Featured Posts

<< >>

State Senate approves landowner protection bills

HARRISBURG (AP) – Senate Bills 1236, 1237 and 1238 — expanding the rights of landowners who are currently leased with natural gas companies — were approved recently with strong bipartisan support by the full state Senate, according to prime sponsor, Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming). The

DEP issues Chevron nine citations in fatal gas well blast

DILLINER, PA — For two days after a Marcellus Shale natural gas well exploded into flame in February in Greene County, the well owner, Chevron, refused to allow state investigators onto the property, in violation of oil and gas laws, the state said today. That conflict,

Governor’s ImPAct award finalists named

Twenty-five companies in central Pennsylvania are finalists for Governor’s Impact Awards, established by the Commonwealth to recognize companies and individuals who are investing in Pennsylvania and creating jobs. A total of 43 firms were initially nominated in the region. Collaborating with one another, Partners for

Pennsylvania Governor Corbett Announces Act 13 Impact Fee Revenues To Surpass $630 Million

HARRISBURG, PA — Governor Tom Corbett today announced that since 2012, Act 13 will generate more than $630 million through 2014 through an impact fee assessed on unconventional natural gas wells. The majority of Act 13 funds are directly invested in local communities. “We are building

Pa. reports industrial air pollution data for 2012

HARRISBURG, PA (AP) — A new state report says Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry remained a relatively small contributor of air pollution in 2012 from industrial facilities, despite including more compressor stations than 2011. The state Department of Environmental Protection released the data Thursday. Overall, the amount of

State Senate approves landowner protection bills

HARRISBURG (AP) – Senate Bills 1236, 1237 and 1238 — expanding the rights of landowners who are currently leased with natural gas companies — were approved recently with strong bipartisan support by the full state Senate, according to prime sponsor, Senator Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming).

The legislation, known as the Oil and Gas Lease Protection Package, aims to provide more protections for landowners.

The first bill would expand upon the Oil and Gas Lease Act by allowing royalty interest owners the opportunity to inspect records of natural gas companies to verify proper payments. In addition, the bill requires all royalty payments be made within 60 days of production unless otherwise stated in the contract. Any delinquent payments are to be paid with interest.

The second bill would prohibit a gas company from retaliating against any royalty interest owner by terminating their lease agreement or ceasing development on leased property because a royalty interest owner questions the accuracy of current royalty payments. Companies found to have violated the provisions of this act face civil penalties of up to $1,000 per day.

The third bill would require a gas company to record a surrender document in the county Recorder of Deeds office where the oil and gas well is located within 30 days upon expiration, termination, or forfeiture of an oil and gas lease. The surrender document will release the gas company’s interests in the oil and gas.

DEP issues Chevron nine citations in fatal gas well blast

DILLINER, PA — For two days after a Marcellus Shale natural gas well exploded into flame in February in Greene County, the well owner, Chevron, refused to allow state investigators onto the property, in violation of oil and gas laws, the state said today.

That conflict, along with other problems that resulted from the fire that began Feb. 11 in Dunkard, led the state Department of Environmental Protection to issue Chevron nine citations for the incident that resulted in one contractor’s death.

Chevron did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Here’s what really peeves us,” DEP spokesman John Poister said today. “Our emergency response team were down there to do a job. And the permit [for the well] clearly says they should allow ‘free and unrestricted access’ to a properly identified DEP employee, and they didn’t do that.”

Though Chevron was strongly reminded of that condition, the state did not force its way onto the property or ask the Pennsylvania State Police to intervene, Poister said, because “we decided not to make it a pitched battle and instead focused on getting the well capped and making the scene safe.”

DEP investigators and a DEP emergency vehicle were kept further back on the property while Chevron employees and contractors were staged closer to the well site. A closer position would have allowed more accurate air sampling to determine the impact of the well fire, Poister said.

“Chevron was taking air samples [those first two days], but we wanted and should be able to take our own,” he said.

Chevron did not relent until the second day after DEP Secretary Chris Abruzzo visited the site himself and reminded the company of its obligations, Poister said.

He said the state wants other companies to know that DEP does not intend to allow such a situation to occur again.

In addition to the violation for not allowing access, the state cited Chevron for seven violations for failure to operate a well properly and failure to prevent venting of gas, and an eighth violation for a discharge of well production fluids onto the ground.

The issue of the violations is a prelude to negotiating a fine in the case, which may be accompanied by conditions for work at the well site and/or other Chevron well sites.

