SHAWNEE-ON-DELAWARE, PA-Two critical components of the state- and federally funded $40 million Wall Street West initiative have taken place. Wall Street West, conceived in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, is designed to create emergency back-up facilities throughout Northeastern Pennsylvania for Manhattan’s financial companies.

The state has selected Broomfield, CO-based Level 3 Communications to create a fiber optic link between New York City and nine Pennsylvania counties. It will begin with parcels in Northampton and Monroe counties. As a result, the locally based Synchrium Group is set to break ground on its first building in Penn Regional Business Center this summer.

Lawrence Simon, chairman and CEO of LTS Builders, based here in Monroe County, is also chairman of Synchrium, a name he coined by combining “synchronicity” and “business continuum,” he says, because PRBC is being “created to ensure business continuity.” PRBC is a multi-phase project with capacity for more than three million sf of specialty office facilities.

The opening phase is a 271,290-sf building on Rte. 209. Citing non-disclosure agreements, he declines to discuss costs, rental rates or prospective clients, but tells the properties will be leased, and the configuration of buildings is likely to be a mix of multi-tenant and single-tenant facilities. “Build-to-suits are also a possibility, if a client, such as data center, for example, has special requirements,” he says.

The center is “optimally compliant with federal government and securities industry guidelines and recommendations for business continuity for New York- and New Jersey-based financial services firms,” he adds. The federal regulators include the Securities and Exchange Commission, Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Reserve Board and US Congress.

Among other transportation and infrastructure requirements, the Wall Street West guidelines call for locations of at least 50 miles, but no more than 125 miles from New York City; dual fiber paths; a power grid that is separate from New York and serviced by two different power companies; a back-up power generating source; a separate watershed, and access to a labor force with the skill required to operate these special facilities.

The latter is being implemented by a $15-million grant from the US Department of Labor under the Workforce Innovation Regional Economic Development Program and provided to Pennsylvania. Catherine Bolton, project director for the Wall Street West not-for-profit partnership, tells specific WIRED programs are being analyzed and developed in cooperation with educational institutions in all nine counties.

Wall Street West is also involved with local economic development organizations in all of the counties. Jim Ryan, director of outreach and network development, says the selection of Level 3 provided the critical link to accelerate ground-up development of office properties by private developers. Synchrium is among several that will participate.

Pennsylvania has committed $15 million to Wall Street West, and regional organizations have also pledged support in various forms of grants and loans. Ben Franklin Technology Partners is the fiscal agent for Wall Street West. Simon says, “the state is very supportive from an infrastructure standpoint,” and his company is in the process of applying for eligible grants and loans. The counties in the regional network include Carbon, Berks, Lackawanna, Lehigh, Luzerne, Pike and Wayne in addition to Northampton and Monroe.

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