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York's new development guru lays out top priorities

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Leonardo McClarty starts his job as York's economic and community development director June 2.
Leonardo McClarty starts his job as York's economic and community development director June 2. - (Photo / )

Leonardo McClarty doesn't start his new job as York's economic and community development director until June 2.

But he already has a dozen or so meetings scheduled when he takes over the job left vacant for almost a year since now-Rep. Kevin Schreiber was elected in May 2013.

“He's going to be quite busy,” said Mayor C. Kim Bracey.

A number of pre-existing tasks are waiting for the 41-year-old McClarty to tackle. The City Revitalization and Improvement Zone and Northwest Triangle are tops on that list. But he'll also be dealing with the two-sided coin that is York.

It is the social, commercial and cultural hub of York County. It also leads the county in poverty.

From 2007 to 2012, the most recent statistics available from the U.S. Census Bureau, an average of 31.5 percent of the city's households were below the poverty level. By comparison, 6.7 percent of families in York County, of which the city is the county seat, were below the poverty level.

McClarty, an Atlanta-area native, has spent the past nine years as president and CEO of the DeKalb County Chamber of Commerce, which covers the eastern suburbs of the city. He also has worked as an economic development director and project manager.

“My background is city planning with an emphasis on economic development,” he said in a phone interview last week. “Based on the things I've seen, the locations I've worked, I think it has prepared me for the City of York and the challenges I'll face there.”

Key projects

Darrell Auterson, president and CEO of the York County Economic Alliance, was upfront when asked what he though McClarty's first priority should be.

“The biggest thing on the horizon is the potential passage of the CRIZ for the City of York,” Auterson said.

A CRIZ designation helps communities develop vacant, blighted and abandoned properties for commercial use. Eligible cities are allowed to create an authority to issue bonds for a redevelopment project, and those bonds are repaid using most state and local taxes generated within the CRIZ during and after construction. York has already created an authority.

“It's going to be critical for him to get up to speed and get involved with the (CRIZ) authority,” Auterson said. “It's going to create a whole new tool kit for the city in terms of redevelopment.”

Developers are required to supply at least 20 percent of the development cost for a project through private funding. The program is based on local economic indicators and limited to eight cities. Bethlehem and Lancaster were the first two selected. Most people feel York is a top contender for the next round, a date for which has not been set, according to Gov. Tom Corbett's office.

McClarty admitted he has some catching up to do on the subject, but he said it will take a group effort to make the CRIZ bear fruit.

“In a broader sense, the general strategy from a planning perspective, it will have to be a process that involves the input and feedback of key stakeholders. It has to be an inclusive process. We would build our plan from the feedback we get in from those key stakeholders.”

Bracey, who was the city's community development director under Mayor John Brenner and has since merged the position with that of the economic development director, said her priority has been bringing the Northwest Triangle project to life. She was elected in 2010, but it has been a key redevelopment enterprise for a decade.

The first of the project's three phases was completed with the opening of the newly renamed Santander Bank Stadium, where the York Revolution professional baseball team plays, as well as the opening of some surrounding businesses.

The second phase is ongoing to attract commercial business to some of the district's old warehouses. LSC Design recently moved into the renovated Thos. Somerville warehouse and was joined by Carney Engineering.

The third phase includes plans for residences and a movie theater. Last month, the city's Redevelopment Authority, which owns the property, signed an agreement to sell about an acre to Penn Ketchum, general manager of Penn Cinema, for $81,200. Ketchum said the theater would be ready to go next year, Bracey noted.

McClarty said he wants to build on that momentum.

“I'll be asking myself the question, 'Why are these businesses or locations successful and how do we further replicate it?'” he said.

But it's more than that, he said.

“Things don't decline because of one person, and they don't get rebuilt by one person,” he said. “It comes from working with groups like Downtown Inc, the different authorities, looking at things from a collaborative standpoint. Coming from a chamber world as I have, I recognize the importance of pulling in partners. We each have key strengths, so let's do this together because we have a mutual goal in mind.” 

About Leonardo McClarty

Age: 41

Hometown: Atlanta

Family: Wife, Shanka; three children

Education: Master’s degree in city and regional planning from Clemson University; bachelor’s degree in political science from Furman University; certifications from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for Organizational Management and the National Development Council

Experience: 15 years of experience in economic and community development; president and CEO of the DeKalb County, Ga., Chamber of Commerce; Roswell, Ga., economic development division director; DeKalb County Office of Economic Development senior project manager

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