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5 projects in region receive more than $6.75 million in grants

| Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Westmoreland County's efforts to expand its business park near the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity got a $1 million boost Monday when the state announced it will give an economic development grant to the county, one of five projects in the region that received more than $6.75 million in state grants.

The Westmoreland County Industrial Development Authority will use the money to develop the second phase of the Westmoreland Airpark, creating 12 lots on a 50-acre parcel, said Jason Rigone, executive director of the industrial authority.

The county will break ground on the second phase of the airpark once it receives the necessary state and local approvals, Rigone said. The county hopes to start work on the site this spring, Rigone said.

The state awarded $1 million in economic development funding to Latrobe for renovations of its downtown parking garage; $500,000 to the Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers for its training center in Salem; $1 million to the Fay-Penn Economic Development Council in Uniontown, for the development of the 304-acre Dunbar Township Business Park; and $3.25 million toward the Indiana Economic Development Project in Indiana Borough. Each grant must be matched with an equal amount of money.

Latrobe City Manager Alex Graziani said the city has paid for the extensive work to the parking garage between Weldon and Spring streets. “We have spent close to $3 million on the project,” he said.

The city issued bonds last year to cover the cost, so the city council will have to decide how it wants to spend the reimbursement from the state, Graziani said.

The garage opened in September after it closed in July 2010 because of safety problems.

The Western Pennsylvania Operating Engineers will use its grant to build a 33,000-square-foot facility to serve as classroom space, training space and administrative offices, said Steve Columbus, administrative manager at the training center.

The center currently is training 170 apprentices in operating heavy equipment and providing required certifications for its 7,000 members from 33 counties in Western Pennsylvania and three counties in Eastern Ohio, Columbus said.

Fay-Penn Economic Development Council wants to create a business park adjacent to the Fayette County Fairgrounds along Route 119, said Michael Jordan, Fay-Penn president.

Jordan said the money would be used for the first phase of the project, which consists of developing about 100 acres. Fay-Penn envisions developing the site in three phases, including about 104 acres that are accessible by a rail line, Jordan said.

Officials hope to begin site preparations this spring, once sewer lines are extended to the site, Jordan said.

A spokesman for the Indiana Economic Development Corp. could not be reached for comment.

The state funded 54 projects statewide with $124.7 million. It estimated that the projects will create or retain more than 56,000 jobs in 28 counties.

The money is allocated from the Redevelopment Capital Assistance Program, which the Corbett administration has renamed the Economic Growth Initiative.

Joe Napsha is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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