Community Development Projects Result in Community Growth
Since 1987, SEDA-COG has assisted in the completion of over 650 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) projects in Central Pennsylvania. Among them are sewage treatment plants, playgrounds and parks, reconstructed streets, and water systems. While each project addresses a specific issue, many played a part in subsequent community growth that occurred. A breakdown of the projects by number and category is available here.
(Above) Construction of Selinsgrove's new library, combined with renovations to the borough office building complimented development of the adjacent "pocket" park, (below) spurring continued interest in revitalization of the community's downtown."
According to Bill Seigel, Director of SEDA-COG's CDBG program, "Sewer projects eliminate health hazards. Water projects provide safe, plentiful drinking water, and that's their primary objective.
"In the Danville area, however, after sewer and water lines were extended, the Geisinger Medical Center established its outpatient surgery clinic on Woodbine Lane. Construction of Selinsgrove's new library, combined with renovations to the borough office building complimented the development of an adjacent 'pocket' park, spurring continued interest in revitalization of the community's downtown. That's the concept behind community 'development,' ─ public infrastructure promoting positive impacts."
"CDBG has demonstrated an ability to broadly advance the quality of life within America's rural communities," said Seigel, "but that capacity is being weakened year by year as Congress hacks away at the funding. In just the last two years it's been cut by 28%, and some communities have suffered a 37% reduction, due to decreased populations and changes in the funding formula."
Communities have begun looking to one another to help provide needed public facilities and services. In some cases they're considering regional sewer and water systems, allowing them to share construction and operational costs. Other communities are sharing the cost for fire and rescue service, or borrowing each other's equipment for roadwork.
"Although Community Development dollars are in short supply," Seigel said, "there's no shortage of community needs, and meeting those needs demands more creativity than ever from the region's county and local officials. CDBG lends itself very well to such a process ─ public infrastructure needs are identified and prioritized by locally elected officials, who then determine which projects will receive funding support. This grass roots approach is a great strength of the program."
COSTARS means Opportunities for Central Pennsylvania Businesses
Susquehanna Fire Equipment Company, in Dewart, PA, recently made its first sale through Pennsylvania's COSTARS program and, as a result, is now connected to over 7,400 COSTARS members ─ potential buyers ofSusquehanna Fire Equipment's products. According to Keith Foust, Susquehanna's Vice-president of Sales and Marketing, "The boroughs, fire companies, and municipal authorities that buy our products want the
equipment quickly, at the best price. COSTARS assures them of that. Suppliers are pre-qualified, meaning we've met COSTARS' high standards for quality and
Keith Foust, Susquehanna Fire Equipment's Vice-president, and Max Foust, company President, in their Dewart, PA showroom.
Susquehanna began actively pursuing inclusion in the COSTARSprogram in mid-February, working with staff from the SEDA-COG Procurement Technical Assistance Center (PTAC). SEDA-COG reviewed the bid package and the program's requirements. When questions came up about pricing and bid documents, SEDA-COG arranged a conference call with company officials and COSTARS' purchasing agent. "SEDA-COG walked us through the whole thing," says Foust, "They showed us how to maneuver through COSTARS' web site and how to complete the paperwork. Between Kristen Moyer from SEDA-COG and Kathy Lewis from COSTARS, we got it done and completed the sale." The New Wilmington Fire Department Relief Association purchased equipment to refill breathing apparatus.
Robert Brown, Director of the SEDA-COG PTAC, expects Susquehanna Fire Equipment will receive several more orders as the result of their involvement with COSTARS. "Typically," he said, "the first order is just the beginning."
Short Line Railroads are Growing as America's Energy Future Brightens
The energy picture is changing ─ globally, nationally, and within our region. For the first time, American energy independence may be a real possibility, as industries, utility companies and, perhaps, vehicles switch from oil to natural gas. The U.S. Energy Information Administration'slatest estimate for total U.S. natural gas resources is 2,214 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), a third higher than its 2008 estimate. President Obama has referred to America as"...the Saudi Arabia of natural gas..."
