.

Link to Press Release.

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If yor’re the type of person that likes locally grown sweet corn, watermellon , fresh berries, mushrooms and the other goodies that you can buy at local farm markets, take a moment to download the 2008 Pennsylvania Farm Market Guide.  The guide lists farm markets by county and provides the location and hours of operation as well as types of produce and other products sold.  What a fun way to spend a Saturday afternoon sometime this summer.

http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us/agriculture/cwp/view.asp?Q=149138&A=390

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The life blood of of the economy is entrepreneurs and small business and the life blood of entrepreneurs and small businesses is capital.  So the recent news that PA is #6 in healthcare VC funding is extraordinary positive.  Think Silcon Valley.  Think start-ups/IPOs and better incomes.  Think innovation.  Think Kobs.  In a country torn by the exodus of manufacturing PA is making the transition and actually doing a good job at it.

 

http://www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/stories/2008/05/12/daily36.html

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I didn’t notice that the Liquor Control Board was making too many changes to the way Pennsylvanians buy beer and wine, but I see today that there was a court challenge to Sheetz being able to sell beer at some of their stores.  Apparently, the LCB went ahead and granted them a license (or tried to) and distributors got upset  about a potential loss of revenue.  If you aren’t familar with Sheetz its a WaWa like convenience store that would normally be allowed to sell beer products in most states.  Interestingly, the same article references the granting of several licenses for Wegman’s to sell glasses of wine in 6 of their cafes.  Wow!  Does that mean I can drink wine and shop all in the same trip.  Changes are afoot.

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/fn/5782246.html

 

 

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