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2016-04-08 / Community (County Spotlight)

How Beaver County will “leverage and align its resources” for future success.


Despite the fact that only 30 active wells are operating in Beaver County, the region has taken center stage in Marcellus shale conversation since Shell decided to build a new ethane cracker plant in Monaca.

Beaver County was created in 1800 from parts of Allegheny and Washington Counties and took its name from the Beaver River.

According to the Pennsylvania Center for Workforce Information & Analysis, its 2014 population was estimated to be 169,392 and unemployment rate at 5.3 percent.

The energy sector has been important to the region since the Shippingport Atomic Power Station began generating electricity there in 1957. 25 years later, the plant was decommissioned, only to be reopened as the Beaver Valley Nuclear Power Station.

To gauge how the county will meet the changes that Shell may bring, Marcellus Business Central interviewed Jack Manning, president and executive director of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce. Manning has been a member of the Chamber since 2009 and took on his current role in 2015.

MBC: According to the Beaver County Times, the new 376 Partnership recently lost $40,000 funding from the county. How does the partnership plan to develop moving forward?

Manning: Losing the funding, which was seed money for marketing materials and website design, will have little to no effect on the partnership the Chamber has with the Beaver County Board of Commissioners or the other two organization named as initial partners in the agreement (Corporation for Economic Development & Redevelopment Authority). The Chamber and the County are aligned in our goals to prepare, develop and promote the community for economic growth. With the change in control of the Board, as well as changing personnel and budget concerns that the newly elected officials are dealing with, the loss of funding was not totally unexpected.

MBC: Why do you believe the 376 Partnership is important to the future of Beaver County?

Manning: It’s not just the entity of the Partnership but the idea of engagement and commitment to work in a coordinated and strategic effort that’s important. We have a great story of success and opportunity in Beaver County and the region. We want to tell it with a unified voice and in a consistent manner. Leveraging and aligning our resources is vitally important to our future success.

MBC: How has the county been preparing for the potential Shell ethane cracker plant and what more do you think could be done?

Manning: Much preparation for housing, especially with new hotels being built in anticipation, has been done regionally. Local county and private entities have been working cooperatively. Several communities, non-profit organizations and residents have had meetings with Shell and local officials for last year or more in anticipation of a go- ahead for construction.

MBC: In a recent update on the chamber’s website, you said, “some of our Rivertown communities, like Ambridge, Beaver Falls, and Ellwood City are taking strong measures in revitalizing their downtown business districts by strategically re-thinking their approach to zoning and how to develop a more diverse sustainable economy.” Could you go into more detail about how these towns plan to develop their economies?

Manning: Many of our regional Rivertowns were formed and supported by the rivers and steel mills that were built around them. Zoning and business development was based on those mills and worker populations. With the current demographics and populations, these communities are rethinking how to right-size and re-zone their core business districts, which are vital to the resiliency of their local economies. Nothing defines, nor has a greater impact on the perception and pride of a community, than the vitality of their traditional downtown business district. Zoning permitted uses that encourage the right businesses to locate in the right zones is important. Too many towns have accepted that any business is better than no business, but that’s a trap they get into. The community has to set the standards that they want and deserve. They do this through effective zoning, ordinances and code enforcement. That’s what these progressive communities are doing.

MBC: What resources have been added to the chambers website in order to aid business relocation, start up and expansion?

Manning: We are diligently working to launch a new website connected to the 376 Partnership which will provide access and links to all the important information and resources necessary to start or expand your business in Beaver County and our local communities. Our local economy, as it is nationally, is highly based on small business. Small business creates 65 percent of all new job growth. We want to make it easier for entrepreneurs as well as major corporations to do business in Beaver County. And we just don’t want the new jobs, we want the families behind those jobs to live in Beaver County and enjoy our great quality of life. .

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