Mr. Poister said DEP has yet to meet with Chevron to discuss the citations, which were issued March 18, but a meeting will be set for sometime in the next 10 days.

Governor’s ImPAct award finalists named

Twenty-five companies in central Pennsylvania are finalists for Governor’s Impact Awards, established by the Commonwealth to recognize companies and individuals who are investing in Pennsylvania and creating jobs.

A total of 43 firms were initially nominated in the region.

Collaborating with one another, Partners for Regional Economic Performance (PREP) then reduced the group of 43 nominees to 25 finalists.

“This year’s program drew an excellent group of nominees whose achievements were all outstanding,” according to SEDA-COG’s Betsy Lockwood, Central Region PREP.

PREP is a network of business assistance providers working together to coordinate economic development efforts. The Central Region PREP is one of ten such networks in Pennsylvania. Each of the PREP networks was able to select up to five finalists in each of the five Impact Award categories. The five categories and regional finalists include:

 

Community Impact ─ Firms committed to the growth and development of their employees and communities

• Larson Design Group ─ Local offices in Williamsport and Selinsgrove

• PPL Corporation ─ Local offices in Bloomsburg, Northumberland, and Washingtonville

• Webster’s Bookstore and Café ─ State College

• Sire Advertising ─ Selinsgrove

• Brodart ─ Williamsport

 

Entrepreneur Impact ─ Individuals who have led their company through creativity, innovation, managerial ability, leadership skills and turnaround

• Douglas Michael, Columbia County Bread and Granola ─ Bloomsburg

• Jessica Grill, Pompeii Street Soap Company ─ Mifflinburg

• Todd Erdley, Videon Central, Inc. ─ State College

• Don Heaney, Advanced Powder Products ─ Philipsburg

• Brian Hoopsick, PSR, Inc. ─ Philipsburg

 

Export Impact ─ Companies that have significantly increased export sales and new foreign markets

• Arcos Industries, LLC ─ Mount Carmel

• Wheeland Lumber Co. ─ Liberty

• G & B Specialties, Inc. ─ Berwick

• AcousticSheep, LLC ─ Bellefonte

• Silco Tek ─ Bellefonte

 

Jobs First ─ Firms that have demonstrated consistent job growth and retention over the past two years

• Nittany Paper Mills, Inc. ─ Lewistown

• Stahl Sheaffer Engineering LLC ─ Selinsgrove

• Mission Critical Partners, Inc. ─ Port Matilda

• Publishers Service Associates ─ Williamsport

• Benton Foundry, Inc. ─ Benton

 

Small Business ─ Firms that have demonstrated innovative qualities, revenue/profit growth, and workforce

• Rich Coast Corporation ─ Lewistown

• The North Shore Railroad Company ─ Northumberland

• Danville Pharmacy ─ Danville

• Transport Designs, Inc. ─ Montoursville

• Discovery Machine, Inc. ─ Williamsport

 

Central Region PREP will have one winner in each of the categories. The winner in each category will be determined by an independent panel of judges and be announced at the Governor’s Impact Awards luncheon, Friday, May 30, 2014 at the Hershey Lodge in Hershey, PA.

The Central Region PREP network’s core partners include the region’s Industrial Resource Centers ─ IMC and NEPIRC; industrial development organizations; SEDA-COG; and the three Small Business Development Centers located at Penn State, Lock Haven University, and Bucknell University. The service provider

network also includes the Governor’s Action Team, PennTAP, Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, Keystone Innovation Zones, Ben Franklin Technology Partners, and the local Workforce Investment Board.

Pennsylvania Governor Corbett Announces Act 13 Impact Fee Revenues To Surpass $630 Million

HARRISBURG, PA — Governor Tom Corbett today announced that since 2012, Act 13 will generate more than $630 million through 2014 through an impact fee assessed on unconventional natural gas wells. The majority of Act 13 funds are directly invested in local communities.

“We are building a stronger Pennsylvania by harnessing our abundant resources to create jobs for working families, reinvest in our local communities, and protect our environment for generations to come,” Corbett said. “Through Act 13, we are protecting public health and safety, safeguarding our environment, and making sure our world-class energy industry grows in a responsible way.

Data released by the Public Utility Commission today show the state expects to collect $224.5 million in 2014 through Act 13′s impact fee assessed on unconventional wells. Coupled with the $406 million collected in 2012 and 2013, Act 13 will generate more than $630 million since it was signed into law.

