160-foot, black-glass office building to overlook river

If there’s any one word that can be said to sum up Dan Klingerman’s theory of positive development, it’s “synergy.”

Asked to describe how he sees the region growing over the years ahead, he says that the spur to economic growth from natural gas drilling “could create a synergy now that will last forever.”

Klingerman said the area will continue to grow “if we allow the gas industry to create more than it already has. Restaurants, hotels, civic centers, office buildings, all can service many needs outside the gas industry. Like a multipurpose civic arena, with sports and trade shows. Think of the synergy.”

The next major building project Klingerman plans is a 160-foot office building, all in black glass, at 210 Market St., now an empty lot where a temporary Williamsport Parking Authority lot will operate until the Trade and Transit II garage is complete.

He envisions a steakhouse overlooking the river on the top floor, with 2,000 feet of exterior patio and up to 100,000 square feet of “Class A” office space, a designation that simply means the best space available in a region.

Because Klingerman leads an investment group that’s all privately held, those plans, and any plans, can always change, he says.

“We typically review what makes most sense from an economic standpoint. Since we don’t have shareholders, we’re not forced to build any one specific amount on an annual basis. Our object is not to have more supply than demand. Obviously the area has slowed down over the last 12 to 18 months.”

Natural gas prices do determine much of the activity in this region, Klingerman says. He’s optimistic that gas drilling will continue to be an economic stimuli for a long time to come.

“I don’t think the boom’s even here yet. I believe our country is having a primary focus of being energy independent, using our own resources. The U.S. currently pays $100 billion to OPEC. You convert just over-the-road heavy haul vehicles (to natural gas), that’s $50 billion. The pipelines are still forging ahead.”

Comparisons with the lumbering days that left Williamsport some fine Victorian mansions but little else to hang its hat on shouldn’t apply in the future, Klingerman says.

“Who’s to say (the gas) isn’t here for many centuries. It’s a proven fact the Utica shale is under the Marcellus. In today’s environment, there’s vertical growth and ancillary growth that can happen, maybe you didn’t see back when Williamsport was lumber capital of the world.”

Klingerman sees other sectors benefiting from the gas industry today.

“Education, nursing, investments, banking – look at how it’s benefited Pennsylvania employment. You can Google ancillary benefits to the gas industry, and look at everything there.”

Klingerman says the two largest employers in the area are Pennsylvania College of Technology and Susquehanna Health. He serves on the boards of both and says their “continued viability is very important to the area.”

Williamsport’s “true uniqueness is the closeness of the community,” Klingerman says. “It’s classified as a city, but I look at it as a borough because you know everybody. You find as you spend more time with individuals in the area, Davie Jane Gilmour at Penn College, Steve Johnson at the hospital, there are a lot of strong individuals in this region who spend countless hours working. Google the board members that belong to these organizations – it’s amazing.”

That borough-sized feel is something Klingerman thinks people here like and he hopes it stays that way.

“I hope it doesn’t become a Houston, Texas. I don’t know we’re looking at that kind of transition. Growth is a good thing. An incredible resource was laid in our lap and we should use it to the full extent of our capacity.”

Furthering Williamsport’s connections to the wider world is something Klingerman has had a hand in by working with Energy Aviation, which provides charter services out of the local airport.

Asked about ground transportation, he says: “No one takes the bus any more, do they? It’s important local government agencies and authorities look out to explore additional hubs or links to make us more easily accessible.”

Of the arts and music and other good things in life that can’t necessarily be captured in economic models, Klingerman says: “We’re huge supporters of the arts. We’re very involved in the Community Arts Center downtown. It’s most unique, in a community of this size, to have something of that stature.”

Klingerman thinks that economic development will create positive effects more than the sum of each project, that private investment will continue to create synergy.

“The private sector of this region is focused on the economics of a project. When you focus on beneficial effects for everyone, economics come into play.”