Economic Development Updates


October 7, 2016 –

President’s Message: The Beaver County Partnership for Community & Economic Growth

The Chamber was very honored to present details on the formation of the new Beaver County Partnership for Community and Economic Growth during the Beaver County Council of Government 2nd Annual Conference recently held at the Park Inn.  The Beaver County Partnership is comprised of the former 376 Partnership members (Chamber of Commerce, Board of Commissioners, Redevelopment Authority and Corporation for Economic Development), as well as the Beaver County COG, several businesses, non-profit organizations and residents. It was very appropriate to announce this expanded partnership before such a unique and great gathering of approximately 200 local officials and business people.

The formation of the Partnership was sparked by a grass roots effort of Chamber and non-chamber members wanting to comprehensively expand the work begun under the 376 Partnership to ensure that Beaver County gets growing in both job opportunities and population. After nine months of planning, researching and benchmarking, the Partnership launched its Strategic Agenda and goals for the next five years.

To get Beaver County growing again, the Partnership developed a five point strategy that focuses on: 1)Bringing Economic & Job Growth; 2) Creating Desirable Housing; 3)Providing Quality Education; 4)Enhancing Quality of Life; and 5) Ensuring Good Government.  All five aspects of this strategy need to be addressed in order to achieve sustainable growth. There is a synergistic effect when local government agencies, private businesses, and non-profit efforts are aligned.

By leveraging new resources and providing some renewed energy to existing regional efforts, the Partnership is looking to improve the fundamentals for population and economic growth across all sectors and communities of Beaver County and regional life. Specifically, between 2016 and 2021, the Partnership is looking to create 1200 permanent advanced manufacturing jobs; reduce Beaver County employment from the current 6.0% to 4.5%; improve Beaver County high school graduation rate to 90%; and increase the population to 170,000+ residents.

The operating philosophy behind the Partnership is to provide some leadership, collaboration and a planned path forward by the partners. A diversified economic model that does not depend solely on one industry sector is vital to our success. Each of the five strategic areas has a council, or taskforce, that has their own specific and implementable initiatives. The key is ensuring that everyone is aligned with achieving these goals and our shared long term vision for growing Beaver County.

The Chamber is proud to be at the forefront of this true public-private partnership. We want to see the Beaver County region reach its full potential. While we are always working to prepare, develop and promote our community for economic growth, it is particularly exciting to be part of this effort at this time. Beaver County truly has the potential to be a model for sustainable planned growth for the state and the nation. We are looking forward to the challenge of making the Beaver County economy as resilient as the people of Beaver County have been over the course of our history.

September 2, 2016 –

Bridgewater Crossing set to meet housing demand in Beaver County

Following the announcement of Shell petrochemical plant, there will be many construction projects that occur in Beaver and the surrounding counties.  CAVCON is managing one of the first ancillary construction projects; the construction of Bridgewater Crossing, a 3 building apartment complex featuring over 255,000 square feet.

For over 30 years, CAVCON, a full-service, merit shop general contractor, has worked with a variety construction projects offering a complete turnkey approach from pre-construction design to general construction build and completion delivery services.  As a single source solution for our clients, we take a project from inception through construction management and delivery.  We understand the everyday challenges our clients face and are the perfect fit for design/build projects in a various industries.

The announcement of the Shell petrochemical plant has stirred up quite a buzz in the region.  Creation of jobs, preparation of workforce and integration of higher education to prepare a workforce of skilled trades.  With a project this size, there is a magnitude of trickle down effects and ancillary growth from housing, restaurants and building suppliers.

With the focus on new building, sometimes it is easy to overlook older structures that may be converted into a new purpose.  Often owners may struggle with whether to start from scratch or try to remodel.  In the scheme of things if a building is structurally sound, the roof and the outside skin can be updated and changed.  That’s the value of working with a design/build construction firm.

What if you knew your building project timeline could be cut in half, your costs for construction were less, and you were able to open for business sooner with incoming revenue?  To top it all off, sustainability and LEED were incorporated into the project.

Modular space solutions are more than box like structures, they can be custom built to allow unmatched flexibility and adaptability, proving that form need not be sacrificed for function. Custom interior finishes can be incorporated into the overall design of the custom tailored project.  Interior and exterior buildouts are done simultaneously with building codes and third party inspections performed onsite at the factory.

By allowing simultaneous production of site work, as well as interior construction it reduces the overall time to occupancy. The end result: a high quality, custom solution in less time than a conventional site-built project.  By simultaneously utilizing an onsite preparation and off-site interior build out, the solution is delivered in half the time.    New project launches have saved up to 40% in start to finish time utilizing this type of construction.

