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North Huntingdon officials trying to attract more businesses

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

North Huntingdon officials hope to attract businesses to the area as part of their plan to overhaul the township's zoning ordinances.

Lee Moffatt, president of the board of commissioners, suggested making assistant manager Mike Turley the township's economic ambassador.

The economic-ambassador position is in preliminary discussions, so pay and other expenses have not been discussed, Moffatt said.

Part of the ambassador's duties would be attending business trade shows and making contact with businesses about opportunities and available lots in North Huntingdon, Moffatt said.

“They're all overlooking us here,” Moffatt said. “I don't know why we're not getting these restaurants and businesses over here, especially when you look at new businesses.

“We have prime, pad-ready sites, ready to be built on.”

Township manager John Shepherd said before establishing an economic ambassador, the commissioners must make sure to clearly define its purpose, and what types of businesses they want North Huntingdon.

“We don't want to court businesses that could be problematic,” he said.

Township planner and engineer Andrew Blenko said the location of the township's business district, along Route 30, near the Pennsylvania Turnpike, should be enticing to new businesses because of high traffic flows. But, Blenko said, officials can't understand why several parcels, such as the ones surrounding Walmart, remain vacant.

“I just don't understand why, with the two major highways, we don't see more progress,” Blenko said.

Planning commission member Tom Kerber, a former commissioner, said township officials should begin taking a proactive approach to attracting businesses.

“We can get these people here,” Kerber said. “But you've got to get out of your office chair, go out and find these people, since most of them are looking for places.”

Kerber suggested that township officials need to let developers know they are willing to help them, instead of dictating requirements.

“It's that thought of ‘It's us against the township,'” Kerber said. “We need to work with them and not just tell them to go do this or that because it sends the message that we're not really interested.

“We have to change that attitude and let people know we're here to walk them through the process and be friendlier.”

The planning commission and board of commissioners plan to continue discussing development and the zoning ordinance overhaul during a meeting at 6 p.m. April 11 before the commissioners' workshop meeting.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8626, or bpedersen@tribweb.com.

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