Beaver County’s access to river, rail and highway transportation gives it an advantage in attracting businesses, but the county’s infrastructure needs to be built out further, and doing so should be a priority.
That was among the takeaways from the Pittsburgh Business Times’ latest Corridors of Opportunity series, held at Seven Oaks Country Club in Beaver.
During the event’s panel discussion, Potter Township Supervisor Rebecca Matsco said that infrastructure includes not only the basics, such as roads and sewers, but other things such as green space and a network of more informed public officials.
“We really need to understand how to plan for what’s not here yet,” she said. “We need to understand how to partner with business.”
The township has been trying to plan for what’s not there yet — Royal Dutch Shell’s cracker plant. But she said the township was trying to map out a path into the future well before the plant became a possibility. And transportation infrastructure was figuring into its planning, she said.
“Having river, road and rail is a huge boom to business. We recognized that before thing began to change.”
The potential for intermodal transportation is what drew panelist Dawn Fuchs, president of Weavertown Environmental Group, to the area near the proposed Shell plant. She said that after 18 months of closely guarded negotiations, the company closed on a plot off Route 18 and along the Ohio River.
The access to three modes of transportation was the “the trifecta in my mind,” she said.
Educational infrastructure is another area that the county has been working to improve.
Christopher Reber, president of the Community College of Beaver County, said the college has been forming partnerships with other educational entities, as it moves away from a traditional standalone model. He said the college considers itself to be part of a post-secondary education community.
He said that the college must work with other institutions because there is more unmet need for skilled workers than all colleges and universities can provide.
Reber said that as an example, the college has established an aviation academy academy for 10th, 11th and 12th graders.
Through the program, students spend half of their time in STEM programs offered under the college’s Aviation Sciences Center and can earn credit toward an associates degree at the college. Students who spend three years in the academy can leave high school with more than half of the college’s associates degree requirements already fulfilled.
If a student goes on to earn an associates degree from the college, he or she can transfer to a partner college and earn a bachelor’s degree.
“I think its a tremendous opportunity of growth,” Reber said.