Growing Right Here for over 100 years.
by ICCC on June 23rd, 2017

The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, June 15, at St. Andrew’s Village.
 
The Board discussed many issues including increasing interest in business parks, transportation infrastructure, successful events, member opportunities and more.
 
Call to Order
Board Chairman Joe Reschini, with The Reschini Group, started the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. The May board meeting minutes and financial reports were approved.           
 
Chamber Update

Chamber President Jim Struzzi said the Chamber continues to attract new members during the spring membership drive. Four new members joined in May and 26 current members renewed bringing the total membership to 662 members. The spring membership drive, which concludes June 30, features some great incentives for new members including 15 free 30-second radio commercials plus prizes and give-a-ways. Interested in joining the Chamber? Click here for an application.
 
Struzzi is coordinating a project with the Pittsburgh Technology Council to give Indiana County great exposure across the region and state. The PTC publishes a quarterly magazine entitled Made in PA. They recently dedicated an entire edition to Cambria County.
 
“After seeing the Cambria County edition, I thought why not Indiana County,” Struzzi said. “We have so much here to offer and highlight and this is the perfect opportunity.”
 
Struzzi contacted the magazine’s associate publisher and shared some of the opportunities and assets in Indiana County. The PTC jumped at the idea and will begin visiting Indiana County later this month to take photos, write stories, visit Chamber member businesses and work with community leaders. The edition will be published this fall. To see examples of the magazine, visit www.pghtech.org.           
Struzzi and Byron Stauffer, Executive Director of the Indiana County Office of Planning & Development, and the Indiana County economic development team will be traveling to the Gulf Coast region of Louisiana this month. This region is the current epicenter for petrochemical industry that will soon be coming to Western Pennsylvania when the Shell cracker facility opens in a few years in Beaver County. Working with the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance, an itinerary has been set for the trip that includes sites visits, business meetings, education and workforce development, and more. Indiana County is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this opportunity with rail lines that can connect directly to the Shell Beaver County facility and other assets. Struzzi, Stauffer and the Indiana County economic development team want to be sure we are ready when the time comes.   
Struzzi continues to play a role in addressing the region’s workforce issues serving on several Indiana County school district career advisory development boards and the Tri-County Workforce Investment Board.
“It’s important for the Chamber to play a role in addressing the workforce gaps that exist both now and in the near future,” Struzzi said. “We can help make those connections and create a workforce to meet the needs of current and future businesses in Indiana County?”
May was another month packed with great Chamber events for members and the community. The May Check-In once again filled the Chamber office giving members and soon-to-be members the opportunity to network and learn what’s happening in the business community. The next Chamber Check-In is at the Hire On Corp in Blairsville at 8 a.m. on June 27. The Chamber also had a great ribbon cutting grand opening celebration for Government and Civil Employee Services, a packed Business After Hours at the Indiana Country Club, a Brains and Grains on medical marijuana, and a Happy Hours at the Firehouse Brewing Company. As part of their after hours, the Country Club unveiled a unique opportunity for Chamber members only in the form of a $500 gift certificate for new members to the club that are also Chamber members. Contact the Chamber to learn more.
 
The successful third annual Paddle and Picnic in Blairsville also occurred in May on Memorial Day weekend. The more than 50 kayakers who dared brave the rushing waters of the Conemaugh River were rewarded with an adventure that included everything from exhilarating thrills to breathtaking wildlife and tranquil moments with friends and family. Intense rapids in some sections of the river led to calm stretches of peaceful, placid waters and rising mists creating a truly memorable day and a unique experience for everyone. The Chamber, in partnership with the Blairsville Community Development Authority (BCDA), the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy (CVC) and the Pittsburgh-to-Harrisburg Main Line Canal Greenway, created the annual Paddle and Picnic in an effort to highlight the outdoor entertainment and recreational opportunities that are available in Indiana County. The Conemaugh River is a great showcase for kayaking, fishing, biking and hiking and other activities that can be found in communities like Blairsville. Moments of reflection and respect come hand-in-hand with a sojourn on the Conemaugh River. The trip takes kayakers through the historic Packsaddle Gap, a gorge that runs through the Chestnut Ridge mountains. It offers exceptional views that can only be seen by traveling on the water. It’s also one of the best places anywhere to see the historic canals that were used to transport goods along the Conemaugh River from Pittsburgh to Johnstown in the 1800s. After the trip, the BCDA hosted a picnic sponsored by S&T Bank, First Commonwealth Bank, Indiana First Bank and Northwood Realty. Blairsville will be constructing two docks this summer for easier access to-and-from the Conemaugh River. 
 
“Blairsville has really done a lot to accent the trails, assets and activities that can be found on and around the Conemaugh River,” Struzzi said. “It’s a great community and we are happy to partner with the BCDA.”  
 
The third annual 2017 Indiana County Business Hall of Fame induction dinner held on June 8 at the Kovalchick Complex did not disappoint. The emotional evening was another special moment in history as the 2017 class was inducted among family, friends and other guests. About 220 people attended. The evening would not have been possible without our generous sponsors: First Commonwealth Bank, Palladio Investments, LLC, S&T Bank, The Reschini Group, Colonial Motor Mart, Indiana Gazette, Renda Broadcasting, OnDemand Energy, Diamond Medical Supply, Gibson-Thomas Engineering, Kovalchick Corporation, NCDMM, Phoenix Spa & Salon, Highmark, Stiffler-McGraw, Comcast, Creps United Publications and Larson Design Group. A special thanks to Jim Nestor and Chauncey Ross of the Indiana Gazette, Kris Mellinger of Curly Bear Productions, WMUG and Chamber Ambassadors: Carol Fry, Skip McGreevy, Cheryl McCabe and Bob Vargo. The Hall of Fame wall in the KCAC lobby features all six individuals that were inducted as well as a virtual touch screen monitor where you can click on each individual and watch a brief video commemorating their success. The fourth annual class of inductees will be announced in December. Chamber members can find the nominations form online at the Hall of Fame website. 
 
“We want to thank everyone who attended, the Chamber staff and Ambassadors for their efforts, our many sponsors and of course the families and friends of our honored inductees,” Struzzi commented. “It was truly an evening to remember.”      
 
To learn more about the Indiana County Business Hall of Fame and see photos and video from the event, visit the Chamber’s website and YouTube and Facebook pages.
    
Chamber Marketing Manager Annie Rizzo gave an update on the Chamber’s marketing efforts including a surge in Facebook and social media activity. The second round of social media training classes in the Chamber board room is underway and again with full attendance in each of the sessions. The Chamber had 7,426 visits to the member directory/”Find a Business” locator on the Chamber website and attracted 27 new Facebook followers in May. The Chamber is running Facebook give-a-way contests with prizes like tickets and gift cards from Chamber members. Visit and “like” the Chamber’s Facebook page to learn more. 
 
Rizzo, who is also the vice chair of the Leader’s Circle of Indiana County, said they received several nominations in each category for the Leader’s Circle Awards event on September 20 at the Indiana Country Club. The finalists will be revealed at special event on August 10 at the Indiana Elks.
 
“We are very pleased with the nominations we received,” she said.           
 
County Government
Indiana County Commissioner Rod Ruddock said the Children and Youth Services will be moving to its new, expanded location at High Pointe on Indian Springs Road in August. This move will be temporary until a permanent location is determined, which could be High Pointe if it is successful. The county is still determining what to do with the current CYS building on North Fourth Street, but Ruddock emphasized that the decision would be made in the best economic move for the county.
 
Ruddock also lauded the Flag Day event that took place on the courthouse lawn and the Jimmy Stewart Airport Festival.
 
The airport, he said, has great potential for Indiana County.
 
State Government
Jonathan Longwill with State Rep. Dave Reed’s office attended to give an update on legislative affairs in Harrisburg. Most of the focus currently is on the state budget and the looming June 30 deadline to have it in place. Longwill said progress is being made to create a balanced budget without a broad-based tax increase.
 
“There seems to be a lot of momentum to get the budget done,” he said.
 
There was some discussion about property tax reform and the dramatic differences in opinions based on geographic locations around the Commonwealth.  
         
Education
Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Dr. Michael Driscoll said they are looking at stable student enrollment for the upcoming fall semester. While the figures are still not on the rise, he feels they are moving in the right direction.
 
“We seem to have reached the bottom of the steep decline and are turning it around,” Driscoll said.
 
He also provided an update on the many construction and infrastructure improvements underway around the IUP campus. The new north dining hall is expected to open later this summer and demolition of Leonard Hall will begin to make room for construction of the new sciences building. Debris removal from the demolition site will have some impacts to traffic on Oakland Avenue.                  
  
Campus is busy this time of year with several large conferences and new student orientations.
 
In July, the State System Board of Governors will receive a briefing on the review of the state school system. Several new degree programs will also be introduced to the board.
 
Robin Gorman with IUP added that the “Welcome Mat” program to introduce parents of new students to Indiana County is going well.
 
“They see how beautiful the community is,” she said. “And that this is a really nice, safe place for their child to go to school.”  
  
Energy
The energy industry continues a back and forth recovery depending on commodity rates, said Dave Brocious with the Marcellus Shale Coalition.
 
But the good news is that prices, while not at the extreme high of several years ago, are much better this year than they were last year.
 
“We definitely hit the bottom last summer,” Brocious said. 
 
The industry continues to be plagued by long delays in the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permitting process. MSC is working with the DEP to develop a pilot project aimed at improving the process and shortening lengthy time delays – in some cases more than 200 days. In other states, the permitting process is about 40 days, which could cause some companies to leave Pennsylvania.      
 
Increased drilling and gas and oil production in Texas is having a global impact on the energy industry keeping prices stagnant. Texas is now the second largest producer of natural gas behind the Marcellus Shale basin in Pennsylvania. Still, Brocious said they are seeing more geological exploratory efforts in the local region that could indicate more drilling operations in the near future.    
 
Tourism
Gregg Van Horn, president of the Indiana County Tourist Bureau (ICTB), said ICTB Executive Director Denise Liggett attended the 2017 National Center for Defense Machining and Manufacturing (NCDMM) Summit held in May at Chestnut Ridge Resort. Liggett worked alongside Dana Henry of the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations (CEO) with NCDMM prior to the summit to assist with event details. The CEO was a platinum sponsor. 
 
ICTB has taken the lead with Downtown Indiana in organizing the IUP "Welcome Mat" event that is occurring 12 times during the month of June.  The event takes place in IRMC Park, where parents of new freshmen are greeted by local community leaders, vendors, and area businesses and organizations to learn more about what Indiana County offers.
 
Van Horn was happy to share that the ICTB presented a bid for the 2019 Pennsylvania Bus Association’s Conference to be held in Indiana County.  If awarded the conference for June 2019, Indiana County would host approximately 180 to 220 visitors for this 3 night/4 day event.
 
He reminded everyone that discount Idlewild tickets are on sale at the Tourist Bureau.
They are $24 dollars each and are valid for the entire season. Indiana County Day at Idlewild is July 21.
 
Transportation Infrastructure
Stauffer said the Public Participation Panel (PPP) held in May to gather support for infrastructure improvement projects was well attended and led to great discussions on what is needed in Indiana County. Struzzi and Stauffer co-chair the Indiana County PPP. Information gathered at the PPP will be used to develop the Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) that will be implemented next June. Stauffer cautioned that are many large projects in the region vying for the same limited funds and local support can make the difference in what moves forward.
 
“We are trying to carve out our piece for Indiana County,” he noted.   
 
Local communities should see more paving projects this summer thanks to liquid fuels funds, grants and matching county contributions.             
 
Business Retention and Growth
There is an effort by the CEO to attract several conferences and special events to Indiana County.  Discussions and planning are underway to demonstrate the many local assets here making Indiana County the right location for these event opportunities.  These events would create an economic boost locally.
 
Jim Wiley, president of the Indiana County Development Corporation (ICDC), said solid interest from serious developers in the new 200-acre Windy Ridge Business & Technology Park on Route 286 in White Township continues to increase. He is hopeful that they could see shovels in the ground later this year. The park has many pad ready sites for mixed use development available for sale. 
 
“We are close to a major announcement,” he hinted.

Wiley also said the 119 Business Park in the Coral-Graceton area continues to bustle as construction on the Sunoco Logistics line traveling through southern Indiana County progress. U.S. Trinity is constructing about 60 miles of the pipeline. They are leasing the 119 Business Park from the ICDC while the work occurs. They will remain at the 119 Business Park through early 2018.
 
The ICDC continues to assist local manufacturing companies.  “It’s important that we do what we can to keep our manufacturing businesses in Indiana County,” Wiley stated.       
    
Visit www.indianacountyceo.com to learn about the many development opportunities and available commercial properties in Indiana County.    
 
Real Estate

Sheri Kunkle, with K&L Real Estate, said residential sales, after a soft May, are looking great in the early weeks of June as the industry begins its busiest time of year.
 
Manufacturing
Steve McPherson, with MGK/Miller Welding and the Indiana County Manufacturing Consortium, said many Indiana County manufacturers are doing very well this year. While some have had to diversify and create new products and markets, they are heading in a positive direction.
 
“We’ve really turned it around from where we were the past couple of years,” he said. 
 
Healthcare
Kelly Howells with Anew Home Health Agency and the Healthcare Consortium said they are finishing training for this year and are waiting on the state budget to see what funding will be available for next year.  
 
Jim Kinneer, with Indiana Regional Medical Center, said the hospital recently completed a successful accreditation process which indicates they are doing well. He said also that capital improvements continue at IRMC. The new ambulatory space recently opened. The old ambulatory space will be renovated to create the new pharmacy for the hospital which will be completed later this year. The effort to revamp IRMC’s Information Technology is going well. The hospital will also be expanding capabilities and technology with the introduction of a surgical robot in the near future.
 
