Penn State Wilkes-Barre Grant Will Help Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber Expand Business Services

LEHMAN, PA — Penn State Wilkes-Barre will provide a $50,000 block grant to the Greater Wilkes-Barre Chamber of Commerce to expand business services in the Innovation Center.

The grant is the first step in acquiring funding to renovate a portion of the Innovation Center for the development of the Innovation Squared Project, including an entrepreneurial and business training lab.

Downtown Wilkes-Barre has become a hub for entrepreneurs, with the Innovation Center housing 14 businesses, Wilkes University’s Small Business Development Center and Wilkes University’s Allen P. Kirby Center for Free Enterprise.

The Innovation Squared Project will continue to fuel local entrepreneurship with a multi-faceted program designed to create high-wage e-commerce jobs, revitalization of downtown and workshop, according to the press release.

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Attorney General: Charges Filed Against Exeter Township (Luzerne County) Officials

Four Exeter Township officials are facing charges for inflated billing on a contract for an EMA building nearly a decade ago, state Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane announced today.
Charged were supervisors John E. Coolbaugh, Richard E. Overman, James W. Douse, and current secretary and former supervisor Mary F. Martin.
According to Kane, the case was referred to her office by Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis due to lack of resources.
According to the criminal complaint, the township received a $50,400 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) towards the cost of erecting a pre-fabricated EMS building in 2006.

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Bethlehem’s CRIZ Not Living Up To ‘Shovel-Ready’ Billing; Officials Explain Why

Bethlehem received a coveted City Revitalization and Improvement Zone because its application for the state economic development tool was chock-full of shovel-ready projects.

The incentive was expected to allow for plans for a Bass Pro Shops, convention center and second hotel at Sands Casino Resort Bethlehem to be approved by the middle of last year. Plans for the long-stalled redevelopment of Martin Tower also were supposed to be completed by mid-2014.

But now 16 months after Bethlehem’z CRIZ designation was awarded, most of the projects the incentive was supposed to springboard are still stalled.

Officials say anticipated redevelopment has been slowed by having to start a new city authority, getting answers from the state and by the fact that the CRIZ economic development benefits pale compared to Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone.

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Gov. Wolf Says Manufacturing Tax Credit Could Boost Pennsylvania Jobs, Industry

Pittsburgh may not be the steel town it once was, with the economy of the state’s second largest city these days tied more to hospitals and higher education than smoke stacks. But manufacturing is still a huge part of Pennsylvania’s economy.

The sector employs more than 571,000 people in the commonwealth — including more than 30,000 in the York-Hanover area alone.

The average compensation for someone who works in manufacturing, not just assembly line workers but plant managers and other executives, is more than $69,000. That’s well above Pennsylvania’s median household income, which was $52,548 in 2013, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

With manufacturing’s above-average wages, new Gov. Tom Wolf has identified increasing the number of manufacturing jobs as one of his top economic priorities.

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Scranton Councilman Worries New Union Contract Ties Hands In Exiting Act 47

Scranton could have a difficult time shedding its distressed city status because of the pay raises and other perks in the revised police contract, a city councilman warned.

The city has until 2020 to successfully exit the state’s Act 47 financially distressed municipalities program. The new seven-year police contract approved by a split city council Thursday and signed by Mayor Bill Courtright Friday will hinder the city because the contract locks in pay raises and benefits beyond 2020, said Councilman Bill Gaughan.

He questioned whether the contract extension would “tie the city’s hands” by eliminating the possibility of negotiating in 2017 savings in a new police contract, while at the same time locking in raises and benefits a year beyond the Act 47 deadline of 2020.

Mr. Courtright disagreed that the contract extension will make it more difficult for the city to successfully exit Act 47.

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Wolf Brings Urban Policy Expertise

HARRISBURG — Pennsylvania’s next governor knows all about distressed cities.

Gov.-elect Tom Wolf spent 12 years as president of Better York, a nonprofit bent on revitalizing the city of York. In that role, he worked closely with a nationally prominent urban expert who promotes regional solutions for urban woes.

As he prepares to take office Jan. 20, Wolf said he wants to lead a statewide discussion about how the future of older cities such as Scranton, inner ring suburbs and the surrounding townships are interrelated.

“What I bring to this is a real appreciation for what cities do,” he said in an interview.

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With $30.7 Million In State Grants, U.S. Steel Promises To Stay In Pennsylvania

English: The U.S. Steel Tower, located in Pitt...

English: The U.S. Steel Tower, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, with the new corporate logo of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

United States Steel Corp. is committed to keeping its headquarters in Pennsylvania, Gov. Tom Corbett said Friday as he announced the state was providing $30.7 million in grants for the Fortune 500 company to help rehabilitate some of its plants.