This potential for dramatic change is already creating opportunities for short line railroads. The Lycoming Valley Railroad (LVRR), located in the Williamsport area, serves numerous companies involved in Marcellus Shale natural gas exploration. In the last few years, carload totals on the LVRR have increased by 59%. However, while natural gas may be at the center of our energy future, there is more to the story.
In the coming years, energy use in America is actually expected to decrease. Our buildings and vehicles are becoming more energy efficient. The use of rail is on the upswing, and we're all getting better at energy
Pipeline for natural gas represents one of many energy-related opportunities for short line railroads.
conservation. Meanwhile, the rest of the world ─ particularly developing nations ─ is using more energy. As for price, on a per-unit basis, Europe is paying $10-$12 for natural gas, Asia is paying $14-$16, and in America we're paying about $2.55. That price differential provides the incentive for continued gas exploration which requires shipments of sand, water, pipe, and other products used in the exploration process.
Norfolk Southern (NS), a large Class I railroad, connects to over 240 short lines. In 2011, NS transported over 44,000 carloads of Marcellus-related product. Of that amount, about 31,000 originated on short lines, a figure which had been less than 5,000 as recently as 2009 and near zero in 2008.
Even as interest begins to focus on so-called "wet gas," west of Central Pennsylvania, energy-related growth is expected to continue in the railroad industry. Wet gas, as compared to dry gas from the Marcellus Shale, contains useful byproducts like ethane, butane, and pentane. Shell Oil recently announced plans to build a "cracker" plant in southwest Pennsylvania where compounds are extracted from wet gas for processing into plastic and other materials.
Pipelines will be required to move wet gas byproducts to market, and the construction and installation of that pipeline represents further opportunity for short line railroads. Beyond pipelines, increased use of natural gas can lead to a resurgence of American manufacturing, also an opportunity for the rail industry as shippers continue the shift from truck to rail for long-haul transport.
Like the Lycoming Valley line, the Wellsboro & Corning (W&C) Railroad is a great example of energy-related growth opportunities for the rail industry. The number of tracks at W&C's Wellsboro junction has grown from one to four, and two more are planned. Growth on the 35.5-mile line has been "...staggering..." according to W.B. Myles, the firm's Chief Operating Officer. Energy-related traffic on the W&C grew steadily from 2009 through 2011, and this year traffic is up by more than 290% from a year ago.
There are certainly questions regarding the immediate future of natural gas utilization. The current low price of natural gas ─ $2.55/Mcf ─ has tempted some gas companies to slow down production. And there are legitimate environmental concerns, which must be accurately and appropriately addressed. As for the long term, however, the direction of American energy appears tightly linked with natural gas. Railroads, particularly short lines, would do well to proceed in that direction.
The following Pennsylvania firms were recently provided with financing through the Small Business Administration's (SBA) 504 program. Projects are reviewed by the SEDA-COG Local Development Corporation (LDC) and, if approved by the LDC, are forwarded to the SBA for final action.
T-M-T Gravel and Contracting, Inc., in Millerton received $451,500 to purchase equipment which it was formerly leasing. In addition to the loan through the SBA 504 program, the project was financed through company equity and M&T Bank. Since 2008, Marcellus Shale natural gas drilling in Bradford County has increased by 20% and hundreds of natural gas wells have been drilled, providing T-M-T with a major business opportunity, providing gravel and stone to the gas companies for drilling pads, roadways, and pipelines.
Financing in the amount of $640,500 was provided toGish's Furniture, Inc. of York. The company refinanced its existing debt in order to secure a lower interest rate and more favorable repayment terms. In addition to the SBA, the project was financed through Integrity Bank of York and real estate equity. This was the first loan the SEDA-COG LDC approved under the new expanded refinancing capabilities of the SBA 504 program.
