Westmoreland County hires its state lobbyist firm to include D.C. work

| Friday, July 27, 2012, 12:01 a.m.

Westmoreland County commissioners said Thursday that a new contract with a Harrisburg-based lobbying firm is a classic case of addition by subtraction.

Commissioners awarded a $96,000 annual contract to Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, giving the firm a raise from the $60,000 that it earned in each of the last two years.

In giving out the raise, commissioners cut ties with their Washington, D.C.-based lobbyist, which cost $60,000 annually.

As a result, the county will pay about $24,000 less this year for lobbying.

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney will advocate for the county in Harrisburg and Washington.

“We thought we could get a better vision for the county if we worked with one firm,” said Commissioner Tyler Courtney.

According to commissioners, the switch won't diminish lobbying efforts in Washington because Buchanan Ingersoll has representatives based there.

County officials insist that a coordinated approach to lobbying will produce more results.

Commissioners touted lobbying efforts in the last year that helped attract businesses to Westmoreland, including a manufacturing plant for a Lawrenceville battery maker that will move to the former Sony site in East Huntingdon with the benefit of a lucrative state financing package.

Commissioner Charles Anderson said intensified efforts already have started to draw state and federal funds for the expansion of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport and construction of the proposed Laurel Valley Expressway that would link the Sony site to the airport.

Lobbying has become an important element for county officials as state and federal funds have tightened in recent years.

Last year, state and federal grants accounted for more than half the county's budget.

Westmoreland's $315 million budget this year relies on $133.8 million, or about 42 percent of all revenues.

Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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