Like their peers around the U.S., local businesses were battered in 2021 by inflation, labor shortages and supply chain glitches – not to mention the persistent challenge of navigating Covid-19.
- But there also were ups and downs unique to Central Pennsylvania.
Like what: On the upside, a new hospital opened — and another is on the way — while a former pharma plant is back in operation.
- In March, New York-based Plug Power said it plans to start building a so-called green hydrogen plant in Martic Township, Lancaster County. Green hydrogen — which can be used in vehicle fuel cells — is hydrogen produced from renewable sources like hydropower
- In May, California-based PSC Biotech transferred contract manufacturing operations from a facility in Wisconsin to the former Unilife facility in Conewago Township, investing about $22 million and creating 100 jobs. Unilife had gone bankrupt in 2017.
- In October, Penn State Health Hampden Medical Center opened its doors in Cumberland County. Penn State Health, based in Dauphin County. plans to open another hospital this year in Lancaster County.
- And all year long, developers pitched apartment projects. Lancaster has been a magnet for multifamily development. But it is not the only area attracting investors.
- Among the largest projects is the $800 million Freedom Square mixed-use development slated for a 460-acre tract in Conewago Township, York County.
What were the downs: Two of the region’s biggest companies announced they were picking up stakes, and a well-known textile manufacturer shut down.
- In June, North York-based Perform Group LLC closed and filed for bankruptcy, idling more than 150 workers and ending a run of more than half a century for one of the region’s last remaining textile manufacturers. Its former plants are now up for sale.
- In September, Rite Aid and Harsco both said they plan to move their main offices from Cumberland County to Philadelphia. Both have deep roots in Central Pennsylvania.
- Rite Aid has said it plans to move in the first half of 2022. Harsco plans to clear out by early 2023.
What are the toss-ups: Several stories in 2021 covered events likely to see some kind of resolution in 2022, including the legal fight over federal Covid-19 vaccine mandates and an investor’s push for the sale of a regional bank.
- In July, New York-based hedge fund Driver Management began pressing for a sale of Codorus Valley Bancorp, the York County-based parent of PeoplesBank.
- The hedge fund’s campaign continued through the summer and fall, with the investor most recently taking issue with by-law changes by Codorus Valley that Driver claims will make it harder to nominate new board members. The changes include moving up nomination deadlines.
- “It couldn’t be a more lame attempt to jam us up,” said Abbott Cooper, the head of Driver Management.
- In a press release this month, Codorus Valley described the changes as “promoting industry leading corporate governance practices,” adding: “The Company and Board will continue to maintain an open dialogue with shareholders.”
- A bank spokesperson declined to comment further.
- In September, President Joe Biden unveiled a series of vaccine mandates. Legal challenges quickly followed, with the U.S. Supreme Court set to hear arguments on Jan. 7 over a vaccine-or-test mandate for firms with at least 100 employees.
- Plans for tolling motorists that cross the Interstate 83 bridge in the capital region also are likely to continue attracting attention — and fire — in 2022.
What about elections: The coming year will usher in a new governor for Pennsylvania. After two terms, Gov. Tom Wolf is barred from running again.
- Attorney General Josh Shapiro will be the likely Democratic standard-bearer.
- A host of Republicans are vying for the GOP nomination. They are scheduled to meet for their first debate on Jan. 5 at Dickinson College in Carlisle.
- Some Central PA voters also may see new names on the ballot this spring for state and federal legislative races, provided officials can agree on a new map laying out legislative districts.
The bottom line: The Covid-19 pandemic shows little signs of loosening its hold on the health care system and the economy at large.
- Encouraging signs for 2022 include the approval of new pills to treat the disease, though there are caveats related to supply and effectiveness.
- Inflation, meanwhile, shows little signs of abating despite the likelihood of higher interest rates next year.
- And if anyone has a secret to solving the labor shortage, they are probably keeping it to themselves.