Removing approximately 80% of the building construction activity from the site location significantly reduces site disruption, vehicular traffic and improves overall safety and security. So, for schools, hospitals, or other active businesses, reducing on-site activity and thereby eliminating a large part of the ongoing construction hazards, is a tremendous advantage.

As Beaver and surrounding counties prepare for the influx of work staff and ancillary services needed, consider how a blend of repurposing older structures, along with conventional new construction and modular construction will help to maintain the integrity of our local communities and infrastructure needed to support this project, as well as save time to provide a quick turnaround for services.

If we look at how Shell began working in Beaver, it began with a master plan.  A roadmap of infrastructure that would be needed to support the facility.  As community leaders ponder, the same type of process should be taken into account to ensure sustainability long after the Shell petrochemical plant has been completed as there will undoubtedly be spin off companies that utilize the raw materials to produce byproducts from the Shell production facility.  Our region and its workforce will be the beneficiaries this effort.

To learn more about the full range of services CAVCON offers, visit our website at www.CAVCON.com.

August 5, 2016 –

More Economic Development comes to Beaver County

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania hosted local officials, business leaders, and organization representatives for their grand opening last month under sunny skies and with an enthusiastic cast of company employees. The first class facility boasts multiple real world and classroom simulated training scenarios for their nearly 800 Pennsylvania employees spread out over 450 communities in 26 counties.  The Training Center is located near their new Operations Center behind the Beaver Valley Mall. The total investment for this new development by Columbia Gas exceeds $19 million.

“Safety Town” is a mock small town with 12 buildings and 42 values in the ground where trainees and staff simulate real-world issues in performing all aspects of providing gas services to the communities and residents they serve. The outdoor facility even pipes in the sound of children playing and dogs barking to give it a real sense of neighborhood. Their indoor classrooms contain state-of-the-art training technology for various equipment, meters, household appliances and personal safety training.

The dozens of Columbia Gas employees on hand were gracious hosts and extremely proud of their new facility and work they do to ensure safe operations. The Chamber is extremely proud have Columbia Gas as a member and very grateful for their investment in our region. In addition to the hundreds of employees who will visit Beaver County to attend training courses, the center will eventually provide opportunities for local emergency response drills and training to be conducted on site.

July 1, 2016 –

Presidents Message: We Need to Develop a Bias for Action

In my former corporate days there were certain times when we hired or promoted someone because we needed a leader that was competent in being “Action Oriented.”  Usually it was a role that required someone who not only excelled in taking on tough challenges and getting results but someone who was not fearful of taking on an assignment without knowing all the answers. It is a valuable skillset that not everyone possesses. With the Allegheny Conference on Community Development issuing their Inflection Point: Supply, Demand and the Future of Work in the Pittsburgh Region report last month, we need for Beaver County to develop a bias toward action to address the issues we’re facing over the next ten years, especially when it comes to quality education and workforce development.

We’re pleased to see some sense of urgency and leadership emerge in Harrisburg and Beaver County to address the issue of school consolidation. The voluntary merger of Monaca and Center Township into Central Valley should be a model for the entire state, yet discussions have not led to action.  Pennsylvania is still stuck on 500 school-wide districts.

Locally, in the ten county region surrounding Pittsburgh, there are 125 schools district with 671 schools. In Beaver County, 14 school districts remain with declining enrollment, resources and academic offerings. Worse yet for Beaver County’s image and ability to attract new residents and employers, is data that showed Beaver County had the lowest graduation rate (77%) in the Pittsburgh region (see www.countyhealthrankings.org to get a breakdown of every county in the USA for details).

This is why we were encouraged and highly supportive of HR910, a house resolution passed by Harrisburg in June, that requires “The Joint State Government Commission to conduct a statewide study on reducing the number of school districts in the Commonwealth.” The resolution was passed overwhelming by a 192 to 4 vote. Local state Representatives Rob Matzie and Jaret Gibbons were co-sponsors of HR910, with Representatives Jim Christiana and Jim Marshall joining them by also voting in favor.  Regionally, only Rep. Darryl Metcalfe (R-12) was one of the four no votes.

To be clear, this yearlong study is not just about economics and tax impacts. It is about increasing the quality of education and providing greater career path opportunities through leveraging and aligning resources, broadening learning experiences, and increasing academic offerings.

Improving the status of our schools in Beaver County must be acted upon. We will never achieve population or job growth without ensuring that our students are being prepared to be competent employees of the future. Employers need to be assured that they will find the talent necessary to fill the jobs they need to create or they will go elsewhere.

We are not a fan of studies that seem to go on forever and then sit on office shelves without action. The Chamber and our members have been taking action to improve the development of workforce talent. There are two good examples and the first being Community College of Beaver County creating their high school academy programs that allow students to have hands on learning experiences and earn college credits while still in high school.  The second is our Energy and Advanced Manufacturing Partnership, which is a broad coalition of trade schools, unions, employers, higher educational institutions and non-profit organizations are aligning themselves to prepare and inform students and parents on future business career opportunities and their skill needs.

