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2017-11-17 / Community (County Spotlight)

Indiana County stays on the move by “always planning for the future”

Spotlight on Indiana County
BY SPENCER MYERS
Editor

Manufacturing is seeing a renewal, but there is one issue. Because American manufacturers have begun producing more complex products to stay competitive, the new manufacturing jobs are no longer able to be filled with only high school graduates. In order to produce new complicated products, the positions available require more training and certifications.

Recently, in order to educate the public about what is needed to enter this growing workforce, the Challenge Program hosted a Polytechnic Career Awareness Expo at the Blairsville High School. The Challenge Program is just one of several organizations in Pennsylvania aiming to motivate students to enter the skilled labor force.

To learn how the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development fits into this talent pipeline, Pennsylvania Business Central spoke with its Executive Director, Byron G. Stauffer, Jr.

PBC: What local business success stories have you seen in Indiana County in the past year?

Stauffer: Gordon Sinclair, a promotional products supplier, expanded operations with a new, state- of-the-art manufacturing and decorating facility in Indiana County and created 50 new jobs. According to Governor Wolf, “they chose Pennsylvania over New York and Florida for its operations expansion due to the commonwealth’s highly qualified manufacturing labor force and its desirable location with excellent highway access to top markets in the U.S. and Canada.”

Gordon Sinclair purchased a 60,000-square-foot facility at 771 Indian Springs Road, White Township, Indiana County. The company committed to investing $5,048,000 in the project and to the creation of 50 new, full-time jobs over the next three years. The company has commenced hiring and began production at the facility in the spring, 2017.

“Gordon Sinclair started its search for a new plant location,” said Robert Gluck, founder and CEO, “with several states on our list. Without any reservation, I can say that Indiana County worked harder than anyone else to help us find a building, to connect us to numerous State of PA contacts for financing and incentives, for equipment financing through the County and even to help us find a local bank to work with.”

Beyond Sinclair, Panera Bread announced plans to build a restaurant on Route 286 West. Dan Smith’s Candies and Gifts opened a new location in Downtown Indiana at the corner of Philadelphia and 8th Streets. Dimaio’s Fire Food N’ Fun began their new outdoor equipment venture at 680 Old Route 119 North, in White Township.

PBC: Are there any businesses looking to fill vacancies or expand at Windy Ridge or your other parks that you would be at liberty to discuss?

Stauffer: Windy Ridge Business & Technology Park is being developed by the Indiana County Development Corporation (ICDC), a private nonprofit economic development organization. The total site is approximately 197-acres. The park has been envisioned as a mixed- use development of light manufacturing, office, with the front being dedicated to retail, restaurants, a hotel, etc. that will service the park tenants and community overall. The ICDC is fielding inquiries, all with significant job potential. The ICDC just received a $1.2M grant from the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Funding Authority (CFA) for transportation improvements, including road, stormwater, ADA compliant sidewalks/ crosswalks and street lights.

PBC: The CEO and other local economic development entities have been working to connect employers with the public with events like the Polytechnic Career Awareness Event at Blairsville Senior High School. How successful have the efforts been and what other programs are planned for the future?

Stauffer: The Indiana County

Development Corporation supports the Challenge Program and its efforts to help students, parents and other community members and stakeholders to learn about the highly-skilled trade occupations available in our region.

The Polytechnic Expo had a defined focus of connecting students to educational pathways that can lead to rewarding careers. Statistics indicate there will be many great opportunities in the coming years in the technical trades and service industries. This

Polytechnic Career Awareness Expo on

October 11 was the perfect time to learn about these various careers and how to take advantage of these prospects.”

To further support the Polytechnic

Expo, the Indiana County Development

Corporation as well as the Indiana

County Chamber of Commerce agreed to each provide a $250 scholarship to students who attended and registered an application for the award.

According to James Wiley, ICDC president, “the Indiana County

Development Corporation (ICDC) enthusiastically supported this county- wide event.”

PBC: How has the opioid crisis affected local employers’ abilities to find talent and what local efforts are being made to combat the issue?

Stauffer: The opioid crisis has taken a toll in much of Southwestern

Pennsylvania. Indiana County is unfortunately not an exception to the rule. Indiana County is fortunate to have the Armstrong-Indiana-Clarion Drug

& Alcohol Commission, The Open Door

Drug Counseling Service and Spirit Life in partnership with other state, county and local agencies, all working, as a team, to defeat this crisis that impacts families, employers, and the community at-large.

PBC: Between the Act 89 grants and

The Regional Transportation Alliance of Southwestern Pennsylvania there’s been plenty of news about regional transportation and transit projects in the area. What projects are currently 7underway with construction and what ones are still in the planning phase?

Stauffer: US Route 422 is the primary east-west option to cross the north portion of our region providing access to I-79, I-99 and the Pennsylvania Turnpike. The Wray Road Cut project near Kittanning is currently under construction and future projects have been identified such as the Kittanning Elementary and Margaret Road Intersection to improve the overall flow and safety of this important regional corridor between Indiana and Kittanning.

The 10 transit agencies, including Indiana County Transit Authority (IndiGo), operating in our region, operate 195 routes that collectively provide over 1.9 million hours of service every year. Often times these services are generally provided independently of each other. Recent studies have shown that there could be an opportunity to coordinate operations among our region’s transit agencies.

Southwest Pennsylvania Commission through their Public Participation Panel model continues to monitor and report transportation updates and priorities to the county.

PBC: What will be the greatest challenges and opportunities facing Indiana County and the CEO in the coming years?

Stauffer: People, Place, Progress has become a key mantra for Indiana County. We work constantly to retain and recruit workers and their families. We concentrate on making Indiana County the right place to work, invest, receive an education, visit, play and raise a family.

Community officials are gearing up for the holidays in Downtown Indiana, decorating the downtown area ahead of the Lucy Donnelly Holiday Parade and the First Commonwealth Bank “It’s A Wonderful Life” Festivals, featuring a 42 foot live Christmas tree with activities to follow on weekends through December 17th in IRMC Park.

Progress is our foremost goal; we are always planning for the future to keep Indiana County on the move. Business recruitment and retention as well as workforce education and training are the opportunities addressed each day.

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