Awards & Events

Penn-Northwest Marks 30 Years of Developing Jobs

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HERMITAGE, Pa. – Celebrating its 30th anniversary Thursday, Penn-Northwest Development Corp. and its president and CEO, Randy Seitz, reported results from the past year and recognized companies with Economic Impact Awards.

Seitz says his staff worked on 767 business leads, 70 proposals, 14 site visits and ultimately four new companies made Mercer County their home in fiscal 2015, which ended June 30.

“We want to ratchet that up for next year and bring in more leads, send out more proposals, get more site visits, and we know that if we can get them here, we can close the deal,” Seitz said at the Penn-Northwest annual meeting.

The final economic tally from Penn-Northwest: 398 jobs created or retained in fiscal 2015 and $17.6 million in capital investments, including more than $4 million from local companies.

Those numbers were down slightly from the year before, but Seitz observed it’s the past 30 years – and the next 30 – that are important.

“We have companies like General Electric building locomotive engines and shipping them around the globe. Grove City Premium Outlets is bringing millions of people here every year,” Seitz said. “There have been more than 500 expansion projects, $1.3 billion in investment and 25,000 jobs. We couldn’t be more excited to celebrate those things today.”

Financially, Penn-Northwest is continuing to grow as revenues reached $511,009 and expenses were cut to $627,630. For several years, Seitz related, the development corporation drew down from reserve funds to balance its budget. When he came on board, he began working on reducing how much was drawn from those reserves.

In his first year, nearly $300,000 was pulled from that fund. In fiscal 2015, it was $159,216.

“We’re about two years away from getting that down to zero,” Seitz stated.

Membership has also grown with 15 members added over the past year. Revenue from memberships totaled $156,583.

Penn-Northwest also bought its first commercial property, 33 Chestnut Ave. in Sharon. The Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Rep. Mike Kelly, R-3 Pa., and several other tenants occupy the building.

Sharing the building with those tenants, sites committee chairman Scott Kalamenek said, will help reduce and share expenses as well as put Penn-Northwest closer to groups it works with, expediting some processes, he hopes.

Looking to the future, two companies scouting Mercer County attended Penn-Northwest’s annual meeting: Mangrove Jack, a boat trailer manufacturer from Banjup, Western Australia, and Velfera Auto Design from Lewisville, Texas.

Velfera has signed a letter of intent to buy 200 acres and construct two 80,000-square-foot buildings.

“These will be jobs on assembly lines building vehicles. But the exciting part is that, as with any manufacturing plant with automobiles, we need suppliers,” Seitz said. “We need guys making electric wire harnesses, folks building chasses and so on. That means more buildings, more jobs and more opportunities for Mercer County.”

Mangrove Jack hasn’t yet decided on a site, managing director Kyal Ager said, but Mercer County is a strong contender. The company has also looked at sites around Houston and Atlanta.

“Since we’ve been here, it’s been fantastic. The community has been amazing,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot and met a lot of people. Every person has been supportive. It’s hard to find a negative and we think we can have a successful operation here.”

During the business portion of the meeting, Jim Grasso of Liberty Steel Products was elected chairman of the board of directors, succeeding Lew Kachulis of Synergy Comp Insurance Co. Jack Laeng, former CEO of Primary Health Network, was elected to the board.

Most impressive about the day, Grasso said, was the crowd who turned out for the luncheon. Some 200 people were on hand for the meeting, Penn-Northwest reported.

“It’s an amazing turnaround. Four or five years ago, there may have been 40 or 50 people at this event. Today there are more than 200,” he said. “It just shows the life we’ve brought to this organization.”

One of the biggest challenges Penn-Northwest and the businesses of Mercer County face is the aging population, Grasso said.

“Much of northwestern Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio is aging. We have to find a way to keep our kids coming back to this valley,” he said.

Receiving the New Industry Economic Impact Awards were Brewtus Brewing Co. and the Hope Center for Arts & Technology in Sharon, Right Pointe in Sharpsville and Living Treasures Wild Animal Park in New Castle.

The Local Industry Economic Impact Awards were presented to Davis Alloys and Winner Development/ Valley Shenango Economic Development Corp. in Sharon, Keystone Blind Association and Whole Life Services in Hermitage.

Vicki Poe, a member of Penn-Northwest’s new- industry committee, Rien Construction owner Paul O’Brien, Edgewood Surgical Center CEO Michael Torn and Chuck Jackson, who serves on the Penn-Northwest board and is Penn Power’s area manager, were given the Improvement Movement Team Champion awards.

John Mastrian was presented with the economic development agency’s inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award. He is a founding member and current board member of Penn-Northwest, served as partner at Black, Bashor & Porsche, works with the Strimbu Memorial Fund and is veteran who served in Vietnam.

“The only thing I wanted to do after I came back to this community was to make a difference,” Mastrian said as he accepted the award. “I think it’s the attitude. Mercer County has the attitude to say, ‘We can do it.’ A lot of other counties don’t have that. And we’ve developed a culture of giving back. The bottom line is that working together is what will move us forward.”

Pictured: Lew Kachulis presents John Mastrian with the Lifetime Achievement Award for his work with Penn-Northwest Development Corp. Pictured with them is Paul O’Brien, who received the organization’s Community Volunteer award.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.