By Beth Brelje

Pocono Record Writer

MATAMORAS - The forecast is sunny for job growth in Pike County, according to information shared Wednesday at a Pike County Economic Summit held at the Riverview Inn in Matamoras.

In the past year, municipalities and the Pike County Economic Development Authority have worked to create more than 600 jobs coming to the area, Pike County Commissioner Matt Osterberg said.

And more jobs are expected.

The 600 jobs come from three major projects in Pike County.

The expansion of LP Cylinders in Shohola will provide an additional 35 jobs.

The sale of the business park in Blooming Grove Township to gun maker Kahr Arms is expected close in December.

Kahr Arms will bring an additional 200 jobs, with hopes for more. The presence of Kahr Arms could bring related industry and more jobs to the business park.

"No doubt people they are associated with will want to come to the business park and work with them," said Realtor Davis Chant, who worked with Kahr Arms on its move to Pennsylvania from New York.

Econo-Pak, one of the nation’s largest food repackaging firms, is buying the former Altec Lansing building in Milford Township, bringing 400 more jobs to the community.

Osterberg says part of the success in attracting businesses to Pike County has been the willingness of state agencies and municipalities to fast-track the approval processes. For

example Econo-Pak, started discussions in June and is already approved to move forward.

More job creation is on the horizon.

In Dingman Township, supervisors are working to redevelop the Sherlyn Motel into an indoor shooting gallery. Supervisors there are also working with a developer interested in locating a supermarket in Dingman, Osterberg said.

In Lackawaxen Township, Woodloch Resort is building a grocery convenience market on Route 590.

In Delaware Township, Dingmans  Medical is in the process of a $2.5 million expansion that will bring some 25 professional jobs to Pike.

In Westfall Township, plans are being finalized on the new CNG fueling station that will sell compressed natural gas at the current Go 24 gas station. This will provide fuel for natural gas- powered vehicles.

Osterberg said he is meeting with firms that want to relocate in Pike County. One company, interested in Milford Township, would bring an additional 50 jobs he said. A business has discussed developing a new medical facility in Lehman Township. Another firm is researching bringing a facility with 50 to 60 engineering jobs to Pike, Osterberg said.

And an announcement is expected soon about a medical facility that plans to relocate to the Milford region, bringing more jobs.

"Things are happening," Osterberg said. "I see a bright future for Pike."

But there are some problems.

Industry needs central sewage and water and Pike County has few properties with that infrastructure in place. Businesses in a hurry to find land can go to Orange County, N.Y., and find land with that infrastructure ready to develop.

That is something the economic development authority is working on by exploring the placement of these services on Route 6/209 between Milford and Westfall.

Some, but not all municipalities, have agreed to enact local tax incentives to draw businesses. The authority hopes to expand this incentive to all municipalities.

Job creation is important in Pike County because the majority of residents commute out of the area for work, Osterberg said.

With few local employment options, families separate when children graduate and move away to find work.

Osterberg estimated a cost of $150,000 per student over 12 years in school. A class with 400 graduating students represents some $60 million in investment, which mostly leaves the county after graduation.

"At this time, we do not even give them an opportunity to stay," Osterberg said. "But what I see is a new, bright future where development of new businesses will give this county new life."