Plenty of Projects Underway in the Shenango Valley

HERMITAGE, Pa. – Penn-Northwest Development Corp. is in discussions with an e-commerce company interested in establishing a million-square-foot distribution center, an official with the economic development agency said Tuesday morning.

Gary Dovey, vice president of business development for Penn-Northwest, shared little more in terms of details about the project at the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce’s forecast breakfast, which was held at the Avalon Golf and Country Club at Buhl Park.

“It is under negotiation. It’s most likely going to start building sometime this year,” Dovey said.

Dovey was among the 20-plus speakers at the breakfast meeting, among them representatives of local economic development organizations, businesses and community organizations in the cities of Farrell, Hermitage and Sharon, as well as those from the borough of Sharpsville and Mercer County.

Topics at the breakfast included economic development and community improvement projects, tourism initiatives and infrastructure upgrades.  

“We often wonder what’s going on in the community and some of us aren’t necessarily as plugged in as we’d like to be,” said Shane Nugent, vice president of the Nugent Group and president of the chamber’s board of directors. “This gives us an opportunity to find out what’s going on.”

Efforts in Hermitage include work on a comprehensive plan and infrastructure projects, among them a proposed roundabout at East State Street and state Route 18 near the Shenango Valley Mall.

The updated plan, which should be completed this year, will provide a guideline for development, future land use, transportation and housing, “kind of a 30,000-foot view over the next 10 to 20 years,” reported Jeremy Coxe, the city’s assistant director of planning and development.

Even as he discussed now-filled downtown buildings, the new roundabout near downtown, initiatives to prioritize demolitions, bike lane projects and neighborhood growth, Sharon City Manager Bob Fiscus reflected on the early part of this decade, when he listened skeptically about plans to do bonfires on the Shenango River – the now-successful WaterFire Sharon festivals – modeled on a similar event Providence, R.I.

“The city looks nothing like it did back then,” Fiscus said.

Fiscus also met back then with an individual whom he thought, frankly, “might be out of his mind,” and who took him to a collapsing building that he wanted to transform into his “Batcave,” he recalled.

The aforementioned Batcave’s owner is developer Jim Landino, owner of JCL Development, who has spearheaded several downtown Sharon projects. Among them are the redevelopments of buildings throughout downtown, including the Jolley Industrial Supply property which he is converting to student housing for the adjacent Penn State University Shenango Campus.

“People thought I was absolutely insane in 2012,” Landino conceded. “I probably was. I think I operate very well in a piece of insanity.”

Landino’s company is in the process of redeveloping the Applegate Building. Its tenants will include a boutique shop and a restaurant specializing in artisan American cuisine.

“This is the kind of stuff that you are now driving away from the Valley to find,” he said. He also reported he recently purchased Carine and Co., an electrical products distributor that he is rebranding as JCL Energy. Landino said he plans to relocate the company to South Dock Street over the next month.    

Also in Sharon, Clancy Atkinson, president of Hemlock Wealth Management and Shenango Valley Economic Development Corp., discussed the ongoing efforts at the former Westinghouse property along Sharpsville Avenue, a 600,000-square-foot space now known as The Landing.

“How are you going to eat an elephant? One little bite at a time,” Atkinson said.

Local artists already occupy part of the space and talks are underway with a couple of steel manufacturers.

“Our main driving force is to put an aquaponics facility in the space,” he continued. Penn State is “on board with us doing this,” Atkinson said. Among the visitors over the past week were a group that has done 500 aquaponics facilities around the world, he reported.

While there were a lot of different development ideas and projects presented, Sherris Moreira, the Shenango Valley Chamber’s executive director, said she was pleased to hear the spirit of collaboration among the different communities.

She also was impressed with the number of infrastructure projects centered on recreational uses in the communities, including bike trails and river walks. “That is a draw for people to move here and live here,” she said.

Pictured: Jim Landino was among the speakers at the Shenango Valley Chamber of Commerce’s forecast breakfast. He detailed the projects his company, JDL Development, has underway.

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