“We are excited about our continued growth and our ability the best care here locally,” Kinneer said.
 
Chamber Young Professionals Organization
Tae Ayers with S&T Bank and chair for the Chamber’s Young Professionals Organization (YPO) said they had a great Lunch and Learn with Laurie Kuzneski from the Kuzneski Financial Group and Miss Laurie’s Gourmet Kitchen. Ayers said the YPO is now featuring YPO of the Month videos to highlight up-and-coming professionals in Indiana County’s business community. The first video featured Rachel Hrabovsky with the Indiana County Technology Center. The videos are featured in the YPO e-newsletter and can be seen on the Chamber YPO website.
 
The next event for the Chamber’s YPO is a pool party mixer on July 12 at the Indiana Country Club.     
 
The Chamber YPO’s is a great opportunity for advancing employees, upcoming managers and others within Chamber member businesses to meet and network with other future business and community leaders. Want to join the YPO? Any Chamber member or employee of a Chamber member age 40 or under can join. Individuals can also join as a “Chamber Friend”. Visit the Chamber’s website to apply. To learn more, visit the YPO page on the Chamber’s website or on Facebook.
 
Government Relations
Government Relations Committee Chair Gorman said the group will be meeting in the next few weeks to discuss the format of the Chamber’s annual Eggs and Issues breakfast and the potential for a “State of County” event early next year.
 
Struzzi added that he recently attended Chamber Day at the Capital in Harrisburg. The event brought more than 100 state and local chamber officials from across the Commonwealth together.  The annual event, which is co-hosted by the PA Chamber of Business and Industry and the Pennsylvania Association of Chamber Professionals, allows local chamber officers to meet with key policymakers and discuss ways to improve Pennsylvania’s business climate and competitive edge.
 
Participants met with key elected officials throughout the day, including Gov. Tom Wolf, who served as the keynote speaker during the Chamber Day luncheon. Senate Pro Tempore Joseph Scarnati, R-Jefferson, and Speaker of the House Mike Turzai, R-Allegheny both kicked off the event with welcoming remarks at the State Capitol.  The day-long event also featured policy discussions on a variety of topics, including: the upcoming 2017-18 state budget, pension reform, property taxes, workforce development, as well as the Commonwealth’s transportation and infrastructure needs. 
 
Struzzi also had the opportunity to met Governor Tom Wolfe, keeping Indiana County at the forefront of statewide attention.                    
 
Membership Events Update

June will feature an After Hours event Chamber members will not want to miss. The third annual Kuzneski and Lockard Real Estate Business After Hours is set for Thursday, June 29. If you’ve attended their previous events, you know a great host K&L is and how much fun the evening will be.  Members can register by contacting the Chamber or clicking here.  
 
The Chamber Board of Directors will meet next on August 17 at St. Andrews Village. There is no meeting in July. 

by ICCC on June 23rd, 2017

​Indiana, PA – The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, May 11, at the Indiana Country Club.
 
The Board discussed many issues including business attraction, government relations, marketing efforts, membership and more.
 
Call to Order
Board Chairman Joe Reschini, with The Reschini Group, started the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. The April board meeting minutes and financial reports were approved.           
 
PA Chamber
Jennifer Reis, Manager of Government Affairs with the PA Chamber of Business and Industry, attended the meeting to give the Chamber board an overview of the PA Chamber and the legislative issues they are currently addressing. The PA Chamber’s primary concern is legislation that affects business.
 
“We focus on issues that have clear cut connection to our local businesses,” Reis said.
 
Some of the issues the PA Chamber is focused on include pension reform, property taxes, minimum wage and the proposed natural gas severance tax.
 
“Taxing this industry right now, we don’t think, is a smart way to generate revenue.”        
 
Reis was invited to attend the meeting by the Chamber’s Government Relations Committee. The Indiana County Chamber recently conducted a business climate survey to learn what issues are impacting our local businesses. The results of the survey will help the Government Relations Committee determine how the Chamber should position itself for-or-against certain issues. Some of those positions may align with the PA Chamber.
 
Indiana County Chamber members can join the PA Chamber for free. Click here to learn more.                
        
Chamber Update
Chamber President Jim Struzzi said since the Chamber launched its spring membership drive in April, seven new members have joined. There were also 30 renewals in April bringing the total membership to 669 members. The drive features some great incentives for new members including 15 free 30-second radio commercials on Froggy 95.5 plus prizes and give-a-ways. Interested in joining the Chamber? Click here for an application. Various membership levels are available including Chamber Friends for people who want to be part of the Chamber, but aren’t connected with a business.
 
Struzzi also expressed concerns with several recent dropped memberships due to financial reasons. He reiterated that while the Chamber is based on membership and works hard to promote its members, we are here to support all Indiana County businesses. He again encouraged businesses that may be struggling to contact the Chamber. There are many resources available through the Chamber and its partners in the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations (CEO) that could help.
 
The Chamber and Indiana Regional Medical Center launched the Healthiest Employer Challenge on May 1. The challenge is a friendly competition between Indiana County businesses to see which company or organization can lose the most average weight, walk the most steps, etc. by June 30. The “Healthiest Employer” recognition will be awarded to the winner at the end of the competition. Many businesses including the Chamber staff have already accepted the Challenge. All Indiana County businesses are encouraged to participate and create their own employee incentives when the program begins this spring. There’s still plenty of time to join the Challenge. Click here for more information.   
Continuing efforts to attract businesses and jobs to Indiana County, Struzzi and Byron Stauffer, Executive Director of the Indiana County Office of Planning & Development, were able to meet in Harrisburg with representatives from the Shell Oil Company and the Pennsylvania Chemical Industry Council (PCIC).  Both Shell and the PCIC shared information on the opportunities in the petrochemical industry and the meeting also gave the Indiana County economic development team the chance to share information with Shell and the PCIC on a number of Indiana County development opportunities. Struzzi and Stauffer highlighted our local business parks like the Windy Ridge Business & Technology Park in White Township, the 119 Business Park in Center Township and the Corporate Campus business park in Burrell Township, which has an adjacent rail line that connects directly to the location where Shell is constructing the new “cracker” facility in Beaver County.
“We made certain Shell and the PCIC know Indiana County is open, accommodating and ready for business opportunities especially in manufacturing and downstream suppliers,” Struzzi said.
The trip to Harrisburg also included an opportunity to meet briefly with the Pittsburgh Film Office, which helped bring production for the film “Southpaw” to Indiana County several years ago.
“Again, Byron and I emphasized that any time they need a location for motion picture production, please consider Indiana County,” Struzzi said. “We want their crews and personnel here, which help our local restaurants, caterers, shops, hotel and service providers.”                  
Meanwhile, the Indiana County Economic Development Team is still coordinating plans to visit the Gulf Coast region of Louisiana where the petrochemical industry is driving incredible change and opportunity along the Gulf Coast.  Thanks to the Harrisburg meeting, Shell has also offered to help coordinate some meetings in Louisiana while Struzzi and Stauffer are there. 
The Chamber is promoting the special offer of significant discounts for television advertising through a partnership with Comcast Spotlight. Chamber members can complete a registration form to take advantage of this great opportunity. Packaged with a brief Chamber message from Struzzi promoting Indiana County and the Chamber, participating members can save 50% on commercial production costs and 35% on advertising rates. Click here to see the Chamber’s promo sections. Several Chamber members are already taking advantage of this great opportunity. Interested members can click here for more information.  
Struzzi served as presenter at several meetings to promote the Chamber and Indiana County.  He recently served as one of the panelists at the Welcome to Indiana Annual Luncheon emphasizing the many business attractions and incentives in Indiana County and what attributes make a good community. Struzzi also spoke to IUP business students, a large group of community leaders from Wyoming at an event coordinated by Downtown Indiana and served as a judge for Indiana’s Got Talent.    
April was a month packed with great Chamber events for members and the community. The April Check-In at the Chamber office was standing room only. Chamber Check-In open houses are an opportunity to network with other businesses and learn what’s new with the Chamber. The next Chamber Check-In at 1019 Philadelphia Street is at 8 a.m. on May 31. The Chamber also had a great ribbon cutting grand opening celebration in conjunction with Downtown Indiana and the Tourist Bureau for the completion of the Streetscape project in Indiana Borough. Business After Hours events continue to attract large crowds and provide great exposure to the host business or organization. May events included a jewelry and website unveiling complete with beautiful models hosted by GC Wyant Jewelry at the Artist Hand and an open house type event at New Story.
 
The Chamber staff continues to prepare for the 2017 Indiana County Business Hall of Fame induction dinner on Thursday, June 8, at the Kovalchick Complex. The evening of celebration will begin with an open bar at 5:30 p.m. followed by dinner and the induction ceremonies at 6:30 p.m. Table and seat reservations are being accepted now as well as sponsor opportunities including congratulations messages in the event program. Formal invitations are being mailed this week. Individual seats are $75 and full tables of 10 are $725. Click here for more details, visit the Chamber website or call 724-465-2511 to make reservations today.
 
Chamber Marketing Manager Annie Rizzo gave an update on the Chamber’s marketing efforts including a surge in Facebook and social media activity. Rizzo said the first round of social media training classes in the Chamber board room went very well with full attendance in each of the three sessions. Based on popular demand, the Chamber will schedule additional sessions in the future for Chamber members.    
 
In an effort to attract new businesses to Indiana County, the Chamber is developing marketing and promotional materials. Rizzo said these packets will be targeted to specific retail developers and other business sectors to fill some of the gaps locally.       
 
Rizzo and Camille Morris-Sherry gave an update on the Leader’s Circle of Indiana County. Rizzo is currently vice chair and Morris-Sherry is serving as chair. Nominations for the ATHENA, Young ATHENA and Male and Female Civic Leader Awards are being accepted through June 5. The process to nominate has been streamlined to make it easier. This year’s Leader’s Circle Awards Event is set for September 20 at the Indiana County Club. Click here for the nomination form.       
 
County Government
Indiana County Commissioner Sherene Hess said the commissioners voted to create a task force to develop strategies for sustainable economic development. This grass roots effort would focus on renewable energy sources like solar and wind power.
 
“It’s another tool in the tool box to diversify our economy in a rural area,” Hess said.
 
Byron Stauffer, Executive Director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, added that the county is also developing a strategic financial management plan in conjunction with an economic development and workforce development plan.  
 
State Government
Joe Pittman with Sen. Don White’s office and Jonathan Longwill with State Rep. Dave Reed’s office attended the meeting.
 
Pittman gave credit to Kevin Lazor, PA CareerLink Administrator, for his efforts to coordinate the recent job fair held at the Kovalchick Complex. Pittman also recognized the efforts of Homer City Borough and the Central Indiana County Water Authority for the recent completion of water line extensions and the benefits the work brings to the community and economy.
 
“I can’t think of another project that’s had such a big and direct impact on agriculture,” Pittman said. “If you don’t have water, you don’t have anything.”
        
Education
Arnold Thimons, Director of Student Success at WyoTech, said two of the three community assistance grants offered by WyoTech were awarded to Indiana County organizations. The grants went to a support group in Blairsville against drugs ($10,000) and the Evergreen Boys and Girls Club ($5,000).
 
He said WyoTech’s enrollment is holding steady through summer and will increase this fall. Thimons added that WyoTech will be investing significantly to upgrade their facilities, campuses and living areas for students. WyoTech is also considering new programs to cover hybrid vehicles and Tesla vehicles. These additions and upgrades should help increase enrollment.          
 
Energy
Dave Brocious with the Marcellus Shale Coalition the energy industry continues to show positive signs. Natural gas prices that are usually soft in the spring are increasing as rig counts and employees increase in the industry as well.
 
Long delays in Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) permitting process, though, continue to hamper the industry. These delays have caused some companies to spend capital in other states instead of Pennsylvania.
 
“It’s a big issue,” Brocious said. “It affects jobs and it’s affecting capital investment.”    
 
Tourism
Gregg Van Horn, president of the Indiana County Tourist Bureau (ICTB), said they were honored to receive a proclamation from the Indiana County Commissioners in celebration of National Travel and Tourism Week, May 7-13. The Tourist Bureau organized a variety of weeklong celebrations to bring awareness of the contribution tourism makes to our local economy.  Among the events were: Daily Facebook posts entitled “Faces of Travel” which represented the different segments of local industry that provide services to tourist, including accommodations, restaurants, attractions, shops, and businesses; the display of mini Christmas Trees on the Courthouse lawn; a special WalkWorks program held at the Blairsville Riverfront Trail led by Ed Patterson, Director of Indiana County Parks & Trails; a special Mingle at Founders Gallery & Gifts in Blairsville (all refreshments were provided by the local businesses of Blairsville), and the unveiling of the Wooden Quilt Project. Eleven hand-painted wooden quilts were created by local students and artists and are on display around the entire County showcasing the beautiful outdoors of our partner communities.
 
VanHorn also announced that ICTB welcomed a new board member at their recent meeting, Larissa Csanyi, who is the owner and operator of Founders Gallery & Gifts in Blairsville. At the same meeting, it was announced that Robin Gorman had accepted the officer position of Member at Large.
 
Transportation Infrastructure
Stauffer reminded everyone that a Public Participation Panel (PPP) to solicit support for infrastructure improvement projects to be included in the next Transportation Improvement Program will be at 3:30 p.m. on May 23 at the CareerLink Building located at 300 Indian Springs Road, Indiana. Struzzi and Stauffer co-chair the Indiana County PPP.
 
Working with the offices of Rep. Reed and Sen. White, the county was able to secure a grant for $700,000.  The Indiana County Commissioners will providing matching funds of $300,000 creating a total of $1 million that will be used to improve local roads in Indiana County.
 
“We expect to see most of that work happen this construction season,” Stauffer said.    
 
