sharon council

Sharon Council Awards Businesses $830K in ARPA Grants

SHARON, Pa. – A long-awaited aquaponics operation at The Landing should be up and running in early 2023, one of several projects being supported by American Rescue Plan Act funds awarded to the city.

Sharon City Council approved $830,000 in grants Wednesday from the city’s ARPA allocation to assist local revitalization projects, including nearly $400,000 to support establishment of the aquaponics facility at The Landing, which occupies about half of the former Westinghouse plant complex on Sharpsville Avenue.

In late July, the city announced $1.3 million in ARPA-funded grants for downtown development projects.

“With this round, we are funding six business and organizations to move four projects forward,” City Manager Bob Fiscus said in announcing the grants. “We are really focused on revitalization in our grant choices to help build up our business community with the ARPA funds.”

This round was focused specifically on helping to develop the Sharpsville Avenue corridor as well as to revitalize the downtown center, he said.

“We’re excited to help existing businesses to expand and to bring in new business to Sharon,” City Council President Molly Bundrant added. “We’re so grateful we received these funds to help Sharon move forward with these projects and improve our city.”

Valley Shenango Economic Development Corp., which operates The Landing, was awarded $400,000 to support the development of the aquaponics space. The indoor farming operation would be used for growing produce and fish without the use of pesticides or herbicides,and antibiotic-free produce and fish.

“We are well under way with the construction. We have placed all of the equipment and waiting on some final plumbing and electrical work to be done,” said Clancy Atkinson, chairman of VSEDC. “The supply chain and inflation crisis have not helped the matter.”

The total cost for the project is about $4.4 million, according to Atkinson. Slightly less than half of that in grants has been raised so far and additional funds are being sought.

“There is much more to come with this project,” Atkinson said. “We are working with Penn State Shenango and Penn State Ag Extension to grow the presence of entrepreneurial agriculture in our community.”

Production is expected to start in early 2023, said Brad Mantzell, vice chairman. “We’re excited to see this aquaponics facility impact our local food economy,” he said.

VSEDC will lease the plant, property and equipment to WestWinn LLC, a startup that received $80,000 in new business startup funds to operate the aquaponics facilty. Startup costs will include supplies, testing, new equipment and staff training, according to the city’s news release.

WestWinn, a Winner Companies subsidiary, will operate the commercial side of the aquaponics venture and collaborate with other area partners on education, training, entrepreneurship and more, said Karen Winner-Sed, CEO of WestWinn and Winner Companies.

“For example, we’d like to see a long-term relationship with higher education who will have food processing, marketing, etc. in their curriculum,” she said. “Urban agriculture is a benefit for both education as well as providing useful, healthy products. These products can end up on local shelves as well as used for nonprofit needs. We also want to incorporate a marketplace for growers to have a year-round area to sell their products from – whether from our facility or their own.”

Winner-Sed expressed her gratitude to the city for supporting the vision for the project.

“Aquaponics will provide fresh foods, educational and collaborative opportunities, as well as training for future entrepreneurs in the city of Sharon,” she said. “To be able to reuse the former Westinghouse facility for this purpose is the definition of transformation and a welcomed and exciting addition to our Sharon business community.”

Grant funds also will be used to support improvements and physical and operational expansions of four other businesses, including the relocation of one company form New Castle, Pa.

The Corinthian Banquet Center was awarded $175,000 to create an outdoor patio behind its 47 Vine Ave. building in the Central Way alley, where a neglected warehouse will be demolished. ARP funds will be used to build out a courtyard and balcony leading to the banquet center’s second floor ballroom and provide access to its first-floor space to offer seasonal outdoor dining and entertainment.

“This project will certainly add to the ambiance of the ‘Artist’s Alley’ (Central Way alley) and serve the public needs for more indoor/outdoor dining and event opportunities,” said Corinthian owner John Bianco.

Fruit, Dill, Goodwin and Scholl, 32 Shenango Ave., received $150,000 for façade improvements. The funds will be used to turn the “party” wall between the law firm’s office and the building next to The Corinthian into an exterior wall for the firm. Any additional funds will be used toward façade improvements to the office building at Shenango Avenue and Central Way.

Eyes of Eyes of Faith Optical, 44 N. Sharpsville Ave., will use its $55,000 grant to support its launch of a new division, Sharon City Eyeworks, which will bring on board a virtual optometrist along with a lab technician and optician. Included will be the purchase of state-of-the-art exam technology and diagnostic instruments to create an immersive eye exam and glasses-fitting experience.

“We want to continue contributing to the revitalization of downtown Sharon as a destination for a variety of community services and products,” said Jim Schneider, EOF Optical and Sharon City Eyeworks co-founder and president. “This equipment and advanced eye care process will be unique to any eye care professional in the Shenango Valley, bringing more foot traffic to downtown Sharon.”

Since Eyes of Faith started, the optical practice has received daily requests for eye exams, he said. Plans call for the new division – which now operates as an optical boutique for frames and lenses using an outside prescription – to fully launch in October.

“Although Sharon City Eyeworks is a new practice, the team’s 65 combined years of expertise partnered with the nuanced technology will bring more access to exceptional patient care in downtown Sharon,” said Amy Schneider, optician and co-founder of EOF Optical and Sharon City Eyeworks

Croaker’s Brewing Co., now located in New Castle, will use a $70,000 grant to expand and relocate its operations to 74 N. Sharpsville Ave.

“We plan to apply this funding to help bring fun and entertainment to downtown Sharon, but most of all, to bring our unique menu of craft beers to the area,” co-owner Mara Palipchak said. She and her husband, Chris, will be relocating and expanding their tap house and brewing facility, which includes a retail shop for home brewing equipment and supplies.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.