County wins $2M grant for business park

BROOKVILLE — The future of a $4 million business park for Jefferson County is more in reach than ever before.

The Jefferson County Development Council was recently awarded a $2 million state grant to oversee the construction of infrastructure needed for the development of a new business park.

“It’s a really good economic development project for the county, Kristin Hullihen, planning director for the Department of Development, said.
Hullihen’s office has been working on obtaining the needed funds for this project since Gov. Ed Rendell was in office.

But because the entire process wasn’t completed under Rendell’s administration, Gov. Tom Corbett’s office has had to review all of the applications for grant funding that had not yet been processed.

Recently, state Sen. Joe Scarnati (R-25) and state Rep. Sam Smith (R-66) helped to obtain funding for the economic development project.

The funding is made available through the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program, which is intended to assist in the immediate creation of quality, family-sustaining jobs.

The project involves redeveloping a former strip-mined property located at Exit 81 off Interstate 80 into a 166-acre business park,focusing on energy-related projects, including Marcellus Shale-related businesses, light manufacturing and warehouse distribution companies.

“Due to the huge growth in the Marcellus Shale industry, and the need for industrial sites in this region, this proposed industrial business park will be an essential component of economic development in this rural area,” Scarnati said in a statement. “We also want to attract energy companies that focus on solar and wind power, since they are fast-growing industries with a great deal of growth potential. These companies will need workers, and that means jobs for area residents.”
Hullihen does not have concrete figures for the number of jobs that will be added, but estimates that the park can hold about 20 businesses, including both small and large.

Scarnati added that Jefferson County is seeing an upswing in job growth as a result of the Marcellus Shale industry, but it must invest in infrastructure to support companies and give them the tools they need to move to the area and grow.

“We have a great deal to offer companies that want to locate here, and the most important thing we can do is provide the incentives to bring their businesses to our area, so that local residents can take advantage of the jobs and economic development opportunities,” he said. “I’m particularly pleased that this business park will work to attract companies that promote clean energy alternatives, such as wind and solar, which are huge growth industries right now.”

Smith noted that the creation of this business park is a clear illustration of the opportunities that drilling is presenting for the local economy.

“I have been stressing the potential the Marcellus Shale industry has to spur the development of new and existing industries throughout the state,” Smith said in a statement. “And now, we are seeing proof of this right here in Jefferson County. A solid infrastructure is an essential component to attracting tenants to the park. Our work in securing this funding is not something that happened overnight. I am pleased that it has finally come to fruition.”

Although this is good news for the county, Hullihen said that there is still work to be done before ground can be broken on the 166-acre property.

The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program requires applicants to demonstrate they have secured non-state project funding as well; therefore, the Jefferson County Department of Development plans to apply for a $1.5 million grant this December, through the Economic Development Administration (EDA).

The county also submitted an application in September for a $250,000 grant through the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).

If funding from both of those sources is secured, that would leave only $250,000, which Hullihen said would come from the property’s private developer.

“The county, right now, is in need of infrastructure-ready industrial sights,” Hullihen said. “Especially with some of the gas industries that are looking for a place to move in. Right now, they have nowhere to go. So this will bring infrastructure to the county.”