A New York City company that manages online reputations will open a second office in Lancaster city and is expected to create at least 100 full-time jobs over the next three years with an estimated $5 million payroll.
Lancaster started out as a dark horse, Patrick Ambron, BrandYourself.com’s founder and chief executive officer, admitted Wednesday. But an investor had ties to the area and suggested it.
Ultimately, Lancaster beat out other places in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia — even Tampa, Florida.
The move highlights a trend of companies choosing Lancaster and helping raise the city's appeal as a place to do business, according to development officials.
“We weren’t looking just for a place that could supplement our office; we were really looking to grow,” he said Wednesday. The company wanted a place that was business-friendly, had a talented workforce and a high quality of life, he said.
“And we really wanted a community we really could be a part of, that we were excited about,” he said.
BrandYourself.com has grown from four employees three years ago to more than 80, Ambron said.
Lancaster City Alliance: Facilitator
The Lancaster City Alliance played a key role in pitching the city, said Lisa Riggs, president of Economic Development Company of Lancaster County. Tom Baldrige, president of the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce & Industry, agreed.
"The Lancaster City Alliance did a phenomenal job in making sure Lancaster's best foot was forward in recruiting BrandYourself and the results speak for themselves,” Baldrige said.
Mayor Rick Gray said the city and the partners have “been focused on creating skilled jobs that pay a living wage. BrandYourself’s commitment to create 100 full-time jobs over the next three years, with potential for further growth in future years, is a direct result of those efforts.”
Marshall Snively, executive vice president of the alliance, said the company’s pick is a credit to the cooperation of various partners.
The alliance, the city, the chamber, Oaktree Development, area colleges, state development officials and others were involved.
The state Department of Community and Economic Development offered the company a $200,000 Pennsylvania First Program grant, $300,000 in Job Creation Tax Credits and $45,000 in WEDnetPA (Workforce and Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania) funding for skill training.
Wooing a company that’s expected to create 100 jobs paying competitive salaries to Lancaster was huge, Snively said.
And it represents a continuation of businesses deciding to move into the city over the past several years, he said.
As examples, Snively cited counseling agency T.W. Ponessa & Associates opening offices at Prince and Lemon streets, land-planning firm RGS Associates moving from Brownstown to a former tobacco warehouse at Prince and James streets, and hoisting device company ALP Industries Inc. moving to North Market Street from Coatesville.
Riggs said BrandYourself.com’s decision showcases Lancaster as being well-positioned for young entrepreneurs and technology companies.
Economic Development Company of Lancaster County helped connect the company with state development officials and it addressed some of the company’s workforce concerns.
And it helped the company get a picture of Lancaster, Riggs said.
“We want businesses, when they’re evaluating Lancaster, to have an honest opinion,” she said, explaining while people here think the city is great, businesses need to know if it will suit their needs.
Ambron said company officials met with local business owners, colleges and recruiters and looked at the city for its quality of life and cultural offerings.
Of all the potential places for a second office they visited, in Lancaster “there seemed to be an awesome dedication to the larger community,” he said.
Bob Shoemaker, president of the alliance, said BrandYourself.com’s due diligence was very thorough, particularly for small company.
Brandyourself.com will lease 53 West James Street and plans to invest at least $900,000 on the project.
"Today’s announcement is a testament to the commonwealth becoming a place where businesses want to come, invest and grow. We need to keep this momentum going," Gov. Tom Wolf said in a news release.