The company has not said publicly that it was looking to relocate from Pennsylvania, but there has been speculation about whether it would move to another site in the region when its lease at U.S. Steel Tower, Downtown, expires in 2017.

Corbett and administration officials acknowledged that they acted to secure a commitment from the company to stay in Pennsylvania based on fears — and not any knowledge — that it would exit the state.

“I think they were considering it,” said Corbett. The governor cited Chicago and Indiana, where U.S. Steel has its largest mill, as places where he thought it might relocate.

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Greensburg City Council Resolves To Seek Grant Applications For Projects

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Westmoreland County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Greensburg City Council on Monday unanimously approved resolutions seeking grant applications to fund two projects.

The city will seek a Multimodal Transportation Fund grant for a proposed health care district for the Fifth and Sixth wards.

The written resolution seeks a $2 million grant application through the state Department of Community and Economic Development and PennDOT.

Consultant Urban Design Associates of Pittsburgh and others put together the plan with the intent to enhance the two wards and spark development.

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Broke Shamokin, Pa., Seeks State Crutch That Few Cast Off

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northumberlan...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Northumberland County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

(Reuters) – Shamokin, Pennsylvania, tucked away in the coal country about 120 miles northwest of Philadelphia, has $800,000 of unpaid bills and can’t get a loan from a bank. It’s so broke, the gas service to city hall was temporarily cut off last month.

So the council for the city of 7,000 residents has agreed to seek entry to a state financial oversight program dating from 1987 that facilitates access to credit and permits the levying of certain taxes. Now, though, some lawmakers say the program is more like a trap than a benefit: municipalities get into it, and few get out.

Just seven of the 27 local governments to enter state oversight under the program, known as Act 47, have ever been released from it. As a result, legislators want to cap how long cities can stay under state oversight and, in the hardest cases, impose a municipal death penalty that amounts to disincorporation and a state takeover. The law was passed in a bid to help Pennsylvania cities battered by the decline of the American steel industry in the 1970s and ’80s.


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Wilkes-Barre Looking To Develop Downtown Sites

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Luzerne County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

WILKES-BARRE, PA — The city is shopping its downtown properties cleared during emergency demolition and sweetening the offer with the prospect of tax exemptions associated with a Keystone Opportunity Zone.

The city condemned its vacant structures last October that were in danger of collapse and entered a $194,861 contract to tear them down while leaving stand two other privately owned buildings located in the middle of the cluster.

Earlier this week, the city put out a request for proposals for development of the properties at 69, 71, 73-75 S. Main St. with a March 6 response deadline. The city would like to see multistory, mixed-use development on the site to include ground-floor specialty retail shops and restaurants and office or residential space above, similar to the University Corners property across the street.

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Companies Honored At Best Places To Work In PA Event

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

LANCASTER, PA – An investment company and an insurance brokerage firm were named the top two “Best Places to Work in Pennsylvania” for 2013 at the awards ceremony held here this evening.

Edward Jones of Lemoyne, Cumberland County, and the Philadelphia-based insurance brokerage firm, The Graham Company, topped the list for the large- and small/medium-sized categories, respectively.

Team Pennsylvania Foundation joined the Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) and the Central Penn Business Journal in announcing Pennsylvania’s 100 Best Places to Work at the Lancaster County Convention Center.

Governor Tom Corbett attended the event, offering brief comments that celebrated the companies and their employees who made the Best Places to Work list. The governor also personally congratulated each winning company as they came forward to receive their award.

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Centralia Residents Free To Stay After Settling Suit Against State

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Columbia County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Columbia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All they ever wanted was to be left alone, free to live out their lives in the central Pennsylvania coal town whose population had fled an underground mine fire.

After 20 years, the residents of Centralia have finally gotten their wish.

A lengthy battle over eminent domain culminated this week when eight residents settled their lawsuit against state officials who had been trying to evict them from their condemned homes – the only homes left standing after most of this Columbia County town was razed in the 1980s due to a still-burning coal-mine fire.

The settlement, notice of which was filed in U.S. District Court, allows the residents to stay in their homes for as long as they live. It also includes a cash payout of $349,500.

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Caterpillar Distribution Center To Stay In York County

Map of York County, Pennsylvania, United State...

Map of York County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Caterpillar will keep its distribution center – along with its 200-employee workforce – in York County.

The decision, announced Monday at the company’s Memory Lane facility, comes about one year after Caterpillar said it might move the Springettsbury Township logistics/distribution operation to another site somewhere in the eastern United States.

This year, Caterpillar celebrates its 60th anniversary in York County.

“We do have a long history here,” said Jim Dugan, chief corporate spokesman for the Illinois-based heavy equipment manufacturer. “We have a great base of employees here who know this business and have been doing this type of work for some period of time. That’s not to be underestimated.”

