Altoona lauded as top metro area

A national publication Monday recognized the Altoona metropolitan area as among the top metropolitan areas in the United States for new and expanded facilities in 2013.

According to Site Selection magazine, the Altoona metropolitan area tied for first place in the 50,000 to 200,000 population categories with Sioux City, Iowa, and Dubuque, Iowa.

The local recognition was included in the annual New Plant Scoreboard published in conjunction with Site Selection’s annual Governors Cup rankings.

Site Selection’s New Plant Data Base focuses on new corporate facility projects with significant impact. New facilities and expansions must meet at least one of three criteria: involve a capital investment of at least $1 million, create at least 50 new jobs and add at least 20,000 square feet.

Fourteen local projects were among those recognized.

“Our 14 projects were almost all local, homegrown companies that are going through expansions,” said Marty Marasco, president and CEO of the Altoona- Blair County Development Corp. “We emphasize retention and expansion of existing companies. Relocations today are very difficult.”

Marasco said 2013 was a positive year for the Altoona area.

“We saw a lot of activity. We saw some companies begin to make inquiries about projects that they had talked about, and some have come to fruition,” Marasco said. “It is encouraging. It gives you a sense of pride and also gives you a sense of accomplishment when you work on projects, some which take months or years. You see the fruition of your efforts.”

Marasco said some of the local projects recognized included: a $30 million expansion project at Albermarle Corp. in the Tyrone Industrial Park, which will lead to the retention of 170 jobs and creation of 20 new jobs; a $20 million acquisition and construction project for Value Drug, which will lead to the retention of 110 jobs; and the installation of water and sewer and access improvements, which will open 40 acres for land development at the DeGol Industrial Centre in Hollidaysburg, which is expected to lead to the creation of 50 to 75 jobs.

Some of the other projects on the list include: the construction of a terminal and office building for CLI Transport, a Sheetz Inc. subsidiary, a $5.5 million project that will lead to 16 to 20 new jobs; Marcellus GTL LLC of Gilberton’s plans to build a plant near Duncansville that would turn natural gas into gasoline and propane, which is expected to lead to the creation of 30 new jobs; and Core Label LLC, a leading manufacturer of beverage labels, expanding its current facility in the Robert C. Jubelirer Business Park near Tyrone, adding at least 43 new jobs, Marasco said.

Marasco said design work is being finalized for construction of a new business park in Greenfield Township, a $7 million project that is expected to lead to the creation of 150 to 200 jobs.

ABCD Corp. played a key role in these projects.

“If you look at the projects, we were involved in one way or another either in financing or assisting them. There are a number of ways we help. We are designing the business park. In most we are involved in financing or working with them on a location,” Marasco said.

The national recognition should be beneficial.

“It gives us national recognition to show we are competing from the investment side with other areas throughout the country. It gives a positive image of the area compared to other areas of comparable size throughout the country,” Marasco said.

“Places looking to grow, this gives them an outside view of our area, of the things we promote here on a daily basis. We gauge our success by the people going to work every day in our community,” ABCD Corp. marketing manager Matthew Fox said. “This may help us stand out from other communities that are not on the list. We are not resting on our laurels but are continually looking forward.”

Since 2000, the Altoona area has been ranked as high as No. 3 and No. 2. but this was the first time the area has been listed as No. 1, Fox said.

Site selection magazine, published by Conway Data Inc., delivers expansion planning information to 49,000 executives of fast growing firms.