The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

January 15, 2013

Airport authority vexed over development money

JOHNSTOWN — Officials at the cash-strapped Johns­town airport have a dilemma with Cambria County commissioners’ additional $170,000 allocation for development of a foreign trade zone around the airfield.

The Johnstown-Cambria County Airport Authority has been authorized to disperse the funding, but it is county Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder who is spearheading the initiative.

The authority received $20,000 last year, with two allocations of $75,000 promised by summer.

Lengenfelder, who also is an authority member, outlined his latest plans during Tuesday’s authority meeting at the airport.

“We are starting to develop that plan,” Lengenfelder said. “It looks like we can do it quicker that I thought.”

Lengenfelder said he is lining up consulting help from attorney Jose Latour, whom he described as an expert in foreign investment programs.

In addition to creating a foreign trade zone offering tax advantages for foreign investment, Lengenfelder envisions a state Keystone Opportunity Zone with property tax breaks and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service’s Immigrant Investor Program, also known as “EB-5.”

“They are all part of this package of how you become an economic engine for development,” Lengenfelder said.

Lengenfelder first brought the foreign trade zone proposal to the authority’s October meeting, saying the program could allow Argentine vineyards to save money by sending barrels of wine here for bottling and distribution by local businesses.

The idea would be to establish an area around the airport as the primary foreign trade zone under federal laws that provide special customs procedures to U.S. plants engaged in international trade-related activities. International companies pay tariffs only on the work done abroad, Lengenfelder explained at the time.

He said he would travel to Argentina in November to meet with vineyard owners.

That trip was postponed, but is now planned for Feb. 14, he said Tuesday.

Lengenfelder and business leaders will first take a trip to Washington, D.C., later this month to meet with business liaisons at foreign embassies.

His group will also visit a foreign trade zone conference in on Feb. 12.

Authority Chairman James Loncella interrupted Lengenfelder’s description of his itinerary to ask how the travel would be funded.

“It is coming out of my pocket right now,” Lengenfelder said. “I have not requested that yet.”

Revenue in the authority’s budget under the line item “economic development” was provided by the county and set aside for expenses related to the foreign trade zone development, authority member William Polacek said.

“It is county money,” Polacek said. “If you just request it – if it’s not unreasonable – we’ll probably approve it.”

The authority has asked for a business plan to help determine what expenses are acceptable, Loncella said.

“The authority hasn’t approved this whole thing,” Loncella reminded Lengenfelder.

“One of the concerns we have: It is money that is not generated by our revenue streams, but we have stewardship responsibility. We have to go through our normal application process. It is public money.”

Latour has been out of the country on other business, but will return this week, Lengenfelder said. He expects to begin developing the business plan to provide more details and time lines in the near future.

But even developing the plan will cost some money, Lengenfelder warned.

“Jose is the man who will move this along,” Lengenfelder said. “We can’t get a plan out in front of the board without spending money to get a professional to get the plan out.”

The total cost will reach about $200,000, Lengenfelder estimated, describing it as “a shoestring.”

“You are looking at millions of dollars coming into this area,” he said. “Other foreign trade zones cost for $2 million to $5 million.”

Latour has tentatively agreed to do Cambria County’s consulting at his cost because of the region’s potential, Lengenfelder said, admitting the consulting contract has not been finalized.

“That conversation starts tomorrow,” Lengenfelder said Tuesday.

The board agreed to call a special meeting to consider a contract with Latour.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Local News
  • 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

  • bachota Volunteers helping to spruce up community

    Walls and ceilings inside the Cambria County Library look clean and bright with fresh new coats of paint on them.
    The work was recently done by inmates from the Johnstown Community Corrections Center.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

  • alanna Hartzok targets income disparity

    Alanna Hartzok described herself as being a conservative progressive.
    The Franklin County resident said she is in favor of conserving environmental resources, education opportunities, Social Security and Medicare, while wanting to progressively address wealth inequality, health care and taxation.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Schools rise to leadership challenge

    Forest Hills and Cambria Heights high school students put the spirit of healthy competition toward a good cause and picked up some lessons in leadership along the way.

    April 19, 2014

  • KATEY LADIKA Student’s photos win awards

    A Forest Hills High School junior has captured several awards in a high school arts and writing contest that has identified greats such as Truman Capote and Andy Warhol.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Jim Siehl JIM SIEHL | Music to my ears

    Seldom has $15 produced such a high level of entertainment as it did a few weeks ago when I found myself in the second row just left of center keeping back the tears once again during my third live performance of “Les Miserables.”

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Michele Bender Bye, bye, Easter birdies

    Animals fascinated my mom. Riding the train between Johnstown and Philly, she saw horses, pigs, sheep, cows … a Mattel See ’n Say of farm critters.

    April 19, 2014 1 Photo

  • Bill Eggert Columnist Photo Travelogue of terror features Johnstown area

    A historic week will surround the venerable Silver Drive-In come the beginning of May.

    April 19, 2014 2 Photos

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
House Ads