Business Retention
Stauffer said the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations (CEO) continues to work to attract and retain businesses in Indiana County.  A company new to Indiana County, Gordon Sinclair, is doing well and could grow even more in the near future.  
 
Jim Wiley, president of the Indiana County Development Corporation, said there’s a lot of activity and continued interest in the new 200-acre Windy Ridge Business & Technology Park on Route 286 in White Township. The park has many pad ready sites for mixed use development available for sale. While no official development has been announced yet, Wiley is confident that will happen soon.
 
“We are hopeful to see something this year,” he said. 

Wiley also said the 119 Business Park in the Coral-Graceton area is busy with activity as construction on the Sunoco Logistics line that will travel through southern Indiana County is underway.  U.S. Trinity is constructing about 60 miles of the pipeline. They are leasing the 119 Business Park from the ICDC while the work occurs. This has brought 300-400 temporary jobs - and potentially 50 permanent positions - to the local area providing a huge boost to the local economy, Wiley said.
   
Visit www.indianacountyceo.com to learn about the many development opportunities and available commercial properties in Indiana County.     
 
Real Estate
Sheri Kunkle, with K&L Real Estate, said residential sales are steady as they begin the busiest time of year for the real estate market. Homes for sale under $200,000 are moving faster than those above $200,000 which are staying on the market longer.
 
“Overall we are encouraged where we are at,” Kunkle said.
 
Manufacturing
Steve McPherson, with MGK/Miller Welding and the Indiana County Manufacturing Consortium, shared that most manufacturers are doing well currently and are looking ahead to what should be a good year.          
 
Healthcare
Kelly Howells with Anew Home Health Agency and the Healthcare Consortium said they recently recognized 14 direct care workers from Indiana County at their annual recognition breakfast May 3 at the Indiana County Club. Training for health care workers is underway.
 
Communities
New Indiana Borough Manager Brad Gotshall had the opportunity to attend the board meeting and meet other community leaders. Gotshall reported that the borough is doing well coming off a rough fiscal year with many new initiatives underway including upgrades to the sewer treatment facility, additional paving projects, paperless billing system, revamping the parking system to allow phone and credit card payments, establishing a social media presence and enhancing the borough website. The borough’s pension fund is doing well. They are also launching an effort to fill vacant buildings in the borough.    
 
With the help of elected leaders and county officials, the borough was able to secure a grant to improve the Community Center building.
 
“That will go a long way to fixing that building which a key focal point for the community,” Gotshall said. 
     
He added that Indiana is a great business community with innovative leaders. 
 
Membership Events Update
The Chamber has several unique events upcoming to network, meet new people and grow our member businesses including the third annual Paddle and Picnic in Blairsville on May 27. This event features an organized kayak trip from Robinson to Blairsville followed by a community celebration picnic next to the Blairsville Community. No experience is needed and kayaks will be provided for a small rental fee of $30, which includes transportation to the launch area in Robinson. In addition, if Chamber members don’t want to kayak, they can still attend the after hour’s picnic at 2:30 p.m. Members can register for both or either by contacting the Chamber or clicking here.  
 
The Chamber Board of Directors will meet next on June 15 at St. Andrews Village
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by ICCC on April 24th, 2017

​Indiana, PA – The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, April 13, at St. Andrews Village.
 
The Board discussed many issues including a resurging energy industry, increasing economic development opportunities, successful Chamber events and more.
 
Call to Order
Board Chairman Joe Reschini, with The Reschini Group, started the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. The March board meeting minutes and financial reports were approved.           
        
Chamber Update

Chamber President Jim Struzzi said the Chamber added three new members and had 52 renewals in March bringing the total membership to 668 members.
 
The March Chamber Check-In at the Chamber office featured many new members. Chamber Check-In open houses are an opportunity to network over coffee and donuts with other businesses and learn about what’s happening with the Chamber. It’s also a great way for potential members to learn more about the benefits of Chamber membership. The next Chamber Check-In at the Chamber office at 1019 Philadelphia Street is at 8 a.m. on April 26.  The Chamber also had a great ribbon cutting grand opening celebration at Noble Stein Brewery and a successful speed networking event hosted by Bayada Nurses and the Indiana Mall in March. Feedback from the speed networking event was extremely positive. The Chamber is planning more events like this in the future.    
Struzzi said the Chamber began promoting the special offer of significant discounts for television advertising through a partnership with Comcast Spotlight. Chamber members can complete a registration form to take advantage of this great opportunity. Packaged with a brief Chamber message from Struzzi promoting Indiana County and the Chamber, participating members can save 50% on commercial production costs and 35% on advertising rates. Struzzi filmed the Chamber segment promoting Indiana County in front of the courthouse last week. Interested members can click here for more information.  
In an effort to fully prepare Indiana County for the opportunities that will come to the Western Pennsylvania region with the construction of the Shell Cracker Plant in Beaver County, Struzzi and Byron Stauffer, Executive Director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, are making plans for the Indiana County Economic Development Team to visit the Gulf Coast region of Louisiana. The petrochemical industry is driving incredible change and opportunity along the Gulf Coast. Struzzi reached out to the Southwest Louisiana Economic Development Alliance who offered to host the visit and connect the Indiana County team with key leaders in education, economic development, the petrochemical industry, local and regional planners, Chambers of Commerce, and more. The team will also visit cracker plants in that region currently under construction during the trip.
“The people we connected with in Louisiana have been more than gracious,” Struzzi said. “They are eager to share what they’ve learned and experienced through the influx of this industry. We hope to learn as much as possible to bring some of that opportunity to Indiana County.”     
Through a solid relationship with Indiana Regional Medical Center (IRMC) and Amanda Augustine, Manager of Corporate and Community Wellness, the Chamber will initiate a Healthiest Employer Challenge this spring. The challenge will be a friendly competition between Indiana County businesses to see which company or organization can lose the most average weight. A wellness portal will be created to allow businesses to register, track progress and view the leader board. The “Healthiest Employer” recognition will be awarded to the winner at the end of the competition.
“Corporate wellness and a healthy workforce are keys to business success and productivity,” Struzzi said. “We felt this was a great opportunity to partner with IRMC to promote health and wellness and improve overall quality of life in Indiana County. And it will be a lot of fun.”
 
Who will hoist the “Healthiest Employer” cup and earn the bragging rights? All Indiana County businesses are encouraged to participate and create their own employee incentives when the program begins this spring. Click here for more information.                      
The Chamber last week hosted the Regional Advocacy Coalition of Chambers at the Kovalchick Complex. Lead by the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Allegheny Conference, the RACC is a voluntary alliance of local chambers of commerce throughout the ten-county region of southwestern Pennsylvania. The purpose of the RACC is to educate legislators and regulators at all levels of government on issues that are important to the common interest of the region's business community. The Indiana County Chamber is a member of the RACC along with 17 other chambers in the Western Pennsylvania region.
The RACC group was joined by the Chamber’s Government Relations Committee. Following the meeting, a tour of the Kovalchick Complex was offered plus a visit to Noble Stein Brewery. To learn more about the RACC, visit www.regionaladvocacycoalitionofchambers.com.
The Chamber staff continues to prepare for the 2017 Indiana County Business Hall of Fame induction dinner on Thursday, June 8, at the Kovalchick Complex. The evening of celebration will begin with an open bar at 5:30 p.m. followed by dinner and the induction ceremonies at 6:30 p.m. Table and seat reservations are being accepted now as well as sponsor opportunities. Formal invitations are being mailed this week. Individual seats are $75 and full tables of 10 are $725. Click here for more details, visit the Chamber website or call 724-465-2511 to make reservations today.
 
Struzzi said ChamberChoice has rolled out some new programs through OnDemand Energy that could create significant savings in energy costs exclusively for Chamber members. Chamber members should contact the Chamber for more information.  
 
Chamber Marketing Manager Annie Rizzo gave an update on the Chamber’s marketing efforts including a surge in Facebook and social media activity. As an added benefit to our members, Rizzo, in partnership with Planful, LLC, is offering free social media training classes in the Chamber board room. The first three classes were filled almost immediately. Given the heavy demand for this training, the Chamber will schedule additional sessions in the future.    
 
Rizzo also gave an update on the Spring new member drive that started in April and continues through June 30. The drive features some great incentives for new members including 15 free 30-second radio commercials on Froggy 95.5 plus prizes and give-a-ways. In the first week of the drive, the Chamber already added four new members. Interested in joining the Chamber? Click here for an application. Various membership levels are available including Chamber Friends for people who want to be part of the Chamber, but aren’t connected with a business.  
 
State Government

Joe Pittman with State Senator Don White’s said budget talks continue in Harrisburg. While there are differences in the budgets proposed by the House and the Governor’s office, Pittman said discussions appear to be moving in a positive direction. He is hopeful that a budget will be passed on time by July 1.
 
Meanwhile, Sen. White is focused on creating legislation to positively impact the pharmaceutical industry by creating more transparency in pricing, marketing and other areas that affect consumers.
 
Pittman said the current pro energy position in Washington, DC, is creating positive signs related to coal and natural gas in the local region.
 
Related to economic development, Pittman praised the Chamber and the Indiana County Development Corporation for their efforts to bring new jobs, development and economic growth to Indiana County.
 
Education
Robin Gorman with IUP said enrollment figures for the Fall 2017 semester are tracking positive. While not yet back to their peak several years ago, estimates have enrollment for the 2017-2018 academic year looking well.
 
Energy

Dave Brocious with the Marcellus Shale Coalition echoed Pittman’s earlier comments saying there are certainly “rays of light” in the energy industry now. Currently there are 33 active drilling operations in Pennsylvania with 66 in the tri-state region. Last year at this time there were 41. He said also there are good signs in the supply industry with many local companies currently seeking additional employees.
 
Another positive factor is the construction of major pipelines across Pennsylvania including the Sunoco Logistics lines through southern Indiana County. Four major pipelines are being constructed in Pennsylvania amounting to a $10 billion investment creating 30,000 jobs. US Trinity, the Texas company building the line through Indiana County, is located presently at the 119 Business Park in Coral-Graceton. They are bringing or have already brought 300-400 jobs and/or employees to Indiana County to construct their section of the pipeline project.
 
Once the pipelines are online delivering natural gas from our region to other areas around the globe, Brocious said he expects local activity to significantly increase.
 
Legislatively, the MSC was pleased to see the proposed House budget did not include a natural gas severance tax though Governor Tom Wolfe’s budget does. Other states are looking at changes in their severance taxes that could alter the industry here.                   
 
Transportation Infrastructure
Byron Stauffer, Executive Director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, said a Public Participation Panel to solicit support for infrastructure improvement projects to be included in the next Transportation Improvement Program is being planned for May 23 at Career Link on Indian Springs Road. Struzzi and Stauffer co-chair the Indiana County PPP. More information will be released later.
 
Business Retention
Stauffer said the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations (CEO) is seeking funding to develop a formal Economic and Workforce Development plan to ensure the county is focused and moving in the right direction to capitalize on upcoming opportunities.
 
The County’s economic development team is also meeting with Shell and others in the petrochemical industry related to what opportunity’s this regional “game changer” might have for Indiana County.
 
“Our goal is to make them aware of Indiana County and what we’re trying to do here,” Stauffer said.
 
Other projects and business opportunities around the county are progressing well including interest in the Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park. And while there are many opportunities in the Indiana and White Township areas, Stauffer emphasized that efforts and funding resources are also underway to support growth and improvements in areas like Clymer, Homer City and Blairsville.
 
“We are targeting some our communities to help them thrive.”   
 
Visit www.indianacountyceo.com to learn about the many development opportunities and available commercial properties in Indiana County.     
 
Healthcare
Kelly Howells with Anew Home Health Agency and the Healthcare Consortium said they are in the process of training for incumbent health care workers. She also reminded everyone their annual recognition breakfast is May 3 at the Indiana County Club. Tickets and sponsorships are available.
 
Jim Kinneer with Indiana Regional Medical Center said the hospital recently received national recognition from the Leapfrog Group with an “A” grade for patient safety.
 
“That sets us apart from other hospitals nationally,” Kinneer said.
    
Indiana Mall
Mall manager Sherry Renosky they were thrilled to learn that the Indiana Mall JC Penny was not one of the locations that would be closing. In fact, she said the store has been very busy since the announcement.     
 
“We are pleased the community has come out to show their support for our JC Penny,” Renosky said.
 
Unfortunately, she did offer more bad news related to the retail industry. Radio Shack is closing all of its stores and FYE is closing many locations including the Indiana Mall store.
 
On a positive note, a church is setting up residence on Sundays in the Old Navy location. New Life Community Church (www.facebook.com/NewLifeChurchIndiana) will conduct public services at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Everyone is welcome.   
 
Communities
Courtney Crowe attended the board meeting to provide an update on activities and events around Saltsburg Borough. Crowe said there are a lot of community activities being planned and prepared for including the annul Canal Days in June. They are also creating a summer concert series and working to draw more attention to the trail network. Saltsburg is a trail hub, Crowe said, which helps create connectivity through the region. Efforts are underway to connect Latrobe, Saltsburg, Freeport and Pittsburgh through a trail network.
 
Realizing the economic benefits of trails and quality of life assets, the Chamber has offered to help Saltsburg through promotion and possibly creating an event in Saltsburg like the Paddle and Picnic event in Blairsville     
 
 
Chamber Young Professionals Organization

Tae Ayers with S&T Bank and chair for the Chamber’s Young Professionals Organization (YPO) said they had a great St. Patrick’s Day mixer on March 22 at the Coney. A Breakfast and Learn is planned with Heidi Malin with Keystone Fundraising Solutions for April 19. Malin will discuss the roles of board members and community service. The YPO is also helping with an Alice Paul House fundraising event.
 
