Municipal elected officials hear economic proposals | Local News
Two concepts are on the radar for Lawrence County to rid industrial and commercial areas of the blight and promote those areas for job development.
Linda Nitch, executive director of the Lawrence County Economic Development Corporation, and County Commissioner Chairman Morgan Boyd both explained their separate planned measures at a League of Municipalities meeting Wednesday in Pearson Park.
The LCEDC is reviving the Enterprise Zone concept for Lawrence County, Nitch said. Boyd is working with County Attorney Jason Medure to draft an order that would create a Property Maintenance Code, which, if approved by commissioners, would allow the county to address code violations at industrial and commercial properties. specific degraded.
POTENTIAL OF THE ENTERPRISE AREA
Nitch informed city leaders that applications for inclusion in a corporate zone are now available and must be submitted by Nov. 30.
The county formed a business zone in the early 2000s, but in its last attempt in 2018, it failed to receive state approval.
In the past, at least seven county business enterprises have benefited from their presence in the Enterprise Zone by obtaining revolving loan funds, Nitch noted in a telephone conversation Wednesday afternoon. These included Posies by Patti in Ellwood City, Treloar & Heisel in downtown New Castle; Consolidated Glass in Taylor Township; Bunting Inc. aluminum art on Cass Street, Mitcheltree Brothers in Pulaski Township, JF Mill & Lumber in Mahoningtown and Nick’s Auto Body in New Castle.
She pointed out that the state rules for enterprise zones have since changed and eligible zones now only include businesses located in industrial zones. No commercial enterprise is included now.
Enterprise Zones focus on deteriorated, distressed and crumbling industrial and manufacturing areas, with the aim of improving living standards through revitalization, attracting new industrial and manufacturing businesses and creating jobs .
A county enterprise zone should be sanctioned by the state Department of Community and Economic Development.
During the last go-around for the designation, the agency said the county lacked a cohesive and comprehensive countywide strategy for its underutilized, distressed and underutilized industrial and manufacturing areas. ruin.
The LCEDC/Chamber of Commerce in response created its Forward Lawrence Strategy which was unveiled last year as a step in that direction, according to a fact sheet distributed by Nitch at the meeting.
The advantages for municipalities belonging to a business zone are that its businesses benefit from:
• Priority consideration when bidding on state government contracts, even for five years after the area leaves the program.
•Priority consideration when applying for financial assistance for the remediation of contaminated sites, up to five years after leaving the program area.
•Prior consideration for any state-administered resource that would help leverage business investment and job creation.
•The possibility of requesting revolving loan funds for enterprise zones to help finance capital expenditure.
•The ability to apply for the Business Zone Tax Credit Program, an incentive that provides tax credits to businesses or private companies that invest in the rehabilitation, expansion or improvement of buildings or of land in the designated area.
Municipalities interested in being included in a business zone must provide a map of the designated areas with respect to major streets, amenities and other prominent community-specific landmarks.
Interested municipalities must also pass each of the resolutions indicating their support for the proposed designation, their willingness to participate in the program and their support for the five-year strategy.
Boyd took his idea, unrelated to the Enterprise Zone initiative, to his fellow commissioners at their meeting on Tuesday and expanded on it for League of Municipalities members on Wednesday.
He said he had met with Medure to develop an order for a property maintenance code. The county under the fifth-class county code is able to adopt minimum standards and enforce them.
He said he intended to meet with County Planning Director Amy McKinney and District Attorney Joshua Lamancusa to develop a plan to implement a property maintenance code in county-wide. He’s considering it for strategic projects, to give the county the teeth to apply it to degraded sites such as Shenango China, the old Mount Jackson School, the old downtown post office, Lawrence Village Plaza and Plaza South, for example.
Its purpose would not be to take over the code enforcement responsibilities of individual municipalities, Boyd pointed out. “The focus … would be specifically for county strategic projects.”
He discussed the idea with Lamancusa, who said he would provide an assistant district attorney to help prosecute these cases “to make sure these landlords or ‘slumlords’ are held accountable,” Boyd said. He said it would be the responsibility of a countywide burn task force, made up of members from the commissioners, the planning department and the district attorney’s office.
The task force would designate specific degraded properties as having significance for economic development, and the task force would undertake to remedy the problems, he said. The executor could be someone hired part-time and paid with federal funding from the Community Development Block Grant.
Under such an ordinance, the county would have the ability to fine property owners and perform all code enforcement duties, including taking them to court to ensure that those property owners maintain their properties, Boyd pointed out.
He pointed out that the ordinance would be enforced for strategic sites that have significance for economic development.
“I’m sick of seeing buildings collapsing in Lawrence County, and I’m sick of seeing large-scale industrial sites like Shenango in China, knowing that no one is picking on there. I’m sick of walking past the Mount Jackson school building and seeing it crumble.
Boyd said he hopes to deliver the order within the next few weeks.
“It’s time for the county to finally take a leadership role,” he said. “It’s time we held these people accountable.”