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Reading Gets State Designation As Keystone Community

Picture 533Editor’s note:  We are very pleased to see that the leadership is trying to move Reading forward and improve the city.

Led by two dozen chanting cheerleaders from Reading High School, a procession of city and state officials this morning marched down Penn Street to a Penn Square news conference to excitedly announce the city has gotten what it began seeking a year ago:

That’s state designation as a Keystone Community, which approves its inclusion in the Main Street program and its right to seek state economic development help and millions in potential grants.

“You’re taking the challenges you face head on . . . you’re thinking strategically,” C. Alan Walker, secretary of the state Department of Community and Economic Development, told the crowd as he announced the designation.

“One of the best things we can do to preserve our downtowns.  They’re worth preserving,” he said.

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer said it’s always good to see something come to fruition.

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Harrisburg Parking Deal Would Preserve Local Control Through CREDC And Increase City Revenue, Sources Say

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Dauphin County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Control of Harrisburg‘s parking garages will remain local, and annual revenues into the city’s coffers will increase millions over current figures under the terms of the long-term lease of parking assets being negotiated by the city’s state-appointed receiver, according to multiple sources close to the deal who spoke on condition of anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak on the record.

Leasing the assets directly to an outside for-profit operation, as had originally been planned, raised concerns within the city that parking rates could increase out-of-control to boost profits while the assets themselves could languish and degrade in the hands of a company with no long-term interest in the welfare of the city.

What’s more, according to multiple sources, the on-going financial plight of Harrisburg and fluctuations in the bond market made private bond financing less attractive to the companies originally interested in such a deal.

Although the basic structure of the parking deal has been previously reported, new details are emerging.

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Reading Eligible For Revitalization Funds; May Miss Application Deadline

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The state has given Reading the eligibility it wants to compete for a highly prized City Revitalization and Improvement Zone that, similar to Allentown, would use state and local tax revenue to attract jobs and millions of dollars in private investment.

But it’s still uncertain whether Reading will be one of the two pilot cities the state chooses in the first round this year, or even whether the city will apply in time.

Lancaster already has submitted its own proposal, and Bethlehem is expected to shortly.  The second round for two more cities doesn’t begin until 2016.

Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer could not be reached for comment.

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BOSS 2020 Seeks Boost For Sinking Spring

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sinking Spring‘s BOSS 2020 organization is getting ready to ask the state Department of Community and Economic Development for a $300,000 grant for its bold plan to remake the 100-year-old borough.

According to officials, $250,000 would supplement a $346,860 PennDOT grant for sidewalk improvement on the downtown’s west side.

The two-part project would consist of putting a sidewalk on Penn Avenue between Park and Wynnewood avenues, and widening the sidewalk on Penn Avenue from Columbia Avenue to Hull Street to six feet.

Right now, according to Sam Loth, consulting coordinator for BOSS 2020, the sidewalk is only 21/2 to 3 feet wide in some portions, which sometimes forces pedestrians to walk on the road.

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Streetlights Proposal A Nonstarter For Reading City Council

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

City residents have been taxed to the hilt and need help from the state to help fix Reading’s financial woes, council members said at a finance, audit and budget committee meeting Monday.

A passionate discussion about the state of the city developed during the meeting, spurred by talk of a proposal to start charging residents for streetlights.

The administration has floated the idea of charging residents for streetlights that provide light to their properties.  Carole B. Snyder, managing director, earlier presented the proposal to council, saying it would free money to pave streets.

The city currently uses money from the state liquid-fuels fund to help pay for electricity for streetlights.

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Bill To Boost Neighborhood Climate Could Freeze Out Reading

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two competing bills are being introduced in the state Senate that would expand Allentown’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone – unique and highly successful but also highly criticized – to other Pennsylvania cities.

One bill would include Reading; the other would not.

The prize for any city is the zones’ new ability to retain state personal income and sales tax revenue generated in the zone, using it to repay bond issues for demolition, infrastructure and even new buildings.

But both bills, in answer to charges that Allentown’s gains are the state’s losses, would limit how much state tax can be kept locally.

Sen. Lloyd Smucker, a Lancaster Republican, introduced the first bill in early May to authorize what he calls City Revitalization and Improvement Zones.  Its pilot program applies only to cities with 40,000 to 70,000 people.

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Lancaster City Redevelopment Authority Votes To Become Equity Investor In $4.8 Million Apartment Project

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Lancaster County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Until recently, when real estate developers wanted an extra financial push to make a city redevelopment project viable, they turned to state officials.

But grant funding through the state’s Department of Community and Economic Development has all but dried up, and competition for the remaining funds is fierce.

On Tuesday, the Lancaster City Redevelopment Authority agreed to step into the gap to make a project happen.

Authority board members voted to become equity investors in a $4.8 million apartment construction project.

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