Positive Buzz, Development and Economic Potential Discussed at Indiana County Chamber April Board Meeting
Indiana, PA – The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, April 13, at St. Andrews Village.
The Board discussed many issues including a resurging energy industry, increasing economic development opportunities, successful Chamber events and more.
Call to Order
Board Chairman Joe Reschini, with The Reschini Group, started the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. The March board meeting minutes and financial reports were approved.
Chamber President Jim Struzzi said the Chamber added three new members and had 52 renewals in March bringing the total membership to 668 members.
The March Chamber Check-In at the Chamber office featured many new members. Chamber Check-In open houses are an opportunity to network over coffee and donuts with other businesses and learn about what’s happening with the Chamber. It’s also a great way for potential members to learn more about the benefits of Chamber membership. The next Chamber Check-In at the Chamber office at 1019 Philadelphia Street is at 8 a.m. on April 26. The Chamber also had a great ribbon cutting grand opening celebration at Noble Stein Brewery and a successful speed networking event hosted by Bayada Nurses and the Indiana Mall in March. Feedback from the speed networking event was extremely positive. The Chamber is planning more events like this in the future.
Struzzi said the Chamber began promoting the special offer of significant discounts for television advertising through a partnership with Comcast Spotlight. Chamber members can complete a registration form to take advantage of this great opportunity. Packaged with a brief Chamber message from Struzzi promoting Indiana County and the Chamber, participating members can save 50% on commercial production costs and 35% on advertising rates. Struzzi filmed the Chamber segment promoting Indiana County in front of the courthouse last week. Interested members can click here for more information.
In an effort to fully prepare Indiana County for the opportunities that will come to the Western Pennsylvania region with the construction of the Shell Cracker Plant in Beaver County, Struzzi and Byron Stauffer, Executive Director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, are making plans for the Indiana County Economic Development Team to visit the Gulf Coast region of Louisiana. The petrochemical industry is driving incredible change and opportunity along the Gulf Coast. Struzzi reached out to the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance who offered to host the visit and connect the Indiana County team with key leaders in education, economic development, the petrochemical industry, local and regional planners, Chambers of Commerce, and more. The team will also visit cracker plants in that region currently under construction during the trip.
“The people we connected with in Louisiana have been more than gracious,” Struzzi said. “They are eager to share what they’ve learned and experienced through the influx of this industry. We hope to learn as much as possible to bring some of that opportunity to Indiana County.”
Through a solid relationship with Indiana Regional Medical Center (IRMC) and Amanda Augustine, Manager of Corporate and Community Wellness, the Chamber will initiate a Healthiest Employer Challenge this spring. The challenge will be a friendly competition between Indiana County businesses to see which company or organization can lose the most average weight. A wellness portal will be created to allow businesses to register, track progress and view the leader board. The “Healthiest Employer” recognition will be awarded to the winner at the end of the competition.
“Corporate wellness and a healthy workforce are keys to business success and productivity,” Struzzi said. “We felt this was a great opportunity to partner with IRMC to promote health and wellness and improve overall quality of life in Indiana County. And it will be a lot of fun.”
Who will hoist the “Healthiest Employer” cup and earn the bragging rights? All Indiana County businesses are encouraged to participate and create their own employee incentives when the program begins this spring. Click here for more information.
The Chamber last week hosted the Regional Advocacy Coalition of Chambers at the Kovalchick Complex. Lead by the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Allegheny Conference, the RACC is a voluntary alliance of local chambers of commerce throughout the ten-county region of southwestern Pennsylvania. The purpose of the RACC is to educate legislators and regulators at all levels of government on issues that are important to the common interest of the region's business community. The Indiana County Chamber is a member of the RACC along with 17 other chambers in the Western Pennsylvania region.
The RACC group was joined by the Chamber’s Government Relations Committee. Following the meeting, a tour of the Kovalchick Complex was offered plus a visit to Noble Stein Brewery. To learn more about the RACC, visit www.regionaladvocacycoalitionofchambers.com.
