Blair County – Strong and Steady Growth Ahead

by | Jul 8, 2024 | News

As appears in the June 28, 2024 edition of PA Business Central:

This Spring Blair County realized a record low unemployment rate of 3 percent – below state and national levels. While the labor market is tight, Blair’s labor force participation rate is beginning to grow. More participation means more people to fill the available jobs.

Since 2021, Blair has been in a strong and steady labor market on both employment and wage indicators. That fact, coupled with limited land and buildings to support major new business attraction, has us focusing most of our efforts on retaining and growing existing businesses.

That means ensuring that our place is the best it can be to attract new talent, residents and investors to the region.

That is a big reason why the Altoona Blair County Development (ABCD) Corporation and the Blair County Chamber of Commerce joined forces in January of this year. With a better coordinated
marketing message and service continuum, the newly formed Blair County Alliance for Business and Economic Growth is in a strong position to address many aspects of our community development needs such as housing, recreation assets, business, economic development and more.

Beyond just the labor market numbers, Blair County’s productivity is at an alltime 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 Corporation financed 51 expansion projects totaling more than $29 million in investment. That helped to create 157 new jobs while retaining more than 320 existing positions.

Many of those projects helped us rebuild and reinvent several existing spaces and places, which remains a key strategic priority across all our main street communities. They include the dedication of the new DelGrosso Foods operations in Tipton, which not only refurbished the formally vacated Cenveo facility, it was also the largest single manufacturing expansion in Blair County.

We 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.

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.

That is why several trail planning efforts at both the state and local levels commenced in 2023 and will be completed later in 2024. 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.

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.

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