Ross Perot once famously described the difference between his companies and General Motors when they both see a “snake” as, ‘GM will hire the world’s foremost authority on snakes and study snakes for the next several years. When we see a snake, we kill it.’

The Chamber believes we need to be informed and educated on “snakes.” Most should be left alone as they are non-threatening. But when you identify a dangerous “snake” in your house, you probably ought to take some action. We are.

June 3, 2016 –

Presidents Message: Inflection Point

Inflection Point: A time of significant change; a turning point. It is also the name of a new study just prepared by Burning Glass Technologies and the Council for Adult and Experimental Learning. Commissioned by the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, of which the Chamber is a member, the report is a “forward look at the coming transformation of work across the Pittsburgh region and its implications for employers, educators and workforce talent”.

The challenges for our ten county Pittsburgh region, and especially Beaver County, are daunting. The region is expected to need to replace 29,000 retirees annually through 2025. We are also expected to see 5,000 new jobs created. That net of 34,000 annual new workers in a region that is steadily losing population is the Inflection Point we are facing.

We are in desperate need, and in stiff competition, for people. Beaver County’s population peaked at 208,418 in 1970. There was a precipitous drop during the steel mill decline and by 1990 we were down to 186,000 residents. The steady combination of a lack of job opportunities, an aging demographic and lower birth rates has led us to the most recent census of a little over 168,000 people.

The loss of workers and residents has huge ramifications. It has diminished our tax base and reduced resources for keeping our local economy resilient. Small business needs small towns with a population base of working families. Schools face declining enrollment; and many local municipalities are unable to maintain their vital infrastructure, equipment and services. A recent Beaver County Times front page article profiled the decline of volunteer fire fighters, which is a perfect example of the challenge a declining population brings.

I’m still not sure which comes first, people and jobs or jobs and people, but I do know we can’t be successful without both. We also know that Beaver County has to become a more inviting and attractive community for business and residents. We will not prosper unless we grow our population. We have many strengths and great attributes, but they won’t be enough to face this challenge unless we are aligned in our thinking and approach to remove the barriers to future success.

In the coming months we will profile initiatives and approaches that we are undertaking to stop the erosion of people from Beaver County. We hope that everyone will join us in frank, honest and realistic discussions about our future.

Some Data from the Inflection Point Report:

  • Regional Job Growth between 2015-2025 is projected at 4.2%
  • 22% of the Region’s workers are over age 55 vs. 19% nationally
  • Beaver County had the lowest (worst) graduation rate in our region at 77% in 2015
  • Fayette County 79%
  • Greene County 80%
  • All others were between 90-94%, with Butler the highest
  • 65% of new occupations and jobs will require a BA or higher degree
  • Most frequent commonly requested baseline skills requested by Employers
  • Communication
  • Customer Service
  • Organizational Skills
  • Writing
  • Detail orientation
  • Problem Solving
  • Research
  • Multi-Tasking
  • The top 10 BA+ degreed occupations by projected growth rate are:
  • Speech-language Pathologists
  • Personal Financial Advisors
  • Operations research Analysts
  • Diagnostic Medical Sonographers
  • Physical Therapists
  • Information Security Analysts
  • Healthcare Social Workers
  • Market Research Analysts & Marketing Specialists
  • There are five occupational clusters that are vital to the local economy:
  • Information technology
  • Business and Finance
  • Engineering, Science and Production
  • Healthcare
  • Construction
  • Employers are struggling to fill energy sector positions
  • Machine Tool Operators positions take 40% longer to fill than nationally
  • Engineering and Mechanical Technicians take 13-14% higher fill time
  • Qualified drivers are in short supply
  • Energy Sector Employment in 2015
  • 54,479 employees
  • Median Salary was $67,790 ($37,270 – $112,890)
  • 39% required BA degree

May 6, 2016 –

Focus on Workforce Development

One major objective of the many Chamber Economic Development Initiatives is to provide a qualified, drug free workforce. In order to attract, retain and expand business in our region, we must have the talent to fill the jobs of the future. By 2025, it is anticipated that more than 275,000 workers could be leaving the workforce in our ten county region. That’s a significant number of employees and doesn’t factor into consideration any future job growth with new technologies that may occur.

This is one reason why the Chamber is part of an Energy & Advanced Manufacturing Partnership that is diligently working to align our primary and middle school students with the best career choice options. Creating the workers of the future to fill those hundreds of thousands of potential openings requires educating students and parents on the right educational opportunities. It maybe be trade schools and apprentice programs, certificate or associate degrees, or four year and higher degrees that are required to fill these positions.

