ShareThis Page
News

Onorato cautiously optimistic

| Saturday, Feb. 18, 2006, 12:00 p.m.

Allegheny County has fended off a military base closing at Pittsburgh International Airport, weathered the downsizing of US Airways, and begun developing business parks near the travel hub, but still has work to do, Chief Executive Dan Onorato said Friday.

Although optimistic during a state of the county address, Onorato cautioned that tough national competition means major corporate start-ups or relocations are unlikely.

"Everybody thinks you can hit the home run," Onorato said. "That very rarely happens."

Onorato unveiled no new development projects in his speech to the Pittsburgh Airport Area Chamber of Commerce, but said the six airport-area business parks will be key to generating jobs in those locations.

The airport needs to restore direct flights to Europe to attract business investors to the region, he said.

Business executives often express the same wish for direct daily flights, which haven't existed for more than a year, said chamber President Sally Haas. "They want it and they need it," she said.

Without land ready for new development, the county will "lose companies every day," Onorato said.

"That's why I'm focusing on this land," he said. "So, if somebody wants to be near the airport and needs 20, 30, 40 acres, we have it."

The county is helping to develop business parks in Findlay, Moon and North Fayette. Combined, they encompass 1,900 acres.

Onorato said the county's role in airport development is to help small municipalities plan infrastructure improvements, such as roads and sewer lines, and to band together to secure state and federal money for projects.

The county once sought to market airport area development projects single-handedly, with a core airport team inside the county's Economic Development Department.

That has changed to better reflect the regional nature of development and the ownership of parcels near the airport, said Dennis Davin, the department's director.

The county Airport Authority owns some property and is trying to market it, Davin said. Private developers own other parcels. The county is also working more with neighboring counties to develop the airport area.

The Tri-County Airport Partnership -- composed of Onorato and commissioners from Washington and Beaver counties -- meets regularly to talk about lobbying federal and state officials. This year they'll seek $8 million from the state for roads and other infrastructure work at the North Field project off Business Route 60, Davin said.

Onorato said retaining the military bases against the threat of their closing tops the list of last year's accomplishments. He said losing the airport's status as a hub for US Airways wasn't as serious a setback as initially expected, because the airport has attracted Southwest Airlines and Hooters Air.

On other topics, Onorato declined to back a specific proposal for Pittsburgh's slots casino license, but said he wants the winning bidder to include money for building a multipurpose arena.

Onorato supports reductions in state corporate income taxes to make Pennsylvania more competitive in recruiting businesses.

He also vowed not to let this year's potentially divisive gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races cloud his relations with state and federal officials.

"At the end of the day, I think there's going to be a lot of common ground," he said.

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.

click me