Cambria County’s new Economic Development Authority spent its first official meeting getting organized, while pledging to swiftly move forward on employment-enabling programs.
“Our agenda is to promote economic growth for our region,” newly elected authority Chairman Rex McQuaide said.
“We are committed to that process. I think it is going to be carried out in a cooperative manner with the county, municipalities, the community and businesses.”
Authority board members were sworn in Wednesday by Cambria County President Commissioner Douglas Lengenfelder in the meeting room above Asiago’s Tuscan Italian restaurant at the Johnstown Inclined Plane. Members included McQuaide, an attorney and co-owner of W.C. McQuaide Inc., specialists in trucking and warehousing; James Hargreaves, a longtime financial adviser; Samuel Catanese, leading partner and managing director of the Catanese Group; Robert Gleason, a businessman and chairman of the Republican Party of Pennsylvania; and Raymond Arcurio, federal programs coordinator for Greater Johnstown School District.
Lengenfelder presented a check for $125,000 from the county’s $150,000 allocation to fund the new authority’s work.
Hargreaves said the authority will strive to provide a strong return on the investment.
“The county is very excited to have individuals who are willing to give of their time and their talents for this purpose,” Lengenfelder said.
After a lengthy executive session to discuss hiring an executive director and consulting group, the authority agreed to table the action until its financial committee, consisting of Hargreaves and Catanese, can develop a budget showing what it can afford to pay.
Lengenfelder has proposed contracting with the business department of St. Francis University to serve as executive director and enlisting help from Johnstown Area Regional Industries.
“We are encouraged by all of that,” McQuaide said.
“It is going to take a team effort.”
The Economic Development Authority was incorporated to oversee formation of a federal Foreign Trade Zone centered at John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport. The idea is to offer various financial incentives for businesses to locate here.
Ethan Imhoff, executive director of Cambria County Planning Commission, updated the authority on efforts to create a Keystone Opportunity Zone around the airport. The state-sponsored KOZ developments are free from property taxes for several years, but require approval by the county, school district and municipality.
The deadline for application is Oct. 1, but approval is looking doubtful for this year, Imhoff said.
“We don’t have the municipal (Richland Township supervisors’) support for the KOZ,” he said.
Pressed by authority members on the township’s reluctance, Lengenfelder said Richland supervisors were concerned the development could increase township expenses with no immediate increase in in revenue.
Reached at home later, supervisors Vice Chairman Wayne Langerholc was confused by Lengenfelder’s description.
“There has not been any formal discussion,” Langerholc said.
“What they want to do at the airport has not been brought to the Richland Township supervisors. Richland is a key player and it should be included.”
Lengenfelder said he’d like for the county to present its proposals at a township meeting.
“When it comes to economic development, we have always had an open door policy,” Langerholc said.
Randy Griffith is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/photogriffer57.