Reading, Allentown rank among state’s top cities

Reading, Allentown, Harrisburg, Lancaster, and York rank among the top seven Pennsylvania cities to live in, according to a recent report from U.S. News & World Report. 

Some 150 metro areas in the country were analyzed by U.S. News and ranked on the quality of life, job market, value of residing there, and desire to live there. 

Reading ranks No. 6 in Pennsylvania in Best Places to Live. It’s No. 10 in Best Places to Retire and No. 88 nationally in Best Places to Live. U.S. News rated Reading 6.2 overall. 

Allentown is ranked as the No. 7 Best Place to Live in Pennsylvania and No. 9 in Best Places to Retire in the state. Allentown is rated No. 109 nationally in Best Places to Live and received an overall rating of 6.1 from U.S. News.

Harrisburg heads the list of Pennsylvania cities to live in, the state capital earning a ranking of 6.4 out of 10. U.S. News ranked Harrisburg No. 2 in Best Places to Retire in Pennsylvania and No. 38 nationally in Best Places to Live. 

U.S. News cited the capital city’s accessibility to Amish country and to major metro areas in Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. Hershey and Gettysburg are also cited by U.S. News as popular tourist attractions, and the urban landscape and close proximity of the Appalachian Trail, state parks, and forests are also seen as benefits to living in Harrisburg. 

Lancaster is ranked by U.S. News as the No. 3 Best Place to Live in Pennsylvania, and No. 1 in Best Places to Retire. The Red Rose City is No. 55 in the country in Best Places to Live. Like Harrisburg, Lancaster earned a score of 6.4 out of 10. 

York ranks No. 4 in Best Places to Live in Pennsylvania and No. 5 in Best Places to retire. The White Rose City is No. 78 in places to live. U.S. News gives York an overall ranking of 6.3.

Among other Pennsylvania cities, U.S. News ranks Pittsburgh as the state’s No. 2 city to live in. Scranton is ranked No. 5 and Philadelphia No. 8.

Santander Bank to lay off 77 workers in Reading

Santander Bank N.A. will lay off 77 employees at its facility at 450 Penn St., Reading – job losses it believes will be permanent.

The financial institution announced the move in a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act filing with the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry.

A federal law, the WARN Act protects workers, their families and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide notification 60 calendar days in advance of plant closings and mass layoffs.

Santander said in the filing that job separations should start on or about June 30; because it’s an ongoing transition process, the layoffs may come in stages.

The employees affected are involved in various aspects of the bank’s operations and call center teams, and all were notified April 17. None are unionized.

Asked for further comment, the company said this decision is the result of changes to streamline the bank’s processes and its operating model, with changes being implemented over the next year.

There are no other impacts beyond customer-facing call center teams, Santander said.

The company is actively working to connect as many affected employees as possible with new roles. In accordance with its policies, severance-eligible employees will receive outplacement services.

Santander Bank remains committed to all its customers, the company said, including those in the region. The bank serves customers in 33 branches across central Pennsylvania; no customer service impacts are expected as a result of the layoffs.

Employees affected who complete service through their end date will be eligible for severance benefits, including severance pay based on years of service and subsidized COBRA coverage as well as the above-mentioned career outplacement assistance.

“Team member reductions are never easy for either the team member or for Santander,” the WARN letter said. “We continue to make every effort to minimize the impact and ease the transition … .”

Santander Bank N.A. is one of the country’s largest retail and commercial banks with $99 billion in assets, according to its website. The bank’s nearly 9,000 employees and more than 2 million customers are primarily located in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island,

New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware. The bank is a wholly owned subsidiary of Madrid-based Banco Santander S.A.

In February 2022, Santander announced that it was discontinuing its residential mortgage and home equity originations segment in the U.S.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Penske expands in Alabama

Reading-based Penske Truck leasing is expanding its national footprint. 

The company has opened a state-of-the-art facility in Huntsville, Alabama.   

At this new location, Penske is offering both consumer and commercial truck rental, full-service truck leasing and contract truck fleet maintenance.   

