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South Buffalo to consider business proposals

| Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, 12:47 a.m.
Valley News Dispatch
Armstrong County Department of Economic Development Executive Director Michael Coonley, right, talks with Assistant Business Manager, Justin Nolder, inside the second floor of Technology Center II at the Northpointe business park in South Buffalo on Friday, January 18, 2013. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
Technology Center II is the newest building at the Northpointe business park in South Buffalo and also contains space that is still for rent on Friday, January 18, 2013. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Valley News Dispatch
Armstrong County Department of Economic Development Executive Director Michael Coonley talks about the 'build to suit' option that its newest building, Technology Center II, at the Northpointe business park in South Buffalo on Friday, January 18, 2013. Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch

Two South Buffalo Township companies and a theology school are looking to expand their reach into the business world.

• The Biblical Life Institute wants to offer guest housing to people other than students.

• Thermal-imaging product manufacturer FLIR Systems is moving forward with its relocation to Northpointe at Slake Lick business park.

• Carson Industries, a home-and-garden decor wholesaler, wants to build a new warehouse near its current location.

The South Buffalo Township Planning Commission will meet Thursday to consider the requests.

As the economic recession eases, businesses have purchased about 21 acres throughout Armstrong County, said Michael Coonley, executive director of the Armstrong County Department of Economic Development, a private economic development agency that owns the Northpointe at Slate Lick business park in South Buffalo.

One of the reasons businesses can thrive in the township is that it's located just 35 minutes from Pittsburgh, he said.

“For companies that are spinning out of Pittsburgh, to the universities, this is the southernmost part of the county, so it makes sense that we're going to be able to attract that element,” he said. “You have people who are starting businesses or if they're conducting business in Pittsburgh, they want to have that proximity.”

Housing options

The Biblical Life Institute on Route 128 had been offering its student housing during the summer months to people attending religious retreats, to contractors stationed in the area for work or to people in the area for a few weeks to receive medical treatment at local hospitals.

“We sit right off of (Route) 28 and you have people ... in the area for treatment for a month at Pittsburgh hospitals, and then they're going to be going home,” said institute Business Director Dan Warner. “It helps cover our overhead and helps our people as well.”

The school, formerly known as the Transylvania Bible School, recently halted the practice when officials discovered it violated the township's zoning code, which regulates bed-and-breakfasts and guest housing.

The institute needs a zoning code variance because as a school it is permitted to house only students attending classes there.

The township's ordinance requires an operating permit, states that there cannot be more than three guest rooms in a 3,000-square-foot area and that no guests may stay longer than seven consecutive nights.

The school has 35 rooms, with a maximum occupancy of 45 people. The institute typically charges $35 a night, $196 for one week and $280 for a two-week stay, Warner said.

Warner stressed that the dormitory would not be open to just anyone.

“It's not something we're going to be advertising,” he said. “We have very rigid standards: no drinking, smoking or drugs, and we have quiet times. Many people prefer that type of atmosphere.”

The planning commission also will hear requests from FLIR Systems and Carson Industries.

Building retrofit

FLIR's request involves the retrofit of a 30,000-square-foot building it purchased at the Northpointe business park.

A company official could not be reached for comment.

Officials said in July it planned to consolidate two Armstrong County facilities into the Northpointe building.

FLIR, a worldwide company headquartered in Portland, Ore., makes night-vision equipment for soldiers and police as well as hand-held thermal-imaging cameras for consumers, security personnel and industrial uses.

In 2009 FLIR acquired Armstrong County companies OmniTech Partners and its subsidiary Optical Systems Technology, which are now known as FLIR Government Systems Pittsburgh. The division focuses on weapons sights, hand-held night vision viewers and other systems for soldiers and police.

The company houses its optical fabrications operation at the former North Buffalo Elementary School on Freeport Road in North Buffalo Township. It has a manufacturing testing and design facility on Kountz Lane in South Buffalo, across from Northpointe.

“Part of (the development at Northpointe) has to do with infrastructure,” said Coonley. “There's water throughout different areas (of the township), but this is the only area that has sewers, and this interchange is the only one with sewage.”

The industrial development authority owns the 400,000 gallon-per-day treatment facility that serves the business park.

After about a three-year lull because of the recession, the number of inquiries about space at the business park have begun to increase, Coonley said.

“In the last six months or so, we've really seen a significant turnaround,” Coonley said.

New warehouse

And it appears that business is going well for Carson Industries, which is requesting permission to build a new warehouse not far from its current location on Foreman Road.

Carson recently purchased 39.6 acres in South Buffalo for $500,000, according to the Armstrong County Assessment office.

Carson executives declined to comment for this story.

Carson sells wholesale pewter products, wind chimes, and home and garden decor.

In addition to a number of retailers that stock its products, the company has permanent showrooms in Dallas and Atlanta, according to its website.

In the last few years, Carson has grown to include more than 2,500 products and 8,500 customers, according to a press release issued by Sage North America, a California-based business management services firm that has worked with Carson since 2007.

In 2008, the company backed out of plans to move its corporate headquarters, design center, distributions and retail outlet to the Ford City Heritage and Technology industrial park, the former PPG Industries site.

Jodi Weigand is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4702 or

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