Rizzo mentioned that many Chamber YPO members are volunteering to be part of the Leaders Circle of Indiana County (LCIC). Rizzo is serving as vice chair under Chair Camille Morris-Sherry. The annual community service recognition event has been moved to September 20 at the Indiana Country Club. Nominations for the ATHENA and Male and Female Civic leader awards are being accepted now. Click here for the nomination form. In addition, the LCIC is adding a Young ATHENA award this year for community servants age 40 and under.         
 
The Chamber YPO’s is a great opportunity for advancing employees, upcoming managers and others within Chamber member businesses to meet and network with other future business and community leaders. Want to join the YPO? Any Chamber member or employee of a Chamber member age 40 or under can join. Individuals can also join as a “Chamber Friend”. Visit the Chamber’s website to apply. To learn more, visit the YPO page on the Chamber’s website or on Facebook.
 
Government Relations
Government Relations Committee Chair Gorman said the group continues to meet building a platform for the Chamber related to advocacy and policy support.  
 
“We want to build a good foundation,” she said. “Where do we stand on the issues?”
 
New events are being considered and a survey is currently underway to gauge the economic climate of Indiana County’s business community.     
 
 
Membership Events Update
The Chamber has many exciting opportunities in the next few months to network, meet new people and grow our member businesses. Upcoming Business After Hours include the Indiana Country Club on May 11 and the third annual Paddle and Picnic in Blairsville on May 27. The Chamber is also partnering with the Indiana County Tourist Bureau and Downtown Indiana to celebrate the completion of the Streetscape work on Philadelphia Street in Indiana Borough on April 27.      
   
The Chamber Board of Directors will meet next on May 11 at the Indiana Country Club.
  
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by ICCC on March 17th, 2017

​Indiana, PA – The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, March 16, at St. Andrews Village.
 
The Board discussed many issues including business inquires and expansions, education, energy, promotion, recent events and more. There was positive news on many levels that bodes well for Indiana County’s economic future.  
 
Call to Order
Board Chairman Joe Reschini, with The Reschini Group, started the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. The February board meeting minutes and financial reports were approved.           
        
Chamber Update
Chamber President Jim Struzzi said the Chamber added five new members and had 33 renewals in February bringing the total membership to 672 members. Unfortunately, the Chamber lost several members in February due to economic reasons. While the Chamber is based on membership and works hard to promote its members, we are here to support all Indiana County businesses, Struzzi said. He encouraged businesses that may be struggling to contact the Chamber. There are many resources available through the Chamber and its partners in the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations (CEO) that could help.
        
With the Chamber’s help, Gatti Pharmacy held a ribbon-cutting ceremony and a day long celebration followed by a Chamber Business After Hours at their new location at 1024 Philadelphia Street in Indiana. As a new feature, the Chamber is creating promotional videos for businesses that host Business After Hours. Videos from previous events can be also found on the Chamber’s YouTube Channel and social media.                           
 
The February Chamber Check-In at the Chamber office was well-attended including many new members and first time visitors to the Chamber. Chamber Check-In open houses give members an opportunity to network over coffee and donuts with other businesses and learn about what’s happening with the Chamber. It’s also a great way for potential members to learn more about the benefits of Chamber membership. The next Chamber Check-In at the Chamber office at 1019 Philadelphia Street is at 8 a.m. on March 29.  The Chamber also had a great Happy Hours at Levity Brewing in February.  
At Thursday’s board meeting, Struzzi unveiled an exciting opportunity for Chamber member businesses. Through a partnership with Comcast Spotlight, the Chamber is offering significant discounts for television advertising across many key Comcast networks during peak periods for members only. Packaged with a brief Chamber message touting Indiana County businesses, participating members can save 50% on commercial production costs and 35% on advertising rates. The program is being finalized and will be rolled out to Chamber members in next couple of weeks.
“We saw this as a great opportunity for smaller businesses in the community that may not have a large budget for television advertising to gain incredible exposure across the region,” Struzzi said. “It also give us an opportunity to promote Indiana County overall. If our Chamber member businesses succeed and we bring more people here, we are all successful.”
The region will see economic impacts not realized in our area for many decades through the construction of the Shell Cracker Plant in Beaver County. There will be opportunities across Western Pennsylvania that could and should stimulate our local economy to incredible levels. By “cracking” ethane from natural gas, the plant will create materials used to produce many plastic-based products, cleaning products, and much more. These products will be shipped to manufacturers all over the east within a 700-mile radius of the Shell plant. Why not to Indiana County? That is why Chamber President Jim Struzzi and Byron Stauffer, Executive Director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, recently participated in a one-day conference exploring the petrochemical industry and the opportunities the Shell Cracker will bring to the area. Indiana County has the space, incentives, resources and infrastructure to support plastics manufacturers. Our goal is to be ready with new companies here that will utilize the products created by the Shell plant. In addition, the Indiana County Economic Development team is looking at the Gulf Coast region of Louisiana – the petrochemical epicenter of the United States - to mirror what their local communities did to capitalize on the industry. The conference, held on March 8 in Titusville, featured many speakers on a variety of topics related to the petrochemical production and the workforce needed to support the industry. More than 400 people attended. Several of the key speakers came from Louisiana and provided great insight based on their experiences on how to prepare for this great opportunity coming to Western Pennsylvania. Struzzi and Stauffer made certain Indiana County was part of the conversation.
The Chamber staff in partnership with the Indiana Gazette continues to prepare for the 2017 Indiana County Business Hall of Fame induction dinner on Thursday, June 8, at the Kovalchick Complex. The evening of celebration will begin with an open bar at 5:30 p.m. followed by dinner and the induction ceremonies at 6 p.m. Table and seat reservations are being accepted now as well as sponsor opportunities. Early sponsors will get recognition on the formal invitations that will be mailed in April. Individual seats are $75 and full tables of 10 are $725. Click here for more details, visit the Chamber website or call 724-465-2511 to make reservations today.
 
Chamber Marketing Manager Annie Rizzo gave an update on the Chamber’s marketing efforts and upcoming Spring membership drive which will again include free radio ads on Forever media for new members, great prizes, and the member referral contest. Rizzo also shared a new program created by the Chamber and Planful, LLC to offer free social media training at various levels for Chamber members. The Chamber’s social media presence continues to grow to the benefit of our membership. In February, the Chamber’s social media outreach had 4,000 new impressions from first time viewers, Rizzo said.         
 
County Government
County Commissioner Rod Ruddock said the commissioners are concerned with the proposed reduction or elimination of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and the impacts this could have locally. He also mentioned the recent release of the Regional Transportation Alliance (RTA) Imagine Transportation 2.0 report, a vision for a better transportation future in the greater Pittsburgh region. The vision includes Seven Principles the RTA believe provide guidance for our region to make decisions and investments that achieve better mobility for all. These principles are further illustrated by 50 Ideas to Explore, which serve as examples of what those changes could look like. Click here to view the full report online, download the executive summary, or read “An Open Letter to the Greater Pittsburgh Region” from the Regional Transportation Alliance Steering Committee. In addition to Ruddock, the Chamber and Indiana County were represented on the RTA by former board chair Greg Sipos and now by Struzzi.
 
“The RTA is looking at where we are today and where we need to be in 20 years,” Ruddock said.      
 
Education
Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Mike Driscoll said projections are looking good for fall 2017 enrollments. This is due to effective marketing and recruitment without weakening admission standards in challenging financial times.
 
As it was announced recently, the state system will be moving forward with a review process to look for improvement opportunities. Driscoll said a consultant has been engaged and will be begin visiting state system universities in April. He looks forward to their visit to IUP.
 
“IUP is in a strong position,” he said. “I look at it as an opportunity to make things better and make other universities as strong as we are.”
 
Driscoll was also recently appointed as board member with the Center for Rural Pennsylvania, which focuses on issues affected rural areas including addiction issues, safety, economic development and others. He said it will provide opportunities to compare best practices.
 
Arnold Thimons, Director of Student Success at WyoTech, said they are completing an exciting month. WyoTech’s recent career fair attracted 84 employers from around the country conducting 150 interviews with WyoTech students. These interviews resulted in 50 on-the-spot job offers, many of them from local companies.    
 
New classes for adult students will begin in two weeks. WyoTech has about 100 students enrolled in the adult program in addition to their younger students fresh out of high school.   
 
Thimons also said WyoTech has a strong student Veterans organization that is looking for volunteer opportunities in the community.   
 
 “We have a large group of people who want to get out and help the community.”
 
Community groups in need of volunteers should contact Thimons at Arnold.Thimons@zenith.org.
            
Energy
Dave Brocious with the Marcellus Shale Coalition said gas commodity prices remain a mixed bag to due temperatures fluctuations. While the cold temperatures this month are good for the industry, the warm days in February were not.
 
“There is a softness in demand and an excess in supply,” Brocious said.
 
Rig counts are also down this month by two to 32. Gas production, as a byproduct of increasing oil wells, is also increasing in Texas. 
 
Overall, Brocious said 2017 will be a transition year for the industry as policy shifts and the market place changes. The MSC is also concerned the proposed severance tax in the Governor’s budget could push companies to other states if it moves forward. There are also issues currently being contested in areas where land use zoning is in place. Most drilling currently occurs in agricultural areas. Though it may not have much of a local impact, the current court case elsewhere may require drilling in industrial zoned areas only.         
 
On a positive note, Brocious said work is beginning on various pipeline projects across the state including the Sunoco Logistics line that will travel through southern Indiana County. This construction is expected to bring 300-400 temporary jobs - and potentially 50 permanent positions - to the local area providing a boost to the local economy. The company, Trinity, constructing about 60 miles of the pipeline is based at the 119 Business Park in the Coral-Graceton area.         
 
Transportation Infrastructure
Byron Stauffer, Executive Director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, said the focus at the regional level continues to be Route 422 through Indiana and Armstrong counties.
 
Multimodal funds through a $700,000 grant have been allocated for local road and bridge improvement projects. Coupled with local matches, between $1.5 and $2 million could be available for Indiana County projects this construction season.
 
“There is a lot of excitement to get these underway and improve our infrastructure,” Stauffer said.
 
Business Retention and Growth
Stauffer said major upgrades are underway at the Gordon Sinclair facility on Indian Springs Road. The new business in Indiana County that manufactures marketing and branding materials should be operational soon.
 
Meanwhile Stauffer said there’s positive news that many local companies are looking to expand and grow their operations. New business inquires are increasing as well
 
“We seeing a lot of activity so that’s good,” he said.
 
Dave Coleman with the Indiana County Manufacturing Consortium mirrored Stauffer comments saying local manufacturers are seeing a solid return in the industry. While not yet a significant increase, most manufacturers are back to consistent levels of orders and commerce.            
 
Indiana County Development Corporation President Jim Wiley continued the upbeat rhythm with his report stating that there is a lot of positive movement and inquiry from developers interested in the new 200-acre Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park on Route 286 in White Township. The state-of-the-art site is ready for development.
 
Work will continue this summer through 2018 to complete roadway construction through the west side of Windy Ridge to ultimately connect with Rustic Lodge Road.
 
“Windy Ridge is set and ready to go,” Wiley said.
 
Visit www.indianacountyceo.com to learn about the many development opportunities and available commercial properties in Indiana County.     
 
 
Healthcare
Kelly Howells with Anew Home Health Agency and the Healthcare Consortium said various trainings are underway for healthcare professionals through the consortium. Their annual recognition breakfast is May 3 at the Indiana County Club. Tickets and sponsorships are available. There is also a 5K in Clymer on May 27 to benefit local veterans sponsored by Crossbridge Physical Therapy and Anew Home Health Agency.     
 
Indiana Mall
Mall Manager Sherry Renosky said despite what many may have heard the Mall still has more than 40 stores and only 10 vacant spaces. Mall owner Zamias continues to search for businesses to fill the vacant spaces, but Renosky acknowledged it is a difficult time currently. She emphasized that retailers are struggling everywhere across the nation, not just locally. Some stores, she added, are doing exceptionally well including the movie theater which hosts more than 1,000 attendees every Monday.
 
Communities
David Smith, Board Member and State Farm Agent in Clymer, gave an update on Clymer Borough. While there are some vacant stores, business is improving in Clymer, Smith said. The former Whipstock location was recently purchased by a company affiliated with the gas industry as was the former Nittany Oil Company. The borough is also working to improve quality of life by applying for grant to improve the green space adjacent to the little league fields. In addition Clymer is conducting tests to remove an order from their drinking water. New waterlines and a tank will be installed in the future.
 
“Everything is going fine in Clymer,” Smith said. “We are working together well.”      
  
Chamber Young Professionals Organization
Tae Ayers with S&T Bank and chair for the Chamber’s Young Professionals Organization (YPO) said the recent Breakfast and Learn with Stauffer went exceptionally well. A St. Patrick’s Day mixer is also planned next Wednesday at the Coney. In addition the YPO is exploring more opportunities for community service and volunteer opportunities. 
 
The Chamber YPO’s is a great opportunity for advancing employees, upcoming managers and others within Chamber member businesses to meet and network with other future business and community leaders. Want to join the YPO? Any Chamber member or employee of a Chamber member age 40 or under can join. Individuals can also join as a “Chamber Friend”. Visit the Chamber’s website to apply. To learn more, visit the YPO page on the Chamber’s website or on Facebook.
 
Government Relations
Struzzi said the Chamber’s revamped Government Relations Committee is working to explore various legislative issues that impact businesses and develop positions for the Chamber. These will be available on the Chamber website. As the representative for more 670 member businesses, the Chamber is a powerful voice for Indiana County businesses.
 
Membership Events Update
The Chamber will offer its members many opportunities to network, meet new customers, learn and grow and find success including a special Business After Hours speed networking event sponsored by Bayada Home Health on March 30 and Bill Drury Customer Service Training on April 4 and an after hours at New Story on April 6.  
   
