New survey shows confidence building among Philly-area manufacturers

 John Pomp  says moving his studio to Philadelphia led to the rapid growth of his custom glass manufacturing business. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

John Pomp says moving his studio to Philadelphia led to the rapid growth of his custom glass manufacturing business. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

Manufacturers in our region are feeling better about their businesses than they have in more than 20 years, according to a new survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia.

Of the 80 manufacturers in eastern Pennsylvania, southern New Jersey, and Delaware that responded to the survey, almost half reported increased business activity in November. Many also said that orders were up and that they expected to hire more workers in the coming months.

It was curious news to many in a sector that is still rebounding from the recession.

But the findings didn’t surprise glassmaker John Pomp, who relocated his company from New York City to Philadelphia in 2008. His company does lots of custom work for furniture and other home items.  He says he made the move for several reasons.

“Definitely a lower cost of manufacturing is one of them,” said Pomp. “Space readily available is important. But also talent is really important.”

John Pomp Studios has grown 930 percent since it came to Philadelphia, and has ballooned in size from a few workers to a staff of 29 full-time employees.

Philadelphia City Councilman Bobby Henon, a longtime advocate for manufacturing, says the sector is growing but it’s something the average person might not notice.

“You do see a lot going on locally,” said Henon. “We just don’t hear about it. We’re not promoting it.”

Sixty-percent of respondents to the survey expect to continue growing in the next few months.

“People are finally hiring which means there’s a demand, there’s disposable income, and they’re looking to expand their operations,” said Henon. “[Businesses] have that sense of security [to expand], which they haven’t in such a long time.”

For John Pomp, the decision to come to Philadelphia was the right one. He says although he could have set up shop in any other city, he’s glad he didn’t.

“I think it’s a lot easier and a lot faster in Philadelphia,” he said.

That is certainly not something you hear every day.

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