By Gary Hoover
The business outlook for Bellefonte this year and beyond is excellent. You can sense that just from the buzz being created and the quotes of people talking about the community.
“Bellefonte was named in the top two places to live in Pennsylvania.”
“Business and living space is less expensive in Bellefonte.”
“Young professionals are headed to Bellefonte.”
“The Gamble Mill is set to reopen in September.”
“Bellefonte selected as the CATAGO pilot site.”
“There’s more to do and see in Bellefonte.”
“The return of a self-propelled railroad car for excursions is being finalized.”
“There are new and popular Bellefonte events.”
“The Arts and entertainment offerings in Bellefonte are improving.”
And that’s just touching a bit on what people are saying.
I think Centre County Commissioner Mark Higgins said it best: “Suddenly, Bellefonte is cool.”
Cool is good for business.
The recent “coolness” of Bellefonte is really the product of a lot of hard work, vision and investment by Bellefonters old and new, plus businesses that have seen the potential and come to our town that is finally getting noticed.
Both public and private investments have produced important streetscape and building stock improvements. Parking has been modernized and there is new street furniture and historic street tablets.
Some downtown buildings are being rehabilitated and commercially repurposed. The copper roof on the former First National Bank Building, for example, is magnificent. Other buildings are receiving extensive repairs and there are new businesses already scheduled to move in.
Bellefonte has seen more new businesses, grand openings and ribbon cuttings recently than were common in the past. The SpringBoard incubator continues to graduate entrepreneurs. Then there’s the new construction. The chief example, but not the only example, is the Waterfront Development Project. It is scheduled to break ground soon and plans include a parking garage, hotel and commercial space. That project will compliment downtown businesses and strengthen the customer draw for everyone. Centre Boot Company, in a new construction location, has expanded and doubled its space.
Bellefonte has also benefited from increased social media and other marketing by The Bellefonte Chamber; Downtown Bellefonte Inc.; Historic Bellefonte Inc.; Bellefonte Historical and Cultural Association; and, importantly, the Happy Valley Adventure Bureau — among others.
All of this is in addition to the rich history and heritage Bellefonte has to offer, and which already attracts visitors from across the nation and around the world. Bellefonte remains very proud of its past and dedicated to historical preservation.
But Bellefonte is also benefitting from new faces, new ideas and new ways of doing things. The old and new combination is very effective and will produce even more good things as time moves forward.
Are there still empty storefronts in Bellefonte? Yes, here and there. Each one of them is an opportunity for a business to catch the Bellefonte wave.
Gary V. Hoover is the executive director of Bellefonte Intervalley Area Chamber of Commerce.