Growing Right Here for over 100 years.
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.