The Greater Berks Development Fund has purchased two parcels along Route 61 in Ontelaunee Township totaling about 122 acres, with plans to have the site developed into an industrial park.

The land, which sits at the southeast corner of Routes 61 and 73, was purchased for $9 million on Dec. 12 from F&G family Farm LP, according to county records. The two parcels, which straddle Wiley's Lane, are located across Route 73 from Schuylkill Valley High School.

A total of $4.5 million for the purchase was provided by the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority. The rest is being financed through Mid Penn Bank.

According to information provided by the Greater Reading Chamber Alliance, of which the Greater Berks Development Fund is a part, the site was bought to "address the community's need for more shovel-ready industrial sites." The plan is to develop the land for industrial buildings of varying sizes.

Ed Swoyer, president of the Greater Berks Development Fund, said Chamber Alliance officials had been evaluating the site for the past two years. He said its location made it quite attractive.

"Fortunately, we were able to enter into agreements with the prior owners," he said Friday.

Swoyer said there have already been discussions with potential developers for the site, and that he hopes to have a deal with at least one wrapped up before the end of 2020.

"The sooner the better, obviously," he said. "The intent is to develop it as soon as possible."

Swoyer said the preference would be to sell parcels to developers, but that a deal to lease land is also possible. Those details, he said, will be worked out during negotiations with potential developers.

"Each individual prospect is unique," he said.

Swoyer said the land purchase is part of the Chamber Alliance's mission to support business in Berks County.

"The GRCA is focused on really trying to assist business in any way they can," he said.

Fuel for funding

In this case, the GRCA was able to secure financing for speculative development that might be difficult for an individual developer to obtain, Swoyer said. The Chamber Alliance has also been using its marketing arm to reach out to potential developers.

"It really comes down to the GRCA board having confidence in the economy of Berks County," Swoyer said. "The more sites we have available the more likely we are to continue to grow and attract businesses."

Swoyer said the development of industrial sites on the land will be a boon for the local tax base, as well as for residents looking for jobs.

"The creation or retention of employment opportunities is really critical," he said. "With that amount of acreage you can really locate a significant building with hundreds of employees."

The Chamber Alliance previously purchased 22 acres at the northwest corner of Route 61 and Route 73, some of which is now home to a recently opened Rutter's convenience store.

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