The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly board meeting on Thursday at St. Andrew’s Village in White Township.
Chamber President Jim Struzzi said the chamber is attracting new members weekly as more people and businesses around the community learn about the many new initiatives and goals that are under way. Tthe chamber has about 650 members, an increase of 30 since May.
“We’re offering a lot of new products and marketing services to our members plus increased communication,” Struzzi said. “That, coupled with our new website (www.indianacountychamber.com) that directly connects customers to our member businesses, and the Chamber Choice benefits and potential property insurance dividends, are making it an easy decision to join the chamber.”
In addition, the chamber is now offering individual memberships. A “Chamber Friends” individual membership is $85 per year. Some services, such as the chamber’s new website and business membership listings and pages, are not included. Individual members will be able use Chamber Choice for guidance regarding health insurance and cost-saving services such as the residential energy program. Individual members will also receive the chamber’s monthly mailing and will be invited to Chamber Business After Hours and other events. Individual members cannot promote any business or organization through the chamber.
THE CHAMBER is also busy promoting Indiana County and economic development. Struzzi recently guest-hosted the morning show on Froggy 95.5, one of the largest radio stations in Pennsylvania, to promote the opportunities in Indiana County. Struzzi said the show went well and he will be visiting the station monthly to continue marketing the county.
He will also be speaking on KDKA Radio’s morning show Sept. 20 to promote Indiana County businesses across western Pennsylvania.
LAST FRIDAY, the chamber and Indiana University of Pennsylvania held a luncheon with Congressman Bill Shuster, a Republican from Hollidaysburg. The chamber strongly supports the completion of improvements at the Indiana County Jimmy Stewart Airport.
When the overall airport improvements are finished — including the runway extension and new landing system — it will allow larger planes to land and open the door for additional economic opportunity and growth. The airport improvements are a top priority for Indiana County, and the chamber conveyed this to the congressman.
Robin Gorman with IUP said the university is working on developing a Bachelor of Science in Energy Management program with three separate tracks, including one in Professional Land Resource Management. In addition, the school is looking at creating a minor in energy management and a 15-credit concentration in energy management for the MBA. IUP is also exploring the development of a non-credit certificate program specifically for the Professional Land Resource Management.
Deanne Snavely, dean of the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, under the direction of Provost Timothy Moerland, has been spearheading this effort along with Robert Camp, dean of the Eberly College of Business and Information Technology; Yaw Asamoah, dean of Humanities and Social Sciences; and Mark Correia, dean of Health and Human Services.
A number of departments have all taken an interest in programmatic development and support of an expanding energy-based industry in western Pennsylvania.
IUP will also host a workshop, “Engaging Shale Gas Partners,” on Oct. 7 and 8 to help attendees understand the industry and how they can be part of this growing opportunity in Indiana County. Visit www.iup.edu/ energy to learn more.
DURING THE county commissioners’ report, Commissioner Rod Ruddock commended IUP on the event held this week in the Oak Grove to remember the tragedy that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.
Ruddock then introduced Frank Sisko, chief assessor and director of the Tax Claim Bureau for Indiana County, and Gene Porterfield, with the consulting firm that is conducting the county’s property tax reassessment. Porterfield gave a presentation on the property tax reassessment process.
Work on the countywide reassessment started in August.
“The program has been going well,” Ruddock said.
The presentation featured a video summarizing the main point of the reassessment and how it will occur. The video is available on Indiana County’s website at www.countyofindiana.org.
BYRON STAUFFER JR., County Office of Planning and Development executive director, said there are concerns with the recent announcement of additional bridge weight postings by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
Due to insufficient funds needed to fix bridges, Penn-DOT reduced the weight posting on many structures across the state to prolong their life span. Some of the affected bridges are on major roadways, which may force large trucks through areas that are unaccustomed to that type of traffic. Stauffer is looking into the issue with PennDOT and the impacts the bridge postings may create locally.
Stauffer also said work is under way to create three new Keystone Opportunity Expansion Zones (KOEZ) at blighted properties in the county: the former Gorell Enterprises Inc. factory and grounds on Wayne Avenue; the former BiLo in Blairsville; and Dixonville Commons, the former home of PolyVision, in Green Township.
The KOEZ designation will allow potential new businesses to occupy these sites without property taxes for 10 years.
“Hopefully this will be enough incentive for capital investment and job creation,” Stauffer said.
Stauffer said work on the new Creps United Publications facility at the Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park near the Routes 422/Route 286 interchange in White Township continues to go well. The facility should be running in six to eight weeks.
Work has also started on the Joseph Land Development/119 Business Park in the Coral-Graceton area.
GORMAN PROVIDED an update on the Leaders Circle of Indiana County. Nominations for this year’s Athena and Male and Female Civic Leader Awards are being accepted through Nov. 1. The nomination form will be available next week on the chamber’s website.
“We hope everyone will please take advantage of this opportunity to nominate,” she said.
JOE RESCHINI said two recent chamber events, the Eggs and Issues breakfast on Aug. 23 and the Understanding the Affordable Care Act seminar on Tuesday, held in cooperation with IUP’s Center for Family Business, had a good turnout.
The chamber will likely make Eggs and Issues an annual event.
PNC Farmers Bank on Philadelphia Street in Indiana will host the next Chamber Business After Hours Thursday at 5 p.m.
The chamber’s next meeting is Oct. 17.