The Chamber Board of Directors will meet next on April 12 at St. Andrew’s Village.

by ICCC on February 21st, 2017

Indiana, PA – The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, Feb. 16, at St. Andrews Village.
 
The Board discussed many issues including business inquires and expansions, education, energy, promotion, recent events and more.
 
Call to Order
Board Chairman Joe Reschini, with The Reschini Group, started the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. The January board meeting minutes and financial reports were approved.           
 
New Officio Members
Reschini welcomed new ex-officio representatives to the board. Former Board member Sherry Renosky, Indiana Mall Manager, returns as an ex-officio joining new ex-offico member Jack Delaney, Jr. with Delaney Auto.
        
Chamber Update
Chamber President Jim Struzzi said the Chamber added three new members and had 43 renewals in January bringing the total membership to 677 members. The Chamber will be launching a membership drive this spring.
 
Struzzi thanked everyone who attended the Chamber Business Expo on January 28 at the Indiana Mall. The Chamber distributed more than 1,000 tote bags featuring the Chamber’s Principal sponsors, S&T Bank, First Commonwealth Bank, Palladio and The Reschini Group; Expo Platinum Sponsor the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations and event silver sponsors Visiting Angels and Gibson Thomas Engineering. More than 60 businesses and organizations participated in this year’s Expo.  
 
“The event was another great day for business-to-business and customer community connections,” Struzzi said. “We want to thank our sponsors, the Indiana Mall, our media partners, the bands and musicians that played all day and everyone who came out to make the 2017 Business Expo a success.”
 
Struzzi said they will look at feedback from participants at this year’s Expo and make improvements for the 2018 event.  
 
WIUP (Channel 6) attended the Expo and will air a half-hour program in the coming weeks. The video is also available on the Chamber’s YouTube channel by clicking here. 
 
The Chamber also had a successful Business After Hours in partnership with the Indiana County Tourist Bureau. The Chingle was held on January 25 at the new Hilton Garden Inn at IUP. More than 200 people attended bringing great exposure to the hotel and C.H. Fields restaurant inside.
 
“We were happy to see such a great turnout of support for the new hotel, which is a true asset for Indiana County,” Struzzi said. “The value of hosting an after hours comes with the tremendous benefit of getting people to your business.”
 
As a new feature, the Chamber is creating promotional videos for businesses that host Business After Hours. Videos from previous events can be also found on the Chamber’s YouTube Channel and social media.                           
 
The January Chamber Check-In at the Chamber office was standing room only with about 25 attending. Chamber Check-In open houses give members an opportunity to network over coffee and donuts with other businesses and learn about what’s happening with the Chamber. It’s also a great way for potential members to learn more about the benefits of Chamber membership. The next Chamber Check-In at the Chamber office at 1019 Philadelphia Street is at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 28.    
Continuing the Chamber’s efforts to market and promote Indiana County regionally, Struzzi said the Chamber will be hosting the Regional Advocacy Coalition of Chambers on April 11 at the Kovalchick Complex. Lead by the Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce and the Allegheny Conference, the RACC is a voluntary alliance of local chambers of commerce throughout the ten-county region of southwestern Pennsylvania. The purpose of the RACC is to educate legislators and regulators at all levels of government on issues that are important to the common interest of the region's business community. The Indiana County Chamber is a member of the RACC along with 17 other chambers in the Western Pennsylvania region.
“We are excited to host the RACC meeting here in Indiana County at the Kovalchick Complex to show off our many assets and opportunities here,” Struzzi said.
The Chamber will offer a tour for the group around the Kovalchick Complex, IUP and other feature locations in Indiana County. To learn more about the RACC, visit www.regionaladvocacycoalitionofchambers.com.
Related to economic development, Struzzi said there are several new business prospects in the works. He continues to reach out to national retailers and developers to make sure they are aware of the opportunities here in Indiana County. Partnering with the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations and Byron Stauffer, Executive Director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, Struzzi will be part of a team attending conferences and visit other areas related to the petrochemical industry. The goal is to prepare Indiana County for any opportunities that may come from the Shell Cracker Plant being constructed in Beaver County.          
It’s official! The date for the 2017 Indiana County Business Hall of Fame induction dinner is set for Thursday, June 8, at the Kovalchick Complex. The evening of celebration will begin with an open bar at 5:30 p.m. followed by dinner and the induction ceremonies at 6 p.m. Table and seat reservations are being accepted now as well as sponsor opportunities. Early sponsors will get recognition on the formal invitations that will be mailed in April. Individual seats are $75 and full tables of 10 are $725. Click here for more details, visit the Chamber website or call 724-465-2511 to make reservations today.
 
Struzzi said many Chamber members are not aware of the many benefits available to them through the ChamberChoice program including the On Demand Energy savings program, the Penn National business insurance dividend program and more. To help member learn about these programs, the Chamber will be holding several free educational sessions. 
 
Chamber Marketing Manager Annie Rizzo gave an update on the Chamber’s marketing efforts and upcoming Spring membership drive. Rizzo shared some of the marketing items featured in the Expo tab. Click below to view:
 
State Government
Joe Pittman with State Senator Don White’s said as they begin the state budget discussions, there is hope that Personal Income Tax revenues in February and March will be higher than they were in the latter months of last year. These are traditionally better months for revenues. Revenue projections had identified a hole of more than $2 billion less than anticipated.   
 
“We aren’t expecting them to miraculously plug the gap,” Pittman said. “But they could make it easier.” 
      
On a positive note, Pittman said Governor Tom Wolf’s proposed budget doesn’t have the partisan tone of the past two previous years, though there are still many issues that will divide discussions.
 
Jonathan Longwill with State. Rep. Dave’s Reeds office echoed Pitman’s comments.
 
“We’re seeing a little more realistic perspective on the budget,” he said. While there are no broad based tax increases, the proposed natural gas severance tax and other fees are areas of concern.     
 
One of Sen. White’s focus areas will attempt to address high cost issues in the pharmaceutical industry. Pittman said there has been good movement by the federal government to target this problem, but more initiative is needed on the state level.         
 
Education
IUP President Mike Driscoll said they are excited about the success of the men’s and women’s basketball teams and encouraged more people to come out and support these exciting young athletes.
 
Driscoll said it was positive to see the Governor include an increase in appropriations for the State System of Higher Education in the proposed budget.
 
“It’s a policy statement when we are investing back into state universities while in difficult times financially for the Commonwealth,” he said.
 
Driscoll also felt the recently announced effort to reassess the state university system was a step in the right direction. A consultant will begin analyzing the system and making recommendations for improvements later this year. Driscoll said while IUP has continually looked for ways to improve and maintain a quality educational experience for students, not all state system universities have followed that model.   
 
“Our hope is to have recommendations by this fall,” he said. “This is overdue and needed. The system in its current form is not sustainable.”
 
Fall enrollment for the upcoming semester is flat, which Driscoll said is good because the student population is no longer declining. While IUP will have a large senior class graduating this spring, he feels they have turned the corner on decreasing enrollments.
 
Driscoll said they have seen some minor impacts on international enrollments due to the current immigration policy, but said overall their international student population at IUP exceeds all other state system schools combined.       
 
The state system is currently in a hiring freeze, which unfortunately means there will be fewer new IUP employees in the community.
 
Robin Gorman with IUP said they will begin ticketing for commencement ceremonies this spring for safety reasons and to ensure all students and their families have an opportunity to attend. There is still no charge. Each student will have four tickets guaranteed. Remain tickets will be distributed via lottery in April. To learn more, visit the IUP commencement website.  
 
WyoTech is doing well, said Arnold Thimons, Director of Student Success. Enrollments at the school in Blairsville increased year over year in January.
 
“We are on the upswing at WyoTech,” Thimons said.
 
Focusing on student success, WyoTech recently had a career fair with more than 80 employers from around the country attending.  
 
Thimons, who has been with WyoTech since August, is also pushing his students to be more involved in the community.
 
“We are teaching them to make the community they live in a better place,” he said. “We have a group of students eager and willing to give back to the community.”
 
Community groups in need of volunteers should contact Thimons at Arnold.Thimons@zenith.org.
            
WyoTech’s parent company is also offering $25,000 in grants to help our local area. Applications have been submitted and the recipients will be announced soon.   
 
Tourism
Gregg Van Horn, president of the Indiana County Tourist Bureau (ICTB), said this June, Indiana County will welcome over 10,000 visitors as three ICSST/USSSA Fastpitch Softball Tournaments return to the area.
 
“The 12th annual tournament - held over three separate weekends - provides an opportunity to showcase our entire county, our university and provide an economic impact to the area businesses that is immeasurable,” he said.
 
The Tourist Bureau has been working hard with Indiana’s lead organizer, Tom Harley, and local hotels to ensure all visitors are welcomed and provided with local information to make their visit one that will bring attending staff and families back for a return visit.
 
In honor of the 50th Anniversary of the Indiana County Parks & Trails, the Tourist Bureau is sharing excerpts from the Parks & Trails 50th Anniversary Booklet, in their Facebook postings. The excerpts share how the parks & trails were formed and takes a look at county history during the time period.  Be on the lookout for pop-quiz posts that could win you prizes! Celebrations and special events will take place throughout this year, so watch for these announcements. To learn more about Indiana County Parks & Trails, visit www.indianacountyparks.org.
 
In celebration of tourism in Indiana County, the ICTB is conducting an online photo contest beginning March 1, 2017 through February 28, 2018. Winners will receive a gift certificate or promotional item courtesy of ICTB or from one of its members. Each quarter, a new winner will be selected whose photo best depicts one of the tourism subjects. All photos must be in good taste and taken within the county lines. For a complete list of Photo Contest Rules, visit www.VisitIndianaCountyPA.org beginning March 1, 2017.
 
Part of ICTB’s mission is to bring media attention to the region, so they are happy to share that Indiana County and the Blairsville Knotweed Festival were included in the January issue of Eastern Home & Travel Magazine. The magazine is distributed from Maine to Florida and it is an exciting accomplishment for the Tourist Bureau to share that Blairsville of Indiana County PA, is now among the many locations highlighted in this high-end travel magazine for all to read and be intrigued.
 
Energy
Dave Brocious with the Marcellus Shale Coalition said the needle continues to move in the right direction for the energy industry. Although commodity prices are still low, drilling rig counts continue to increase with 34 currently in Pennsylvania – up by three in December. Regionally in the tri-sate area, there are 63 rigs, which is double the count from this time last year.
 
While Brocious expects 2017 to be a good year as the industry rebounds, he expects 2018 and 2019 to be even better. News of pipeline advancements and approvals bodes well for the overall industry and economic impacts on the Western Pennsylvania region.
 
Brocious said the recent announcement of DEP (Department of Environmental Protection) approval for the Sunoco Logistics pipeline that will run through southern Indiana County is a tremendous step forward.
 
“This is big news for our region,” he said. “We are starting to see progress. If we can get these going, we’ll see the ripple effect come back to our region.”            
 
Indiana County Development Corporation President Jim Wiley said the advancement of the Sunoco pipeline will have a direct benefit on Indiana County’s economy. The Texas- based company constructing the pipeline through Indiana County has been leasing the Route 119 Business Park in the Coral-Graceton area. Once construction begins, it is expected to create 300-400 temporary jobs and potentially 50 permanent positions.       
 
Transportation Infrastructure
Byron Stauffer, Executive Director of the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development, said he has been working with our state elected officials to allocate more than $700,000 for local road and bridge improvement projects. They are also looking at additional infrastructure improvements including rail lines to create better opportunities for manufacturing.  Upcoming meetings are being planned for the proposed pedestrian bridge over Route 22 and other projects.
 
PennDOT recently held a public meeting for the next phase to widen Route 286 between Walmart and Rustic Lodge Road. There were some concerns with safety and access to several businesses between Aldi and Walmart. Stauffer is working with White Township and PennDOT to address.
 
Efforts are also underway to repurpose funds to extend the Hoodlebug trail.
 
Business Retention
The Indiana County Center for Economic Operations (CEO) will once again serve as the platinum sponsor for the NCDMM (National Center for Defense Machining and Manufacturing) Summit in May at Chestnut Ridge Resort. The Summit brings defense industry and manufacturers from around the country to Indiana County.  The Chamber will also be attending.  Along those same lines, CEO representatives will be attending more trade shows and conferences to attract new businesses to Indiana County.
 
The CEO is also exploring television ads to promote Indiana County and the many opportunities available here.
 
The county is applying for several state grants to help with community improvement projects.  
 
ICDC
Wiley sparked optimism related business development as there are several developers increasingly interested in the new 200-acre Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park on Route 286 in White Township. The state-of-the-art site is ready for development.
 
“There are a lot of good things happening,” Wiley said.
 
Meanwhile, other activities are moving forward to help Indiana County’s economy. The Visiting Angels, Casey Ball Home Care, LLC and Casey Ball Supports Coordination, LLC have moved into the former Bayada (moved to downtown Blairsville) location at the Corporate Campus in Blairsville.
 
Visit www.indianacountyceo.com to learn about the many development opportunities and available commercial properties in Indiana County.     
 
Real Estate
Elizabeth Hutton with K&L Real Estate said despite the perception that the residential real estate market in Indiana County is struggling due to property tax reassessment, the threat of borough schools closing and other factors, the year end sales numbers for 2016 were close to those in 2015.
 
“Everyone is asking me how those things affect the market,” she said. “We finished consistent for the year.”
 
While the number of days homes have been on the market have increased slightly, she emphasized sales remain consistent and have actually increased since 2013.    
 
At the end of 2016, 368 properties had been sold compared to 377 in 2015. In 2013, 325 residential properties exchanged hands (369 in 2014).      
 
