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Unity markets itself

Joe Napsha
| Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

Unity Township is hoping to attract businesses with a new 14-page color brochure, a marketing tool that economic development officials say is unusual among municipalities.

The brochure, “Unity Township: Building On Our Beauty,” contains sections on local history, economic development, transportation, healthcare, education and recreation in the township. It will be distributed to the Westmoreland County Planning Department, the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland, real estate agents, local chambers of commerce and businesses in the area, said Michael O'Barto, chairman of the township supervisors.

“Anyone responsible for bringing business to Unity Township will get one,” O'Barto said.

Two thousand copies of the brochure were published for $7,900, O'Barto said. The township supervisors had committed no more than $10,000 for the project, O'Barto said.

“It can be paid for if one or two companies move into Unity Township,” O'Barto said.

The brochure was a collaboration of efforts by the township supervisors, including Jacob “Jake” Blank and John Mylant; Gary Falatovich, township solicitor; Merle Musick, building inspector; and Sharon Sweeney, building department secretary, O'Barto said.

“It's unique. I'm not sure anyone has done it,” said John Skiavo, executive director of the Economic Growth Connection, a countrywide economic development organization based in Greensburg.

“Most of the (economic development) activity has been in eastern Westmoreland, in Unity Township,” Skiavo said.

When Sony Corp. operated its television assembly plant at its giant complex in East Huntingdon, “the New Stanton area had most of the (county's) activity,” Skiavo said. But Sony closed its operations in 2010, and the county's manufacturing center moved as well.

“Eastern Westmoreland has established companies. Eastern Westmoreland still has a strong manufacturing base. That's why there has been activity there,” Skiavo said.

In addition to established manufacturers such as Kennametal Corp. and Latrobe Specialty Metals, formerly Latrobe Steel, eastern Westmoreland has benefited from the boom in the natural gas production in the state's Marcellus shale reserves.

Unity, which has a population of about 22,000, already benefits from business activity that has lowered the municipality's unemployment rate from a 3.9 percent average from 2006 to 2008 to an average 3.8 percent from 2009 to 2011, according to a Census Bureau community survey. The Latrobe area, which includes Unity, has about 1,750 businesses, according to the Census Bureau demographic survey. A demographic survey for Unity alone was not available.

Unity also benefits from being home to the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport along Route 981 and a condensed shopping strip along Route 30, between the intersections of Routes 981 and 982. The county-owned Westmoreland Airpark near the airport offers ready-made opportunities for businesses to locate in the township.

“The airport's going gangbusters,” Blank said.

The Westmoreland County Airport Authority has discussed plans for a major expansion with a new terminal, a project that has been estimated to cost $20 million.

The township's efforts to boost economic development have benefitted from a 2009 revision of Unity's comprehensive plan, Blank and O'Barto said. The revision of the original 1992 comprehensive plan has more pro-business measures, but still is cognizant of the township's aesthetics, Blank said.

“We're walking the fine line between being Monroeville out here and being aesthetic,” Blank said.

The township has invited economic development officials from Westmoreland County and the Economic Growth Connection, a Greensburg-based agency, to a meeting at 4:15 p.m. Thursday at the municipal building to discuss the initiative.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-836-5252 or jnapsha@tribweb.com.

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