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Pocono report on highs, lows of 2020

To say that 2020 was a difficult year for business, health and Monroe County residents would simply be an understatement.

Last week, The Pocono Chamber of Commerce presented the annual Report to Business Program.

Monroe County business community leaders reported many positive moves forward despite the pandemic.

“I want to thank everyone for being here and also to say the Pocono Chamber of Commerce does an incredible job, and even though 2020 was an incredibly difficult year, the chamber team was there day in and day out to provide and sometimes to just be a friend,” said Chris Barrett, president/CEO of Pocono Mountains Visitors Bureau.

Barrett addressed tourism in the Poconos.

“Believe it or not, it’s a tale of the best of times and the worst of times,” Barrett said.

The bureau markets tourism in the Poconos as well as outside. Money is provided through a hotel tax, which was 20 percent lower than 2019 levels, according to the statistics.

“We had originally predicted in March, it would be off by about 50 to 75 percent, much less than what we had predicted and forecast.”

“Kalahari just undertook a significant expansion and added convention space, which really, over time will be a game changer for us in the sense that we’ll be able to compete for group business that would normally go to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh,” Barrett said.

There are major population areas which we all know, they will continue to be drivers for us, they have been so far, you know since we’ve advanced from the yellow to green phase in June and we expect that to continue through 2021.

“We don’t expect to recover for at least another two years, maybe even three to get close to where it had been in 2019, so we keep our eyes on that.”

Although Monroe County businesses have taken a hit, Barrett is sure that as the pandemic slows the Pocono Mountains will return to the great place people love to come to.

Real estate report

“The restaurant business has been destroyed,” said Robert Sterrett, a local broker and owner of RE/Max Commercial Partners.

Restaurants work on the 25 percent margin profit. Typically, when you’re only allowed to have 75 percent occupancy it is bad, and when it’s 50 percent you’re dying, he said.

Sterrett predicts 20 percent of the restaurants will close, and that it’s going to be a tough thing to understand in the commercial market up here.

“Small businesses, service industries have held their own and everybody has adjusted and is trying to survive,” he said.

Economic development

“I think that we’ve been somewhat surprised in regard to the activity that we’ve gone through recently from people from outside of our marketplace looking into our marketplace for development opportunities,” said Chuck Leonard, executive director of Pocono Mountain Economic Development Council.

An example is Medline Inc. in Blakeslee, a distributor and manufacturer of all medical supplies and manufacturer of products for burn units.

Although this facility right now is essentially a distribution operation, Leonard said the company has indicated it may do some manufacturing of all-weather insulated panels and bring equipment into the former Union Metal building, a 150,000-square-foot building in Stroud Township.

“We also got some new construction, all three of these projects were developed in parks that were funded with the assistance of the Monroe County Commissioners and, as a result of these projects PMEDC was able to repatriate about $2.5 million dollars back to the county coffers,” he said.

The Pathways program is a critical program in regard to creating workforce for the future.

For more information, check out the PMEDC website at www.pmedc.com.

Commissioners report

It’s time to get started on our building project here in Monroe County. We have a large project for a new courthouse, said Commissioner John Christy.

“We’re going to be renovating our annex and the original courthouse, and this is almost a three-year process. One of the things that we had to look at was what do with the people in the courthouse, while we’re doing this,” he said.

Studies were done on all the buildings, and the cost would be between $10 million and $15 million in the next five years.

“The first part of the project is the building of the new courthouse and will have six courtrooms in it. It will also have new facilities for the sheriff,” Christy said.

One of the most important elements that has to be in place when the temporary move to the school takes place is a system that will allow the courthouse and the employees at Ramsey to communicate with each other, according to the commissioner.

The Ramsey School on Sixth Street will be where they move the courthouse workers to while renovating their areas, but first a lot of things have to come into play, Christy said. For more information on the progress of the construction phases, go to: www.monroecountypa.gov/Dept/Commissioners.

Kalahari Resorts and Conventions features Pennsylvania's Largest Indoor Waterpark. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO