Cocalico leaders briefed by economic professionals

By on November 2, 2016

Lisa Riggs and John Biemiller, president and executive vice president, respectively, of the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County, gave a presentation of local economic progress at the Cocalico Regional Leaders meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 25.

The EDC stated mission is to “Enhance the economic well-being of Lancaster County by bringing together business resources, capital and government for selective, measurable and sustainable growth.”

“Our core business for the county is business retention, business expansion, and business recruitment,” said Riggs.

As many residents who want big-box stores to come in the area, there are those who want to keep quaint, and they want to listen to both sides, Riggs and Biemiller said.

“We have one area focus which is redevelopment, working with the cities and boroughs and the concentrated areas where infrastructure exists and where density of buildings exist that is absolutely an important part of what we’re doing because we strongly believe in the reuse and recycling of properties,” said Riggs.

The word, “growth” brings up feelings of anxiety for both recyclers of property and those supporting sprawl growth.

“As we talk to businesses who are looking to invest in Lancaster County, our primary job is to figure out how to maximize those 33,000 acres the best that we can,” said Riggs. “And there’s room, we still have room for growth, but how much room, how much time?”

In a room full of many lifelong Cocalico residents, Riggs words of “outsiders” is growing on leaders’ ears.

“Right now, we’re dealing with a number of manufacturing companies that are looking at Lancaster County, local companies that are trying to expand, and other companies that are looking at this area,” said Riggs. “Food processing happens to be a niche right now that seems to have some particular momentum. We’re struggling to find sites that are going to meet those needs.”

No matter what “side” the leaders are on, Riggs words were delivered with an underlying message of “this is going to take a lot of thought, work, and money.”

“So part of what we’re trying to assess is how important is that to this community?” said Riggs.

“We are as interested in land use as we are in infrastructure,” said Riggs. “Very interested in the connection between transportation and land use and how do we maximize our current road networks and figure out how do we build capacity?”

“EDC has, as John said, a long history of development, this sort of strategic analysis–long-term thinking is a new area for us,” “We’re in listening mode.”

It was time for leaders to comment.

“We like to see that type of development, but when you bring businesses in, then you need houses for the people who work there,” said Douglas Mackley, East Cocalico Township supervisor chairman. “Boroughs have limits.”

Mackley mentioned UGI might be coming to Cocalico area with 300 to 400 jobs.

“We’re not that far from Valley Forge from this turnpike, the cost of business down there is a whole lot more than doing it up here and there’s rumors flying around that there are businesses that want to come up here,” said Mackley. “Lancaster County Planning Commission, they are on a mission to provide housing. There’s not enough housing for certain areas of people.”

Randy Good, Adamstown council president, concurred.

“We now have all the highway infrastructure, we have the turnpike, we now have 222, and if you locate here, you can work in Harrisburg, Allentown, Reading, Hershey, King of Prussia, Lancaster, easily,” he said.

“Our Cocalico School District is now one of the top rated schools in the county. All of us need to realize that there are a lot of people looking at this area and saying: ‘Hey, that’s a great place to go,’ especially with two professionals in the family working in different places. When you look at the jobs they have available to them within 45 minutes, it is phenomenal.”

Good noted the need for an adequate mix in development as a result.

“Whether we like it or not, industry is going to be looking here, commercial is going to be looking here, and people are going to relocate residentially,” he said.

Some wondered if Cocalico could be the next Philadelphia suburb?

“We’re seeing an influx of not only good people, but bad people,” said David Matz, Adamstown council vice president. “By our constant trying to sell this area, bad people come too, so that in itself is going to drive up our police costs and other things.

“Sometimes people that come from outside areas, they expect more amenities from their local government than we like to provide. We’ve had some at Adamstown that come from New York and other places and they expected us to do things, and come up and shovel their own snow, so bringing new people into an area doesn’t always make for a sweet time.”

Riggs agreed there are additional issues to consider.

“I will admit we’re not as focused on the residential side or the community and policing, and fire and some of those other things,” said Riggs. “It’s really important for each community to have a clear sense of what its plans, it’s values and it’s longer-term goals are and you try to align your goals to that.”

Michael Hession, Denver borough manager, questioned how the area should market itself to align with the planners’ and developers’ visions.

“What are some of these things we should be doing to get our vision out there,” said Hession. “Maybe it’s somebody else to fill that vacant building on Second Street that isn’t high on the radar of anybody else.”

The second visitor with a presentation was Mike Wetherhold of the Adamstown Area Library board. He updated the leaders for the renovation plan of the library on Main Street. The amount raised is about $600,000. A fundraising dinners and auction sponsored by the Friends of the Adamstown Area Library will be held at Foxchase Golf Course on Nov. 12.

“We will not start the project until we’re sure we can complete it,” said Wetherhold. “For people making pledges, we are putting that money into separate bank account, and if this would fall on its face, the money would be returned to people who pledged it.”

The last 15 minutes of the meeting, a leader from each municipality recapped information which has already been reported.

Michele Walter welcomes your comments at

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