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Penn State students pitch ideas for former Alcoa plant

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Friday, April 26, 2013, 10:24 a.m.

Creating a plan to market the former Alcoa Research Labs property in New Kensington will be a sizable task for developer Steve Kubrick.

He has his hands full renovating the buildings' 200,000 square feet of space.

To lighten his load, Penn State New Kensington students stepped in to develop a proposal for marketing the 17-acre site to prospective tenants and the community.

The proposal was a semester-long project for the public relations methods class taught by Camille Downing, an adjunct professor at the Upper Burrell campus.

“It gives them a chance to take all of the theories they learn and apply them in a practical way,” said Downing, adding she often has her classes work on a project connected to a real-world situation.

Ten students delivered the formal presentation on Thursday to an audience that included Kubrick, PSNK Chancellor Kevin Snider, New Kensington Mayor Tom Guzzo, New Kensington Redevelopment Authority Executive Director Kim McAfoose and about a dozen members of the Westmoreland Economic Development Initiative for Growth (WEDIG).

Senior Jamie Mazzotta of New Kensington presented an overview of their project. It first involved meeting with Kubrick to discuss his vision; touring the buildings at the corner of Edgewood and Freeport roads; and learning the history of the site that was used by Alcoa from 1929 to the late 1990s.

Mazzotta said they also surveyed local businesses to gauge what methods of promotion they use. The results led the students to suggest Kubrick create a website and use other social-media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

The students identified strengths including Kubrick's willingness to make rent reasonable and to alter space to suit tenants; the property's accessibility and good reputation; and the project's strong ties to city government.

The lack of promotion, advertising and branding were cited as weaknesses.

Junior Stacey Ansell of Springdale suggested several events Kubrick could host to promote the site, including open houses and concerts on the site's large front lawn to let the public “see that it's alive and breathing again.”

Although he is not bound to implement any of the suggestions from the class, Kubrick thanked them for their efforts and said he is interested in using their ideas.

“There's a lot of good kids in this group, and they worked hard,” Kubrick said.

Ansell plans to continue working on promotions with Kubrick through a summer internship.

“We now have a blueprint for moving forward,” Guzzo said. “A couple years from now, when (the students) are driving past and things are really humming, you'll know you had something to do with it.”

Mazzotta said working on the proposal was especially meaningful to her because she grew up in the city and has relatives who worked at Alcoa.

“I had a connection to it,” she said. “I'm hoping (Kubrick's redevelopment) brings back a little of what once was.”

Liz Hayes is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-226-4680 or

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