It is also why we have worked hard to emphasize the need for a drug free workforce. We recently held a Town Hall meeting on the problem of addiction in business and industry. It is estimated that on an annual basis, business incurs losses of $25.5 billion due to addiction.

During the Town Hall, there was much discussion about the serious heroin crisis and the rising rate of overdoses that are occurring year over year. Beaver County District attorney David Lozier and other County officials have vowed to do everything they can to reverse this trend. From a business perspective, opioid prescription abuse is one of leading cause of workplace addiction. Jason Snyder, Policy and Communication Director for the PA Department of Drug & Alcohol Programs, provided personal insight and expertise on how pervasive the problem is across the Commonwealth.  Given the great response and interest in this issue, the Chamber will continue to educate and bring resources to assist our members.

Beaver County has a history of being home to a great workforce. In order to grow our economy and maintain that reputation, we need to keep aligning our young people with the right career paths and combat the problem of addiction that hits every sector of our labor force and society.

April 1, 2016 –

Beaver County Chamber Joins Pipeline Alliance

Beaver, Pa. — The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce has joined the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance (PEIA), a broad-based coalition of labor, agriculture, manufacturing and other business interests that support private investment in pipeline and other energy infrastructure developments.

“Building a safe and reliable means of transportation for our natural resources is an essential component of the commonwealth’s economic revival, and for our own local revitalization efforts,” said Jack Manning, president and executive director of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce. “The Marcellus shale is the second-largest shale play in the world, and that provides Pennsylvania with a unique opportunity to establish itself as a world energy leader.

“We need to work together to support pipelines and encourage economic development, so companies come here for the affordable energy we can offer,” Manning added. “We joined the Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance because we support employment opportunities for Beaver County residents and want to protect the family-sustaining wages provided by pipeline- and energy-related jobs.”

The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce is comprised of 540 member companies and is focused on supporting the growth and improvement of local economies. The chamber works to strengthen businesses by preparing, developing and promoting the communities it serves for economic growth, and ensuring that Beaver County is viewed as the premiere place to live and work in the region.

The Pennsylvania Energy Infrastructure Alliance was launched June 8 by the Washington County Chamber of Commerce and Delaware County Chamber of Commerce, along with the Laborers International Union of North America and the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 66. There are nearly two dozen PEIA members today.

Visit www.paallianceforenergy.com for more information, or on Twitter @PAllies4Energy.

March 4, 2016 –

Economic Development Perspective:
These are challenging times for Beaver County.  The County finances ended up being much worse than thought, resulting in some very difficult and painful budget cuts. Overall our economy continues to grow too slowly. Too many of our residents are living in poverty and there’s also the problem of opioid and heroin addiction. Educational funding at the community college and primary school levels continues to be a challenge. Infrastructure needs rebuilding. Travel most roads and bridges and it’s pretty obvious. Mere mention reassessment or tax increases and it sends apoplectic shockwaves through-out our community. But since when has the Pittsburgh region and Beaver County not had problems to resolve?
So despite these issues, there is reason for optimism. 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. Small business growth and entrepreneurship is on the rise. At a recent Pittsburgh Business Times Corridor of Opportunities event featuring the Airport Corridor, Beaver County was mentioned as a prime jewel for manufacturing development and growth within our 10 county Pittsburgh region. It’s time we got serious about tapping our potential and made a real nonpartisan effort to bring job creation and prosperity to all segments of our economy.

The Chamber Economic Development Taskforce is committed to partnering with several business and community leaders in an effort to develop a strategic agenda for our region that can help solve specific issues inhibiting our growth and quality of life.  We will be holding a series of town hall discussions on some of these issues and encourage everyone to be engaged in shaping a better future for all Beaver Countians. We will keep you informed as these events unfold.

February 5, 2016 –

A Chamber Colloquy:

These are promising yet challenging times for Beaver County. One such challenge is continuing to raise the prosperity of all Beaver County residents while improving the quality of life that Beaver Countians desire. Nearly one in eight of us live below the household income poverty line.  Decades of declining wages and the loss of middleclass jobs, as well as population migration, present us with significant issues. These issues require everyone to get engaged and try to make a difference.  Part of my excitement in accepting the role of President of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce is due to the diversity and expertise of its members and our collective ability to tackle and solve tough problems.

One way to start tapping this expertise is to make sure that everyone is aligned and moving in-sync toward the goal of improving the region economically. And the idea of having sustainable middleclass jobs with a healthy quality of life is not a fantasy. Nothing improves your outlook on life more than having a job that provides you income to raise your family, dignity and self-worth as a human being, and allows you to contribute something back to your community. It’s what we all covet, working in a socially responsible business with the ability to contribute something back to our community.  If fact, many of us believe we have a moral obligation to do so.

