CHAMBER REPORT slide

The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly board of directors meeting Thursday at the Indiana Country Club in White Township.

The board discussed several issues, including the chamber’s new dues structure, Women’s Summit, Multi-Modal and workforce programs.

NEW DUES

After careful consideration, the board of directors voted to change the chamber membership dues structure. In the past, businesses have joined and paid membership dues primarily based on the number of employees in their organizations. In this new structure, members choose the benefits they want and need, and invest accordingly.

Chamber President Mark Hilliard said the chamber’s new “tiered” system provides increased benefits with comparable dues, plus many new benefits, even at the basic level.

“We listened carefully to the benefit requests of our membership and benchmarked similar chambers’ benefit offerings,” Hilliard said. “This new structure guarantees equity and choice when choosing a membership package that is important to each business and is aligned with the goals of the chamber.”

More detailed information will soon be distributed to chamber members, and the new structure will begin with new members and membership renewals in October.

CHAMBER UPDATE

Hilliard provided the board more information regarding the inaugural Indiana County Women’s Summit on Oct. 15 at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex. The half-day event is dedicated to the development and empowerment of women in Indiana County. The keynote speaker will be Christina Cassotis, CEO of the Allegheny County Airport Authority.

There will also be panels related to safety and security, health and happiness, and career and community. The event will be emceed by Beth Caldwell, author and founder of Pittsburgh Professional Women. Tickets are $30 and include lunch. They are available by contacting the chamber office. Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more.

“This is shaping up to be a fantastic event,” Hilliard said. “We have some incredible speakers, fantastic information, and some wonderful giveaways. The response and feedback so far have been tremendous and I feel that everyone who attends is going to walk away feeling empowered and informed. This is something that you’re not going to want to miss.”

STATE GOVERNMENT

Sen. Joe Pittman, R-Indiana, updated the board on the ongoing discussions related to the issue of rural broadband. Pittman has been meeting with the Indiana County commissioners over the past couple of weeks to help to develop a plan of action.

“I am interested in finding actual solutions to this problem and not simply furthering the discussion,” Pittman said. “Following our meeting I feel that we now have a number of great ideas on solutions that we can begin implementing very soon. It is just important to remember that due to the nature of this problem, it is going to be a longer road to get to the finish line.”

Pittman also reported good news from Harrisburg, as the state is seeing strong revenues during the first two months of the fiscal year that puts them ahead of initial estimates.

State Rep. Jim Struzzi reported that the state House will be going back into session Tuesday and that he feels a strong agenda will be pushed right from the start of the fall session.

“There are a lot of important issues that we are going to be looking to tackle immediately, including property taxes, the state’s energy policy and the issue of Sunday hunting,” Stuzzi said. “In regard to Sunday hunting, I’m actively getting feedback from both sides to look at what decision is truly in the best interests of my constituents.”

Struzzi said that last week he hosted a House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee at the White Township fire hall. One of the primary issues discussed at the hearing was new legislation being authored by Struzzi that could help volunteer firefighters in the state through a tuition assistance program. The proposed legislation could allow the firefighters to lower their tuition for post-secondary education depending on the amount of volunteer years they have put in.

Finally, Stuzzi mentioned that October is going to be a busy month as he will be hosting a number of town hall meetings throughout the county as well as the Senior Expo on Oct. 24 at the S&T Arena, where he will be partnering with Pittman and state Rep. Chris Dush.

ENERGY

Dave Brocious from Sky Point Crane provided an update on commodities by reporting that the price of natural gas has dropped by nearly 40 percent since last December. This has led to workforce reductions as well as rig counts reduced by 13 rigs in the past six months.

In other industry-related news, Brocious reported that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission recently overruled the state of New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation to allow the Constitution Pipeline to be built through New York State. The pipeline is proposed to go from Susquehanna County in Pennsylvania through upstate New York, eventually connecting to the New England region.

TOURISM

Indiana County Tourist Bureau President Greg Van Horn reported that the tourist bureau hosted a table throughout the Indiana County Fair that displayed their member brochures and fliers. Many members provided literature to promote their businesses, upcoming events and special promotions.

Van Horn thanked the members for providing these materials so they could be distributed to the many people who visited the table. Also while at the table, fair goers could spin a prize wheel for a chance to win Indiana County-themed items. The table was manned throughout the fair by ICTB staff and ICTB board members. Van Horn congratulated the Indiana County Fair Board for another very successful fair season.

Van Horn also mentioned that the ICTB participated in several events to welcome international students to Indiana County and IUP.  Office manager Laura Herrington led a group of these students on a bus tour of Indiana. ICTB provided the tour group with “Welcome to Indiana County” bags. Group tour coordinator Ashley Moreau represented ICTB and met with students during the International Student Life Fair at IUP. Van Horn said they look forward to continuing to reach students and families by participating in many upcoming events at IUP this semester, including the Community Involvement Fair, the Health & Wellness Fair, Family Weekend and Homecoming.

Finally, Van Horn congratulated the Clymer Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 for hosting the 127th annual Central District Firemen’s Convention Aug. 15-17. The event welcomed many volunteer firefighters and families from across Pennsylvania who stayed several nights in Indiana County. Van Horn said that ICTB was proud to support this event and congratulated the Clymer Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 on its success.

TRANSPORTATION

Byron Stauffer Jr., executive director of the Indiana County Office of Planning & Development, updated the board on the Hoodlebug Trail expansion project. Stauffer explained that construction is underway on the corner of Eighth and Church streets, which is where a new bike station will eventually be housed.

The project will connect Indiana Borough at the Eighth Street parking lot through the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus and to the existing Hoodlebug Trail along Eighth Street. This ties into work previously completed by White Township to cross Rose Street. Stauffer said he anticipates the project to be completed before the end of the year.

Stauffer also reported that a resolution was presented at Wednesday’s Indiana County commissioners meeting regarding the improvement of a section of the Hoodlebug Trail just prior to Cornell Road in Burrell Township. The resolution is intended to mitigate the slide on this portion of the trail to make it more easily travelable.

In addition, Stauffer said that development of the next Transportation Improvement Program continues in an effort to begin developing a set of projects for the coming year in collaboration with PennDOT District 10 and the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission. Stauffer indicated that public outreach will begin when the development is completed at the end of the year.

ICDC

Indiana County Development Corporation President Jim Wiley updated the board on some developments at Windy Ridge Business & Technology Park specifically related to Urban Outfitters. Wiley said that paving work is continuing on Windy Ridge

Road to access the Urban

development but also to provide access to additional building lots. He also updated the board on development activities at the 119 Business Park, Corporate Campus, High Pointe at Indian Springs and at NORMA Pennsylvania.

MANUFACTURING

Steve McPherson of MGK Technologies said that manufacturing continues to do well in Indiana County. He mentioned that while companies are still looking for additional employees during the fall season, they are now looking for more specific positions.

“We are still very busy and there is still opportunity in manufacturing in Indiana County,” McPherson said.

HEALTH CARE

Kelly Howells of Anew Home Health Agency said the Indiana County Health Care Consortium recently met.

Part of the discussion was related to a $150,000 grant that was awarded by the Tri-County Workforce Investment Board. The grant is meant to be used towards education and scholarships.

MEMBERSHIP

Upcoming chamber member events include:

• Business After Hours at Indiana County Historical Society on Thursday

• Chamber Check-In, Sept. 24

• Business After Hours Costume Party at Hampton Inn and Suites, Oct. 10

• Indiana County Women’s Summit, Oct. 15

The chamber’s next meeting will be Oct. 17 at the Indiana Country Club.