View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

A New Crop in Pennsylvania: Warehouses

OREFIELD, Pa. — From his office in an old barn on a turkey farm, David Jaindl watches a towering flat-screen TV with video feeds from the hatchery to the processing room, where the birds are butchered. Mr. Jaindl is a third-generation farmer in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. His turkeys are sold at Whole Foods and served at the White House on Thanksgiving.

But there is more to Mr. Jaindl’s business than turkeys. For decades, he has been involved in developing land into offices, medical facilities and subdivisions, as the area in and around the Lehigh Valley has evolved from its agricultural and manufacturing roots to also become a health care and higher education hub.

Now Mr. Jaindl is taking part in a new shift. Huge warehouses are sprouting up like mushrooms along local highways, on country roads and in farm fields. The boom is being driven, in large part, by the astonishing growth of Amazon and other e-commerce retailers and the area’s proximity to New York City, the nation’s largest concentration of online shoppers, roughly 80 miles away.

“They are certainly good for our area,” said Mr. Jaindl, who is developing land for several new warehouses. “They add a nice tax base and good employment.”

promotional video posted on the economic development agency’s website, there are images of welders, builders and aerial footage of the former Bethlehem Steel plant, which closed in the 1990s. The narrator touts the Lehigh Valley’s ethos as the home of “makers” and “dreamers.”

“We know the value of an honest day’s work,” the narrator intones. “We practically wrote the book on it.”

Jason Arias found an honest day’s work in the Lehigh Valley’s warehouses, but he also found the physical strain too difficult to bear.

Mr. Arias moved to the area from Puerto Rico 20 years ago to take a job in a manufacturing plant. After being laid off in 2010, Mr. Arias found a job packing and scanning boxes at an Amazon warehouse. The job soon started to take a toll — the constant lifting of boxes, the bending and walking.

“Manufacturing is easy,” he said. “Everything was brought to you on pallets pushed by machines. The heaviest thing you lift is a box of screws.”

One day, walking down stairs in the warehouse, Mr. Arias, 44, missed a step and felt something pop in his hip as he landed awkwardly. It was torn cartilage. At the time, Mr. Arias was making $13 an hour. (Today, Amazon pays an hourly minimum of $15.)

In 2012, Mr. Arias left Amazon and went to a warehouse operated by a food distributor. After a few years, he injured his shoulder on the job and needed surgery.

“Every time I went home I was completely beat up,” said Mr. Arias, who now drives a truck for UPS, a unionized job which he likes.

Dr. Amato, the regional planning official, is a chiropractor whose patients include distribution workers. Manufacturing work is difficult, but the repetitive nature of working in a warehouse is unsustainable, he said.

“If you take a coat hanger and bend it back and forth 50 times, it will break,” he said. “If you are lifting 25-pound boxes multiple times per hour, eventually things start to break down.”

Dennis Hower, the president of the local Teamsters union, which represents drivers for UPS and other companies in the Lehigh Valley, said he was happy that the e-commerce boom was resulting in new jobs. At the same time, he’s reminded by the empty storefronts everywhere that other jobs are being destroyed.

“Every day you open up the newspaper and see another retail store going out of business,” he said.

Not everyone can handle the physicality of warehouse work or has the temperament to drive a truck for 10 hours a day. In fact, many distribution companies are having a hard time finding enough local workers to fill their openings and have had to bus employees in from out of state, Mr. Hower said.

“You can always find someone somewhere who is willing to work for whatever you are going to pay them,” he said.

Two years ago, there were no warehouses near Lara Thomas’s home in Shoemakersville, Pa., a town of 1,400 people west of the Lehigh Valley. Today, five of them are within walking distance.

“It hurts my heart,” said Ms. Thomas. “This is a small community.”

A local history buff, Ms. Thomas is a member of a group of volunteers who regularly clean up old, dilapidated cemeteries in the area, including one in Maxatawny that is about two miles from her church.

The cemetery, under a grove of trees next to a wide-open field, is the final resting place of George L. Kemp, a farmer and a captain in the Revolutionary War. Last summer, the warehouse developer Duke Realty, which is based in Indianapolis, argued in county court that it could find no living relatives of Mr. Kemp and proposed moving the graves to another location. A “logistics park” is planned on the property.

Meredith Goldey, who is a Kemp descendant, was not impressed with Duke’s due diligence. “They didn’t look very hard.”

Ms. Goldey, other descendants and Ms. Thomas pored through old property and probate records and found Mr. Kemp’s will.

The documents stipulated that a woman enslaved by Mr. Kemp, identified only as Hannah, would receive a proper burial. While there is no visible marker for Hannah in the cemetery, the captain’s will strongly suggests she is buried alongside the rest of the family.

“This is not the Deep South,” Ms. Thomas said. “It is almost unheard-of for a family to own a slave in eastern Pennsylvania in the early 19th century and then to have her buried with them.”

Several descendants of Mr. Kemp filed a lawsuit against Duke Realty seeking to protect the cemetery. A judge has ordered the two sides to come up with a solution by next month. A spokesman for Duke Realty said in an email that the company “is optimistic that the parties will reach an amicable settlement in the near future.”

Ms. Thomas worries that if the bodies are exhumed and interred in another location, they will not be able to locate Hannah’s remains and they will be buried under the warehouse.

“She will be lost,” she said.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<