The Chamber’s stated goal is “to position Beaver County and its communities as premiere places to live and work”. We strongly believe that improving the local economy is an important element of making that happen. That is why we are proud to be one of the founding members of the “376 Economic Partnership”, along with the Beaver County Board of Commissioners, the Beaver County Corporation for Economic Development and the Beaver County Redevelopment Authority. To be sure, the selection of Beaver County for a potential multi-billion dollar investment by a global company has put us on the map internationally. But the 376 Partnership is about much more than exploiting the opportunity to redevelop some brownfield sites along route 376.  It’s about smart planning that allows our people and natural resources to reach their full potential. It’s summed up in our tagline of “Business. Community. People.”.  It’s about our goal of bringing prosperity to all three of these while improving our quality of life. And the Chamber couldn’t be more excited about the future of Beaver County.

January 25, 2016 –

360 EDP FINAL LOGO

http://www.376partnership.org/

January 1, 2016 –

A Chamber Colloquy:

These are promising yet challenging times for Beaver County. One such challenge is continuing to raise the prosperity of all Beaver County residents while improving the quality of life that Beaver Countians desire. Nearly one in eight of us live below the household income poverty line.  Decades of declining wages and the loss of middleclass jobs, as well as population migration, present us with significant issues. These issues require everyone to get engaged and try to make a difference.  Part of my excitement in accepting the role of President of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce is due to the diversity and expertise of its members and our collective ability to tackle and solve tough problems.

One way to start tapping this expertise is to make sure that everyone is aligned and moving in-sync toward the goal of improving the region economically. And the idea of having sustainable middleclass jobs with a healthy quality of life is not a fantasy. Nothing improves your outlook on life more than having a job that provides you income to raise your family, dignity and self-worth as a human being, and allows you to contribute something back to your community. It’s what we all covet, working in a socially responsible business with the ability to contribute something back to our community.  If fact, many of us believe we have a moral obligation to do so.

The Chamber’s stated goal is “to position Beaver County and its communities as premiere places to live and work”. We strongly believe that improving the local economy is an important element of making that happen. That is why we are proud to be one of the founding members of the “376 Economic Partnership”, along with the Beaver County Board of Commissioners, the Beaver County Corporation for Economic Development and the Beaver County Redevelopment Authority. To be sure, the selection of Beaver County for a potential multi-billion dollar investment by a global company has put us on the map internationally. But the 376 Partnership is about much more than exploiting the opportunity to redevelop some brownfield sites along route 376.  It’s about smart planning that allows our people and natural resources to reach their full potential. It’s summed up in our tagline of “Business. Community. People.”.  It’s about our goal of bringing prosperity to all three of these while improving our quality of life. And the Chamber couldn’t be more excited about the future of Beaver County.

December 4, 2015 –

Chamber Participates in Historic Beaver County Council of Government Event

A historic event occurred in Beaver County a few weeks ago that unfortunately received little press and not enough people paid attention to outside of the participants. The event was the first ever “Beaver County Municipal Convention” held at Old Stonewall Golf Club.  Organized by the Beaver County Regional Council of Governments, all elected and appointed municipal officials from all our municipalities were invited as well as several county-wide agencies, the County Commissioners, and several state and federal officials.

Informative and inspirational, the daylong event was attended by over 200 officials from our boroughs, townships and cities. Hard to believe, but it was the first time that boroughs and townships shared the room in this kind of an educational setting. The highlight of the event was featured speaker Ian Hill who spoke about “Building the Public Sector and the Power of Community Alignment.”  Hill is an entrepreneur businessman and philanthropist from Carson City, Nevada. He spoke eloquently and passionately about the need for communities, organizations and governments to be aligned. All must be heading in the same direction to move our region forward. He implored those in attendance to set the standard for good government and become positive agents of change by building greater community pride and engaging more citizens in the process. Ian Hill even agreed to set-up a free website specifically for all those in attendance to assist in leading that change. Please check out www.beaver.thechangingpoint.com and see for yourself Ian’s message and his leadership tools.  Take his 30 day challenge to make a positive change in your own neighborhood, organization or community.

Our special thanks to Mario Leone, Monaca Borough Manager and Amy Schmidhamer, North Sewickley Township Manager who worked the details of planning the event and the entire Beaver County COG for inviting the Chamber to the table. They also arranged for Ian to speak to Chamber members the Friday morning after the event, where he once again served up an inspirational message for those in attendance.

Ian left us with a quote from Edward Everett Hale, who said, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” What is that one thing you can do starting tomorrow that can make a difference in the lives of those who share your community? We have taken on his challenge here at the Chamber and will be reporting on our progress toward some exciting new initiatives during 2016.

