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 the chamber’s ongoing efforts to market the county, the upcoming annual luncheon on Dec. 6, new construction on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania campus and the health care exchange were discussed.
PHOTO: Levin Mattress held a ribbon-cutting ceremony Friday for its store at the Regency Mall complex. Pictured, from left, are Jonathan Trent; Jim Struzzi, president of the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce; Cher Urban; Sheril Lefko; and Laurie Scardina. During the event, Levin donated $500 to the Jimmy Stewart Museum. (Tom Peel/Gazette photo)
Chamber President Jim Struzzi said the recent visit by KDKA Radio to Indiana County was a huge success. The chamber, in cooperation with the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations, hosted the KDKA CBS Radio Morning Show with Larry Richert and John Shumway Oct. 28 at Michael B’s Shoes in Indiana. The location was chosen to highlight the downtown area and the new Indiana Regional Medical Center Park on North Seventh Street.
“The radio show was tremendous in highlighting the great assets we have here in Indiana County,” Struzzi said. “Shumway and Richert were still talking about how wonderful our Indiana County is days later.”
The show, broadcast from 5 to 9 a.m., featured 19 guests from IUP, IRMC, area businesses, local and state leaders, trails and greenways and downtowns.
“Everyone did a great job emphasizing the quality of life and economic opportunity here,” Struzzi said.
The chamber, the Indiana County Tourism Bureau, IUP and the CEO will continue those marketing efforts by running a series of 50 radio commercials on KDKA over the next few weeks again emphasizing and highlighting Indiana County.
Starting next week the tourism bureau will run ads related to upcoming events and the many reasons to visit the county during the upcoming holiday season. Later advertising will be dedicated to IUP and economic development opportunities such as Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park and the Joseph Land Development/119 Business Park.
IUP President Dr. Michael Driscoll said the chamber’s efforts are appreciated and should help the university and the overall community.
Treasurer Jim Kinneer with IRMC said the chamber had many membership renewals in October and the financial reports reflect a positive trend.
The chamber’s upcoming 101st annual luncheon Dec. 6 at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex was discussed. The featured speaker will be Robert Nutting, principal owner of the Pittsburgh Pirates. The reservation form is available on the chamber’s website, www.indianacountychamber.com.
In an effort to promote future business leaders in Indiana County, board Chairman Robert Kane said the chamber is inviting Future Business Leaders of America students from local school districts to attend. Seven local schools have accepted the invitation as well as the Indiana County Technology Center.
“This is a great opportunity for the students to see how we do business and it sends a good message,” Kane said.
Joe Pittman, chief of staff for state Sen. Don White, provided the state government report. While state revenues are not exceptionally high, Pittman said they are better than anticipated and moving in a positive direction, which could help offset any potential deficit heading into the next budget season.
There are some concerns though with only a few more weeks of the legislative session remaining that a transportation funding bill will pass.
“Time is running short,” he said.
Some good news is the passing of an “apology bill” that allows medical professionals to apologize when something goes wrong without their apology being used against them in litigation.
“This was long overdue,” Pittman said.
“Construction, construction, construction,” Dr. Driscoll said regarding the start of work to build a new humanities building on campus. The project is under way, and while there will be some impacts to traffic, the start of the construction plus ongoing work for the new Crimson Cafe is actually good news for IUP and the community, he said.
“Construction creates jobs,” Driscoll said. “It’s good for the community and it’s good for IUP.”
Driscoll said also that IUP’s strategic visioning process is going well and that the university has a balanced budget this year. Adjustments have been made to account for shortfalls due to reduced enrollment.
County Commissioner Dave Frick reported that the real state property tax reassessment process is going well.
“I feel good about the reassessment,” he said.
The county is currently working on its budget review process. Most county organization budgets are meeting expectations, Frick said.
Elizabeth Hutton with Kuzneski and Lockard Inc. Real Estate said the housing industry locally and nationwide is still recovering from the impacts of the federal government shutdown. Many homes are on the market — particularly among homes that are priced under $200,000, and sales have slowed.
“All price ranges are affected,” she said. “It’s surprising how many homes are on the market.”
J.P. Habets with HW Global said the manufacturing sector is also recovering from the impacts of the government shutdown and uncertainty of additional government stoppages.
“Potential is there to expand and grow, but the uncertainty holds us back,” Habets said.
A positive for Indiana County will be the Challenger Learning Center (www.challenger.org) coming to ICTC. Habets said he sees this as an incredible opportunity. He expects the program to gain momentum and create jobs here through other support opportunities.
“I think it will be a great success,” Habets said.
A lengthy discussion occurred regarding the Affordable Care Act and health care exchange and how it will affect chamber member businesses. Many concerns were shared, including costs to businesses and the impacts it may have on medical facilities that could see reduced revenues due to less coverage.
The chamber over the next few months will work to help businesses and their employees work through the process and address member concerns.
Heidi Malin with Keystone Fundraising Solutions provided an update on the Leaders Circle of Indiana County. Nominations for this year’s Athena and Male and Female Civic Leader Awards have closed, but she said she was pleased to announce that 22 nominees were submitted.
More information, including the announcement of the nominees, will occur early next year. The awards dinner is April 10 at the KCAC.
Malin also said the LCIC team is looking at programs and opportunities to develop future leaders in Indiana County. There is a concern with the lack of youth interested in becoming involved in the community, she said.
Struzzi said the November Chamber Business After Hours was held on Wednesday at SeniorCare on Wayne Avenue. About 60 people attended, enjoying catering provided by chamber member Homemade Restaurant in Home.
The next Chamber After Hours is a holiday celebration on Dec. 12 at St. Andrew’s Village.
The chamber’s next meeting is Dec. 6, during the annual luncheon at the KCAC.