Plans for Blair business park moving forward

Construction of a new business park in Blair County may be closer to reality.

Altoona-Blair County Development Corp. has filed a request with the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration for $1.5 million in funding to help construct a new business park in Greenfield Township. The park would adjoin the existing Walter Business Park, which is home to the Sheetz Distribution Center and Sheetz Bros. Kitchen.

ABCD Corp. should learn this summer or fall whether the funding is approved, said President and CEO Marty Marasco.

In the meantime, the administration is conducting an environmental assessment of the proposed project.

Total cost of the project – including acquisition of the property and associated costs; engineering and design work; the environmental assessment; a review of the property; construction of water and sewer lines; access improvements; and some earth moving on site – is estimated at $7 million, Marasco said.

Some funding has been secured from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the rest will be pursued through borrowing. Options include the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority and the Business in Our Sites program.

“There are a number of alternatives we could pursue for funding. We haven’t decided which ones to go after at this point,” Marasco said.

Available ground at the county’s eight other business sites is very limited.

Joe Hurd, president and CEO of the Blair County Chamber of Commerce, said if the county wants to remain competitive in terms of employment, it needs to bring in new businesses and have space for them.

“I think the last thing Blair County wants to experience is to find a business that wants to locate here and find out we don’t have any shovel-ready land to accommodate them. This new park will make large tracts of land available for businesses who are interested in locating here or expanding here,” Hurd said.

Edward Silvetti, executive director of the Southern Alleghenies Planning and Development Commission said it is a great project.

“The development of a new business park is critically important, they [ABCD] have exhausted almost every available parcel in the existing parks,” Silvetti said.

ABCD Corp. has until June 1 to exercise its option to purchase the approximately 140-acre site, which includes about 75 to 80 developable acres, Marasco said.

“We are still going through due diligence. We haven’t made a final determination as to whether to move forward on this,” he said, adding that they are close to making that decision.

Marasco hopes the project will move forward, possibly starting construction in spring and summer of 2014.

“There are some companies we have presented preliminary information to about the site, and they may be interested in pursuing locating at the site,” Marasco said.