Bethel Industrial Park clears milestone

Groundbreaking is held at Berks Park 78.

A groundbreaking ceremony marking the commencement of infrastructure construction was held Thursday at Berks Park 78 in Bethel Township.

It marked a climax of sorts for the 10-year effort to create an industrial and warehousing complex in Berks County that will allow businesses to build or to lease space that will be constructed to suit their individual needs.

Thomas C. McKeon, executive director of the Berks County Industrial Development Authority, said the impetus for the entity sprang from the 2001 Leak-Goforth Co. study, which was commissioned to make an assessment of the county’s industrial-site needs.

“That said that Berks was at a disadvantage because it didn’t have shovel-ready sites,” McKeon said. “So we feel we have fulfilled the mission we were given way back then.”

BCIDA purchased the property in September 2004 for $6.3 million

The development, just off Interstate 78 along Route 501 in Bethel, has entailed about $43.5 million in federal, state and local funding, McKeon said.

He estimated that it will provide a minimum of 1,000 jobs.

The park also will necessitate the reconstruction of the I-78/Route 501 interchange, which in itself represents an investment of $23.4 million in highway funds, he said.

Infrastructure construction will include improvements to 501 and the building of access roads throughout the 323-acre site, as well as the construction of an entrance.

The next phase will include construction of a water tank, pump house and connections from wells for the park’s fire-suppression system. A sewage pump station will also be built and traffic lights installed.

Metropolitan Edison Co. will provide power to the site. McKeon said the company is purchasing rights of way for that part of the project.

McKeon said there has been interest expressed in the location from developers and end users, including some Fortune 100 companies.

“We are seeing some companies consolidating warehouses, and imports are up, and that drives demand for warehouse space,” he said. “We’re starting to see the effects of that. Our advantage is that we’re not like a build-to-suit developer, where the developer says, ‘I own the land and I am going to build the building for you.’ We’re very flexible.”

With its optimal location near a major interstate highway, McKeon said the park should be attractive to any number of potential tenants.

“This is a very big deal,” McKeon said of the park, noting the jobs that it is expected will be created and the tax dollars it will generate for Bethel, Berks and the Tulpehocken School District. “That’s what you need for the future. And it’s really for the benefit of the entire county.”

via The Reading Eagle

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