The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Latest News

February 13, 2013

Airport trade zone talks become heated

JOHNSTOWN — An intense discussion over the possible cost of creating a foreign trade zone featured Johnstown airport leaders facing off with one of their own Wednesday.

The trade zone proposal taps into federal programs that encourage foreign businesses to invest in the United States by providing tax breaks and other incentives in a designated location.

Several members of the Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority said they felt rushed to enter into a long-term contract with economic development consultant and attorney José E. Latour of Miami.

But authority member and County Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder countered that the agreement must be in place when he and Latour travel to Argentina to make important business and government contacts.

The two, along with several other business leaders, are scheduled to leave today.

“Going down to Argentina, these guys are giving us one shot,” Lengenfelder said. “What I don’t want to do is go down there with a bunch of ‘maybes.’ I am not sure anymore who is the spokesman.”

The authority supports the concept, Chairman James Loncella and board member William Polacek said. Both are chief executive officers for large companies.

“The board is completely behind the foreign trade zone,” Polacek said. “We have never hesitated. We made this a strategic objective.”

But Polacek said he is not ready to commit the authority to the contract presented to members on Friday.

“The last thing I want to see is sitting here, approving a contract and get billed every month, and all of a sudden we start questioning what we are getting,” Polacek said. “I want to go into this eyes wide open and be able to say we took a chance and did everything we could to make this a success.”

Authority solicitor Timothy Leventry shared his own concerns with authority members in a four-page response to the contract.

Although Leventry was not able to attend Wednesday’s meeting, his law partner Randall Rodkey said Leventry also supports the concept.

“He told me, ‘I believe this is a great idea, but this (proposed contract) has taken everybody by surprise,’ ” Rodkey said.

“I have concerns as a business manager,” Loncella said. “I have concerns about committing the county to money in subsequent years.”

Board members shared their concerns with Latour, who said he would accept an interim agreement that would clear the way for today’s Argentina trip, Loncella said.

“It was a dilemma,” Loncella said. “I didn’t want the board to impede the development of the foreign trade zone. When we talked to José, I said I didn’t want to chase him away from the project.”

Board members offered to cover Latour’s costs for the trip and provide additional funding. Any money spent would be deducted from a $30,000 retainer included in the contract, if it is ultimately approved.

“We asked, ‘Is this going to hurt the trip? You need to tell us,’ ” Polacek said. “His exact words were: ‘No, this is not a problem.’ ”

Lengenfelder countered that the Argentinian businesses and government officials would be contacts he developed while serving there in the Air Force as U.S. air attaché to the South American nation. He has to be able to assure them he represents a legitimate project.

“Twice I’ve proceeded with what I thought was support of this board and I have been hit with something that is different,” Lengenfelder said. “The real issue is who is the spokesman and what can I negotiate when I get down there? That is no more guaranteed.”

“You are the spokesman,” board members Polacek and Ed Cernic Sr. replied, almost in unison.

“Tell us what you need,” Polacek said.

With a unanimous vote, the authority approved an agreement to pay Latour to travel with Lengenfelder and then develop a feasibility study on the creation of a foreign trade zone. Maximum cost is $13,272.44.

“I am pleased we were able to come out of here with a unanimous approval,” Lengenfelder said.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat print edition.

Click here to subscribe to The Tribune-Democrat e-edition.

1
Text Only | Photo Reprints
Latest News
  • Flower2 Flowers' color doesn't have to fade

    Those pots of bright yellow daffodils, Easter lilies and hyacinths gracing the home this weekend do not have to end up in the trash bin when the blooms start to fade.

    April 20, 2014 2 Photos

  • Refinancing could lower Richland School District's debt by $2.2M

    When Richland School District borrowed funds for its high school project a decade ago, board members circled “2014” on their calendars as a likely first option to refinance the debt.

    April 20, 2014

  • Pipeline to carry shale byproducts

    An 8-inch transmission line crossing Pennsylvania, including four municipalities in Cambria County, is being repurposed to carry some of the by-products from Marcellus and Utica shale production.

    April 20, 2014

  • Judge Creany, Timothy Vets courts gain support

    Signs of success are mostly anecdotal in Pennsylvania’s special courts for veterans, but judicial officials and lawmakers are so convinced of the program, they’re lobbying to expand it.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • pow21 Person of the Week: ‘I wanted to help’: Teen uses birthday to show love for children, animals

    Anastasia Machik’s love for children and animals inspired her to forgo her birthday gifts for the sake of the two.

    April 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Students taking steps to call attention to child abuse

    An upcoming community walk will help raise awareness of child abuse.

    April 20, 2014

  • In brief: PennDOT reports weekly work schedule

    April 20, 2014

  • Halfway house inmates can ease back into society

    Prison life can be a time warp.
    When inmates are locked away – for months, years, decades – society moves forward: Technology evolves, major events occur, pop culture changes. From a personal perspective, families and friends live their lives: weddings, funerals, graduations, births, retirements. All the while, criminals bide their time, existing in a regimented world of cement walls and metal bars.
    Almost all of them eventually rejoin society, though.

    April 19, 2014

  • Crime board took aim at house

    Johnstown’s unemployment rate is around 8 percent.
    One-third of the city’s population lives in poverty.
    Burglaries and assaults significantly increased between 2010 and 2012. There is a thriving illegal trade in heroin and prescription drugs.
    Given those conditions, it can be challenging for Johnstown Community Corrections Center residents to find jobs when living in the facility or to avoid falling back into a criminal lifestyle upon their release.

    April 19, 2014

  • Homicides linked to center

    Three homicides that took place in Johnstown last year involved either a suspect or victim who previously resided in the Community Corrections Center.
    Police Chief Craig Foust confirmed the name of one victim, who spent almost two months in the facility on Washington Street during 2007, a time period verified by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.

    April 19, 2014

Poll

Would you like to see the Johnstown Community Corrections Center remain open after its lease runs out on Oct. 11, 2015?

Yes
No
I'm not sure
     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads