The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

December 12, 2012

‘Make it in Mercer County’ top theme for Penn-Northwest

By Michael Roknick
Herald Business Editor

MERCER COUNTY — “Make it in Mercer County Pennsylvania’’ isn’t on the lips of everyone yet, but Penn-Northwest Development Corp. hopes it soon will be.

As Mercer County’s lead economic development agency, Penn-Northwest has launched the marketing campaign as its effort to attract new businesses to the area and motivate existing companies to expand here. The agency gave an overview of the past year and plans for the upcoming year at its annual dinner held Monday at The Avalon Golf and Country Club at Buhl Park, Hermitage.

The agency reported an operational loss of $110,000 in the past fiscal year, largely due to $117,000 in one-time costs such as launching the new marketing campaign and hiring a search firm for a new president and chief executive officer. Losses for the year were covered by the agency’s reserves. The agency currently has $2.59 million in cash on hand.

Randy Seitz, serving his first year as president and CEO for the agency, acknowledged Penn-Northwest will be watching its balance sheet in the upcoming year.

“We as an organization can’t be here and survive with an operational loss,’’ he said.

But among the agency’s goals this upcoming year are to look for new revenue streams, having created tangible goals for itself, such as helping to create 500 jobs in the county, Seitz added.

In talking to an audience of more than 100, Seitz said the agency will be measuring itself monthly on job creation and how each project it’s working on is doing.  

He noted Penn-Northwest is working on 120 leads for new business projects which include an Italian pulp mill looking at Greenville-Reynolds East Industrial Park, a shale service company, a tire producer and a retail operation.

Highlights for the past year include the Mercer County Industrial Growth Fund, which loaned $585,422 for projects totaling $3.597 million that created 29 jobs and retained 69 jobs. Currently, the agency has $1.66 million to lend.

During the evening Tony Zucco, Penn Power area manager, was honored for his years of service to the organization. Zucco is retiring his utility post at the end of the month.

Bill Petit, PennDOT’s District 1 executive who oversees coverage of six northwestern Pennsylvania counties including Mercer County, spoke to the audience about the state agency. He noted Pennsylvania has more roads than all of New England, New York and New Jersey combined. But the state’s gas tax hasn’t been increased since 1997 even though the need for maintaining and creating roads and bridges remains high, he added.

As its annual meeting, Penn-Northwest members took care of business with the election of officers and other appointments.

Elected officers for fiscal 2012-13 are:

• Chairman – Lew Kachulis, Synergy Comp Insurance Co.

• Vice chairman – Robert Wilson, Penn-Ohio Metals

• Vice chairman – Matthew McConnell, Mercer County commissioner

• Secretary – Douglas Riley, Mercer County Industrial Development Corp.

• Treasurer – John “Chip’’ Mastrian, Strimbu Memorial Foundation

• Assistant Secretary-Treasurer – John “Jack’’ Janoso, Sharon Regional Health System

Elected directors for a three-year term expiring in 2015 are:

Eric Frantz, CCL Container; David Grande, Huntington Bank; Eric Graven, Susi Builders Supply; Gary Gulla, city of Hermitage; Larry Haynes, Community Foundation; David Hock, Mercer County State Bank; Chuck Jackson, Penn Power Co.; Scott Kalmanek, Joy Cone Co.; John Longstreet, Quaker Steak & Lube; William O’Brien, Butler Community College; Edward Winslow, Winslow Engineering; and Janoso, Mastrian and Riley.

Chairing executive committee members are: James Grasso, finance and personnel committee; Wilson, nominating committee; Scott Kalmanek, program review/loan committee; Douglas Thomas, sites committee; and Haynes and Don Owrey, member.

Appointment of senior directors: Wilson, Charles Bestwick, James Feeney, Joseph George, Stephen Gurgovits, Olivia Lazor, Lew Martin, Philip Marrie, William Perrine, and state Rep. Richard Stevenson.