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Corporate expansions net Indiana County micropolitan nod

| Friday, March 23, 2012

Indiana County has been named a leading micropolitan area for corporate expansion projects while also contributing to the business investment of the greater Pittsburgh region.

Site Selection, a leading magazine focusing on corporate real estate strategy and economic development, recognized Indiana as a Top 80 micropolitan area in the nation for 2011.

"The economic recovery continues to be sluggish in many parts of the country, but not in the 10-county Pittsburgh region," said Pittsburgh Regional Alliance President Dewitt Peart.

"Across all of the region's 10 counties - including Indiana County - and all of our key industry sectors, companies are expanding and growing," Peart said. "Deals increased region-wide -- an important indicator of investors' confidence. The region is both attracting and retaining investment because of its stability. Existing businesses are expanding, but companies are also opening new facilities in the region, too."

The magazine also ranked the Pittsburgh region third in its Top 10 metropolitan areas in the nation and first in the Northeast region, ahead of Philadelphia and New York.

"In Indiana County - one of Site Selection's top U.S. micropolitans in 2011 - there were four significant economic development deals that the publication focused on as qualifiers for a top micropolitan," Peart said.

Businesses recognized

The development deals included expansions of Marion Center Bank, TRG Customer Solutions, Irwin Car and Equipment and Specialty Tires of America.

"Marion Center Bank made a decision to locate its new headquarters along Indian Springs Road in White Township," said Dana Henry, president of the Indiana County Chamber of Commerce. "Increased traffic along that corridor as well as proximity to Route 286 and the (Indiana University of Pennsylvania) Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex would seem to be prime factors in making that decision."

Henry said the Chamber worked with TRG Solutions to help recruit inbound telemarketing professionals.

"TRG was successful in hiring upwards of 60 new employees during the third and fourth quarter of 2011 for their facility at the Indiana Mall," Henry said. "We also reached out to the PA CareerLink-Indiana County as well as IUP Career Services to accomplish the task."

The expansion of Irwin Car and Equipment increased manufacturing capacity of the Blairsville plant by about 50 percent for the Irwin-based company's Locomotive Group and Mining and Tunneling Supply business units. The units produce a variety of equipment for the mining and tunneling industries, including locomotives, personnel carriers and jeeps.

Founded in 1915 as McCreary Tire and Rubber Company, the Indiana plant of Specialty Tires of America is set for a $1.5 million update that will allow it to expand its radial tire line and produce rubber-coated steel fabric for radial tires. The project is expected to create at least 40 jobs within three years while retaining 400 existing positions.

"The PRA - in its own independent wins analysis - logged an additional seven deals during 2011 for Indiana County," Peart said.

The other deals were: a financial and business services expansion for Tilley Enterprises; a distribution expansion for Ritter Technology, LLC; natural resources attraction projects for Appalachian Drilling and Penn Natural Resources LLC; and natural resources expansions for Exterran Holdings, Inc., McJunkin Red Man Corporation -- and Halliburton, in an expansion that includes Indiana, Greene, Washington and Lycoming counties.

"These deals not only impacted the county's economy, but they added to the overall region's steady performance and underscored that smaller towns and cities are also key contributors to the region's overall success performance and the strength of its key sectors," Peart said.

The county's economic forecast is improving, according to Henry.

On the horizon

"From my perspective, Indiana County's economic future is growing, perhaps not as quickly as we would like for it to, but nevertheless, growing," Henry said. "Gas and oil opportunities ( including the Marcellus Shale) seem to be presenting themselves on an almost weekly basis. Last week's announcement about the Shell cracking plant in Beaver County can have impressive ripple effects, even for Indiana County."

Henry also cited the potential for job creation at EME's Homer City Generating Station and other new business development in the county.

"The $700 million scrubber project at EME Homer City Generating Station will mean new jobs created," Henry said. "Indiana County has answered the call in terms of having pad-ready sites available. The Indiana County Development Corp. is busily preparing the infrastructures for Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park on Route 286 West as well as the 119 Business Park near Coral/Graceton in Center Township. Dunkin' Donuts, T.J. Maxx, Aldi and the soon-to-open Delaney dealership along Route 286 West are also examples of economic growth for Indiana County."

"At this time I would suggest that Indiana County is in a growth pattern," Henry added. He cited the Jimmy Stewart Airport improvement and expansion, broadband communications accessibility improvements, the improvements of Route 422 east and west of Indiana as well as water and sewer line extensions throughout the county as "precursor improvements for actual projects to come."

Indiana's Site Selection status is an indicator of how the economic development in each of the Pittsburgh region's cities and towns enhances the entire region, Peart said.

"Site Selection is highly regarded as a resource by the corporate real estate community in the U.S.," Peart said. "Exposure in the magazine for Indiana County as a top micropolitan helps to put the county on the radar of economic development influencers and decision-makers from coast to coast. Additionally, the county is performing much like the larger region - seeing steady growth, some significant deals in key sectors and keeping pace even in an economy that is sluggish in many other parts of the country.

"A solid performance in all of the counties of the Pittsburgh region speaks to the collective strength of 10 counties coming together as one attractive and steady-performing Pittsburgh region - a place that has a proven track record when it comes to business expansions and attractions."

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