The majority of Act 13 funds are directly distributed to counties and municipalities all across the Commonwealth for a variety of environmental, public safety, infrastructure, emergency response and other authorized uses.

David M. Sanko, executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors (PSATS), said Corbett’s announcement was well-received.

“Townships across Pennsylvania got great news on Friday when the commonwealth announced that it expects to collect $224.5 million in 2014 through the state’s natural gas impact fee,” Sanko said.

“The funding is doing exactly what Gov. Corbett and lawmakers intended. It’s helping townships in every corner of the state, especially those in the Marcellus Shale region. Today, these communities are able to invest in services and projects that, until the impact fee came along, were financially out of their reach,” Sanko said.

PSATS represents the 1,454 townships of the second class across Pennsylvania. Townships, in turn, represent 5.5 million Pennsylvanians, more than any other type of political subdivision in the commonwealth and they cover 95 percent of the commonwealth’s land mass.

Act 13 funds are also directed to commonwealth agencies including DEP, PEMA, the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission, the Office of the State Fire Commissioner, and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to strengthen their oversight of drilling activities.  County conservation districts also receive significant new funding under Act 13.

Additionally, the impact fee helps fund other critical conservation programs such as Growing Greener and the Marcellus Legacy Fund.  Growing Greener, established in 1999, is receiving its first infusion of new funding from the impact fee in over a decade.  The Marcellus Legacy Fund is a newly created program administered by the Commonwealth Financing Authority that provides funding for a variety of uses, including watershed restoration, abandoned mine reclamation, open space, greenway, trail and recreation projects, flood control and other environmental purposes.  Funds are also allocated for water and sewer infrastructure projects through both PENNVEST and the H2O program.

Act 13 of 2012 was the single largest step in modernizing the state’s Oil and Gas Law in nearly three decades. It increased protections for public and private water supplies, empowered the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) through the adoption of over twenty specific enhancements to Pennsylvania’s environmental protection laws, including one of the most progressive hydraulic fracturing fluid disclosure laws in the nation.

Pa. reports industrial air pollution data for 2012

HARRISBURG, PA (AP) — A new state report says Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry remained a relatively small contributor of air pollution in 2012 from industrial facilities, despite including more compressor stations than 2011.

The state Department of Environmental Protection released the data Thursday.

Overall, the amount of pollution from industrial facilities dropped in 2012, and the department said that was at least in part because of increased natural gas use.

The natural gas industry emitted 10 percent of nitrogen oxides, 21 percent of volatile organic compounds and nine percent of carbon monoxide from all industrial sources. The industry’s data came from 8,800 natural gas wells and 400 compressor stations that receive oil and natural gas.

The survey didn’t account for emissions from cars and trucks, the single largest source of air pollution.

Pennsylvania Independent Oil & Gas Association (PIOGA) President & Executive Director Louis D. D’Amico issued a statement regarding the report.

“The results of comprehensive air emissions data from Pennsylvania’s natural gas industry continue to tell a remarkable story of improvements in the environment and public health in the state in just five years of increased production and utilization of natural gas,” D’Amico said. “The facts are that the industry’s operations contribute very little to ambient air pollution, and the product being extracted through those operations is at the core of the improvements we have seen in the National Ambient Air Quality Standards since 2008.

“The coupling of these significant strides in air quality with the production of a clean energy source is unprecedented in Pennsylvania’s history, and will continue as more natural gas is used to meet our energy needs.”

$1.2 million bid awarded to remediate Clearfield County brownfield site

by Julie Benamati, PBC Editor

 

CURWENSVILLE, PA – Earthmovers Unlimited Inc. of Kylertown submitted a low bid of $1.2 million to administer the demolition of tannery infrastructure and removal of residual waste material at the former Howe’s Leather Company here.

Clearfield County dignitaries gathered to award the remediation bid for Howe's Leather on March 14, 2014.

Clearfield County dignitaries gathered to award the remediation bid for Howe’s Leather on March 14, 2014.

The company operated from 1900 to 2003 on a 26.5-acre site in the Curwensville Industrial Park. Howe’s Leather shut its doors due to lack of business and a bankruptcy filing.

A comprehensive bid package to remediate the hazardous residual waste concerns was compiled by Civil Environmental Consultants and placed for public bid in December 2013.

According to Rob Swales, CEO of Clearfield County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC), nine companies expressed interest in bidding the project, but only two bids were actually received by the Feb. 14 due date.

On March 14, the CCEDC officially received the title to the property and awarded the bid to Earthmovers.

