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Plum council seeks ways to spur business growth

| Wednesday, April 30, 2014, 9:00 p.m.

Economic development efforts in Plum have been sporadic over the past several years, according to a borough councilman.

Plum Councilman Dave Vento's goal is to make bringing more businesses to Plum a concentrated and organized effort.

“It (economic development) has been given the attempt but not given the push,” Vento said last week during a meeting of the newly organized economic development committee. “I am here to make the push.”

Vento, re-elected last November to borough council, said during his campaign that working to bring more businesses to Plum would be a top priority.

“We can't keep taxing people out of their homes,” Vento said. “If we don't build on a commercial basis, the bedroom community will die.”

Committee members discussed borough-wide economic development initiatives including talking with Allegheny County about joining Plum's tax relief program for businesses, looking at the development potential of the Route 909 corridor where there are vacant parcels of land and exploring a streetscape program for Route 286 — the borough's business district.

Plum Planning Director Jason Straley said four business owners take part in the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance, or LERTA, tax relief program that borough council approved in 2010.

Committee member Matthew Smith, a Plum resident who is president of the Red Swing Group in Murrysville, a civil engineering company, suggested the group contact Allegheny County about participating in the program so that businesses could get relief on their county taxes.

Jim Yamnitzky, who formerly headed the Plum Community Festival committee, suggested the group pursue infrastructure development of the Route 909 corridor.

“We should look at getting grant money for sewers and water,” Yamnitzky said.

Vento agreed.

“We should do the nuts and bolts to make things (in the 909 corridor) ready for development,” Vento said.

The group also discussed a streetscape initiative for Route 286 that could include sidewalks, lamp posts and landscaping. Neighboring Monroeville several years ago improved Route 22 through a streetscape program.

“Route 286 is a hodgepodge — kind of a mess,” Vento said. “If we can beautify it, it would look better without trying to challenge (businesses there) to do something.”

Vento said improving the area would pave the way for anticipated plans to widen Route 286. Work is under way to widen the Monroeville portion of the road.

Donna Pembrooke, a Plum resident for 33 years who patronizes businesses on Route 286, thinks a streetscape program would be ideal for Route 286.

“Right now, we just have strip malls,” said Pembrooke, 67 who on Monday was shopping at the Hallmark in the Holiday Park Shopping Center. “I would welcome sidewalks and lamp posts in a heartbeat.”

Pembrooke said streetscape amenities would attract more specialty stores to the corridor.

“Now, people get in their cars and go to Monroeville Mall,” Pembrooke said.

Committee members also want to continue to market the borough building site for commercial development. A marketing study several years ago indicated a grocery store would be profitable at the site.

Manager Michael Thomas has said a grocer had expressed interest in the site but no further talks have occurred.

“We have to get someone else interested,” Vento said.

Vento also wants to promote Plum's status as one of the safest towns in the U.S. and one of the most affordable towns in the state, according to national ranking firms.

The next meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on May 19 in the council conference room at the borough building, 4575 New Texas Road.

Karen Zapf is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-856-7400 ext. 8753 or kzapf@tribweb.com.

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