Agriculture
Cal Farren with Turner Dairy and the Indiana County Farm Bureau said the PA Farm Bureau recently received a Pinnacle Award from the American Farm Bureau Federation. A Pinnacle Award is the highest award a state farm bureau can earn for program and membership achievement. The PA Farm Bureau received 11 total awards for 2016 at the AFBF’s 98th Annual Meeting.
 
“I’m Farm Bureau proud,” Farren said.         
 
Healthcare
Jim Kinneer with Indiana Regional Medical Center is ready to open the second phase of the ICU (intensive care unit) project. Eight newly renovated ICU rooms were opened in 2016; the second phase includes renovations of the old ICU space to bring the total ICU rooms to 12 and additional space for support functions. The former unit capacity was 10 beds.
 
“Thanks to our donors and the community for allowing us to improve,” Kinneer said.
 
In more good news, Kinneer said the hospital will be hiring 20-25 new employees for their IT department. IRMC is implementing a brand new state-of-the-art system for patient records starting in May. The implementation will take about 15 months. Most of the jobs will be long term positions. Kinneer said people interest in applying may do so at http://www.indianarmc.org/careers send resumes to jobs@indianarmc.org.
    
Communities
Rob Walbeck with Walbeck Insurance gave an update on Homer City.
 
“A lot of good things are happening,” he said.
 
Work to complete a $4 million water line project is nearing completion and will culminate with a water tank being constructed at the 119 Business Park. Work on a main street revitalization project is expected to begin in the next couple of weeks.
 
Chamber Young Professionals Organization
Tae Ayers with S&T Bank and chair for the Chamber’s Young Professionals Organization (YPO) said they have several events planned in the coming weeks. Stauffer will be the presenter at a Breakfast and Learn on Feb. 21 at the Park Inn. A St. Patrick’s Day mixer is also planned on March 22 at the Coney.
 
The Chamber YPO’s is a great opportunity for advancing employees, upcoming managers and others within Chamber member businesses to meet and network with other future business and community leaders. Want to join the YPO? Any Chamber member or employee of a Chamber member age 40 or under can join. Individuals can also join as a “Chamber Friend”. Visit the Chamber’s website to apply. To learn more, visit the YPO page on the Chamber’s website or on Facebook.
 
Government Relations
Government Relations Committee Chair Robin Gorman said the Chamber is revamping its efforts and focus to provide more activity, benefit and assistance to member businesses. New events are being discussed and the annual Eggs and Issues Breakfast in August will be changed and improved to provide better interaction between attendees and elected officials. A business climate survey of Chamber members will be conducted to help determine what issues the Chamber should support or oppose. More information will be available on the Chamber’s website in the near future.    
 
Membership Events Update
Throughout the coming year, the Chamber will offer its members many opportunities to network, meet new customers, learn and grow and find success. Some of those upcoming events include a Happy Hours at Levity Brewing on Feb. 22; a Chamber Check-in on Feb. 28, a seminar on exporting products on March 14, a speed networking event sponsored by Bayada Home Health on March 30 and Bill Drury Customer Service Training on April 4.  
   
The Chamber Board of Directors will meet next on March 16 at St. Andrew’s Village.

by ICCC on January 26th, 2017

​Indiana, PA – The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, Jan. 12, at St. Andrews Village.
 
The Board discussed many issues including unemployment compensation, business inquires, communities, energy, marketing, upcoming events and more.
 
Call to Order
New Board Chairman Joe Reschini, with The Reschini Group, started the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. Reschini became the Chair in January replacing Greg Sipos with First Commonwealth Bank who successfully completed his two-year term as Chairman of the Board. The November 2016 board meeting minutes and December financial reports were approved.           
 
New Officers and Board Members
Reschini welcomed several new members and ex-officio representatives to the board. New board members serving a first three-year term included Laurie Kuzneski, Kuzneski Financial Group; Brett Stewart, CNB Bank, and Matt Tomb, First Commonwealth Bank. All three had been serving as ex-officio board members. The board also welcomed new Ex-Officio members Rob Walbeck with Walbeck Insurance of Homer City and Linda Gwinn with the Blairsville Community Development Authority (BCDA). New Chamber Executive Committee officers in 2017 include Jim Kinneer with Indiana Regional Medical Center as 1st Vice Chair and Josh Rosenberger with the 700 Shop as Treasurer. Tae Ayers with S&T Bank was also welcomed as the new chair for the Chamber’s Young Professionals Organization (YPO).
 
Ayers said the YPO will be holding their first event of the New Year on January 17, a social networking mixer at Brunzies. This will be Ayers first event as the chair replacing Luke Shively from McNaughton Moving and Storage.
 
“The mixer at Brunzies will be Luke’s unofficial retirement party,” Ayers joked.
 
The Chamber YPO’s is a great opportunity for advancing employees, upcoming managers and others within Chamber member businesses to meet and network with other future business and community leaders. Want to join the YPO? Any Chamber member or employee of a Chamber member age 40 or under can join. Individuals can also join as a “Chamber Friend”. Visit the Chamber’s website to apply. To learn more, visit the YPO page on the Chamber’s website or on Facebook.
        
Chamber Update
In the months of November and December, President Jim Struzzi reported that the Chamber attracted an incredible 14 new members and had 62 renewals. The total membership is currently 677 members.
 
“We really appreciate our members and do everything we can to make certain they are getting a great return on their investment in the Chamber and Indiana County,” Struzzi said. “Many of these new members are the result of current members sharing their satisfaction with the benefits and business opportunities that come with Chamber membership.”    
 
The Chamber’s annual luncheon in December was another great success with nearly 400 people attending. The luncheon keynote speaker, David Spigelmyer, President of the Marcellus Shale Coalition, gave poignant and encouraging presentation on the energy industry. Spigelmyer highlighted several ways Indiana County can capitalize on positive trends in the industry and the new Shell Cracker Plant that will be built in Beaver County. In addition to gas production, Spigelmyer said the focus is on manufacturing businesses that will benefit from the products produced by the cracker plant. Building on that, the Chamber and the Indiana County Office of Planning and Development have begun to research other areas in the country that have benefited from their proximity to cracker facilities. Site visits may be considered in the near future. 
 
“We want to learn how they prepared and ultimately capitalized on these unique, potentially game changing opportunities,” Struzzi commented. “With our available spaces, workforce and ready-to-be-developed business parks, the time to act is now.”   
 
During the luncheon, the Chamber also announced the 2017 Indiana County Business Hall of Fame class that will be inducted during a formal ceremony at the Kovalchick Complex in June.
 
The third class of Business Hall of Fame includes:
 
Deceased
Dr. Willis E. Pratt, the 16th and final president of Indiana State Teachers College and the first president of IUPCecil Spadafora, Colonial Motor MartE. James Trimarchi, Jr., the first president and CEO of First Commonwealth Financial Corporation, known today as First Commonwealth BankJack W. Clark, Jr., with Clark Metals (Note: Jack W. Clark, Jr. sadly passed away in November shortly after being voted into the Business Hall of Fame.)Living
Chuck Spadafora, Colonial Motor Mart, Colonial Toyota, and Mark Arbuckle Nissan 
Chairman’s Selection
Lucy Donnelly, Indiana Gazette 
Visit the Hall of Fame link on the Chamber’s website to learn more or visit the interactive display at the Kovalchick Complex.     
 
Meanwhile, the Chamber staff is busily preparing for the 2017 Business Expo set for January 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Indiana Mall. The registration deadline was Friday and there are currently between 55-60 businesses participating. There’s another great line-up of music and entertainment all day thanks to Anthony Frazier who will also serve as stage coordinator and emcee. In effort to support the community and Indiana County families, the Chamber has partnered with the Armstrong Indiana Clarion Drug and Alcohol Commission to offer free naloxene training all day during the Expo in the former Finish Line location near FYE. The American Red Cross will also host a community blood donation drive in the former Old Navy locations. The Expo tab will be in the Indiana Gazette the Wednesday before the Expo. Visit the Chamber website, www.indianacountychamber.com for more information.          
 
“We encourage everyone to come out to the Indiana Mall on January 28 and enjoy everything the Chamber Business Expo has to offer,” Struzzi said. The Expo is free to attend and everyone will receive a complimentary tote bag from the Chamber while supplies last.
 
Related to promoting Indiana County, Struzzi recorded a Comcast Newsmakers (www.comcastnewsmaker.com/state/pennsylvania/) segment on December 20 and a live interview on KDKA radio about the economic impacts of Jimmy Stewart and the “It’s a Wonderful Life” movie on Indiana County. Locally, Struzzi had several live and recorded appearances on Froggy 95.5 and Renda Broadcasting. The Chamber is also advertising regionally through television and radio Indiana County businesses and the upcoming Chamber Business Expo.              
 
The Chamber had several successful member and community events in November and December including a ribbon cutting ceremonies at Yankeetown Apothecary in Homer City, Indigo in the Indiana Mall, Anew Home Health in Clymer and Bayada Home Health in Blairsville. Tremendously successful Business After Hours events were held a Kuzneski Financial Group and St. Andrew’s Village. The Chamber also had two Chamber Check-In Networking events and a Brains and Grains educational session on estate planning.
 
Any Chamber member interested in hosting a Chamber Business After Hours or other events should contact the Chamber office at 724-465-2511. The 2017 schedule is filling fast.       
 
Chamber Marketing Manager Annie Rizzo gave an update on the Chamber promotion and marketing efforts. She emphasized a renewed focus on social media and the use of video to promote Chamber events, Chamber member businesses and Indiana County. She also mentioned the many sponsorship opportunities for businesses to gain exposure and recognition within the business community and region through the Chamber. General sponsorship, advertising, social media, and event sponsors are just a few methods available.
 
“Becoming a Chamber member and sponsor is a great way for a business to start the New Year in a positive way,” Rizzo said.               
 
The Chamber has created an overview sheet of the many opportunities available in addition to membership. 
 
County Commissioners
County Commissioner Rod Ruddock attended the meeting to represent the Indiana County Board of Commissioners. At their public meeting this week, a concern was raised about the county website being out-of-date and lacking pertinent information. Ruddock said this has been an issue that the Commissioners will address in the coming year. They are working to create a new, improved, interactive website that represents the progressive, positive nature of Indiana County and better serves county residents.
 
Ruddock also voiced some concerns with recent cutbacks and funding issues related to unemployment compensation process. The state recently closed 5 of 8 unemployment call centers across the Commonwealth causing 600 layoffs and seriously impacting services for those in need of unemployment compensation. This has caused issues locally because of the long wait times it is causing at Careerlink – an organization already short staffed due to funding and other state-related issues.    
 
State Government
Joe Pittman with State Senator Don White’s office echoed Ruddock’s concerns and expounded on the issue. In perhaps partisan posturing as the budget battle looms, Governor Wolf pulled the plug on three of the eight call centers across the state after not receiving the $57 million he requested to continue processing claims.  His funding demand was made without offering any accountability to the legislature on how it would be spent. Those filing for unemployment must call in for their compensation using a required 1-800 line. The problem is that with the layoffs at call centers, there are not enough people to handle the claims across the state. In the past, people could call from their homes or visit the unemployment compensation office in person, but that is no longer an option.  
 
“It’s heartbreaking to see folks waiting for hours to get their unemployment compensation,” Pittman said. “Whatever happened to humans talking to humans face to face? It’s not government that’s working and a lot of innocent people are caught in the middle.”
 
Pittman said anyone locally struggling with the unemployment compensation system should contact Sen. White’s office in an effort to have the claims process expedited.      
 
Meanwhile, the Governor is preparing for the budget address in February. Pittman said state revenues are lower than they should be; the only realistic way to balance the budget may be through pension reform.
 
He said they are watching closely what might occur with the possible repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the impacts that may have on Pennsylvania.       
             
Education
IUP President Mike Driscoll said they are anxiously awaiting the Governor’s budget proposal to learn how much of a $70 million appropriation increase requested by the State System of Higher Education will be included. If the amount is less than anticipated, it will impact tuition rates and budgets. Driscoll said IUP continues to exercise frugal cost controls through the challenges that may lie ahead.
 
IUP will be bringing more students – about 150 - to Indiana through changes in the curriculum offered at their Punxsutawney campus. The changes will create more opportunities based on workforce needs in Jefferson County while offering more benefits for those students coming to Indiana. 
 
Tourism
Gregg Van Horn, president of the Indiana County Tourist Bureau (ICTB), said the new 2017 Tourist Bureau calendar has been released and is now in circulation. The calendar features the annual events of Tourist Bureau members occurring in the upcoming year.
 
“It’s a great way to make sure you don’t miss out on these exciting events,” Van Horn said. “The calendar is free, so be sure to get your copy while supplies last.”
 
As the President of the Indiana County Christmas Tree Growers' Association, Van Horn said he was very proud to acknowledge and congratulate the “It’s a Wonderful Life Festival” for having their Christmas tree chosen by Travel & Leisure as the "Best Christmas Tree in Pennsylvania" in their "The Best Christmas Tree in Every State" article. The award is another example of Tourist Bureau national advertising dollars spent well.  Special thanks to Fleming's Christmas Tree Farms for growing and donating Pennsylvania's best tree! 
 
As the tourism promotion and marketing agency for Indiana County, the Tourist Bureau looks forward to promoting and supporting several new events this year.  In 2017, we will celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Indiana County Parks, a new and expanded Eco Tour/Geo Caching program, and the Ghost Town Trail extension, just to name a few.
 
Energy
“You can put a big smiley face on this report,” said Dave Brocious with the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Since the presidential election, there has been increased enthusiasm in the energy industry. Commodity prices are at their highest point in recent years with prices climbing to $3.23 per MCF, from lows in October of $0.87 per MCF.  Drilling rig counts across the country are increasing – up by 54 from November to December bringing the total count currently to 634 rigs nationally. Rig count in PA has increased from a low of 12 in June 2016 to 31 rigs in December, a 138% increase.
 
