Filling Vacant Properties

Work continues to market county to other businesses

By Candy E. Price Daily News Staff Writer

The building on the corner of Fourth and Penn streets in Huntingdon Borough is one of a handful of vacant properties in the county that local agencies, including Huntingdon County Business and Industry, are working to fill. Photo by CANDY E. PRICEAs temperatures warm, so, too, does the real estate market, and Huntingdon County Business and Industry (HCBI) continues to market some of the vacant buildings and land in the county.

“Our plans moving ahead are to land the projects we’re already aware of,” said HCBI executive director Amy Wise.  “We never lose sight of the fact that we still have a number of vacant buildings and they need filled,” Wise said.

Despite the empty structures, HCBI was pleased to see the FCI USA Inc. property in Shirley Townshipsold Feb. 24. The building, located in Riverview Business Center, was transferred to Fireworks Leasing LLC from FCI USA for $1.8 million. Plans are in the works for the property to be used as a fireworks distribution center by Pittsburg, Kansas-based Jake’s Fireworks.Available space includes more than 550,000 square feet and 200-plus acres across the county, including the former Warnaco and U.S. Sports facilities in Smithfield Township, the William Reed & Sons Building (former home of Grove’s Inc.) on Washington Street, the former home of Billi’s Brica Brac and Lil Deb’s on the corner of Fourth Street, the former PNC Bank building on Washington Street and the former Kopp Drug on Moore Street, all in Huntingdon Borough, and the former Miller’s Diner in Henderson Township.
Wise said there are a number of things she has learned through the competitive process for the purchase of the Shirley Township building.

“There are, as we had known in the past, deterrents to being here and being a large company, specifically our infrastructure,” Wise said. “For a large business to seriously consider a location here, there has to be another financial motivator.”

Wise said for the most recent sale, the price of the building — which she called a “tremendous deal” — as well as the “tax abatement program” played “a significant part” in getting Jake’s Fireworks to the area.

“However, none of our other vacant buildings have these same tax opportunities,” Wise said, “and there is no hurry on the part of the legislature to reopen the (Keystone Opportunity Zone) legislation. It’s up to us locally.”

As for the smaller properties, Wise said there are “a number of groups that have an interest in seeing the local economy thrive.”

“They provide much-needed resources in helping us to promote the assets we have,” Wise said. “I’m really excited to see if there are ideas out there that we’re just not aware of yet.”

Wise said her overall hope is that once the FCI transaction is complete, more companies may see the business opportunities.

“Maybe there are opportunities to draw in small- to medium-sized businesses that would fit our niche markets,” Wise said, citing economic drivers like active adults and tourism.

The most recent trend in business development locally, Wise added, is businesses and people have been seeking out HCBI.“There has really been a shift from us seeking projects,” Wise said, “to people calling us.”

And Wise said her office is happy to field any calls about ideas.

“If you have an idea and you don’t call us, don’t expect us to know about it,” she said, adding HCBI may not be the right outlet, but may have connections. “Maybe we can connect you with the right resources. Never, ever assume we can’t help.”

Candy can be reached at cprice@huntingdondailynews.com.