Swales said the demolition and remediation of the site is estimated to be a six-month process starting in May: mobilization and site preparation in May; sludge excavation from June to August; sludge placement and mine reclamation in August and September; former tannery demolition also in August and September; and sludge lagoon impoundment restoration from June to September.

Located directly behind the Curwensville Area Jr./Sr. High School and Elementary School, the property has been an eyesore and possible environmental hazard for years, despite the prohibitive chain link fencing around the property.

Ron Matchock, the district’s superintendent, said the property was a huge concern regarding the students’ safety.

“The fact that former Howe’s Leather site is going to have the opportunity to undergo remediation is a tremendous blessing to the school district and community as a whole,” Matchock said. “Just by the nature of being so close to the school and athletic facilities, the site posed a potential threat for student safety in its current condition, and the benefits of the clean-up go well beyond anything we could measure financially.”

The existing concrete foundations and exposed rebar are a two-fold safety concern: high walls and steep drop-offs with retaining stagnant water will not only foster possible West Nile virus, but also a potential hazard to personal injury and accidental drowning.

According to Swales, several positives will result from the brownfield’s remediation.

The removal of about 36,000 cubic yards of geotextile and sludge material will remove nitrates from infiltrating the nearby West Branch of the Susquehanna River.

Sludge lagoon material, which is a nitrogen-rich byproduct of the vegetable-based tanning process, will be used to mitigate other local acid mine drainage projects.

Remaining concrete debris will be ground and used as base-fill at the lagoon site as backfill.

Once the project is completed, Swales said the replenished site will be once again suitable for commercial and industrial development for the Curwensville community. Six to eight parcels of land will be subdivided and will provide opportunities to sustain 5,000 to 20,000 square-foot business facilities.

Additionally, Swales said conservative figures show new business development on the sites will not only create jobs in the area, it will increase local real estate tax revenues by at least $120,000 total for the county, borough and school district.

Matchock said the financial end of the deal is an added bonus for everyone involved.

“Naturally, any business that could move into the community could be of benefit to the district financially, but in addition to the tax base benefits, our area businesses have always been tremendous supporters of the district and the students and the programs that we offer,” Matchock said. “The clean-up of this site has immediate aesthetic benefits to the school as many areas of the school district such as the playground directly overlooking the former Howe’s Leather property.

“The school district is very grateful for the hard work of the Clearfield County Economic Development Corporation, made this a reality,” Matchock added.

Regulation Z: Ability-to-Repay and Qualified Mortgage Standards under the Truth in Lending Act

By R. Brock Pronko, PBC Business Analyst

 

On January 10, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) rolled out a new banking regulation designed to protect both bankers and borrowers from the risky lending practices that led to the financial crisis of 2008.

The final rule enforces the Truth in Lending Act of 1968 (TILA), which provided consumer protections including prohibiting a creditor from making a higher-priced loan without regard to the consumer’s ability to repay the loan.

In 2010, TILA’s rule making authority was transferred to the CFPB, whose authority was established by the passage of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

Regulation Z also implements requirements and restrictions imposed under the Dodd-Frank Act. These include limits on loan rates and points, or bank fees added to loans, retention of evidence of compliance with the ability to repay rule for three years after the loan is made, and prohibition on steering the borrower toward a loan because the lender makes more money on it than he would a more appropriate loan for the borrower’s income and assets.

In addition, Reg. Z eliminates exotic types of loans such as mortgages that extend beyond a 30-year term and loans with negative amortization where a deferred interest or graduated payment occurs for a period less than the interest charged over that period such that the outstanding balance of the loan increases.

Finally, Reg. Z provides “safe harbor” from lawsuits for banks that follow all the rules for originating a mortgage loan.

“The safe harbor rule limits the recourse a borrower can take against a bank if he is unable to pay his mortgage and he ends up in foreclosure, as long as the bank can prove to regulators that it originated the loan within the rates and points parameters and the allowed debt to income ratios prescribed in Regulation Z,” said Tom Gillen, president of the mortgage division of Susquehanna Bank, headquartered in Lititz, Lancaster County.

Appendix Q in the regulation defines the new rule for documenting a mortgage loan.

“Before Reg. Z, bankers could say we didn’t ask the borrowers what their income was, so there was no misrepresentation on our part because we didn’t know they couldn’t repay, but that’s no longer an excuse,” said Gillen.

“Now banks are not only required to ask borrowers about their income, but they also must document evidence of that income to verify the borrower is properly qualified under the new rule.