But there are still concerns in the industry with negative policy impacts and the current shortage of pipeline infrastructure in Pennsylvania – issues further exacerbated by regulatory permit delays at the local, state and federal level. Although Brocious is optimistic several existing pipeline projects will soon be resolved allowing more gas to make it to the market, alleviating the oversupply, delays in permitting approvals are still adversely impacting the industry and could eventually send energy companies to other states and other energy basins globally looking for better investment returns.
 
Nevertheless, the overall outlook is better than it’s been in recent years. “We are forecasting well in Western Pennsylvania,” Brocious said.                                                    
 
Agriculture
Cal Farren with Turner Dairy and the Indiana County Farm Bureau said though it’s a slow time for field activities in the agriculture industry, farmers and others are busy year round taking care of livestock and animal herds.
 
Sharing some positive news, Farren said Dave Kimmel, a dairy farmer from the Marion Center/Plumville area, will be serving on the statewide Pennsylvania Farm Bureau board as the District 12 representative, which covers Indiana and several other counties.
 
“It’s great to have a local boy at that level,” Farren said.         
 
Healthcare
Kelly Howells with Anew Home Health said the Healthcare Consortium is busy planning it’s annual recognition event in May and reviewing scholarship applications. They are also looking at quotes for training activities in 2017.
 
Jim Kinneer with Indiana Regional Medical Center said the second phase of the ICU (intensive care unit) project is nearing completion. Eight newly renovated ICU rooms were opened in 2016; the second phase includes renovations of the old ICU space to bring the total ICU rooms to 12 and additional space for support functions. The former unit capacity was 10 beds.
 
Indiana County Development Corporation
ICDC President Jim Wiley said work to prepare the first phase of the new 200-acre Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park in White Township has been completed and state-of-the-art site is ready for development. Interest in the park from developers is already increasing with several discussions and possible plans underway.
 
The next step in construction will be to extend the main roadway through the park to eventually connect on the west side with Rustic Lodge Road. Wiley anticipates that work beginning in 2018.
 
He encouraged anyone interested to take a drive through Windy Ridge and see the work that’s been done. The roadway from Route 286 is open to the public.      
 
Sharing more good news, Wiley said the ICDC is discussing leases with new commercial tenants at the Interchange Center in Blairsville and High Pointe on Indian Springs Road.  
 
Visit www.indianacountyceo.com to learn more about available buildings, business park sites, access to programs and other opportunities in Indiana County.  
 
Communities
Rosenberger gave kudos to Jenny Rairigh and her team of volunteers for their efforts with the expanded It’s a Wonderful Festival in downtown Indiana this past holiday season. Despite some challenging weather during several weekends, the event is considered a success and sets the stage for an even better festival next year.
 
“It’s important to see everyone come together and create something Indiana County can hang its hat on,” Rosenberger said.
 
Gwinn said Blairsville is planning events to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of Indiana County Parks and Trails this year. With its proximity to the Conemaugh River, Blairville has many assets related to trails, parks and water recreation. The Chamber, Conemaugh Valley Conservancy and the BCDA will partner again in May 2017 to hold the third annual Paddle and Picnic event. The event includes 10-mile kayak trip on the Conemaugh River from Robinson to Blairsville concluding with picnic near the bandstand.
 
The annual chili and soup cook-off will be held on Feb. 4 at the Blairsville Elks to benefit Blairsville community projects. Once again, Chamber President Jim Struzzi will serve as one of the event judges.    
 
Membership Events Update
The Chamber will hit the ground running in 2017 with several events aimed helping its members through education, networking and opportunity. On Wednesday, January 18, Chamber members are invited to the Park Inn to enjoy a special morning seminar on interviewing and hiring good employees presented by author and human resource expert Bill McConnell. The event, Hire Honesty, is $45 for Chamber members ($50 for non-members) and includes a copy of McConnell’s book plus a hot buffet breakfast. Register at the Chamber today! The Chamber will partner with the Indiana County Tourist Bureau to hold combined Business After Hours Mingle, a “Chingle” at the IUP Hilton Garden Inn on Wednesday, January 25 and all members (and prospective members) are invited to Chamber Check-In open house in the Chamber office on Tuesday, January 24. And of course the Business Expo is on Saturday, January 28, at the Indiana Mall. 
   
The Chamber Board of Directors will meet next on February 16 at St. Andrew’s Village.
  
###

by ICCC on December 29th, 2016

​Season’s Greetings
 
As we close out 2016 and look ahead to the new year, we cannot help but be filled with hope and promise. The stage has been set by many years of hard work by many people to successfully culminate in 2017. Commercial property interests are increasing, the energy industry is returning, our core businesses are growing and our business parks are ready to be developed. There is renewed vigor in Indiana County and we are open for business.   
 
Throughout the past year, the Chamber continued to grow, attracting many new members to strengthen our base and further our determined efforts to enhance Indiana County’s business community and overall quality of life. During the calendar year, the Chamber added 85 new members bringing our total membership to 676 currently. We thank all of you for your commitment to the Chamber and Indiana County.  
 
We also know this has been a challenging year for many businesses in Indiana County. With the downturn in the energy industry, the uncertainty of the economy, global fears – 2016 was a tough time for our nation. But we are resilient and faithful, hardworking and inventive; we are Indiana County proud. The Chamber is committed to working with our County leaders and partners through the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations to attract new businesses, retain and grow employment opportunities, and rejuvenate our local economy. The Chamber has spent a great amount of time this year trying to attract new retail opportunities for Indiana County.  We don’t want our local residents to travel elsewhere or shop online for what they need; we want them to find it right here. And we are confident those efforts will bear abundant fruit soon. Good news is coming for Indiana County!
 
As always, we are here to support our members and the overall business community. To assist our members and grow the Chamber and Indiana County, we hired a marketing manager in April. Annie Rizzo, an IUP graduate and Indiana County native, manages our marketing efforts through advertising, promotion and social media. She is also here to support our members with those endeavors.
 
We continue to make improvements and create more opportunities for our members to network and stimulate more business-to-business connections. Here are some of the 2016 highlights:
 
The Chamber’s Young Professionals Organization (YPO) continues to grow with more than 180 members currently. The group will be changing leadership with Tae Ayers from S&T Bank taking the reins from Luke Shively with McNaughton Moving and Storage who has been the chair of the YPO since 2014. The Chamber’s YPO is fostering future business and community leaders for Indiana County.   We published a new comprehensive membership guide to enable our members to take full advantage of all the benefits, products and services the Chamber provides.During the Chamber’s fiscal year 2015-16, we held or hosted 70 plus networking events and activities attracting more than 6,000 attendees.We expanded our breakfast Chamber Check-In opportunities to include member locations.The second annual Indiana County Business Hall of Fame was held in June. We revamped our weekly e-newsletter to provide more information and opportunity for our members. Our subscriber numbers will soon reach 5,000!We conducted and promoted 14 ribbon-cutting ceremoniesWe held a successful Summer Membership Drive attracting 22 new members. Our membership referral contest continues year-round. We increased promotion efforts to IUP students through printed materials and on-campus advertising.The Chamber continues to be a regional presence through media outlets and representation on various boards and commissions.  
The Chamber’s main goal continues to be delivering great products and services for our members while also working to improve the overall business climate and quality of life for Indiana County. Our staff – Jill, Annie, our interns, myself - are passionate about the Chamber, our members and Indiana County and truly appreciate the support of our membership and community.
 
As we plan our goals for the Chamber in 2017, some of the new initiatives we will undertake include:
Expanding our use of video production to market and promote our members, the Chamber and economic development opportunities in Indiana CountyCreate 30-second promotional video segments for businesses that host Chamber Business After Hours Promote and market Indiana County through regional and national television advertisingFills gaps in retail business sectorWork with the ICDC and CEO to recruit new employers to Indiana CountySupport all of our small towns and communities in Indiana CountyExplore and implement plans to capitalize locally on the Shell Cracker Plant in Beaver CountyConduct a spring membership driveImplement a business crisis roundtable for struggling businesses that may need support or guidanceExtend our ambassador and member outreach programsPartner with our educational institutions to address workforce gaps and develop career paths for students that will lead to family sustaining jobs meeting the current and future needs of our region            
If you need assistance at any time, please call or email the Chamber. And you are always welcome to stop in and say hello. We are here to help you succeed in 2017. Thank you again for your steadfast support.    
 
Happy New Year!
 
Jim
 
James B. Struzzi II

by ICCC on November 23rd, 2016

​Chamber Update
President Jim Struzzi said the Chamber attracted three new members and had 33 renewals in September. The total membership is currently 667 members.
 
In late October Struzzi attended the Pennsylvania Association of Chamber Professionals (PACP) Leadership conference in State College. The event provided an opportunity to network with Chamber leaders across the state and share benchmarks and ideas to improve. Struzzi said one of the main areas of focus was the use of video to promote the community, the Chamber and our members. The Chamber has video recording equipment and recently hired an intern from IUP with a communications major focusing on video production.
 
“We will begin using more videos to market our members and Indiana County,” Struzzi said.
 
The videos will be posted one the Chamber’s website, YouTube channel and social media outlets.
 
The Chamber is also including a 30-second video promo for members that host Chamber Business After Hours. Dates to host after hours events are open in 2017. Interested Chamber members should contact the Chamber to reserve a date. Business After Hours are great opportunities to showcase businesses and attract customers. Video testimonials, member features and Young Professionals Organization profiles will be added as well. The conference provided many good ideas and ways to enhance the Indiana County Chamber that Struzzi and his staff will work to implement in the coming year to provide value for our members and the community.
 
Struzzi said also he learned that the Indiana County Chamber is already doing many great things that other Chamber’s can learn from as well.
 
“Comparing notes with other Chambers reinforced to me that we have some really good things happening within the Chamber and Indiana County.”
 
Building on that, Struzzi was invited in October to speak at an economic development summit held by the Alle-Kiski Chamber of Commerce on the Try Indiana County First campaign. The campaign, launched last year, was designed to promote shopping and using local businesses in Indiana County before going elsewhere. The effort included Downtown Indiana, Renda Broadcasting, the Indiana Gazette, the Chamber, Indiana Mall, the Indiana County Tourist Bureau and several local businesses. Struzzi gave the presentation to about 50 people who seemed truly impressed with Indiana County and our willingness and ability to work together for the common good.
 
The Try Indiana County First awareness effort will continue this year. To learn more visit, www.tryindianacounty.com.
 
Struzzi attend the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s annual planning retreat at St. Vincent College to keep the Chamber and Indiana County embedded in regional planning and economic development efforts. County Commissioners Mike Baker and Rod Ruddock and Byron Stauffer, Indiana County Office of Planning & Development Executive Director, also attended.    
 
The Chamber has also concluded the process of selecting the 2017 Business Hall of Fame class. The next class will be announced at the annual member luncheon set for Friday, Dec. 2, at the Kovalchick Complex, and inducted at a formal dinner in June 2017.
 
“Once again, we have a great class of business and community leaders who will be permanently recognized in the Indiana County Business Hall of Fame,” Struzzi said.
 
The Chamber’s board nominating committee met in October to fill three positions for board members who have fulfilled their terms. Sherry Renosky, Indiana Mall Manager, Mark Zilner with Diamond Drugs and CJ Spadafora with Colonial Motor Mart will be stepping down at the end of the year. The new slate of board members that will be presented for approval at the annual lunch includes Laurie Kuzneski, Kuzneski Financial Group, Brett Stewart, CNB Bank, and Matt Tomb with First Commonwealth Bank. All three had been serving as ex-officio board members.                          
 
The Chamber is busy preparing for the luncheon and reservations are filling fast. The deadline to register is Nov. 22. Tickets are as follows:
 
Chamber Members
$75 per person
$725 per table of ten
 
Non-members
$100 per person
$975 per table of ten
 
Advanced registrations can be made now at jmountain@indianacountychamber.com or by calling the Chamber at 724-465-2511.
The Chamber is also accepting booth reservations for the 2017 Business Expo set for January 28 at the Indiana Mall. The registration form includes an early bird special for businesses that reserve a booth by Dec. 1 and a special rate for new members that would like to join and be part of the Business Expo. Expo sponsorship opportunities are also available. Visit the Chamber website, www.indianacountychamber.com for the registration packet.          
 
The Chamber had several successful member and community events in October including a ribbon cutting ceremony at HR Steinhouse, Business After Hours at Hillsdale Nursing and Rehabilitation, a Brains and Grains on Corporate Wellness, Happy Hours at the RBG Grill, and a Chamber Check-in at St. Andrews Village.
 
Related to promotion, the annual visit of the KDKA CBS Radio1020 AM Morning Show featuring Larry Richert and John Shumway occurred Oct. 25. The show, hosted by the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations at the Jimmy Stewart Indiana County Airport, went very well showcasing economic opportunities, recreation and everything Indiana County has to offer to KDKA’s vast audience across the region and globe. Struzzi also did an interview with the National Chamber Review. The Chamber and Indiana County will be featured in an upcoming edition of this national publication.          

by ICCC on January 15th, 2016

News for Immediate Release:
Jan. 15, 2016
 
Optimism, Encouragement and Opportunity discussed at January Chamber Board Meeting 
 
Indiana, PA – The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce held its monthly Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, Jan. 14, at St. Andrews Village.
 
Chamber news and events, the state budget crisis, positive developments at the Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park and the 119 Business Park and opportunity for positive news across Indiana County was shared.
 
Call to Order
Board Chairman Greg Sipos with First Commonwealth Bank started the meeting with the Pledge of Allegiance. The November 2015 board meeting minutes and December 2015 financial reports were approved. There was no board meeting in December due to the annual membership luncheon.
 