The Chamber staff continues to prepare for the 2017 Indiana County Business Hall of Fame induction dinner on Thursday, June 8, at the Kovalchick Complex. The evening of celebration will begin with an open bar at 5:30 p.m. followed by dinner and the induction ceremonies at 6:30 p.m. Table and seat reservations are being accepted now as well as sponsor opportunities. Formal invitations are being mailed this week. Individual seats are $75 and full tables of 10 are $725. Click here for more details, visit the Chamber website or call 724-465-2511 to make reservations today.
Struzzi said ChamberChoice has rolled out some new programs through OnDemand Energy that could create significant savings in energy costs exclusively for Chamber members. Chamber members should contact the Chamber for more information.
Chamber Marketing Manager Annie Rizzo gave an update on the Chamber’s marketing efforts including a surge in Facebook and social media activity. As an added benefit to our members, Rizzo, in partnership with Planful, LLC, is offering free social media training classes in the Chamber board room. The first three classes were filled almost immediately. Given the heavy demand for this training, the Chamber will schedule additional sessions in the future.
Rizzo also gave an update on the Spring new member drive that started in April and continues through June 30. The drive features some great incentives for new members including 15 free 30-second radio commercials on Froggy 95.5 plus prizes and give-a-ways. In the first week of the drive, the Chamber already added four new members. Interested in joining the Chamber? Click here for an application. Various membership levels are available including Chamber Friends for people who want to be part of the Chamber, but aren’t connected with a business.
Joe Pittman with State Senator Don White’s said budget talks continue in Harrisburg. While there are differences in the budgets proposed by the House and the Governor’s office, Pittman said discussions appear to be moving in a positive direction. He is hopeful that a budget will be passed on time by July 1.
Meanwhile, Sen. White is focused on creating legislation to positively impact the pharmaceutical industry by creating more transparency in pricing, marketing and other areas that affect consumers.
Pittman said the current pro energy position in Washington, DC, is creating positive signs related to coal and natural gas in the local region.
Related to economic development, Pittman praised the Chamber and the Indiana County Development Corporation for their efforts to bring new jobs, development and economic growth to Indiana County.
Robin Gorman with IUP said enrollment figures for the Fall 2017 semester are tracking positive. While not yet back to their peak several years ago, estimates have enrollment for the 2017-2018 academic year looking well.
Dave Brocious with the Marcellus Shale Coalition echoed Pittman’s earlier comments saying there are certainly “rays of light” in the energy industry now. Currently there are 33 active drilling operations in Pennsylvania with 66 in the tri-state region. Last year at this time there were 41. He said also there are good signs in the supply industry with many local companies currently seeking additional employees.
Another positive factor is the construction of major pipelines across Pennsylvania including the Sunoco Logistics lines through southern Indiana County. Four major pipelines are being constructed in Pennsylvania amounting to a $10 billion investment creating 30,000 jobs. US Trinity, the Texas company building the line through Indiana County, is located presently at the 119 Business Park in Coral-Graceton. They are bringing or have already brought 300-400 jobs and/or employees to Indiana County to construct their section of the pipeline project.
Once the pipelines are online delivering natural gas from our region to other areas around the globe, Brocious said he expects local activity to significantly increase.
Legislatively, the MSC was pleased to see the proposed House budget did not include a natural gas severance tax though Governor Tom Wolfe’s budget does. Other states are looking at changes in their severance taxes that could alter the industry here.
Byron Stauffer, Executive Director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, said a Public Participation Panel to solicit support for infrastructure improvement projects to be included in the next Transportation Improvement Program is being planned for May 23 at Career Link on Indian Springs Road. Struzzi and Stauffer co-chair the Indiana County PPP. More information will be released later.
Stauffer said the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations (CEO) is seeking funding to develop a formal Economic and Workforce Development plan to ensure the county is focused and moving in the right direction to capitalize on upcoming opportunities.
The County’s economic development team is also meeting with Shell and others in the petrochemical industry related to what opportunity’s this regional “game changer” might have for Indiana County.
“Our goal is to make them aware of Indiana County and what we’re trying to do here,” Stauffer said.
