Writer: Max Crampton-Thomas
2 min read August 2021 — Lynda Pozzuto of the Alle Kiski Strong Chamber spoke to Invest: about the incredible opportunities for business growth in Armstrong County. There are several challenges to overcome before its full potential can be reached, namely a severe labor shortage. Ultimately though, optimism is running high for better days ahead, Kiski noted.
What differentiates Armstrong County from the rest of southwestern Pennsylvania?
What makes it special is that we have the beautiful Allegheny River that runs right through Armstrong County. We’re very blessed and fortunate to have that. Having that river there, and the locks and dams, brings in a lot of tourism, with people coming for hiking and camping. Not everybody has that beautiful river in their backyard. We also have the Rail Trail, our beautiful trail system for biking. If you’re looking for outdoor activities, or to see the countryside, Armstrong County is certainly the place to be.
How would you describe the strengths of the local education system?
We have a branch campus of Indiana University of Pennsylvania in Northpoint, which is in Armstrong County. We also have Penn State New Kensington, which is within our reach. Additionally, Butler Community College is in the process of building in Armstrong County. Then we have our technical schools: Lenape Technical School for high-school students, and our adult educational program. We are blessed with the options we have, not only for high-school students but for adults as well. The training is there with all the implicit opportunities.
What makes this region a great location in which to expand a business?
Our easy access to Pittsburgh. When you get out of the city, as far as land values or building, it’s certainly much cheaper. I would say the cost to do business in Armstrong County is better. We also have several industrial parks. Northpoint has the latest high-tech fiber optics, for example. We have some beautiful parks — with very advanced technology — just waiting for the businesses to come in.
What is the state of business in the area?
Like so many other areas, one problem that we are facing is the shortage of employees. We have businesses closing, businesses that can’t be open at their normal hours because of staffing. That’s all I keep hearing from everybody. It’s the No. 1 issue and it doesn’t matter what field it is. The other thing is that, in my area, the majority of people are back to work, they’re back in their offices full-time. People are trying to get back to normal but we’re struggling with this employee shortage. It’s not only that they just have shortages, it’s causing businesses to close permanently.
How has the Chamber’s membership fluctuated from pre-pandemic to today?
We have seen a drop in membership but this is because businesses have closed or they are not fully back to work yet due to lack of employees. In the case of restaurants, they were completely shut down and don’t yet have the funds to start up again. This has really affected us. One thing I do notice as we are trying to get back to normal and planning some of our larger events is that the businesses that weren’t hurt as much financially are sponsoring things and reengaging in community activities in a way that they weren’t last year. Sponsorships and attendance for events have been higher than normal but membership numbers are down. It’s a funny difference there. I don’t know if it’s the larger businesses that were able to pull through this and are now able to do sponsorships and the members that we lost were our smaller ones but that could be the case. People, though, definitely want to be out and about. Attendance numbers are up in a way that they haven’t been in a long time.
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