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Valley News Dispatch

New Kensington to receive $1.2 million for downtown, blight removal, business training

| Tuesday, March 13, 2018, 8:45 p.m.
In this photo taken last October, businesses are shown along Fifth Avenue in New Kensington. The city is in line to receive $1.2 million in state tax money over the next six years that it intends to use to improve the downtown.
Jack Fordyce | Tribune-Review
In this photo taken last October, businesses are shown along Fifth Avenue in New Kensington. The city is in line to receive $1.2 million in state tax money over the next six years that it intends to use to improve the downtown.

New Kensington is set to receive $1.2 million over the next six years through a program that enables local companies to earmark a portion of their state taxes for use in community projects.

“I'm looking very forward to it — this is a really exciting opportunity for the city,” Mayor Tom Guzzo said.

Tay Waltenbaugh, director of Westmoreland Community Action, said New Kensington will receive six years' worth of funding through his organization's Neighborhood Partnership Program.

The program is administered through the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

UPMC and BNY Mellon will funnel $200,000 to the city annually, Waltenbaugh said, and efforts will be focused on the city's downtown area, blight removal and a partnership with Penn State New Kensington's LaunchBox, a 10-week training session geared toward entrepreneurs.

“We really want to target the downtown corridor and improve some businesses,” he said.

Waltenbaugh said he and Guzzo are working to create a funding committee that will decide what to do with the money, as well as a volunteer group that will give the funding committee recommendations on how to use the money.

“We kind of hope that our volunteer group will expand and people can really be engaged in what we're trying to do in the community,” he said.

Guzzo said the city will look to current business owners and people invested in the community.

“We'll be investing with some business owners for beautification and facade improvement and things of that nature, some business assistance activities, some streetscape,” the mayor said. “This really falls together with all of the revitalization that we are doing right now, and it just piggybacks off of so many of the things that have been happening.

“This is a real nice shot in the arm for us.”

Waltenbaugh said a conversation with Guzzo led to implementing the program in New Kensington.

Waltenbaugh said his organization liked New Kensington for a number of reasons, including the work Penn State New Kensington and the community did with the city's revitalization hub, known as the Corridor of Innovation.

“We want to work with the county to bring jobs and employment back into that community. We want to beautify the community and work with things that really benefit the residents,” Waltenbaugh said.

Westmoreland Community Action also implemented a Neighborhood Partnership Program in Jeannette, which is in its fifth and final year.

Elliott Group and KeyBank, previously First Niagara Bank, have directed $150,000 annually toward beautification efforts, Waltenbaugh said.

“I think it's only a positive climb for Jeannette, and we're hoping to do the same in New Kensington,” he said.

Madasyn Czebiniak and Renatta Signorini are Tribune-Review staff writers. Reach Czebiniak at 724-226-4702, or via Twitter @maddyczebstrib. Reach Signorini at 724-837-5374, or via Twitter @byrenatta.

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