November 6, 2015 –

The Beaver County Corporation for Economic Development (CED) conducted its Annual Meeting for the 2014-2015 fiscal year on September 28 and reported on projects that occurred during the year  impacted CED; Included among were expansions of U.S. Electrofused Minerals, Versatex, Metalwerks PMD, Inc., Lindy Paving, Shasta, and Ralich Truck Center at the Aliquippa Industrial Park; loans to support construction of the Columbia Gas Operations facility in Center Township and process improvements at Col Fin Specialty Steel II in Fallston; expansion of MetCon, LLC at CED’s Monaca Commerce Center in Monaca Borough; and CED’s development of a 14 acre site in its WestGate Business Park in Big Beaver Borough to allow for the construction of up to 75,000 square feet of flex building space, suitable for light manufacturing, distribution, and industrial service companies.  In all, CED recorded 14 projects that occurred during the year that has or will result in over 300 jobs created or retained and over $39 million in investment.

To begin its new fiscal year, CED closed on the sale of eight acres of its Bridgewater Crossing site in Bridgewater Borough, located at the confluence of the Beaver and Ohio Rivers.  The sale will allow for private development on the property with a mix of residential and commercial uses, supported by the public riverfront park, transient boat dockage, and trail linkages constructed by CED to induce the private investment.  The first phase of the private development is expected to begin in early 2016.

October 2, 2015 –

Chamber Board Chairman Explains IMCP

At the invitation of the Beaver County Commissioners, John Thayer, Beaver County Chamber Chairman participated in discussions with local business and community leaders learning about a new and exciting designation for the Pittsburgh region, including Beaver County.   In July of 2015, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker awarded the Pittsburgh region a designation under the Investing in Manufacturing Communities Partnership (IMCP), making it one of 12 communities this year to receive unique federal support for long-term economic development growth in regional manufacturing.   The IMCP which is designed to accelerate the resurgence of manufacturing in communities nationwide by supporting the development of long-term economic development strategies.  The Greater Pittsburgh Metals Manufacturing Community, a partnership of government, university, industry, workforce and economic development organizations, submitted the application for the IMCP competitive designation earlier this year.  The lead organization was Catalyst Connection in Oakland.

From the communities that applied this round, 12 were selected by an interagency panel, based on the strength of their economic development plans, the potential for impact in their communities, and the depths of their partnerships across the public and private sectors to carry out their plans.  As demonstrated by this year’s designees, leaders from the private sector, local government, higher education, local economic development organizations, and other nonprofits worked together to identify a sector of manufacturing where their community has a comparative advantage and drafted a strategic plan that addresses: workforce and supply chain challenges; infrastructure; research and innovation; trade and investment; capital access; and operational improvement for manufacturing companies.

The Chamber thanks the County Commissioners for engaging us in this effort and we look forward to working with other stakeholders in the county as it relates to the IMCP opportunity.

September 4, 2015 –

2015 Economic Development Programs Point to a Brighter Future

Promoting economic development in Beaver County is one of the Chamber’s strategic goals.  Over the past five years, we’ve made substantial progress in improving our cooperative relationships with County government, local and regional agencies tasked with improving the business climate.

The Beaver County Corporation for Economic Development – CED – is one of the lead agencies tasked with generating business investment in our County.  Headed by Jim Palmer, CED reports that Beaver County has experienced a significant amount of development activity during the first half of 2015, and the balance of the year appears promising as well.

Several projects are underway or completed, each of which shows diversity in activity and bodes well for Beaver County’s future.

Columbia Gas of Pennsylvania, Inc. announced it will locate a new training center and operations center in Center and Potter Townships.  The project will involve two new buildings and almost $20 million in investment.

The operations center will house 80 employees and the training center will be able to accommodate a like amount of employees and trainees from a multi-state area.  Construction is expected to be completed in the spring of 2016.  The Beaver County Corporation for Economic Development (CED) is supporting construction of the operations center with $1.5 million in financing.

Shell Chemical Appalachia, LLC has been issued an air quality permit and certain other permits required for its proposed petrochemical complex in Potter Township.  The issuance of the permits is a critical milestone in the site evaluation process.

While a final investment decision has yet to be made, the site of the former Horsehead Corporation zinc smelter continues to undergo significant development activity.  If the final investment decision is to proceed with the project, it will generate employment for approximately 2,500 construction workers per year for a five year period, with peak construction employment of around 6,000, and 400-500 permanent full-time jobs when operational, according to an economic impact study completed by Robert Morris University in December, 2014. The project would place Beaver County at the center of chemical-related economic development activity resulting from Marcellus and Utica shale production.

