2023 Blair County Alliance Annual Report

by | Feb 5, 2024 | News

In January our newly formed Blair County Alliance for Business and Economic Growth convened its inaugural annual meeting. The community came together to celebrate this new beginning and report on both the Chamber and the Altoona Blair County Development (ABCD) Corporation’s 2023 impact and results.

At the start of 2023 we may not have had a clear vision on how to create the Alliance. While it made a lot of sense for ABCD and the Chamber to come together, there were a lot of details to be ironed out. Our staff, boards, and legal team had one goal: to define the best pathway forward that would not only help us do what we do better, but also amplify our services and engage new people and businesses who we might not have otherwise reached.

We feel we have put a strong foundation for great things to happen thanks to our new Alliance Team, Chamber and ABCD Staff and Board. Their input, patience, and energy were highly valued as we prepare for the next step in 2024.

And what is the next step? That will be hearing from all of you. We will be facilitating a strategic planning process which is an opportunity for both members and nonmembers to tell us what is working, what can be improved, and what should be added to program offerings and operations overall.

We want to ensure that we use this opportunity to look back and forward to ensure what we are doing is relevant and impactful for our members and the community overall.

From an economic perspective, Blair County’s productivity is at an all-time high. Businesses are investing in new technologies like never before and the result is higher skill, higher wage job opportunities across industry sectors.

Last year ABCD financed 51 expansion projects totaling more than $29 million in new investment. That helped to create 157 new jobs while retaining more than 320 existing positions.

Many of those projects helped us reinvent existing spaces and places, which remains a key strategic priority across all our mountain main street communities.

Our 2023 annual report can be found by clicking here. The highlights include the dedication of the new DelGrosso Foods operation, which not only refurbished the formally vacated Cenveo facility, but it also represented the largest single manufacturing expansion in Blair County.

We also celebrated with Reliance Bank, as they announced their expansion into the recently renovated Mill building, further demonstrating the value and need for more open, flexible office spaces in today’s modern business environment.

And people can’t work and thrive if they don’t have a place to live. Housing has been and remains a priority economic development goal, especially within the City of Altoona.

In 2023 we broke ground on four housing developments. They were led by A Better Address Altoona LLC, Park Place Altoona Reality, KB Revitalization and the Randazzo Building Construction and Renovation. Together these projects will add 32 new market rate apartments and condos to our housing inventory, helping us move the needle in attracting new residents to our community. Keep an eye out for ribbon cuttings for these properties later in 2024.

Outside of the City, Keystone Custom Homes will turn the lights on 24 new modern market rate apartments as part of their Phase II Hunt Club Development, further helping us address our critical housing demand for new and existing residents alike.

Beyond our core services, the Alliance continued its commitment to define and invest in our outdoor assets. The outdoor recreation economy represents a huge opportunity for mountain communities like ours and is a key reason people enjoy living and working here in the First Frontier Blair County.

That is why several trail planning efforts at both the state and local levels commenced in 2023 and will be completed later this year. Those studies will serve as guideposts for not only new trail construction for us to enjoy but will also help more businesses start up and serve the outdoor industry. Much more will be happening in this area in 2024 so stay tuned.

All of what I just highlighted is happening for one fundamental reason – To bring more people here to the First Frontier Blair County, not just to visit, but to move here, work here, to invest here, and become advocates for the community they love.

Housing, commercial buildings, civic spaces, outdoor recreation, our arts, and cultural venues, all work together to convey an impression, a sense of place and a way of life.

We have a strong asset base in the place. If we continue to speak with one voice, in a clear way and with a targeted, purposeful approach we can change the demographic trajectory we currently face.

It’s not easy. Not everyone is a match for any one community. People come and go for many different reasons. Their interests, needs and goals vary and will change over time. We are not the place for everyone, but are the place for many ones, and those ones can add up.

If we continue to be clear, honest, tactical, and authentic in our messaging and strategies, build on our strengths and address our challenges as we have been doing, those ones will add up.

2023 has set a strong foundation for new approaches in community and economic development here the Blair County – The First Frontier. We are looking forward to 2024 and beyond.

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