“This eliminates the low doc and no doc loans that led to foreclosures and contributed to the Wall Street Meltdown, or at least it does for bank lenders, which are regulated by the CFPB, non-bank mortgage brokers are not yet under the bureau’s authority.”

To assure that banks make mortgage loans that have interest rates and points that are in line with the current market, regulators came up with a new term called the Average Prime Offer Rate or APOR, which represents current market interest rates.

To stay within the safe harbor rule, mortgage loans need to be within a specified range of that APOR. For example, with a conventional mortgage loan a borrower’s APR (annual percentage rate) can only be 1.5 percent over the APOR.

“As a practice, Susquehanna didn’t originate loans with high interest rates or loans to borrowers who couldn’t pay them back, but now we can’t make those even by mistake without being liable, so every mortgage loan at our bank now goes through a qualifying matrix,” said Gillen.

A minor change in the loan amount could have major consequences.

“If an appraisal of the property comes back lower than the borrower had expected on a refinance loan, there will be more points charged and passed through to a Fanny Mae or Freddie Mac,” said Gillen.

“In such a case, or if the property tax changed, or anything else changed that would impact the loan amount, we would have to recalculate the loan to make sure we’re still within the prescribed parameters of Reg. Z.”

A chief concern of the banking industry about implementing the financial reform regulations has been the increased cost of compliance.

“Any change or increase in regulation comes with additional expense,” said Ron Andzelik, chief compliance officer for Northwest Savings Bank, headquartered in Warren.

“Compliance costs are associated with training, updating our loan origination system, and creating specialized mortgage lending staff,” said Andzelik. “Dodd Frank is much broader than impacting mortgage lending and much of the regulation is yet to be written.”

Regulation Z was originally drafted in January 2013, with revisions issued three times last year in May, July and September. As the regulation was being revised, some bankers were concerned that the risk of non-compliance would be so high that they might stop making mortgage loans altogether.

Now that the final rule has been issued, banks are trying to assess if those worries were valid.

“The CFPB has done a very good job of providing guidance to lenders regarding the requirements, so we don’t believe the availability of banks offering mortgage products will decrease,” said Andzelik. “However, the way in which mortgage applications are processed and approved will definitely change, and we think applicants will notice this mainly because lenders are required to document underwriting decisions more thoroughly.

“Prospective home buyers that require a ‘non-qualified mortgage’ because they may not be able to document their income or because their property may be non-conforming, may have a tougher time getting loans.”

According to the Mortgage Bankers Association, mortgage volumes are expected to drop 32 percent this year. If those predictions are correct, 2014 will be the worst year for mortgage lending since 2000.

“We are hearing that origination volume could be lower this year, however, there are many factors that influence the mortgage market such as the growth of the economy, unemployment and market interest rates, the cost of homes, etc.,” said Andzelik.

The chief complaint that community bankers and regional bankers have had since Dodd-Frank was enacted was that the law painted the industry with a “broad brush” such that good players were forced to bear the financial costs of compliance and the litigious risks of non-compliance while non-bank mortgage brokers that were involved in high priced and low doc/no doc loans remained unfettered by regulation.

The CFPB responded last year by promising to regulate the non-bank mortgage lending industry, but no time table has been set. Since federal regulators already have nearly 7,000 banks to examine, they would need to stretch their staff even further by adding more than 1,000 non-bank mortgage companies to their schedule.

In anticipation of being regulated, only a few non-bank lenders are still offering higher-risk loans with exorbitant rates, most others including large mortgage houses, such as the LendingTree and Quicken Loans, sell ordinary fixed-rate or adjustable-rate loans that are slightly cheaper than those from big banks.

”The two questions bankers are asking today are: was the uncertainty about QM (qualified mortgages) and the ability of borrowers to repay misplaced with Dodd-Frank, and what’s going to happen the mortgage industry in this country as a result of these new regulations,” said Bill Hayes, chairman and CEO of State College-based Kish Bank.

Hayes is co-chair of the American Bankers Association (ABA) Banker Advocacy & Grassroots Committee.

The ABA, and the Independent Community Bankers of America, which represent nearly 7,000 community banks, lobbied the CFPB to make an exception to the Regulation Z rules for small rural banks like Kish. When the final rule came out, they got their wish.

“Small banks in rural areas, which are generally community banks, have been afforded exemption for the adjustable rate lending prohibited under Reg. Z,” said Hayes.

The criteria for a rural bank to be exempt are that its assets can’t be greater than $2 billon, and it can’t write any more than 500 units of first mortgage loans.