An apparel and related accessories firm in Hanover is expanding with the help of $460,000 in SBA 504 financing. Legacy Athletic purchased a 3.9-acre property, renovated the existing building, and added 23,141 square feet. Project financing also involved ACNB Bank, thePennsylvania Industrial Development Authority, and cash equity from the borrowers. The company originally focused on vintage-style baseball caps, but later expanded into jewelry and other personal accessories, which has now become their fastest growing segment.
Funds are now available through SEDA-COG's new TEAM (Telecommunications, Equity and Marcellus) loan program, which is designed to help companies access state of the art telecommunications and broadband services, help with the equity portion of SBA 504 loan projects seeking, and assist firms serving Marcellus Shale-related industries.
The Northumberland County Commissioners have selectedNicholas Goretski III as their second representative on SEDA-COG's Board of Directors. Each of the organization's 11 counties is represented by two individuals, one of whom is a County Commissioner. Commissioner Stephen Bridy also represents Northumberland County. In addition to currently serving as President of the Mount Carmel Area School Board, Goretski was Chairman of the Northumberland County Housing Authority for approximately ten years. He is also a former Kulpmont Mayor and Councilman.
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Nine counties in the SEDA-COG region saw their unemployment rate drop in March, one county reported an increase, and Mifflin County's was unchanged from February. Statewide, unemployment fell by a tenth of a percentage point. More information is available here.
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Our Information Technologies Group has created three new web sites ─ one for an internal program and two for outside clients. The story and links to the sites atHELPING PA GROW.
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SEDA-COG is pursuing funds for three public transit projects. Among them is $264,000 to buy six additional vans for the Union-Snyder Transportation Alliance (USTA). They would primarily serve individuals commuting from rural communities to urban locations like Harrisburg and State College. A second project would provide USTA with $44,000 for a van with a larger, wheelchair accessible entrance, which would also be for work-related commuting. A third application for $44,000 has been submitted to help low-income families get auto loans, improving their access to employment and related activities.
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The current edition of Export Newsflash, SEDA-COG's newsletter for international trade, includes opportunities for regional wood-related companies, and news about a trade agreement with Columbia, trade show exhibits, and Wal-Mart de Mexico.
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Four individuals won the top prizes in the Susquehanna Greenway Partnership's second annual Treasured Towns & Landscapes photo contest. There were five categories this year. Winners included Paul Barrett, Hughesville; J.T. Foster, Watsontown; Sabrina Barnes (age 10), Muncy; and Chelsea Wagner, Troy. The photos will be part of a traveling gallery this year, visiting regional communities. The winners, their photos, and further information can be found here.
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The Pennsylvania Boroughs Association is offering a three-part webinar on Municipal Administrators Training. It's scheduled for June 12, 19, and 26. Click here for details
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Work is moving along on the Koppers/Halliburton rail project near Muncy, involving installation of 2,300 feet of new track and rehabilitation of 1,800 feet of track. The project will improve tracks at the existing Koppers-Susquehanna Plant and provide access to Halliburton's new drilling support complex, which processes materials used in natural gas development. Separately, Halliburton is constructing over 3,000 feet of new rail sidings. Both Koppers' and Halliburton's facilities are served by the Lycoming Valley Railroad, private operator for the SEDA-COG Joint Rail Authority, which is overseeing the project. The total cost of the project is nearly $1 million, funded through a state grant to the Industrial Properties Corporation (IPC) affiliated with the Williamsport/Lycoming Chamber of Commerce. Project completion is expected by the end of July.
SEDA-COG is a publicly funded development organization based in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania and serving an 11-county region. We help the counties ─ and the communities and citizens within them ─ address challenges related to their economies and infrastructure, and we assist them in responding to new opportunities in such areas as energy, technology, market development, transportation, and locally-based resources.
For further information or questions about The SEDA-COG Report, contact Steve Kusheloff, Manager, Public Information, tel. 570-524-4491, ext. 7217; or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org