As the economy continues to heat up, activity across many southwestern Pennsylvania counties are experiencing increases, as well. Made in PA focused on recent headlines emanating from the neighboring counties just east of Pittsburgh, including Cambria, Indiana, Somerset and Westmoreland. From new fulfillment centers and health care facilities to industrial expansion and new flights, here are some highlights of key activities:
The biggest economic development announcement in a half-century occurred in September, with groundbreaking of a major new fulfillment center for Urban Outfitters in the Windy Ridge Business & Technology Park in White Township, just outside of Indiana Borough.
To be built on a parcel of nearly 50 acres, the fulfillment center will encompass nearly 900,000 square feet of factory and warehouse space, with another 60,000 square feet used for administrative offices. The project – estimated to be completed and open for business by the third quarter of 2019 – is expected to create roughly 600 new construction jobs. Once the fulfillment center has begun operations, 225 new full-time jobs are anticipated, with peak employment said to generate as many as 600 jobs.
Indiana County officials from multiple agencies and governmental departments, along with representatives of the state General Assembly and the Governor’s Office, worked with Philadelphia-based national retailer Urban Outfitters for a number of years to bring the project to fruition. More than $30 million has been invested from the private sector. To place the new facility into context, it will be 10 times the size of an existing building at the Windy Ridge park.
The Westmoreland County Chamber of Commerce has been working with the county on a new comprehensive plan, focusing on:
• Aligning Workforce, Education, Employers and Entrepreneurship
• Branding and Promoting Westmoreland
• Repositioning its Towns
• Connecting With Parks and Nature
• Building Healthy and Livable Communities
• Plugging Into the New Economy
• Creating Transportation Choices
In other economic development news, a “mini casino” will be coming into Westmoreland County. The Advanced Technology Center at WCCC has seen a rise in enrollment – an important consideration for area manufacturers, providing them with a larger pool of applicants and recruits. Also, a new “Career Hub” website is being developed by the Westmoreland County Forum for Workforce Development, to connect high school students with STEM occupations.
The Elliott Group, a major manufacturer in the county, plans to open a new site at a 13.8-acre site in Jeannette, Pa. “We’re excited, we look forward to working with Elliott Co.,” said City Community Development Coordinator Diana Reitz. “We’re just elated in the fact that they wanted to stay in our community. It’s creating interest in the downtown business district in general because this is the heart.”
The company proposes to build a cryogenic pump test stand on the site of a former glass plant, which is anticipated to generate about 150 jobs. The Elliott Group, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Tokyo-based Ebara Corp., supplies compressors and turbines for liquefied natural gas plants. The Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp plans a groundbreaking for a new site called Commerce Crossing at Westmoreland in Ruffs Dale, while New Kensington has opened a “Telecommuter Space” in the downtown area called The Corner.
The Bridge to Pittsburgh team, a local group leading the way for Cambria County business and technology connections, has developed a partnership with SDLC Partners to explore a location in Cambria County. SDLC is one of the fastest growing technology companies in Pittsburgh with more than 500 employees. SDLC is actively recruiting JAVA Developers for their proposed Cambria County location through an ad on Monster.com.
Additional companies looking to hire in Cambria County include Problem Solutions (technology), Convergys (customer management) and JWF (welders, painters and machinists). In other economic development activity, the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport is currently working on introducing a new airline and new flights from Johnstown.
Conemaugh Health System opened a new outpatient facility in Richland and has plans for a similar one in Ebensburg. UPMC recently opened a new outpatient center in Ebensburg as well.
Showcase for Commerce, the annual defense contracting conference, attracted more than 100 exhibitors resulting in nearly $73 million in contracts for area participants. A downhill mountain bike trail on the Inclined Plane hillside opened in August and has drawn riders from around the region. The trail was built by one of the Vision 2025 capture teams and meets International Mountain Bicycling Association standards. There is an entry point for intermediate riders and a separate one for more advanced mountain bikers.
The Cambria Regional Chamber held three ribbon cuttings recently, two for brand-new businesses – Zion Preparatory School House and Eternal Memorial Designs – and one for a newly designed, state-of-the-art Verizon store.
The Iron to Arts program received a $500,000 boost from the state’s redevelopment assistance capital program to help develop streetscapes, playgrounds, trail connections and other beautification improvements across a two-mile stretch of Johnstown.
The new Acosta metallurgical coal mine in Jennerstown, Pa. opened, creating dozens of new jobs. The mine, owned and operated by Corsa Coal, has created around 80 new well-paying positions.
This past summer Uptown Works opened in Somerset, offering full-service shared and flexible office space aiming to change the way local business is done. It has been well received by the local business community and continues to grow. Owner Emily Korns is a business professional who is working to keep Somerset competitive within the forward-thinking office environment.
The Route 219 expansion is set to open up this fall. The four-lane limited access expansion of U.S. Route 219 will add approximately 11 miles of road between Somerset and Meyersdale, Pa. The $200 million project started in 2013. Currently U.S. Route 219 is a 535-mile roadway stretching from New York to Virginia. Efforts at the state and federal level continue to convert the last five miles of 219 between Meyersdale and US Route 68 in Maryland into a four-lane limited access highway.
Clarion University signed a five-year lease to open a state-of-the-art associates of nursing degree program in the Somerset County Education Center about 3 miles from Somerset, in conjunction with Penn Highlands Community College and Somerset Hospital. Classes begin fall 2019.
High-speed Internet access, in the form of 22 miles of fiber-optic cable bringing broadband to more than 1,000 businesses and 3,900 households, is set to begin, with goals to continue to have residents, schools, libraries and businesses tie in to the fiber optic system.