“If you fall within those parameters, you’re considered to be a small bank entity and you get leeway in terms of the products you can offer,” said Hayes.

“Balloon payment loans went away as of Jan. 10, but if you are in that small rural bank category you still can do balloon payment loans as well as other types of loans that a big bank wouldn’t be able to do, which enables small rural banks to maintain that small bank presence and remain competitive in the mortgage lending market.”

“But this is the exception to the rule. We’re still very carefully watching to see what happens with mortgage lending in this county.

“Before the financial crisis, we had one of the most robust mortgage lending industries in the world, but now that banks are constrained by the new regulations, it remains to be seen if we will be able to maintain that robustness.”

Pennsylvania follows trend with growth in upscale, off-campus student housing

By R. Brock Pronko, PBC Business Analyst

Fully furnished suites with leather upholstered furniture, stainless steel sinks and appliances, granite-top counters, flat-screen TVs, wireless Internet, tanning salons, fitness centers, tennis
courts, beach volley ball courts, salt-water swimming pools, clubhouses, and hot tubs.

These might sound like the amenities of a luxury resort hotel, but they are actually some of the features found at upscale student housing communities built by student associations and foundations affiliated with state universities in Pennsylvania.

Before the financial meltdown, universities across the U.S. experienced their own “housing bubble” as they began building upscale suites and apartment complexes for students, a trend
that continues today.

In 2001, California University of Pennsylvania opened Vulcan Village, an upscale apartment
community, 1.5 miles from the main campus in Brownsville, Fayette County. Vulcan Village is owned by the Student Association, Inc. and is managed by EdR, Inc., one the largest student housing management companies in the country.

The complex consists of 10 three-story buildings, with a total of 199 apartments and 768 beds. Each apartment is fully-furnished and includes a full-size stove, refrigerator, microwave, dishwasher, garbage disposal, and washer and dryer. Amenities include a basketball court, volleyball court, bus/shuttle service, cable, lounge, computer lab, conference room, free parking, 24/7 maintenance, pool, private laundry, picnic area with grills, study rooms, WiFi, and a fitness center.

In 2004, Clarion University Foundation, Inc., a non-profit affiliate of Clarion University in Clarion County, developed a $30 million upscale student community, Reinhard Villages – named for Diane Reinhard, Clarion University’s 14th president.

The foundation is now working to secure the final portion of funding for the design and construction of a new student housing project that will replace the university’s outdated Nair and Wilkinson traditional residence halls with two new apartment buildings located along both sides of East Main Street in Clarion Borough.

The top three floors of each building will be “suite-style” residences for students, with the first floor reserved for university related retail functions. The total cost of the project is estimated at $61 million and will be paid by resident fees of students who will live there.

Edinboro University in Erie County built the first two buildings of its $60 million upscale student suites called The Highlands in 2009, and opened the last phase in the fall of 2012.

In 2007, Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Indiana County opened the first two upscale
student buildings as part of its $250 million project that converted all 3,900 beds on campus from traditional residence halls to suite-style apartments.

Kutztown University in Berks County invested $28 million in a garden apartment style community called Golden Bear South, and over $53 million on the largest dormitory complex in the state system in 2008.

In 2012, University Properties, Inc., an affiliated non-profit corporation of East Stroudsburg
University in Monroe County, built a $74 million upscale housing complex – Hawthorne Suites
and Hemlock Suites.

Contrasting starkly with this upscale housing trend at state universities is a downward slump
in enrollment and financial support from the state government.

 

The Highlands

During the past three years, Edinboro University’s enrollment has declined by 18 percent, but its upscale student housing, The Highlands, remains at 99 percent occupancy. In-state students living in The Highlands comprise 79.6 percent of the population; out-of-state students, 17.5 percent; and international students, 2.9 percent.

“In Pennsylvania, upscale student housing may be a newer trend, but it’s been on rise for some time in higher education,” said Kim Kennedy, executive director of the student affairs administration at Edinboro. “We built the Highlands to provide additional options for students that we didn’t have in our traditional residence halls, which were built for the baby boomers coming here in the 1950s and 1960s, and those buildings didn’t support digital technology.”

The Highlands features A/C, geothermal, private gathering and study space, wide flat screen TVs wired for gaming, and wired and wireless Internet. The Highlands carry LEED certification and support the university’s commitment to being good stewards of natural resources.

