Lawrence County Chamber To Launch ‘Forward Lawrence’

NEW CASTLE, Pa. – The Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce announced a new economic and community development initiative Friday as it presented the 2019 Impact Awards. 

The initiative, Forward Lawrence, will engage a national site location consulting firm to study Lawrence County and gather community input to provide recommendations that will serve as the basis for the chamber’s next program of work, said Alex McCoy, chamber CEO.      

The chamber has sent requests for qualifications to 19 site consultant firms and to the Site Selection Guild, a group of about 50 consultants, McCoy said. He also posted the RFQ request on his LinkedIn page. The chamber want to engage a consultant to provide “an honest assessment of our community,” identifying its “true strengths” as well as areas for improvement. 

Information will be used to create marketing messages to targeted industries that make sense for the community to pursue. McCoy said he hopes to have a consultant hired to announce at the chamber’s annual meeting in March.  

“Successful plans and successful teams always play to their strengths,” he said. The New England Patriots have won so many Super Bowls in recent years, he observed, because they show up, understand and play to their strengths, which makes them difficult to defeat. 

“We’re not looking to tell anybody – any of our partners or stakeholders – what they will do,” he cautioned. “Rather, it’s about us listening to you, what you want for your community, and how can we, at the chamber of commerce, work with you to create partnerships to attract the resources needed to build that vision we share for ourselves.”   

The chamber presented !mpact Awards to seven companies and organizations: 

  • Container Services Inc., a Kansas-based manufacturer known for its bear-shaped honey containers that opened its second plant in Neshannock Township.
  • Custom Etch Inc. a chemical and laser-etching company that recently added 9,450 square feet to its New Castle site.
  • Hickory Run Energy LLC, a $900 million natural gas plant under construction near North Beaver Township.
  • UPMC, which has spent $20 million over the past three years to upgrade its Hillman Cancer Center locations in New Castle, Farrell and Greenville, Pa.
  • Westminster College, which is expanding its Hoyt Science Center.
  • Disability Options Network, which provides opportunities for persons with disabilities and low-income families in the county.
  • Nova Destinations, which has expanded from its Nova Cellars Winery to operate four venues in the county, all of which raise funds that are put back in the community. 

Hickory Run Energy is in the “very late stage of construction” and expects to be operating by April, said Brock Shealy, chief administrative officer, in accepting the award. Local contractors represented a “significant portion” of the power plant’s construction, he noted.

“We looked for a site where we could get what we needed, starting with community support” and the workforce needed to build and operate the plant, he said. Friday’s award was important to Hickory Run Energy because it’s “recognition by the community of something that’s important to it.”

Additionally, the chamber honored the 17 graduates of the relaunched Leadership Lawrence County program. The 2018-19 Leadership Lawrence County class began with a two-day retreat at the Villa Maria Community Center, said Nic Bunker, quality manager of Ellwood City Forge Group and president of the class.

“We learned about ourselves as individuals and how to interact as a team,” Bunker said. “Notably, we came to the realization to accomplish anything of value we had to rely on each other and the resources of our community.” 

The group’s class project was to raise money for a gateway beautification project led by New Visions for Lawrence County, a local nonprofit.  

The partners behind Leadership Lawrence County’s relaunch spent more than $240,000 to restart the program, McCoy reported. 

“We want a return on investment,” he urged. “Please go out and change the world. Start with Lawrence County and help us transform lives together.” 

Pictured: Lawrence County Regional Chamber of Commerce CEO Alex McCoy

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