Finally, PennDOT continues work on the Freedom Road Upgrade Project.  This project will improve the safety and efficiency of the roadway corridor from PA Route 65 (Ohio River Boulevard) in Conway Borough to PA Route 989 in New Sewickley Township.

The project will be constructed in two phases, with the first phase currently in final design; final design of the second phase is expected to begin later this year.  First phase construction could begin as early as 2016 according to PennDOT.  When complete, the project, which will connect to previously completed improvements in the corridor, will not only improve travel safety but also provide a major east-west connection to the regional transportation network through Beaver County that has been lacking.

Through collaboration and partnership, the Chamber remains dedicated to assist County and regional agencies and local businesses in expanding economic activity to create a solid future for our communities.

 

May 14, 2015 –

Chamber Pens Energy Position Statement

Energy Position Statement: With an effort to continually grow businesses and spur economic development across Beaver County, the Chamber of Commerce supports safe and responsible energy development and utilization by other related industries and activities.
The Chamber of Commerce also supports sound and science-based regulatory and environmental policies that allow for safe energy development while also protecting the citizens, communities, and environment of Beaver County.
The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce aims to work directly with companies, elected officials, state agency personnel and other engaged stakeholders to advocate for energy policies that promote the region’s economic competitiveness while helping companies to safely develop the abundant and reliable energy sources across the County.
What is the opportunity? Having suffered the loss of the steel industry and the accompanying population outflow; and then a second loss of population with the exit of the US Airways hub from Greater Pittsburgh; Beaver County now finds itself sitting in the midst of a geopolitical shift with the potential to reinvigorate the region for many of the same reasons that petrochemicals and steel built facilities here in decades past. Beaver County is strategically located above the Marcellus and Utica shale formations within a “sweet spot” where river, road, and rail provide access to significant markets for intermediate products originating from the resources directly beneath this region.
This combination of resource supply and access to customer markets is further enhanced by the potential availability of low-cost energy. Brought together, these factors can drive a resurgence of manufacturing in the Valley and the surrounding region. Energy development and utilization also allows areas across Beaver County to attract new businesses and industries, along with their world-class employees to live, work, and pay taxes in the county. To realize this vision, however, low cost energy is key.

Why is energy a concern? An announcement by AES Beaver Valley in 2013 that it intended to shutter the operation of its cogeneration plant (which was built to produce both electricity and process steam) was a wake-up call to the region. Investigation revealed that instability in the market pricing for wholesale electric power, combined with impending US EPA Air Quality regulations, made continued operation of the co-generation plant improbable. Announcements from other power plant operators in eastern Pennsylvania and Ohio indicated that additional coal and nuclear powered electric generation plants were in jeopardy. Even with these plants still operating, however, the “polar vortex” in January of 2014 stressed the power grid’s ability to remain operating to its limit due to insufficient availability of electricity. The announced and potential power plant closings therefore threaten the very availability of electric power for the manufacturing that the region is courting; and the pending US EPA rule changes are widely expected to result in significant cost increases for electric power across the board.
Where are we going? In order to support the other Drivers and Initiatives of the Economic Development Task Force as it seeks to reinvigorate manufacturing in the region, the Chamber and Task Force seek to facilitate dialogue between stakeholders such as energy developers, providers, and users, as well as manufacturers, PJM Interconnect (the operator of the power grid in this region), county officials, state legislators and officials, and federal legislators and regulatory agencies. By engaging as an active participant and facilitator in this discussion, the Task Force seeks to build recognition of the importance of abundant, low-cost energy as they key to revitalizing the economy of this region; thereby providing family-sustaining jobs that enable upcoming generations to live and work in a dynamic and vibrant resurgence of the regional economy.
Pennsylvania is the second largest energy producing state in the US, and uses an “all of the above” mix of energy sources (including coal, natural gas, hydro, wind, and solar) in its energy production. The Chamber and Task Force seek to encourage economically and environmentally responsible development of energy for the region in order to ensure that this key component of the region’s opportunity for revitalization continues to develop.
Only by simultaneously pursuing workforce, tax and sound regulatory issues, access to capital, infrastructure and amenities including low cost energy, marketing, business development, and related initiatives can the region successfully achieve reinvigoration of its manufacturing base.

 

May 5, 2015 –

Shell Air Quality Permits Hearing Testimony for the DEP, from the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce

Good evening, my name is Erica Loftus and I am the President of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce. 798 Turnpike Street, Beaver, PA 15009. Thank you for providing me this opportunity to represent the Chamber’s view on this important hearing for our county and our region.

Our view is not one of either/or. Our view is one of AND. We believe we can have BOTH… let me explain.

