WYOTECH bldg sign

BURRELL TOWNSHIP — A Florida developer and entrepreneur has set out not only to restart the Wyoming Technical Institute automotive trade school near Blairsville, but has an eye on a fresh manufacturing startup that could create even more jobs for the Indiana County economy.

New Village Initiative, headed by founder and CEO Gary Beeman, completed two years of negotiation with the former owners of WyoTech and the Indiana County Development Corporation and paid $11.5 million on Sept. 30 for the 27-acre campus.

WyoTech operated 17 years in Blairsville and Burrell Township, and closed after graduating its last class of mechanics and technicians in June 2018.

Reopening the school would put instructors back to work and enroll new classes of students to meet what Beeman said is a growing demand for automotive specialists in jobs that pay “head-of-household” wages.

But education is just one of many paths Beeman has identified as routes to broad economic recovery in the United States and meets with a New Village goal of starting 2 million new family-sustaining jobs.

In a news release announcing the planned mid-2021 WyoTech restart, Beeman said he plans two more local ventures.

“We are delighted that the Blairsville community will become the hub for NVI’s vocational equipping and job creation platforms,” Beeman said.

He sees Indiana County as a site for a factory turning out home-construction materials targeted to individuals who would build their own families’ homes.

Beeman also envisions a fabricating site that would convert recycled plastics, computer components and high-tech materials into road paving materials.

“It’s not just a one-trick pony here,” Beeman said. “We want to get the school back up and running because it’s important, but also we want to add to that, and bring manufacturing jobs to the area. We have some interesting proprietary construction materials that enable affordable homes and some interesting road technology that uses recycled plastics and materials.”

The plants would operate under New Village’s Advanced Materials Group to manufacture the company’s HouseKit brand construction components and the NewRoad brand line of longer-life, lower-cost asphalt substitutes.

HouseKit has joined a growing number of companies catering to the spiraling interest in do-it-yourselfing in the U.S., while NewRoad attempts to capitalize on the disconnect between used plastic products being seen as waste but as unsuitable for disposal in landfills with ordinary trash.

Beeman didn’t mention specific sites for housing the NewRoad and HouseKit facilities.

Local political and economic development leaders said New Village Initiative’s confidence in its entry to the area, particularly as an out-of-state investor, signals the viability of Indiana County, particularly the Blairsville area, as a desirable for growing firms.

“Having watched NVI navigate and overcome numerous challenges over the past 18 months in their efforts to finalize this acquisition, we are committed to connecting them with the county, state and federal resources that will enable them to begin offering classes by the middle of next year,” said Byron Stauffer Jr., executive director of the Indiana County Development Corporation (owner of Corporate Campus) and the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development.

“The former WyoTech property acquisition follows the recent sale of the Chestnut Ridge Resort, an indication that out-of-state developers view the Route 22 corridor and Indiana County as a favorable location for their new business opportunities.”

“With the anticipated relaunch of the school and NVI’s manufacturing and (research and development) efforts, we are hopeful that at least 100 new jobs will be created in our community in the coming years,” said ICDC board member Greg Sipos, an executive vice president at First Commonwealth Bank.

Staff Writer/Web Editor

Chauncey Ross represents the Gazette at the county courthouse; Indiana Area and Homer-Center schools; Blairsville, Homer City, Clymer, Center and Burrell; and is something of an Open Records, Right to Know and Sunshine Law advocate in the newsroom.