Video in works to tell county's story
The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly board meeting on Thursday at St. Andrew’s Village in White Township.
Several key topics including economic development, real estate, energy, marketing and the chamber’s new Business Hall of Fame were discussed.
Marketing Indiana County
Indiana County is on the brink of unprecedented economic success and growth. Development opportunities, such as the 200-acre soon-to-be pad-ready Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park and the 27-acre 119 Business Park/Joseph Land Development, not to mention improvements and expansion at the Jimmy Stewart Indiana County Airport, a reviving energy industry and many Keystone Opportunity Zones (KOZ), are expected to dramatically change the economic landscape for Indiana County in the near future.
And now it’s time to tell that story.
The chamber is bringing the Corridors of Opportunity program to Indiana County on July 10. The event will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Kovalchick Athletic and Convention Complex.
The purpose is to share the many great opportunities, development sites, real estate investments, KOZs and other economic resources with business professionals from other areas interested in Indiana County.
To maximize this opportunity and truly promote this area, the chamber and the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations (CEO) are producing a marketing video for Indiana County.
Working with Scoopbug, HD video is being shot at various chamber member businesses, Windy Ridge, 119 Business Park, the Indiana County Airport, Corporate Campus and many other locations around the county.
The result will be a two- or three-minute professional video that will be shown to the 200 to 300 business investors who attend the Corridors of Opportunity event.
The video will also be used for other marketing and promotional opportunities to attract businesses, jobs and economic growth to Indiana County. Commercials may also be developed.
The video is part of the chamber’s continuing efforts to work with the CEO, county commissioners and other partners to draw more business, commerce and people to the county. Chamber Chairman Bob Kane said those efforts are starting to pay off. Recent published reports show Indiana County’s population increasing while other areas in western Pennsylvania decline.
“We are seeing substantial growth for what is considered a rural county, more than most urban areas,” Kane said. “As a group, we are doing some things right. That’s encouraging.”
Tickets for the event are available now at www.bizjournals.com/pittsburgh/event/108971. Chamber members are encouraged to attend this incredible networking and marketing opportunity.
Before giving his state government report, Joe Pittman, chief of staff for state Sen. Don White, said he was able to attend the recent grand opening/open house for Creps United Publications.
Creps, the first tenant at the Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park, relocated after a fire destroyed their facility on Philadelphia Street. Through CEO and community support, Creps was not only able to build a new facility at Windy Ridge, the company was able significantly upgrade and expand their capabilities.
“That’s going to be a tremendous anchor for that park,” Pittman said.
State revenue entering the final month of the fiscal year are about $508 million under budget expectations. Pittman said all revenues are down and it is going to create challenges in developing a new budget for the upcoming fiscal year starting July 1.
“We are in a difficult situation,” he said. “Despite what we see in job creation, it’s not translating into tax revenue.”
Pittman said White is pleased with the changing landscape related to the Highmark/UPMC dispute and feels progress is made.
Robin Gorman with Indiana University of Pennsylvania said student enrollment numbers are encouraging with approximately 14,300 students projected for fall 2014, in line with budget planning assumptions. She credited IUP’s solid financial position with good leadership, foresight and planning.
“Had we not planned years in advance, we would not be in a position of strength that we truly are right now,” she said.
The administration is currently planning fall events. A ribbon-cutting ceremony to open the new Crimson Cafe is set for Aug. 22. The cafe will open near the library and feature Starbucks, Burger Studio, The Fire Place and Crimson Bistro.
County Commissioner Mike Baker said installation of the county’s emergency radio system is almost complete and much-needed pole permits have arrived.
“We can see the radio project, at least as far as fiber installation, coming to an end in the next five or six weeks.”
Fire departments should be on the system soon and county facilities in the near future.
Baker said the county is having several building maintenance issues at the Pine Grove State Correction Institute. The county is working to address these.