Sipos introduced two new ex-officio members to the board, Laurie Kuzneski with the Kuzneski Financial Group, and Matt Tomb with First Commonwealth Bank. Sipos also welcomed three new board members, Elizabeth Hutton from K&L Estate, Rich Fiscus with S&T Bank, and Dave Brocious with the Marcellus Shale Coalition. Hutton and Fiscus had been filling unexpired board positions and Brocious was serving as an ex-officio.                  
 
Promoting the Positives and Potential
During the meeting, an encouraging and insightful discussion occurred about many of the unsung efforts underway to sustain, market, and grow Indiana’s economy. Though much of this hard work doesn’t make the headlines, the fruits of those labors are beginning to ripen.
 
Commissioner Rod Ruddock started the conversation after a constituent voiced concerns at a recent commissioner’s meeting about rumors and the perception that not enough is being done by county leaders to create and protect jobs and attract businesses to Indiana County. While unfounded, that unfortunately is the public perception, and it needs to change.
 
Through the Indiana County Center for Economic Operations (CEO), which includes the Chamber, Indiana County Tourist Bureau, Indiana County Development Corporation (ICDC), County Commissioners, Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), and is staffed by the Indiana County Office of Planning & Development, diligent efforts have been underway for years to market and grow Indiana County. The challenge is that much of that focus related to advertising and promotion has been on markets outside this area in order to attract businesses, people and jobs here. Indiana County residents most likely do not realize all that occurs outside the local area. 
 
“We need to do more public relations,” Ruddock said. “We have worked extremely hard.”
 
Indiana County Office of Planning & Development Executive Director Byron Stauffer said his staff spends 70-75% of their time working with local companies to keep and grow jobs here.  And many local companies are growing.
 
“It’s a lot easier to retain what we have,” Stauffer said. “We are seeing opportunities as a result of all of these efforts.”      
 
Stauffer added that the CEO, among other projects and initiatives, is developing an economic and workforce development plan for Indiana County, a commercial real estate database, and targeted engagement with regional economic development agencies like the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance and the Allegheny Conference, among others. In addition, the CEO recently launched a revamped website, www.indianacountyceo, highlighting all that Indiana County has to offer.         
 
While there are obvious challenges with the energy industry and the detrimental impacts on jobs in the county, much of that is beyond local control due to federal regulations. Conversely, there are a lot of positives in Indiana County both tangible in the form of new business in the area and intangible in the sense of community and a quality of life that’s hard to find elsewhere.
 
“We have a great sense of community here,” said Todd Brice, S&T Bank President. “We need to share what we have.” 
 
All of these opportunities and successes need to be shared more locally to ensure confidence and faith in our local residents and communities. Indiana County is a much better place economically, civically and culturally than many may realize.
 
Robin Gorman with IUP mentioned a growing healthcare network in Indiana Regional Medical Center, IUP’s ongoing expansion and renovation, the new Hilton Garden Inn at the KCAC, new business parks, and more positive progress in our downtown areas and around the county.
 
“Where else is that happening?” she said rhetorically. “Slow and steady wins the race.  Our strength in this county is working together to keep the great assets we have and grow what we don’t. It is unrealistic, especially in this erratic economic environment to think we can constantly ‘hit one out of the park’ all the time. Most places around the state are not in a position to grow and are thankful just to maintain what they have. Many federal and state regulations create economic uncertainty and economic constraints unnecessarily. Those things we can only control at the voting booth. However the adverse consequences are a reality that cause private businesses to make decisions they don’t want to have to make. This is an economic reality that happens all over the world that we are not immune from. That is why the slow and steady focus to continuously develop our infrastructure and position ourselves for opportunities will keep us growing. We need to better communicate the positives and brag more about every incremental successes. We have a lot to be proud of!” 
 
New Downtown Indiana Director David Janusek, who attended the meeting as a community representative, recently moved to Indiana County. Janusek summarized the conversation well with his remarks from a newcomer’s perspective.
 
“There is a real sense of working together here,” he emphasized. “The partnerships and the quality of life are great. You don’t find that elsewhere.” 
 
The Chamber, CEO, and other groups are dedicated to growing and sustaining Indiana County’s economy, workforce and opportunity for all residents. Those efforts may fly under the radar, but the residents of Indiana County need to know that hard work is occurring, and those successes are becoming clear.                                               
 
Chamber Update 
Chamber President Jim Struzzi said the annual luncheon in December was a great success thanks to the more than 400 people who attended, keynote speaker Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference, the staff at the Kovalchick Complex and Aramark, and overall community and sponsor support. Struzzi said Yablonsky gave a tremendous presentation that was poignant, honest, visionary and helpful for Indiana County and the region. The speech and overall luncheon video can be viewed on the Chamber’s website, www.indianacountychamber.com.
 
The Chamber added four new members and had 33 renewals in December. The Chamber overall added 75 new members in 2015 brining the total membership base to 676 currently.
 
“We are seeing a lot of interest in Chamber membership and involvement, which shows that people are interested and appreciative about what we’re doing to help Indiana County’s business community,” Struzzi said.
 
Struzzi said a new digital touch-screen monitor will be installed soon next to the Business Hall of Fame display at the Kovalchick Complex. The interactive screen will access the new Hall of Fame website and allow visitors to watch videos and learn more about all of the inductees, their business successes and community achievements. Visit the Chamber’s website and click the Hall of Fame tab on the top menu to access the new site. In an effort to avoid a conflict with the Downtown Decathlon, the 2016 Business Hall of Fame induction dinner has been moved to Thursday, June 9, at the Kovalchick Complex. Tickets are $75. Advanced registrations can be made by email at jmountain@indianacountychamber.com or by calling the Chamber at 724-465-2511. Additional information will be forthcoming. 
   
The Chamber is also preparing for the annual Business Expo set for Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Indiana Mall. More than 57 businesses and organizations have already registered to participate. In addition, Indiana Regional Medical Center will be doing health screenings and more in the former Old Navy location plus there will be live music, entertainment and give-a-ways all day. Everyone is encouraged to attend.
 
IUP
Gorman said the University is gearing for the start of the spring semester Jan. 19 and the grand opening and ribbon cutting celebration for the new Humanities and Social Sciences building planned for January 22.
 
During the meeting, Gorman also reviewed a new publication from IUP, Cutting-Edge Conferences, that highlights some of the many venues, eateries and amenities available to the community on campus. Visit www.iup.edu to learn more.
 
“A lot of things are available on campus that people really don’t know about,” she said.   
 
County Commissioners
Commissioner Ruddock said the newly reorganized commissioners continue to work through the reassessment issues. They are also focusing on the future and where Indiana County needs to be, particularly related to workforce development and engaging students at young ages.    
              
State Government
House Majority Leader Dave Reed attended Thursday’s meeting providing a recap of the many challenges over the past seven months dealing with state budget debacle.
 
“It’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride,” he said.
 
The challenge is still ahead as the Governor’s new budget for 2016-17 will be presented in less than a month, while the 2015-16 budget is still not fully passed.
 
Joe Pittman with Sen. Don White’s office said beyond the budget issues, they are focusing on legislation that will help the energy industry statewide and locally while finding ways provide more natural gas infrastructure - residential and commercial - where none exists now.
 
“We are looking for incentives for gas companies to move into more rural areas,” Pittman said. He added that this would have positive economic impact for Indiana County.
 
Tourism
Gregg Van Horn, president of the Indiana County Tourist Bureau (ICTB) said they are proud to be a part of the continuing “Try Indiana County First” campaign, which launched back in November. One goal of the campaign is to help educate local shoppers on the benefits of shopping local.  If each resident would shift some of their spending dollars to businesses in Indiana County, it would provide new economic growth into local communities and the county.  The campaign is a result of the joint efforts of the Tourist Bureau, the Chamber, Downtown Indiana, Indiana Mall, Renda Broadcasting, the 700 Shop, Henry Hall, and the branding agency, Planful.
 
The Indiana County Tourist Bureau was one of three main sponsors presenting the 2016 Fire & Ice Festival, in Downtown Indiana. An estimated crowd of more than 350 people enjoyed the family fun festivities. The festival included a breakfast at Gatti Pharmacy, live ice carving demonstrations, free admission to a Jimmy Stewart movie at the Museum, ice hockey shooting competition, and a chili cook-off at H. B. Culpeppers. The Tourist Bureau has committed to being a key sponsor again in 2017. 
 
The 2016 Indiana County Tourist Bureau calendar is completed and being distributed.  
This year's calendar includes photography from a talented local photographer, Anthony Frazier. The calendar, which includes a scrapbook theme design, promotes the annual events of Tourist Bureau members.
 
Van Horn, who is also with the Indiana County Tree Growers Association, said they had a great year selling Indiana County Christmas trees. Sales were up and the industry is doing well.    
 
Transportation
Stauffer said work for the Route 286 US 422 Interchange West project is expected to begin in March, weather permitting. Work includes widening, signals, turn lanes and other improvements on Route 286 from Walmart to Louise Drive, the entrance to the State Police Barracks and Creps United Publications. This project will also provide turning lanes and signals for access to the developing Windy Ridge Business & Technology Park.
 
Work also continues to update the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP). A draft of the 4-year plan is expected this month.                
 
Real Estate
The local housing market appears to have closed out 2015 sales consistent with previous years, according to Elizabeth Hutton with Kuzneski and Lockard Real Estate. Thanks to mild weather in December and early January, the housing market has remained busy.
 
Hutton said work underway by the Center for Economic Operations to create a commercial real estate database will be a useful tool to help market properties Indiana County. Previously a one-stop commercial real estate database did not exist.
 
“This is so important because there isn’t one commercial database,” she said. “Businesses have to go all over and subscriptions are expensive.”
 
Indiana County Development Corporation
The new 200-acre Windy Ridge Business and Technology Park on Route 286 and the Route 119 Business Park in Coral-Graceton area are two key developments for Indiana County’s future that are making good headlines.
 
The advancement of a new Holiday Inn Express at Windy Ridge was recently announced in the news. ICDC President Jim Wiley said construction could begin in early spring. He added that work to construct the entrance from Route 286 and internal roads in the business park have progressed well. And the construction of the new hotel – the second in Indiana County in the past year – could spark additional development in the business park.
 
“There’s more in the works,” Wiley said. “You can see what it is and the potential it has.”
 
Sipos added Windy Ridge - and all of the work that’s been done for its creation and success behind the scenes - is one the efforts that has been occurring outside the public eye.
 
“People don’t see all the work, all the things we’ve been talking about,” he said. “This is a momentum game and we have it now. This is a great business park – now let’s fill it!”                        
 
In addition, discussions are underway for several businesses to expand at other ICDC properties including the Interchange Center and Corporate Campus Office Building. Once leases are formally executed, public announcements will follow.
 
With the PennDOT roadway improvements on Route 286 getting started, Windy Ridge now being developed, increasing interest in the Route 119 Business Park, and current businesses expanding, the coming year looks to be one of significant economic development news for Indiana County. Visit www.indianacountyceo.com to learn more about these sites and other opportunities in Indiana County.  
 
 
Communities
Josh Rosenberger with the 700 Shop thanked everyone who supported the Try Indiana County First campaign during the holiday season. The effort was successful and will continue to keep reminding people about the benefits of shopping local. Try Indiana County First will be participating in the Chamber’s Business Expo on Jan. 30 at the Indiana Mall.
 
Rosenberger also shared some great news from Blairsville Community Development Authority. The Western PA Conservancy has funded two applications for two boat launches in Blairsville Borough. This will allow non-motorized boaters to enter the Conemaugh River at one end of the borough and paddle around the southeast end of town to the southwest of town in around one hour. These improved boat launches should encourage people to enjoy “active” recreation and even attract visitors to the town.  This type of activity is what young employees enjoy and may help attract businesses that employ outdoor enthusiast that will not have to leave the Borough to recreate. This, in addition of the Blairsville Riverfront Trail will make southern Indiana County a more attractive place to live, visit, start a business. The Chamber recently met with BCDA Board Member Linda Gwinn to discuss, among other things, the second annual “Paddle and Picnic” to be held in Blairsville on Saturday, May 14. Last year, the Conemaugh Valley Conservancy, the Chamber and the BCDA hosted about 40 kayakers on the Conemaugh River and the BCDA treated the guests to a picnic with donated tents, food, refreshments, flower arrangements, music, door prizes, and more. The event was so well received that the Chamber added it to the annual calendar of events for Chamber members.
 
Young Professionals Organization
Luke Shively, Chair of the Chamber’s Young Professionals Organization, said the YPO continues to grow with more than 145 members currently. They have had some great events recently and continue to create new idea and activities to engage young professionals and develop future business and civic leaders. 
 
A YPO mixer is planned on Jan. 20 at Spaghetti Benders. On the community service side, the YPO will also be helping with the upcoming Cold Hands Warm Hearts event. To help create unity and promote the young professionals, YPO t-shirts are being created and will be available at a reduced price through the Chamber. More information on the t-shirts will be released soon.     
 
Any Chamber member or employee of a Chamber member age 40 or under can join the YPO. Individuals can also join as a “Chamber Friend”. Visit the Chamber’s website to apply. To learn more, visit the YPO page on the Chamber’s website or on Facebook.
 
Visit the YPO Facebook and Chamber’s YPO website pages to learn more and get involved.
 
Membership Events Update
The Chamber has many upcoming member and community events including a Check-In at the Chamber office on January 20; the Business Expo at the Indiana Mall January 30; a Chamber Chat for new members on February 3 at Eat-n-Park, and Business After Hours at Uptown Fitness on February 4 and Smith, Lewis and Chess (at the Artist’s Hand) on February 11.   
 
Struzzi said the Chamber will be publishing a comprehensive membership guide that provides details and step-by-step instructions on how businesses can fully utilize all of the benefits that come with membership. The draft guide has been completed and should be available in the next few weeks. 
 
The Chamber Board of Directors will meet next on February 11.