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Economy in Philipsburg, Rush Twp. on the Upswing

by and on February 27, 2020 4:30 AM
Philipsburg, PA

PHILIPSBURG — Stan LaFuria, Moshannon Valley Economic Development Partnership executive director, started working for the partnership 29 years ago.

“I can remember when I got here and how bad it was,” LaFuria said. “How we’ve changed in a generation — it’s amazing.”

The major changes in the Philipsburg/ Rush Township economy LaFuria point to include a decline in coal mining and the closure of two major employers that manufactured clothing and cigars, respectively.

The Philipsburg area endured a distressed period with the loss of so many jobs, but now, the Appalachian Regional Commission reports Centre County’s economic status is “transitional,” meaning it’s “transitioning between (a) strong and weak economy.”

Transitional counties, according to ARC, “rank between the worst 25 percent and the best 25 percent of the nation’s counties.”

LaFuria says the Philipsburg area’s economy is now “more diversified.” Several businesses comprise the list of the Moshannon Valley’s top employers, including: Cen Clear Child Services (500 employees), GEO Group (275), SCI Houtzdale (400), Walmart Distribution Center (1,000 plus), Windy Hill Village (200 plus) and American Home Patient (100 plus). Area medical centers, among them, Penn Highlands, Geisinger and Mount Nittany Medical Center, are also top employers.

“We have continued to focus on manufacturing,” LaFuria said. “That’s definitely our niche.”

Numerous manufacturers, many of which have established facilities in the Moshannon Valley recently, employ many people in the Philipsburg region. They include: UMI Performance, Lee Industries, REICHdrill, PMG PA Corporation, Advanced Powder Products, Diamondback Truck Covers, Organic Climbing, Cutting Edge Machining Solutions, Custom Castings and Drucker Company.

The economy of Philipsburg itself is a tricky subject, LaFuria says, because it’s tough to define. The Moshannon Valley includes parts of Centre and Clearfield counties, and data is available at the county level, but not at the local or regional level.

“We consider there to be a regional economy here in this area that includes the State College/Centre County region and also areas of Clearfield County, with Blair County (also being) an employer of people living here,” LaFuria said.

None of the top 10 employers in Centre County are from the Moshannon Valley region, though the Navasky Company once was.

The top seven employers for the county include Penn State, Mount Nittany Medical Center, state government, Centre County government, Walmart, Glenn O. Hawbaker and Weis.

“Census data has revealed that approximately 2,700 people travel out of the Moshannon Valley region to work every day,” said LaFuria. “But, there are 2,600 people who travel in to the Moshannon Valley to work every day.”

LaFuria said the MVEDP’s priority “will always be helping existing companies to be strong and grow.” The partnership does this, LaFuria said, by “using the assets it owns … using its two, multi-tenant buildings, revolving loan fund program, sites for sale at the Regional Business Park and the Philipsburg Area Commerce Park, access to the state PIDA loan program and its network of local, regional, state and federal officials whom the MVEDP has worked hard to maintain great relationships with so that they will be available to the business owners in this region.”

In 2019, the MVEDP renewed leases with five businesses whose leases were set to expire. The organization also helped three existing businesses and a new manufacturing startup secure new space.

The partnership assisted in getting two local manufacturers loans through its own Revolving Loan Fund Program and helped two businesses secure low interest PIDA loans.

The MVEDP’s goals for 2020 include marketing and selling more land, finding more sites, generating more loans, renting more available space and assisting the Philipsburg Revitalization Corporation in its efforts to develop downtown.

LaFuria said by offering lower rents, lower interest rates on loans and lower priced land, the MVEDP can “reduce the struggles a business might have.”

“I feel we’ve really done our part,” LaFuria said. “I really feel good about what the partnership has been able to do, and the reason is because we had the tools to make things happen with the private sector businesses.”

 



This story was produced by the staff at the Centre County Gazette. It was re-published with permission. The Centre County Gazette is a weekly publication, available at many locations around Centre County every Thursday morning.


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