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West Newton business opportunities gain international visibility

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Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Economic development in downtown West Newton is getting a boost from a revamped Westmoreland County website that showcases marketable properties available for expanding a business or creating a new one.

“It will help generate interest in the community. It's another tool,” to use, said Aaron Nelson, president of Downtown West Newton Inc., a nonprofit economic development organization promoting downtown West Newton.

Seven West Newton properties are highlighted on the Downtown Destinations website developed by the Redevelopment Authority of Westmoreland County. For purposes of the Downtown Destinations website, downtown West Newton is defined as the area along North Water and South Water streets, east to North Third and South Third streets, and from Vine Street north to an alley north of the West Newton Public Library.

One of the property owners, George Stout of 108 N. Second St., said his three-story, 5,400-square-feet house, which was featured on the website, attracted the attention of an engineer from Columbia, who was looking to relocate to this region.

Stout, who operates an antique store across the street from his home, said he has had a number of phone calls and visits that can be attributed to the publicity on the county's website,

“It's good for some extra visibility,” Stout said.

Three of the properties listed for sale are along East Main Street: 120 E. Main St., which houses the former Main Street Cafe that closed several years ago; 123-127 E. Main St., the former G.C. Murphy store building and later a fitness center; and 208-214 E. Main St., which housed a printing shop operated by Carl Lander Jr.

Lander said he was not even aware that the county's Downtown Destinations website had listed his property for sale and has not received any queries from potential buyers.

“They're not too good about telling you these things,” Lander said.

Lander said he has been trying to sell the building and its printing equipment the past few years, in hopes of getting a buyer who wants to operate the business. If not, he said he would sell the printing equipment and supplies separately

Two of the properties listed for sale have already been sold: Ronald W. Elsbury acquired the Mantle Mission House at 132 S. Water St., in September 2012 for $23,000; and Clinton W. Schmitt sold property at 111-113 S. Second St., to Gary R. Johnson for $75,000 in February 2011.

In addition to West Newton, the Downtown Destinations website focuses on development opportunities in 14 boroughs and cities in the county, including Greensburg, Irwin, Derry, Jeannette and Latrobe.

The revised Downtown Destinations website “is part of our renewed efforts to keep them vibrant and ensure their long-term vitality,” said April Kopas, redevelopment authority executive director.

“Downtown Destinations promotes our urban cores as attractive locations to start a business,” said Donna Bates, director of finance, marketing and programs for the Economic Growth Connection of Westmoreland, a Greensburg-based economic development organization.

In order to attract more businesses into downtown West Newton, the borough should have more parking available in the business district, said Phyllis Kelly, an employee of Burtner's Rock & Gem on East Main Street.

In addition to having more parking, “people should support their local businesses,” Kelly said.

The website allows users to conduct property searches by size, purchase price and type, and is enhanced with a visual street view to give a sense of place, said Brian Lawrence, assistant deputy director for the county planning department.

To be listed on the site, the property must be in a condition that it can be occupied and brought up to building code standards, if needed, Kopas said.

Some of the listings on the website come from community leaders and real estate agents, Kopas said.

A link to the website can be found at

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

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