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60 new businesses open in Greensburg

| Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013, 8:09 p.m.

Greensburg officials credit an improving economy for twice as many city businesses opening up last year as in 2011.

In 2012, 60 new commercial enterprises set up shop in Greensburg, including 21 downtown and 25 others along the main roadways leading into the heart of the city, according to a report given to city council this month.

Thirty-three businesses opened in 2011 in the city, according to the report compiled by the city and the Greensburg Community Development Corp.

“I definitely do see it as a sign” of an improving economy, city planner Barbara Ciampini said.

“I believe people have confidence in the economy and that the timing is right to move forward with a project,” added Steve Gifford, executive director of the Greensburg Community Development Corp. “Banks are starting to lend money to projects that are financially strong and well developed.”

City officials used permits that businesses must apply for, deed transfer records and applications for grant funding to compile the report, according to Ciampini and Gifford.

“I think it was a positive with the development coming in, and we have more coming,” Mayor Ron Silvis said.

Businesses that shuttered their doors last year are not part of the report numbers. Business owners closing shop do not have to seek permits or file applications with the city, Ciampini explained.

The development group tracks businesses that shut their doors within a four-block radius of the Westmoreland County Courthouse, Gifford said.

Ten business closed shop in 2010, while six others moved to another site and 18 entered into new leases, according to the development group's statistics.

In 2011, 10 businesses closed, while three moved and nine entered into new leases. Last year, eight businesses closed, none moved and 17 began new leases, according to the development group.

Some businesses with new leases are new, while others are existing businesses that relocated downtown, Gifford said.

Last year, owners of 11 commercial complexes spent nearly $3.5 million remodeling their establishments, with eight of them spending nearly $2.67 million, according to the report presented to council.

Westmoreland Pediatrics spent $382,500 for interior work in its office building near Excela Westmoreland Hospital and First Energy spent $545,000 for improvements to its Cabin Hill Drive site, the report says.

A new AutoZone store went up on East Pittsburgh Street for $689,632 and Excela Health System spent $401,000 on its Behavioral Health Clinic, according to the report.

Sandra Lynn Dance Academy on North Maple Avenue, American Adventure Sports on South Pennsylvania Avenue, and Sun Dawg Cafe and Fitness with a Twist, both on North Main Street, opened their doors or made improvements last year.

The Sunset Cafe began remodeling last year as part of a $85,000 project, according to the report.

Updates to business properties are another positive sign of an economic turnaround, Ciampini said.

The city's cultural attractions, Excela and local universities help to attract development, Gifford said.

“Greensburg is a great market to invest in because we have so many assets,” he said.

Silvis ceded that too many buildings remain vacant on Main Street. “We have some prospective tenants moving in, which I don't want to get into,” he said.

Development can be made more difficult because of the age of some Greensburg buildings, Silvis said.

Business owners who would use these buildings — many more than 100 years old — must upgrade safety and other features, potentially increasing costs, he explained. Demolition often isn't an option, Silvis added.

“I think part of the problem is, we have so many absentee landlords, and I think they think their properties are worth more than they are,” the mayor said.

Taxpayers contributed $16,500 last year toward building renovations through the Facade Improvement Grant program and $65,000 through Community Development Block Grant funds, the report shows.

Bob Stiles is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-6622 or bstiles@tribweb.com.

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