We believe we can have Safe, Environmentally Sustainable Communities, with a High Quality of Life for residents AND we believe we can have Economic Growth through Shell’s Safe and Environmentally Responsible Operation of a World Class Chemical and Plastics Processing facility, in Potter Township. Beaver County has a rich history of hosting a thriving manufacturing industry, along with providing a quality of life for residents and the environment.

The investment that Shell and other companies will bring to our area, via financial and human capital and accompanied by our counties low tax base and fiscal responsibility, we believe will provide Beaver County the opportunity to continue to improve, grow, and protect the amenities for residents.

We have done this before.
We can do this again.
We are ready.

Our community has a mindset of collaboration. Beaver County is not unlike many Southwestern Pennsylvania communities and others throughout the country. The spirit of collaboration has kept us going during the challenging times and during the thriving times. I’m sure you are aware, but we are sitting in the only merged school district in Pennsylvania, which occurred in 2009; a great example of collaboration.

Shell has taken a transparent and collaborative approach with this Cracker opportunity…working with State, County, and especially Center and Potter Townships. Beaver County is prepared for an industry that will create jobs, growth of local and ancillary businesses, and provide a boost to our tax base.

The last point I’d like to leave you with is in regards to safety and the environment. Large companies such as Shell, First Energy, NOVA, BASF, or any of the regional industrial companies do carry a risk of something happening on site. I am not suggesting there is not risk. Each of us accepted a risk of driving to the hearing this evening, but managed that risk though our actions – using a seat belt, monitoring our speed, and many other ways. I am suggesting that through responsible operating practices that focus on safety and the environment Shell will be a responsible manufacturer in our community like the others who have come before them.

In addition, Shell’s proposal states that their footprint in Beaver County will be less of an emissions distributor than the lands previous land owner, which is something to be noted. Shell, and companies like Shell, have successfully and safely built and operated Cracker facilities globally. Shell is a company that takes the process and responsibly of operating their business seriously and this includes the impact that it will have on the communities where they build.

Shell wants to be a good neighbor – in all aspects. If you examine their website, you will see many examples of their commitment to the communities in which they operate. They have proven their track record in other parts of the Country. And I, along with the Board of Directors of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce, see no reason why they would not emulate that process here in Beaver County and Western Pennsylvania.

We want and we believe that we can have both. Thank you.

Jack Manning, Beaver County Chamber of Commerce Board Member and Economic Development Taskforce Chairperson, Comments:
My name is Jack Manning. I’m on the Board of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce and I also Chair the Chamber’s Economic Development Taskforce. I want to reinforce and elaborate on what Erica has stated. I moved to Beaver County fifteen years ago, and in the spirit of full disclosure, I proudly worked in the chemical industry in various roles for over 35 years before leaving about five years ago to work with municipality leaders, small business owners and entrepreneurs, and residents to revitalize traditional downtown business districts throughout Southwestern PA. Many of these small towns and boroughs have been severely challenged economically by the departure of the steel industry, manufacturing jobs in general, as well as a loss of population as people migrated across the country to pursue better job opportunities.

Clearly a project of this of this magnitude would be a once in a generation boost to business and economic development in Beaver County and SW PA. But among the factors to consider in whether to grant this permit will be the engineering soundness of their process design and whether Shell and their employees will meet or exceed on-going environmental regulatory standards… it will not be based solely on the impact it would have on job growth and economic development, no matter how significant and positive that is.

Shell, like all highly reputable companies or organizations, including you folks from the DEP, is not some nameless, faceless, entities. They are made up of highly skilled, hard-working and dedicated people like all of us here tonight. They are your friends, colleagues and neighbors. Their children go to the same schools as everyone else. They volunteer in their communities, they coach little league, support their place of worship, and want a better quality of life for their families. They eat, sleep and play in the region. Having worked as a director of manufacturing and plant manager in Beaver County, I can tell you I have tremendous faith in the capability and competency of all those in fortunate to work in this industry. They are some of the brightest and best workers in the world. Their individual safety, and protecting their families and the community from environmental harm is not just a job to them, it is a personal issue.

On behalf of the 500 plus companies of the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce, and employees they represent, we strongly support this permit application and believe it should be granted. Thanks again for your time and consideration.

About the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce:
The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce is comprised of 530 member companies and is focused on supporting the growth and improvement of our local economy. Our mission is to prepare, develop and promote the community for economic growth. Our vision is to strengthen local businesses so that Beaver County will be the premiere place to live and work in the region and beyond. For more information about the Beaver County Chamber of Commerce, please visit our website at www.bcchamber.com or visit our Facebook page at The Beaver County Chamber of Commerce. You can also find us on LinkedIn if you search Beaver County Chamber of Commerce or onTwitter by searching @TheBCCC.
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