Rules of the Road

The purpose of this blog is to share with you my thoughts on issues pertaining to Oil City and Venango County and to foster discussion.

However, that requires some basic rules. Personal attacks, inappropriate language and venom-filled postings will not be tolerated. Comments will be screened, and if necessary edited, before posting.

Disagreement and a variety of opinions are encouraged, but I ask that it always be in a respectful, positive manner. So fire away, but do so cleanly

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The ORA take

There have been numerous comments to Inside Oil City regarding the Oil Region Alliance’s efforts to promote and market Oil City’s downtown and its regional economic development activity.

That led me to contact Randy Seitz, ORA president and chief executive officer. I asked Randy to take a few minutes and look at the comments and draft a brief reply outlining the ORA’s work and accomplishments from his perspective.

This is what Randy had to say:

John,

Thank you so much for bringing these comments to my attention. First, let me say how proud I am that our headquarters is in Oil City and it is our pleasure to focus some of our attention on downtown revitalization, particularly through the "mainstreet program" and the industrial park. But, the fact remains, that our focus is and must remain region-wide. We must continue to focus on building the economy of the entire region if we are going to be successful on the war against the economy. Job creation cures all ills!

Now to address the specific comments in the blog. I am confused. In the past year the ORA was the catalyst for:
- The Conair Expansion which retained over 150 jobs
- The expansion of FedEx which retained and created jobs
- Latrobe Steel Expansion which retained and created jobs
- We completed the build-out to the BIC 2nd Floor Space and created a marketable opportunity for Oil City
- Secured over $125,000 in grant money to train incumbent workers keeping our constituents employable
- Secured money for a revolving loan fund to help local entrepreneurs
- Attracted New Airline Carrier for the Venango Airport and the marketing to keep it going
- Recruited Vantage Health Care to the region and created new jobs
- And, assisted in the financing of the second Hawbaker expansion since they arrived in 2007.

Please keep in mind that most of this was accomplished at a time when our neighboring communities like Meadville and Erie announced job losses and companies leaving town. We are, as you know, in a recession and most companies are not expanding anywhere, but they are expanding here, and the ORA has been there to help every step of the way.

In addition, in the case of Conair, the ORA put in the funds to save these jobs, along with FICDA and the NWC. Our commitment was $100,000. This was done during a time when our budget is tight. But that is what we are here for. And lastly, during the same time period, as your blogger pointed out, we have done a tremendous job bringing in tourists that spend money in our region and stay in our hotels. This money keeps our retail here.

Please let me know if you need more information.

Thank you,
Randy Seitz

Friday, April 10, 2009

Of our downtown and April 22

There will be a Oil City Main Street Program on Wednesday, April 22 at 6:30 p.m. in the Great Room of the Transit Building.

The purpose is to update everyone on where things stand with development of the Main Street Program, and more importantly obtain the public’s input on key issues of our strengths, weaknesses opportunities and threats.

Already I’ve heard some comment along the lines of "haven’t we done this before." Well, yes and no. Efforts to make our downtown and our community successful and vibrant are not start/finish propositions. They must be ongoing.

In a sense, the current Main Street drive is a natural evolution of recent work done by Take Pride and earlier work by the former CDC and others. But it is also new and different.

Also new and different is our approach to official Main Street Program designation. We are going after that designation in a way that has never bone done before, skipping an entire step (really it is more like a staircase) to get right to where the money is for fa├žade programs, revolving loan funds and more. This is possible through a unique partnership with the Oil Region Alliance.

I have my own thoughts about how our downtown would best succeed and compete. Whether that is what eventually emerges from the Main Street Program is an unknown. What I do know is that my thoughts will be taken into consideration, as will yours – if you take the time to participate. It is your community. It is your future.

So, what are my thoughts on the downtown?

I think the arts can play a huge role, and we are already seeing that happen. I think we need to give thought to what kinds of businesses can fill a market niche. I would like to see our downtown be a vibrant entertainment/social center. I think our upper floors need to become quality office space. I could go on and on.