Other projects and business opportunities around the county are progressing well including interest in the Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park. And while there are many opportunities in the Indiana and White Township areas, Stauffer emphasized that efforts and funding resources are also underway to support growth and improvements in areas like Clymer, Homer City and Blairsville.
“We are targeting some our communities to help them thrive.”
Visit www.indianacountyceo.com to learn about the many development opportunities and available commercial properties in Indiana County.
Kelly Howells with Anew Home Health Agency and the Healthcare Consortium said they are in the process of training for incumbent health care workers. She also reminded everyone their annual recognition breakfast is May 3 at the Indiana County Club. Tickets and sponsorships are available.
Jim Kinneer with Indiana Regional Medical Center said the hospital recently received national recognition from the Leapfrog Group with an “A” grade for patient safety.
“That sets us apart from other hospitals nationally,” Kinneer said.
Mall manager Sherry Renosky they were thrilled to learn that the Indiana Mall JC Penny was not one of the locations that would be closing. In fact, she said the store has been very busy since the announcement.
“We are pleased the community has come out to show their support for our JC Penny,” Renosky said.
Unfortunately, she did offer more bad news related to the retail industry. Radio Shack is closing all of its stores and FYE is closing many locations including the Indiana Mall store.
On a positive note, a church is setting up residence on Sundays in the Old Navy location. New Life Community Church (www.facebook.com/NewLifeChurchIndiana) will conduct public services at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Everyone is welcome.
Courtney Crowe attended the board meeting to provide an update on activities and events around Saltsburg Borough. Crowe said there are a lot of community activities being planned and prepared for including the annul Canal Days in June. They are also creating a summer concert series and working to draw more attention to the trail network. Saltsburg is a trail hub, Crowe said, which helps create connectivity through the region. Efforts are underway to connect Latrobe, Saltsburg, Freeport and Pittsburgh through a trail network.
Realizing the economic benefits of trails and quality of life assets, the Chamber has offered to help Saltsburg through promotion and possibly creating an event in Saltsburg like the Paddle and Picnic event in Blairsville
Chamber Young Professionals Organization
Tae Ayers with S&T Bank and chair for the Chamber’s Young Professionals Organization (YPO) said they had a great St. Patrick’s Day mixer on March 22 at the Coney. A Breakfast and Learn is planned with Heidi Malin with Keystone Fundraising Solutions for April 19. Malin will discuss the roles of board members and community service. The YPO is also helping with an Alice Paul House fundraising event.
Rizzo mentioned that many Chamber YPO members are volunteering to be part of the Leaders Circle of Indiana County (LCIC). Rizzo is serving as vice chair under Chair Camille Morris-Sherry. The annual community service recognition event has been moved to September 20 at the Indiana Country Club. Nominations for the ATHENA and Male and Female Civic leader awards are being accepted now. Click here for the nomination form. In addition, the LCIC is adding a Young ATHENA award this year for community servants age 40 and under.
The Chamber YPO’s is a great opportunity for advancing employees, upcoming managers and others within Chamber member businesses to meet and network with other future business and community leaders. Want to join the YPO? Any Chamber member or employee of a Chamber member age 40 or under can join. Individuals can also join as a “Chamber Friend”. Visit the Chamber’s website to apply. To learn more, visit the YPO page on the Chamber’s website or on Facebook.
Government Relations Committee Chair Gorman said the group continues to meet building a platform for the Chamber related to advocacy and policy support.
“We want to build a good foundation,” she said. “Where do we stand on the issues?”
New events are being considered and a survey is currently underway to gauge the economic climate of Indiana County’s business community.
Membership Events Update
The Chamber has many exciting opportunities in the next few months to network, meet new people and grow our member businesses. Upcoming Business After Hours include the Indiana Country Club on May 11 and the third annual Paddle and Picnic in Blairsville on May 27. The Chamber is also partnering with the Indiana County Tourist Bureau and Downtown Indiana to celebrate the completion of the Streetscape work on Philadelphia Street in Indiana Borough on April 27.
The Chamber Board of Directors will meet next on May 11 at the Indiana Country Club.