Westmoreland County to court employers, foster growth
By Rich Cholodofsky
Published: Friday, Jan. 10, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Unemployment in Westmoreland County is down and home sales are up — signs that the county economy is on an upward trajectory, officials said on Thursday.
The county's three commissioners told about 180 business leaders at a Westmoreland Chamber of Commerce gathering at Ferrante's Lakeview in Hempfield that efforts will intensify in 2014 to bring new jobs and businesses to the county.
“Our job is to keep Westmoreland County open for business. I'm optimistic when you look to our future growth in economic development,” said Commissioner Charles Anderson.
Westmoreland's unemployment rate of 6.8 percent is below state and national averages of 7.3 and 7.5 percent, respectively, commissioners said. That's from a high of 9.9 percent in February 2010, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The average price of homes sold in Westmoreland County increased by 4.6 percent, and the number of sales rose by 10.6 percent, according to commissioners.
Commissioner Tyler Courtney said the county industrial park program generated $4.8 million in revenue from property taxes last year.
The industrial parks have a 23 percent vacancy rate, with 123 businesses as tenants that employ more than 9,000 workers. “A lot of people want to be in Westmoreland County,” Courtney said.
Westmoreland's success has come at the expense of neighboring Allegheny County, Robert P. Strauss, professor of economics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, said in a later telephone interview.
“The growth in retail and the service economy reflects population shifts due to two things — school quality and housing prices,” Strauss said. “I think there is a regional tilt to Westmoreland County.”
There's still work to do, according to chamber President Chad Amond.
“Workforce development issues continue to hold us back. There are job openings, but there's difficulty finding people to fill them,” Amond said.
He cited the lack of advanced machine operators and welders.
Commissioners said the opening of Westmoreland County Community College's new workforce development program this year will help to reverse that shortcoming.
Officials said the county will continue to see economic growth because of success at the Arnold Palmer Regional Airport in Unity.
Three years ago, it had no passenger traffic. Last year about 250,000 passengers flew on the airport's lone commercial carrier, Spirit Airlines.
Passenger traffic is expected to grow to more than 300,000 this year, Anderson said.
“My concern is all of our eggs are in one basket. We're actively seeking another carrier and want to look east towards Washington, Boston and New York (as destinations),” Anderson said.
Commissioners said construction of a long planned highway linking the airport to the Pennsylvania Turnpike is a priority for the county.
Economic development will get another push through the creation of a new Land Bank to oversee the rehabilitation of dilapidated and blighted properties, Commissioner Ted Kopas said.
The new agency, formed last month, will attempt to buy the abandoned Monsour Medical Center along Route 30 in Jeannette, demolish it and rehabilitate the site.
“All that will be left is an attractive piece of property,” Kopas said.
Rich Cholodofsky is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Police see no sign Franklin Regional stabbing suspect was bullied
- Retired postal worker picks $1M winner
- Response to Franklin Regional stabbings earns official top public safety spot
- Jailed Hribal ‘fine,’ but family ‘terrible’ as answers in stabbing sought
- Community turns out for Franklin Regional students’ return to class
- Derry Borough councilwoman pleads guilty in missing-money case
- Hempfield Area superintendent, business manager quit
- Police: Volunteer firefighter admits to setting fires
- Youngwood father of 3-month-old boy arraigned on child abuse charges
- Ligonier Township to consider zoning for ‘agricultural tourism’
- Judge rules Delmont man was not aggressor in assault outside Wal-Mart