Lancaster Economic Development and Agriculture
With a history spanning almost 50 years of promoting, planning and funding economic development projects in Lancaster County, the Economic Development Company (EDC) of Lancaster County and its subsidiary organization, EDC Finance Corporation, actively work to provide experience, vision and resources to secure Lancaster County’s future economic prosperity.
In 2005, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania created the First Industries Fund program providing EDC with resources to make agriculture a priority for its economic development agenda. EDC personnel were often confronted with the question — “Isn’t economic development anti-agriculture and responsible for construction on valuable Lancaster County farmland?”
EDC, to many farmers’ initial surprise, is actually proagriculture and has directed millions of dollars directly to projects that keep Lancaster farms economically viable and continually productive.
Since 2005, economic development efforts in Lancaster County have directly enhanced 100 projects by providing capital used for everything from first time farm buyer projects to robotic milking equipment purchases. Last year was EDC’s busiest ag economic development year to date, with more than $12 million of financing being provided to 38 projects that invested more than $32 million in new agricultural endeavors.
Through the First Industries Fund, EDC has provided numerous loans in an amount up to $200,000 that currently offer a 3 percent fixed interest rate (2 percent if the farm is preserved or in an ag security area) for a term of up to 15 years. These loans are almost always subordinate to primary bank financing and have allowed many farmers to purchase additional farmland, construct new production buildings, and take on needed upgrades, all while providing a low fixed interest rate hedge to compliment their primary financing. Additional funding is also available under a separate component of First Industries Fund for 50 percent of new machinery and equipment costs (including dairy cows) within the same interest rate structure.
Although not a direct loan through the organization, EDC continues to promote the Next Generation Farmer Loan Program that allows a first time farm purchaser to obtain bank financing at a tax exempt interest rate, saving the new farm owner 20-30 percent in interest expenses over the course of the loan. EDC assisted Lancaster County farmers in obtaining approvals for all of the $3 million in Next Generation Farmer program funds available statewide in 2007 and has nearly doubled that committed amount in 2008.
Indirectly, EDC’s strategic goal of creating an attractive and vibrant urban environment in Lancaster County helps to promote new real estate development efforts in Lancaster City and the neighboring boroughs, which reduces future development pressures on valuable surrounding farmland. Projects like the Armstrong World Industries plant redevelopment, Auntie Anne’s Lancaster City headquarters project, and the newly announced Turkey Hill Experience project in Columbia Borough, are all examples of EDC assisted projects that saved green space by focusing on urban core redevelopment.
For more information, contact EDC Finance Corporation at (717) 397-4046 or visit their website http://www.edcfinancecorp.com/Contact/
This post is excerpted from a 1/03/2009 article by Lyle Hosler, Project Manager of the EDC that appeared in Lancaster Farming.
Visit the Lancaster Farming website at: http://www.lancasterfarming.com/