Penn-Northwest Looks to Capitalize on $3.5M Grant

GREENVILLE, Pa. – More than $3 million in grant funds from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania could lure major development projects to Greenville-Reynolds Industrial Park, Penn-Northwest Development Corp. Executive Director Rod Wilt said.

What Wilt characterizes as “some potentially really groundbreaking positive things” at the park was among the topics discussed during Penn-Northwest’s annual meeting Wednesday at Thiel College. 

“We don’t have a fish on the hook yet, but we have a lot that we’ve been talking to,” he said.

The $3.5 million in site-specific funds were authorized by language in a capital budget bill about a decade ago, and the placeholder grant was about to sunset, Wilt said. Through state officials including the Governor’s Action Team, Penn-Northwest learned there was a company – “and maybe even two” – that were looking at Mercer County for project sites.

Specifically, they were seeking a large site with proximity to rail, highway and utilities.

“When we added all that up, it could only be one place in the county, and that was at the Greenville-Reynolds development,” Wilt said. “This first $3.5 million is the first tranche that we hope will support a project. Although we do not have a company named yet, we do have a couple that are working through the process.”

The funds would go toward a second development within Reynolds East Business Park, said Brad Gosser, executive director and vice president at Greenville-Reynolds Development Corp.

“We have phase one with all the infrastructure. This would be phase two with the phase three coming,” Gosser said.

The money will be used for infrastructure improvements such as water, sewer, gas, electric and roads. He could not provide a figure for how many jobs might result with no identified end user but said he hoped for between 150 and 400.

“It’s really getting our sites ready,” Gosser said. “The speed of marketing today is if you don’t have the site ready, people can’t wait.”

Penn-Northwest also is seeking additional grant funds to put together a site package in the range of $5 million to $7 million, Wilt said. 

“We are looking to have some decisions made over the next six months,” he said. “It’s going to take us that long to complete a lot of the studies on what it’s going to cost to bring utilities to the site.”  

Wilt also touched on another initiative – the Mercer County Innovation Fund, that Penn-Northwest, in collaboration with the Ben Franklin Technology Partnership and local partners will launch by January. Local partners including Community Hope Investment Partnership, Shenango Valley Enterprise Zone, the city of Hermitage and Penn-Northwest raised $410,000 for the fund, which the Ben Franklin Partnership will provide to assist Mercer County startups.  

“One of the weaknesses that we had in our local program was the topic of innovation,” he said. “What do we do when a company wants to launch from Mercer County that doesn’t have a piece of real estate or a piece of equipment that we can finance?”

During the fiscal year that ended June 30, Penn-Northwestgenerated 47 industry leads, sent 44 prospect proposals and conducted nine site tours around Mercer County, leading to two new companies locating in the county, WIlt said. Economic development efforts led to direct and indirect investment of nearly $5.4 million, he said.

Penn-Northwest also used $200,000 from the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development to launch its Future Leaders program, an outreach effort to keep young people from leaving the area. In June, lawmakers allocated another $100,000 for the initiative.

“It’s incumbent upon all of us to do something about this 30-year population decline that we’ve experienced in this county,” Wilt said. “The only way we’re going to fix it is to get the message to young people that this is a great place to live, learn, work and play. We’ve got to change this paradigm.”

Penn-Northwest finished the fiscal year with net assets of $3.37 million, for a second consecutive year of revenues in excess of expenses, reported Bruce Lawrence, partner in McGill, Power, Bell & Associates, reported.  

“This is probably my sixth year involved with the audit and I’d have to say this was by far the best year,” he said.

Membership also grew over the past year, with Penn-Northwest adding 37 new members, Wilt said.

“Since you joined as executive director, you’ve really transformed Penn-Northwest,” Susan Traverso, president of Thiel College, remarked,

Traverso, head of Penn-Northwest’s governance committee, reported the following recommendations for its board of directors to the membership, which were approved at the meeting:

  • Bradley Mantzell, Gilbert’s Risk Solutions, chairman
  • Gosser, Greenville-Reynolds
  • Mercer County Commissioner Matthew McConnell, second vice-chairman
  • Robert Donatelli, Donatelli Electric, secretary
  • David Grande, First National Bank, treasurer
  • John Thigpen, ILSCO Extrusions, immediate past chairman
  • Wilt, executive director

Recommended for additional three-year terms were Ethan Keeler of PNC Bank, Zach Lenhart of UPMC Horizon and Traverso. New members recommended for three-year terms were Sarah Palmer of Mercer County State Bank and Carol Paul of Aqua Pennsylvania.

Penn-Northwest also recognized various individuals and organizations, including presenting its first Homegrown Award, an outgrowth of the Future Leaders program, to Kaylee Bender of American Hospitality Group in Grove City.

Kaylee, Charlie and Joe Bender accept the Homegrown Award.

Improvement Movement Team Champion awards were presented to Doug Thomas, founder of Thomas Construction in Grove City, who received the Lifetime Achievement Award; Ben Wagner, regional external affairs consultant for FirstEnergy; and Niki Vigna, senior energy consult at Premier Power Solutions, Grove City. 

Local Industry Economic Impact Awards were presented to Compliance Environmental Services in Hermitage, Jamestown Coating Technologies in Jamestown, and JCL Energy in Sharon.  

Pictured at top: Rod Wilt, executive director of Penn-Northwest Development Corp.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.