Elizabeth Hutton with Kuzneski and Lockard Inc. Real Estate said 2014 first quarter sales were poor mainly due to harsh weather. She expects to see more activity in June, though it may not be enough to balance the slow start. The good news, she said, is that homes under $200,000 are seeing more activity and pending sales.
Gorman said the chamber’s 2014 Eggs and Issues breakfast with state and federal elected officials is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 26. She said also the chamber’s recent May 29 event with U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey went very well. Many chamber board members, state officials, educational representatives, business owners and community leaders attended to share their concerns and hear firsthand the state of affairs affecting the nation.
The chamber structured the agenda to ensure Toomey understood the needs of Indiana County. Those key topics included energy regulations, the Keystone Pipeline, transportation related to the Jimmy Stewart Indiana County Airport and Route 422, economic development, and the proposed Central Allegheny Challenger Learning Center.
ICDC President Jim Wiley said the new 80-foot-tall water tower at the Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park in White Township is fully functional. Distribution lines throughout the park are in place. Bids will be accepted soon for grading and work is expected to begin early summer. Various lots are available for purchase by fall. Discussions also continue with possible tenants for several lots at the new site.
“I would expect major, dramatic changes at Windy Ridge,” Wiley said enthusiastically.
Wiley said the county’s KOZ locations such as the ICDC’s Corporate Campus in Blairsville, which allow tax abatements on those sites for a specified number of years, are starting to bear fruit. Some the tax abatement periods have ended and the businesses are now directly benefiting the local tax base.
“Despite apprehension from some of the school districts and townships when KOZs were first introduced, they are seeing the benefits now.”
To learn more about these areas and other economic and development opportunities in Indiana County, visit www.indianacountyceo.com.
Josh Rosenberger, owner of The 700 Shop, highlighted several upcoming and recent events in downtown Indiana Borough. The Westsylvania Jazz and Blues Festival on May 24 at IRMC Park attracted an estimated 1,300 visitors. Rosenberger said many were out-of-town visitors seeing Indiana for the first time.
“Many visitors said ‘What a beautiful town’” Rosenberger said. “It’s really nice to hear that from people new to Indiana.”
The annul Taste and Tour event will be held on July 17.
Rosenberger said downtown improvements between Ninth and Sixth streets originally scheduled for this summer have been moved to spring 2015 for logistical reasons.
Business Hall of Fame
The Chamber’s Hall of Fame Committee met to begin the process of creating and maintaining a Business Hall of Fame for Indiana County.
“We have a great committee,” Kane said. “It was nice to hear the dialogue and ideas.”
A nomination form with specific nominee criteria will be provided to chamber members in the next two weeks. Only chamber members are eligible to submit a nomination, though nominees do not need to be current or previous chamber members. Members will have 30 to 45 days to submit nominations once the form is published and distributed. A Hall of Fame page will be created on the chamber’s website with the form and more information available.
The committee anticipates a fall dinner event this year to recognize the first class of seven Chamber Business Hall of Fame members.
“It’s important to Indiana County from an historical perspective that we recognize these people.”
Committee Chairman Greg Sipos with First Commonwealth Bank said a permanent location for the Hall of Fame is still being discussed. Several ideas are proposed.
Chamber President Struzzi said the chamber had several successful member events in May including three Business After Hours and a Chamber Check-in.
“Business After Hours events continue to be well attended,” Struzzi said. “All the May events were successful. People seemed to have a great time and the host businesses loved the attention and exposure it provided.”
A Chamber Check-In was also held at the chamber office. Check-Ins allow for members in a more intimate setting to interact, network, and share ideas with a smaller group including the membership committee and Chamber staff.
Business After Hours events will be held on June 26 at the Indiana County YMCA and July 10 at the Hampton Inn in Blairsville. The next Chamber Check-In is July 9. Visit the Calendar of Events on the chamber’s website to learn about these events and more.
The chamber’s next meeting is July 17.