“We’ve enhanced our ability to effectively serve Penske customers and employees with this new, state-of-the-art facility,” said Robert Latimer, area vice president of Penske Truck Leasing. “The facility not only improves our operational efficiency through ease of accessibility and a spacious layout, but also increases our ability to amplify our capabilities and potential. Through this strategic growth, Penske remains the transportation provider and employer of choice in the Northern Alabama area.”  

At 15,750 square-feet and sitting on 8.75 acres, this facility features eight service bays plus an automatic truck wash bay, and a full-service fuel island – offering diesel, diesel exhaust fluid, and gasoline. 


Reading’s small businesses supported by Shapiro Administration

Lieutenant Governor Austin Davis met with Reading’s small business owners Tuesday and shared Gov. Josh Shapiro’s plans to boost investments, affordable child care, and revitalization in the city. 

“When I was growing up in McKeesport, my dad worked as a union bus driver, and my mom was a hairdresser,” said Davis, who took a walking tour of downtown Reading to discuss the community’s needs with small business owners. 

“I saw firsthand how small businesses, like hair salons, child care centers and restaurants, were the lifeblood of our neighborhood. But many women-owned and minority-owned small businesses often struggle to access capital to get off the ground. The Shapiro-Davis administration wants to help support our small businesses, so our communities can thrive.” 

The recently released Shapiro-Davis budget puts for the first time, sustainable state funding into the Historically Disadvantaged Business Program. The state Department of Community and Economic Development helped provide nearly $100 million in relief payments to historically disadvantaged businesses during the pandemic. 

An additional $20 million in federal funding followed, and the Shapiro-Davis budget proposes investing $20 million in state funds to make certain minority-owned operations have access to capital to sustain or expand their businesses. 

State Rep. Manny Guzman (D-Berks) said in a statement that he is focused on helping small businesses grow and boosting the workforce. 

“I am thrilled about this collaboration with Lieutenant Governor Davis as he will be able to feel the pulse of our economy and get feedback from underserved entrepreneurs of our community,” said Guzman. 

Early Beginnings Day Care Center in Reading was one of the businesses Davis visited Tuesday. Child care centers are important businesses and are often owned by women. As affordable child care is a workforce development issue, the Shapiro-Davis budget increases child care services funding by $66.7 million to allow 75,000 low-income families to continue to be enrolled in subsidized care. 

State Rep. Johanny Cepeda-Freytiz (D-Berks) said that as a Latina businesswoman, she believes the governor’s budget plan will provide the support entrepreneurs and small business owners need. 

“Governor Shapiro’s proposed injection into the Office of Transformation and Opportunity shows a real commitment from his administration,” she said. “This is a fair budget that will provide long overdue funding to women- and minority-owned businesses.” 

The Shapiro-Davis budget also invests $8.6 million to expand the Keystone Communities Program. This marks an investment in communities already on a path to revitalization and communities that are smaller, rural, and lower income.

EnerSys acquires UK company

Reading-based EnerSys, a manufacturer of industrial batteries, announced that it has acquired Industrial Battery and Charger Services Limited, a leading battery service and maintenance provider headquartered in the United Kingdom.

The acquisition, effective immediately, gives EnerSys the opportunity to expand its motive power service offerings and strengthen its presence in the UK market.

By adding IBCS, EnerSys will be able to further enhance its comprehensive battery-related services, ranging from installation and maintenance to repair and replacement.

Financial terms of the deal were undisclosed.

“We are excited to welcome IBCS to the EnerSys family,” Vincent Baudelet, vice president of sales and service, Motive Power EMEA, at EnerSys, said in a release. “Their expertise in battery service and maintenance will enhance our ability to provide end-to-end solutions for our customers, and their strong reputation in the UK market will help us grow our business in the region.”

IBCS will continue to operate under its current name and branding; its management team is expected to remain in place.

“We are delighted to be joining forces with EnerSys,” said Paul Hewson, managing director at IBCS. “This partnership will allow us to offer our customers even more comprehensive and integrated battery solutions, including top-of-the-line lead acid batteries, proprietary Thin Plate Pure Lead technology, and the industry’s most advanced lithium battery while also providing new opportunities for our employees.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer