Economic Development along the I-81 Corridor is Topic of EMBA Meet & Greet
Susquehanna County Commissioner Alan Hall and Progress Authority Executive Director Tony Ventello speak at EMBA’s Meet & Greet Summer Mixer.
Approximately 50 members and guests were present for the annual Endless Mountains Business Association (EMBA) Meet & Greet Summer Mixer, held on Thursday evening July 9th.
Susquehanna County Commissioner Alan Hall and Progress Authority Executive Directory Tony Ventello spoke on the topic of Economic Development along the I-81 Corridor during the event. Alan Hall opened by stating that the median age of our county goes up every year. Mostly due to the fact that our young adults are not finding the jobs they need to stay in this area and are forced to leave in order to gain employment. This, he says, is unacceptable and assured us that each of our elected Commissioners is committed to attracting industries and growing businesses that provide jobs in our area. Jobs, he said, that are good paying jobs, enough to sustain a family. The gas industry is very present at this time in our region as we all know. They are providing jobs not only in the gas and oil trade but other supporting industries are doing well because of their influence. However, Hall is not blind to the fact that the gas industry will not be here forever and we must make provisions for when they go away.
To that end, the commissioners have partnered up with the Progress Authority in studying this area for its potential economic development. The Progress Authority was formed in 1993 in an effort to consolidate many economic and industrial development organizations mainly in Bradford County. In 2005, Susquehanna County was added under its service area. The Progress Authority’s stated mission is to promote job retention and creation and enhanced quality of life in the targeted service areas of Bradford and Susquehanna Counties in Northeastern Pennsylvania through focused, meaningful economic development efforts.
Tony Ventello told of the “Susquehanna Housing Assessment’ study and the ‘Industrial Park Feasibility Study’; both of which are now completed. Not surprisingly, developable properties are limited in the townships by terrain, floodplains, and the lack of public infrastructure. In fact the study states: “Three primary factors have impacted the housing market in Susquehanna County over the past few years: (1) the global economy, (2) demographic and social changes, and (3) the emergence of the natural gas industry. Developers have been slow to respond to the increased demand for housing for two primary reasons: (1) they are hesitant to invest because of fluctuations in drilling activity and are concerned that the market may be temporary; and, (2) the lack of water and sewer infrastructure in the County limits the financial feasibility of development.”
The Industrial Park Feasibility study focuses on the prime area of the I-81 corridor where it looked at the interstate as well as the strong rail lines. Many systems come into play when looking at potential sites such as transportation,
sewer and water, electrical, natural gas distribution and transmission pipelines, telecommunications and data infrastructure, primary and secondary roads and rail.
Of prime consideration for redevelopment is the Hallstead foundry site at the Great Bend interchange. This seems to be an ideal spot for an industrial park which could accommodate Marcellus Shale industry growth. Natural Gas is not only an energy source but also the raw materials component for many industries. Susquehanna County is set to attract jobs in industries such as metal manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, plastics, glass, weapons and ammunition to name a few.
The Susquehanna County Commissioners meets with the Progress Authority personnel along with the Economic Development Board, and various state and federal legislators on a monthly basis. Together they are working to identify and prioritize economic development opportunities. Their work program for Susquehanna County has included coordinating and implementing many on-going projects such as assisting in the construction of the Endless Mountains Health System’s new hospital; facilitating the Chesapeake Bay mandated upgrades at the Montrose sewer treatment plant; supporting the efforts to extend the public water to South Montrose to include the Susquehanna County Correctional Facility and Recycling Center and the former Bendix site; promoting upgrades at the Gibson Interchange of I-81 to allow future development along Rt 848 and Oliver Road; continued work with Bluestone Gathering for the Laser Pipeline; ongoing work with Leatherstocking for the development of the natural gas distribution lines; continuing efforts to occupy and utilize vacant industrial properties including the Bendix property.
Also of interest was talk of the first small scale energy generation station using the Marcellus natural gas. IMG Midstream has developed a 20 megawatt electrical generation station that utilizes local natural gas and will be able to provide power to homes and businesses in Auburn Township and is hoping to expand.
Mr Ventello also made note that The Progress Authority administers a local low-interest Revolving Loan Fund that helps to stimulate private investment in business development projects.
The evening concluded with a brief word from Jean Ruhf, Executive Director of the Endless Mountains Visitors Bureau, on the topic of the Mormon Priesthood Restoration Site in Susquehanna County. The site is currently closed as it undergoes major reconstruction. A video on the life of Joseph Smith is being produced to be shown at the museum when it opens again. With an anticipated September opening of the Rt 171 site, we can expect an influx of worshipers. This could translate into added dollars for our restaurants, hotels, and service oriented enterprises if we are ready.
EMBA is grateful to Commissioner Alan Hall, Tony Ventello and Jean Ruhf for their information and news on the Economic Development and Opportunities here in our area.
Get involved and stay informed. For further information on EMBA and our mission of connecting local businesses to encourage growth, please call Ethel Boccafogli at (570) 756-2489 or e-mail us.
Submitted by Dr Lisa Ciavola, EMBA secretary