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May 10, 2013

Cambria plans new authority

Residents’ input being sought on economic development agency

EBENSBURG — Cambria County residents will have an opportunity next month to comment on plans to form a new arm of government, a municipal authority aimed at economic development.

An advertisement appearing in Friday’s Public Notice section of The Tribune-Democrat on behalf of the commissioners spells out their intentions to create the Cambria County Economic Development Authority.

The hearing, set for 5 p.m. June 10 in the commissioners’ board room on the third floor of the courthouse, is a state requirement of the Municipalities Act of 1945 requiring that the formal hearing be held to assure that citizens are aware of the commissioners’ intentions.

A special commissioners  meeting will be held immediately after the hearing to adopt the ordinance forming the authority and other business, according to the legal ad.

The purpose of the authority, according to Commissioner President Douglas Lengenfelder, is to promote the creation of new industries and creation and operation of a Foreign Trade Zone, which has been in the works for several months.

County Solicitor Thomas Leiden said the hearing is being held for the presentation of any information the community may have regarding the authority.

“It’s an opportunity for any individual to present information,” he said. “It’s not like we’re going to be putting anyone on the stand and questioning them.”

While some details of the authority are still being ironed out, the board likely will be made up of seven members appointed by the commissioners and will have a staff of some form, one area yet to be developed, Lengenfelder said.

“We have had tons of discussion already,” he said.

The county will have to file articles of incorporation with the Pennsylvania Department of State. The commissioners will set the terms of each of the authority members and will reserve the right to approve any plan of the authority.

Calling his timetable to have the authority operational, “a little ambitious,” Lengenfelder said he hopes the commissioners can be making appointments in two months.

Formation of the authority follows a February trip to Argentina by Lengenfelder and a delegation of area businessmen to pursue the potential of bottling Argentine wine in Cambria County.

Lengenfelder, a retired military colonel who served in Argentina, hopes the wine business is just the start of aggressive economic development initiatives.

Funding the authority to the tune of $150,000 per year will come from the $1.2 million that the county gives Pennsylvania Highlands Community College, a move that has sparked controversy.

But Lengenfelder questions the wisdom of having trained people if there are no jobs for them after completing their postsecondary education.

The money coming from the college contribution will replace a $150,000 allocation made in the 2013 county general fund budget for economic development, officials said.

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