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Scottdale Chamber's goal: More growth

| Wednesday, April 17, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

At 11 years old, the Scottdale Chamber of Commerce is a young organization compared with other chambers in Western Pennsylvania, but the group has made a palpable impact on the town.

On Aug. 1, 2001, the Scottdale Merchants Association ceased to exist and the Scottdale Chamber of Commerce was established. The merchant organization permitted only retail establishments to join. The new organization was open to businesses and individuals.

“We wanted to get larger so we could do more for the community,” said Recording Secretary Marty Savanick, a past president.

Despite the name, the Scottdale Chamber is open to businesses and individuals from outside the borough.

“It's open to the entire Scottdale area, so anyone who wanted to join could, even if they are from Everson, Ruffsdale, Alverton. Really, we will take businesses from anywhere,” President Jennifer Olack said.

The organization has 86 members. Its purpose is twofold.

First, the chamber's mission is to help revitalize Scottdale. Members have made great strides in that effort.

The first project was to replace the old, plain light poles in the downtown area with decorative ones. Members raised all the money for 15 light poles, which were installed by 2005.

The chamber also raised enough money to purchase new star-shaped Christmas lights for the downtown.

The group established a welcome walkway between the main parking lot and downtown businesses. The group had a cement walkway, surrounded by landscaping, installed, along with a handmade wrought-iron decorative archway.

“We wanted to make it pleasant to welcome people as they walked from the parking lot to the Pittsburgh Street shopping area,” Savanick said.

The group worked with the borough to form a Revitalization Committee, which consists of borough representatives, chamber members as well as some other community members. The group's mission was to come up with a plan for the downtown area and make improvements.

From this collaboration, a Sign Grant Program was born. Scottdale was awarded a grant that permitted the borough to provide partial grant funding to downtown businesses for pedestrian-friendly signs.

“As long as you stayed within the guidelines, you got a percentage off of the cost of your sign,” Olack said.

One of the next projects that the group wants to achieve is beautifying the veterans memorial at Broadway and Pittsburgh Street.

The second focus of the organization is to create events to attract people to the downtown. The chamber has established several regular events — the Easter Egg Hunt, Lunch in the Park, community yard sale, sidewalk sales, Small Business Saturday, 12 Days of Giveaways, Winter Light Celebration and a talent show.

“We partnered with the theater on the talent show. What we are looking for in the future is to be able to partner with all sorts of different organizations on projects,” Olack said.

The organization sponsors the Scottie Scholar Program. Throughout the school year, nine seniors — two of whom are Central Westmoreland Career and Technology Center students — are chosen by the school district. The students are honored with a lunch with a representative from the sponsoring business. They each receive a $200 gift card on Senior Day.

The chamber distributes a seasonal newsletter to inform the members and the community about events and other projects. The publication typically is sent to members and community churches. Secretary Mary Jo Hixson said the organization may start distributing newsletters in some doctors' offices as well.

“In April, during our membership drive, we send out the newsletter to as many local businesses as we can find,” Hixson said.

Also in April, as part of the membership drive, the organization is planning to hold a breakfast for current and prospective members.

The group meets at noon on the third Tuesday of every month in Scottdale Public Library.

Phone calls are managed by the Scottdale Community Civic & Industrial Association. For information, call 724-887-3611.

Linda Harkcom is a freelance writer.

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