GCIDC: Gone but not forgotten
Four years after the Greater Charleroi Industrial Development Corporation ceased operations, the organization continues to spur economic growth in the region.
The GCIDC, incorporated in 1959, oversaw its Speers-based industrial park. GCIDC merged with the Middle-Monongahela Industrial Development Association in early 1999.
MIDA, which was incorporated Dec. 31, 1966, to oversee the Donora-based industrial park, took over the GCIDC park.
When the merger was being completed, GCIDC officials kept the aside approximately $100,000 for a Downtown Development Fund to help future programs in the community.
"There was money in the bank and we wanted to try to keep some of that money in town because the businesses in Charleroi contributed to GCIDC," Kubik said.
Some funds were set aside to help fund re-establishment of the Main Street Manager program.
Additional GCIDC money will help fund waterline expansion in a portion of the Alta Vista industrial park in Fallowfield Township.
In addition, $30,000 was designated to fund the newly-created Property Enhancement Program. PEP grants are earmarked for downtown Charleroi projects.
Landlords are eligible for matching grants for any two parts of the program.
Vacant storefronts, relocating or expanding businesses, second floor improvements and chair lift grants are the qualifying projects.
The program guidelines have been approved by the Mon Valley Regional Chamber as overseer of the funds and are administered by the Main Street program. The money is for permanent improvements to properties and is already helping to attract new businesses.
Landlords attracting new businesses can receive up to $2,500 to help improve the interior of the building for such things as flooring, lighting, wiring and new ceilings.
"The reason we're giving money to the property owner, not the business owner is so the money stays in town," said Debbie Keefer, executive director of the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce.
"It's a great incentive for us with the landlords," Main Street Manager Donn Henderson said. "When we have a perspective business, we can offer them some matching money to improve a building that has been vacant."
Henderson said $23,000 in PEP grants have been awarded to date. They have helped more than $1 million in development and created more than 60 jobs.
One of the biggest success stories of the PEP grants has been Ductmate Industries.
The firm was already making plans to locate the company's corporate headquarters near its manufacturing facility, when company CEO Fred Arnoldt was attracted to the former National City building on Fifth Street because of its beautiful woodwork and unique architecture.
The company is now investing between $3 million and $4 million to renovate the 20,000-square-foot structure. It will house approximately 50 employees by April, after the first phase of construction is completed.
"This is economic develop-ment," said Debra Keefer, executive director of the Mon Valley Regional chamber of Commerce. "We are offering property owners an incentive to improve their buildings, and to bring jobs to our downtown, which in turn will stimulate existing businesses, and even create a need for new ones. It is money well spent, and it is a pleasure to help a progressive company like Ductmate through our grant program."
Ductmate is not the only new tenant brought to Charleroi through the PEP grant.
Four of six vacant storefronts in the 500 block of McKean Avenue have been filled by businesses that have used PEP grants to improve their new sites.
Cindy Gira, owner of the Petal Basket, said the $1,873.65 PEP grant her business received was used toward an overall $3,800 renovation of the 515 McKean Ave. store. Those renovations included installing new walls and carpeting, removal of partisans, construction of racks for ribbons and flowers and improvements to the lighting.
Although the family-owned business has been operating fro 20 years, the operations were moved into the larger storefront.
The Petal Basket was opened October 2002 after six weeks of renovations at the new location.
"The grant helped us a lot," Gira said. "It allowed us to proceed faster and get in here faster."
Kubik said he is pleased to see that GCIDC continues to help the Charleroi business climate to grow.
"There were a lot of smart people on that board who made plans for the future," Kubik said. "Although GCIDC was dissolved, we made provisions so that the area will be taken care of."