Editorial: The road of economic opportunity
● By Richard Gaw
Route 1 snakes through the municipalities of southern Chester County – from Chadds Ford to Nottingham – like a center spine of connectivity that binds us all together. It can take us from Kennett Square to Oxford in less than 20 minutes and West Grove to Unionville in less than ten. It enables us to conserve both time, fuel and patience as we live our daily lives. In recent years, it has also become the tendril thread of economic opportunity. The Economic Development Partners Initiative, in cooperation with the Chester County Economic Development Council, continues to expand its efforts to cultivate a business culture along the Route 1 corridor.
Their initiatives are simple: to promote Route 1 as a viable location for businesses to make a home. The reasons are many: One, Route 1 is situated less than three hours from New York City, an hour from Philadelphia, and 30 minutes from the port city of Wilmington. Two, from Chadds Ford to Nottingham, Route 1 connects bedroom communities with small towns and villages, and agriculture with a respected appreciation of history. Three, although Chester County is the wealthiest county in Pennsylvania, opening a business along Route 1 will enable several municipalities to kick start their sluggish economies by increasing their tax and employment base, while offering these towns the opportunity to have the funds to change their infrastructure.
Supported by the ideas of real estate developers, engineers and architects, the Initiative is slowly, project by project, business by business, succeeding. Chatham Financial, Dansko, Genesis HealthCare, Exelon, Tasty Baking and Herr Foods employ thousands of Chester County residents, and the impact of their presence in southern Chester County has helped draw smaller businesses – shops, cafes, restaurants and performance venues – that have helped revitalize town centers.
In many ways, the Initiative is just beginning. Last year, Dansko opened a 205,000-square-foot warehouse in Jennersville. Lincoln University has been the recipient of extensive renovations and construction of new academic centers and a state-of-the-art football stadium. Right now, the finishing touches are being applied to the new site of Victory Brewing Company's soon-to-opened location in the heart of Kennett Square, and Chester County Hospital is building the Jenners Village Medical Campus, a new, 45-acre medical facility at the intersection of routes 1 and 796.
Southern Chester County is bound together by generations of agricultural progress, by the bond of communities, by cultural institutions and an appreciation of the history that came here before us. There is a common highway we all share as well, and it continues to be the centerpiece of economic opportunity – some of it achieved, and yet still so much more left to achieve.