Prices for suites at The Highlands range from $3,525 per semester for a double bedroom semi-suite, to $4,555 per semester for a single studio. The Highlands and residence halls total nearly 1650 beds.

“Students in their first year are required to live on campus, because they need to learn to
navigate college life academically and socially, learn time management and study skills, and
become involved in student organizations, clubs and athletics,” said Kennedy. “It’s a whole new world, but as they mature and develop a more solid footing, they want to have new experiences, and the suites offer them an opportunity to test out what it’s like to be more
independent and to have more privacy.

“We believe that preparing our students for life after the university is part of their educational
process.”

 

Reinhard Villages

Clarion University’s Reinhard Villages feature fully-furnished rooms with Internet access in each bedroom through Ethernet; a generous electricity allowance; central heat and air with private thermostats in each apartment; basic cable; full kitchen with stove, refrigerator, garbage disposal, dishwasher and microwave; a private full-size washer and dryer in each unit; and private bedrooms with individual locks.

Floor plans consist of four options, which range in price per student, from $670 per month to
$795 per month.

“Clarion University’s strategy related to housing is the same as other university decisions – we review the data on the types of housing college-age students seek and make decisions that will allow us to meet this demand in a very competitive marketplace,” said David Love, director of marketing and communications at Clarion.

“We incorporated independent surveys with those we conducted with our own students, and they both showed that the living and learning environment has become an even greater motivator in the selection of a university today.

“We’re seeing potential students expressing higher demand for semi-suite singles, even though they are a higher price point than housing in traditional residence halls.”

 

American Campus –Nittany Crossing

Founded in 1993 in Austin, Texas, American Campus Communities has become the nation’s largest developer, owner and manager of upscale student housing communities on and off campus in more than 30 states.

Since 1996, American Campus has developed more than $4.2 billion in properties for its
own account and its university clients, and it acquired in excess of $4.6 billion in student
housing assets. It purchased Nittany Crossing in State College in 2008 and renovated the
complex into upscale community for Penn State students, though it is not affiliated with the university. Nittany Crossing is located near the intersection of Waddle Road and Vairo
Boulevard, just less than two miles from Penn State’s main campus.

The same year, American Campus developed an upscale housing complex, University Crossings, on the campus of Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“Right now, the upscale housing trend has a lot to do with budgeting,” said Tim Yayner, leasing
manager at Nittany Crossing.

“Universities in Pennsylvania and other states have tight budgets so they’re looking to outsource the development of their student housing projects or the management of those
projects to companies like ours, Campus Crest, and EdR, which specialize in student housing.”

Nittany Crossing at Penn State

Nittany Crossing at Penn State

Amenities at Nittany Crossing including a resort style pool, hot tubs available all year long,
state-of-the-art fitness center, beach volley ball court, basketball court, and a computer lab in
the newly renovated clubhouse.

The fully furnished apartments include: private bedrooms; ceiling fans; full-sized kitchen; full-sized refrigerator with ice maker; full-sized washer and dryer; dishwasher; microwave; and optional upgraded leather upholstered furniture.

“Although our goal with Nittany Crossing was to create a self-contained student community
where students could interact with each other in a variety of activities and in different spaces
such as our clubhouse, we do hold residence life events to get residents involved in the State
College community, and we also have some non-student residents,” said Yayner.

The bulk of the residents come from Penn State branch campuses.

“I think the experience of living here is about growing up and becoming a responsible adult, living your own life, and having the privacy of your own apartment, which students never had
at home or in the dorms,” said Yayner. “It’s a taste of what living in the real world might be
like once students graduate and secure a job in their field, and in that sense, it’s an integral
part of their college education.”

Marcellus shale driller Noble Energy Inc. sinks roots into Pittsburgh

PITTSBURGH, PA (AP) — Houston-based driller Noble Energy is settling into a headquarters across the street from Range Resources Corp., the largest landholder among shale drillers in Western Pennsylvania, and Consol Energy Inc., the oldest local company working the Marcellus shale.

The six-story building in Cecil’s Southpointe development that Noble will lease sits among a cluster of peers and service contractors, with easy interstate access to its well sites in Washington County and West Virginia.

The Marcellus “is quickly shaping up to be a world-class play,” said Bob Ovitz, senior operations manager for Noble’s Marcellus business unit. “Southpointe is sort of the nexus, the epicenter of what’s going on out here. … This is a great regional hub for the industry.”

That hub stretches from the Washington County business park to Cranberry in Butler County. About a dozen drilling companies, big and small, and most of the biggest Marcellus shale-gas producers in Pennsylvania chose to be here, even some that drill mostly in Eastern Pennsylvania and those, such as Noble, that do a lot in West Virginia.

