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Rendell spreads $23.75 million around Westmoreland, Fayette, Washington counties

| Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2004

MOUNT PLEASANT -- Gov. Ed Rendell on Monday said it's time to start rebuilding the region's economy.

During a whirlwind tour of southwestern Pennsylvania, Rendell announced $23.75 million in state funding for 13 economic development projects in Westmoreland, Fayette and Washington counties, which the governor said was part of a statewide economic stimulus plan to create jobs, retain talent and jump-start the region's economy.

The Westmoreland County package included $5 million to support the second phase of development at the Monessen Riverfront Industrial Park, a project that includes a 240,000-square-foot manufacturing facility for Maronda Homes, one of the largest privately owned home builders in the nation.

Rendell said it was time the state to reverse the trends at the close of the 1990s, when the state ranked 47th out of 50 in job creation.

"We have to make a dramatic shift in the way we do business. We have to play to our strengths. Now is the time to build on those strengths," said Rendell, during a ceremony at the Westmoreland Logistics Park Rail Freight Intermodal Terminal in East Huntingdon Township, a stone's throw from Sony Technology Center-Pittsburgh.

The state package also included $1 million to help develop a 200-acre parcel in East Huntingdon Township that will become Westmoreland County's 14th industrial park. The land will be converted into pad-ready sites to attract large companies.

State Economic Development Secretary Dennis Yablonsky said Pennsylvania lost 4,000 jobs in 2000-2001 because it lacked large, ready-to-go sites. He said the state's new Business in Our Sites program, which has $300 million available in flexible loans and grants, will go "a long way" toward addressing the need for site development.

The new industrial park is expected to accommodate six to 10 new businesses involved in manufacturing and production distribution, which could translate into 1,000 jobs, said Larry J. Larese, executive director of the Westmoreland County Industrial Development Corp.

Rendell also gave $500,000 to spur second phase development of the Westmoreland Technology Park in Hempfield and East Huntingdon townships. The county plans to develop 30 acres near Sony Technology Center-Pittsburgh for creation of a 25 acre, pad-ready site.

Funding was provided for several other projects in Westmoreland County, including $750,000 to the Jeannette Downtown Redevelopment project and $1 million which will be split in half to help fund the Arnold-New Kensington project, which addresses adjacent dilapidated sections in both cities.

Rendell provided $3.5 million to help fund two projects in Fayette County, with $2 million for infrastructure development at the Fayette County Business Park, a 270-acre tract straddling North Union and South Union townships.

Once completed, the business park is expected to have generated more than $50 million in private investment and create roughly 1,400 jobs, said county Commissioner Vincent Vicites. To date, the site is home to two businesses and 40 jobs, he said.

The remaining $1.5 million is for the Uniontown Downtown Redevelopment Authority for continued work on the George C. Marshall Plan II, a revitalization effort launched several months ago with private funding from Joe Hardy, a businessman and Fayette County commissioner.

The largest single-grant announced by Rendell Monday was given in Washington County: $9 million for the Crossroads Project, part of a 14-block revitalization undertaken by the Redevelopment Authority of Washington. Development of the estimated $100 million project will include creation of downtown residential living, more than 140, 000 square feet of office space, two parking garages, an 80-room hotel and 150,000 square feet of street level retail space.

Three other projects received $1 million each: upgrades to Alta Vista, a 256-acre industrial park in Fallowfield Township; continued infrastructure development of the Starpointe Project, a 148-acre industrial park; and demolition work on 33 former state buildings, known as the Western Center Project, or Southpointe II.

Tribune Review reporter David Hunt contributed to this report.

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