Scientific device maker slated as first tenant of $60M industrial project
By Brian Pedersen, March 5, 2019 – Lehigh Valley Business
A manufacturer in the scientific instrumentation realm is the first tenant slated to occupy a $60 million development on 260 acres near Pennridge Airport.
Pennridge Development Enterprises is developing The Pennridge Airport Business Park, a group of six buildings in Perkasie planned for land next to the airport.
Developer Robert Brink described the first tenant as a manufacturer in the Bucks County area with another location in New Jersey that would consolidate its two locations into one when it opens at the business park. Brink said he did not sign a lease yet and declined to disclose the company but said it would occupy 30,000 square feet of a 100,000-square-foot-building expected to open in July.
It is the first of six proposed buildings for the business park, aimed at attracting manufacturing companies, particularly those in the pharmaceutical and scientific instrumentation industry, he said. He described the buildings as not particularly suited for warehousing or distribution since they do not offer immediate access to major highways.
“That’s the kind of interest we are getting,” Brink said. “Manufacturing is what we are getting.”
He said he’s hoping to leverage the adjacent mid-size corporate airport he owns to attract business.
He has 50 tenants at the airport, mainly private plane owners and a few corporate-owned planes, he said.
Brink described the perfect tenant as a high-tech, biotech firm in the pharmaceutical field, but one that would use both the airport and the industrial park.
Stephen Barth, president and founder of Barth Consulting Group of Doylestown, said one asset to the economic development occurring in Perkasie is to have an executive jet airport as part of this industrial business park, particularly for attracting manufacturers.
“It allows us to court national and international tenants to the site,” Barth said. “If you have hundreds of employees working on equipment with the asset of the airport, they can bring in executives, customers … sales people from here can fly out.”
Barth is the economic development consultant for Perkasie and helped the borough start a revitalization effort over the past few years that led to the construction of hundreds of new homes, in addition to building renovation projects throughout the borough.
As part of the decision process in choosing a site, many companies also want to know where their employees would live, Barth added.
When Perkasie officials reviewed the comprehensive plan for the borough several years ago, they decided to move future industrial uses out of the borough and into the industrial park.
“The thought was that having those new industrial-type buildings there would hopefully bring in high-paying jobs,” said Andrea Coaxum, borough manager. “Based on the location, there is not going to be a lot of truck traffic. It’s not an ideal space for warehousing but it’s an ideal space for research and high tech development.”
As an additional amenity, Brink also proposed a hotel and brewpub as part of the project.
Though the development is moving forward, Brink admitted the business park has faced challenges.
“To open a greenfield like this is expensive,” Brink said.
The project required a lot of infrastructure and the Pennridge School District denied the approval for a tax incentive program through the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act, or LERTA, he said.
“It’s a shame,” Brink said. “The school district rejected it. I don’t think they understand the value of it. They have the mistaken impression that tax abatement goes to the developer. It goes to the tenant who’s trying to get started. That tax abatement helps him get started.”
According to minutes from a Pennridge School District finance committee meeting on Aug. 14, Megan Banis-Clemens, the board president, said the district’s attorney does not believe the project qualifies for LERTA status. She asked the board if any other board members had any interest in moving forward with granting LERTA status, but none did.
While the loss of the LERTA does not stop the project, it does make it harder because a potential tenant might go to a community that offers a tax incentive program such as that, he said.
Meanwhile, state incentives such as tax credits for job creation, research and development and new equipment purchases could apply to the site, Coaxum said.
Brink said his second building is pad-ready, meaning that it’s ready for construction to quickly start once the first building is done.
Part of the future development is in neighboring East Rockhill Township.
Brink said his company has owned the property and surrounding area since 1980.
“Given the market for industrial property, I thought this was the appropriate time for the company to invest in some industrial property,” Brink said. “We’ve made some significant improvements to the airport over the years.”