It’s a unique opportunity for the region, putting Pittsburgh atop the Appalachian energy industry’s supply chain, economic experts said. Rigs move and field offices close when the rigs go, but the corporate presence taking root in Pittsburgh is a constant that can withstand the whims of a boom-and-bust industry, they said.

The drilling companies draw pipeline companies such as Williams and MarkWest, and service companies such as Halliburton. Law firms and engineering and environmental consultants follow. Clustering in Pittsburgh offers them access to finance, skilled workers and culture, centrally located between drilling hot spots in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and eastern Ohio, experts said.

“Pittsburgh is the place that has all of that at once,” said Kurt Rankin, an economist with PNC Financial Services Group. “Any firm that has hopes of being part of the natural gas revolution in the United States, and in particular focused on the Marcellus shale, is going to want to be a regional presence (here), with people on the ground who understand the marketplace in Pittsburgh.”

There’s hope that petrochemical makers and manufacturers will locate here as well, to take advantage of cheap natural gas. The gas industry could become like the coal industry that brought natural resource companies and steel-making that has survived in the region for more than 100 years, said Chris Briem, regional economist at the University of Pittsburgh.

“It’s a fortunate accident of geography, millennia old,” he said.

About a dozen shale drillers are in the Pittsburgh area, most along Interstate 79, including Royal Dutch Shell plc and Exxon Mobil Corp. and midsized companies such as Cabot Oil & Gas Corp. and Talisman Energy Inc. Suburban locations give them quick access to Pittsburgh International Airport and field sites around the countryside.

The trend — building for a while — is ongoing. Chevron Corp. spent $17.5 million last year to buy land in Moon, closer to the airport. Township officials have said it could be a regional headquarters with 1,000 to 1,500 workers, though Chevron has yet to confirm that.

Rice Energy Inc., which just went public, has a headquarters under construction in Southpointe and plans to move in June 1.

“For us, it’s proximity to our acreage in Washington and Greene counties … and Belmont County in Ohio,” said Jamie Rogers, a vice president at Rice, which is outgrowing a suite at Southpointe. “So many of the service companies have now migrated to Southpointe, especially, it really does simplify doing business.”

AccuWeather launches MinuteCast on Web and In App for iPhone & iPod touch

STATE COLLEGE, PA – AccuWeather launched its new MinuteCast feature on the web and in the iOS 7-enhanced AccuWeather App for iPhone and iPod forecasts help users make decisions on the spot, wherever they go, regardless of device.

“MinuteCast is an in-the-moment feature because it keeps users viewing at their desks and from their mobile devices aware of when precipitation is going to begin and end,” said Steve Smith, Chief Digital Officer for AccuWeather, Inc.

“AccuWeather already provides the longest ranging and most accurate forecasts available for free on the market. With the new MinuteCast, we also give users the greatest visibility into what’s happening in the immediate future so they can make better decisions and improve the course of their day and their lives.”

MinuteCast predicts start and end times for precipitation by-the-minute for the next two hours, specific to a user’s exact street address. Among other methods, the precipitation is tracked at approximately a half square mile and refreshed every five minutes to provide users with the most relevant and accurate forecast possible.

MinuteCast is currently available across the continental United States. It is now accessible from the forecast page on AccuWeather.com and on the AccuWeather.com mobile site, as well as from the iOS 7-enhanced AccuWeather App for iPhone and iPod touch. Once the user selects a location, MinuteCast appears prominently in the navigation. In addition to MinuteCast, the new iPhone app is completely redesigned to improve usability and support the iOS 7 platform, and includes important features such as, severe weather alerts, radar, immersive full-screen maps, social sharing, opportunities for personalization, and more.

The addition of MinuteCast to AccuWeather’s portfolio is part of its strategy to be the leading global digital media company that serves superior weather forecasts to more than one billion people worldwide every day. AccuWeather’s web and mobile properties provide users with numerous innovative weather forecasts including the 45-Day Forecast and lifestyle forecasts informing how weather affects travel, business planning, hobbies such as golfing and sailing, and conditions such as migraines and allergies. AccuWeather also offers animated and interactive weather radar and satellite maps, broadcast-quality weather videos and news stories, and up-to-date hurricane and tropical storm information in its Hurricane Center.

The AccuWeather App is available for free from the App Store on iPhone and iPod touch or at www.AppStore.com.