Harrisburg eyes $12 million FNB Field upgrades

Harrisburg is seeking a $6 million grant from the state’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program to help pay for upgrades to FNB Field, home of minor league baseball’s Harrisburg Senators.

Matt Maisel, the city’s director of communications, said via email that the overall project cost is $12 million. If and when the RACP money is received, “we will figure out the rest as part of a three-way partnership between city, county and (ball)club. We will not do bonds.”

The improvements are needed because Major League Baseball has changed its requirements for player development spaces, including clubhouse size, commissary areas, weight rooms, meeting rooms, storage, training rooms, female staff facilities, etc., Maisel explained.

So to become compliant with the new standards, FNB Field must undergo some upgrades.

The RACP website said the City of Harrisburg’s application mentions that the $6 million would be used for new field lighting and renovation of existing locker rooms; a new building, on stilts, inside the stadium perimeter that will serve as the new home team clubhouse; an expanded boardwalk to provide more area for more activities and local organizations to have concourse tables during games; and scoreboard replacement.

The new Senators’ clubhouse will be at street level on the third base side where the kids’ play area currently is, Maisel said. Also, it will be raised out of the flood plain. The play area will be moved elsewhere within the ballpark.

He said the existing clubhouse footprint houses both teams but will be repurposed to support the visiting team as the Senators’ squad moves to its new accommodation.

The Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program funds are incredibly vital to the project, Maisel said. “The No. 1 goal is for the Senators to remain home in Harrisburg on City Island. We’re fortunate to have a great relationship with the county where they may be able to help out some, but we need the state to come to the table as well and pitch in. It’s ultimately too soon to tell if this will happen with or without state funding.”

In addition to being the home venue for the Senators, FNB Field hosts baseball games played by Central Penn College and numerous high schools as well.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

M&T donates former branch building for workforce development center

M&T donated its recently closed branch at 800 E. Market St. to the Spanish American Civic Association
M&T donated its recently closed branch at 800 E. Market St. to the Spanish American Civic Association. PHOTO/PROVIDED

It’s not unusual these days for banks to consolidate branches.

But when M&T Bank decided to combine two of its York locations, the financial institution looked for a way to turn the vacated building into a community asset.

M&T donated its recently closed branch at 800 E. Market St. to the Spanish American Civic Association to create Tec Centro York, a workforce development center that will help the underemployed and unemployed find jobs in high-demand fields from health care to construction.

The basic adult education, linguistic and job skills training and career counseling Tec Centro York provides are geared to residents in historically underserved communities. Lancaster-based SACA has partnered with York Community Resource Center, a nonprofit that offers vocational and technical training, to administer the workforce development programs.

The building will be transferred to the Resource Center, using the Tec Centro model SACA started in Lancaster in 2014 as a template. Tec Centro Berks followed on that, opening in Reading in 2021. And work is ongoing to establish a Tec Centro in Lebanon.

Tec Centro York is scheduled to open in the second quarter of next year.

M&T closed the 800 E. Market St. branch July 29 and consolidated operations at its 21 E. Market St. location.

A subsidiary of Buffalo, New York-based M&T Bank Corp., M&T Bank serves customers from branches in 12 states and Washington, D.C.

Gail D’Angelo, regional community reinvestment act manager for M&T, said the 800 E. Market St. branch, which was originally an Allfirst Bank before that institution merged into M&T, was in a “pretty prominent corner in the neighborhood.”

And it served that neighborhood for a long time. She emphasized that a full-service ATM will remain available to customers outside Tec Centro York.

The bank also “didn’t want to leave the branch dark,” D’Angelo said, so its leadership strongly favored giving the building to an organization that would do something “impactful,” she said.

M&T worked with SACA before, and was aware of the Tec Centro model. The bank “knew this was something that was available as an opportunity,” D’Angelo said.

After a meeting was held with SACA executives, including President Carlos Graupera and CEO Jose R. Lopez, the idea to create Tec Centro York in the former bank branch started coming to fruition.

“We think it’s really cool to bring this to the York area,” D’Angelo said, and “we’re super excited to provide this space to them.”

The building has a lower level, a first floor and a second floor, all of which are usable, she said.

Getting the York Community Resource Center involved and other partners is “just going to make it a big win,” D’Angelo said.

“SACA and Tec Centro are immensely grateful for collaborative partnerships, like that of M&T Bank,” Graupera, who’s also the founder of SACA, said in a release. “This is a powerful example of a business using its resources and expertise to work alongside other organizations to amplify the community’s access to and effectiveness of our workforce development programs.”

In addition to workforce development, SACA’s programming also focuses on human services, behavioral health, affordable housing and commercial development, and public broadcasting.

According to the Lancaster Tec Centro website, students are trained for such jobs as certified nurse aide; dental assistant; medical assistant; physician assistant; phlebotomist; commercial and industrial heating, ventilation, air conditioning and refrigeration technician; forklift operator; facilities maintenance; commercial and industrial electrical technician; and commercial and industrial plumbing technician.

Training time varies, and can be up to six months. In 2019-20, including through the start of the COVID-19 epidemic, 160 participants enrolled in skills training at Tec Centro, with almost 89% increasing their income by at least 40%.

“In SACA, we found the perfect partner to provide residents of York with the resources and skills they need to improve their lives and provide for their families,” Tom Koppmann, M&T’s regional president for southeast Pennsylvania, said in the release. “We can’t wait to see how Tec Centro York helps to transform the communities it serves.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

West Shore Home buys Minnesota software designer

Mechanicsburg-based remodeling company West Shore Home announced Wednesday that it has acquired Design Center Inc. in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Design Center specializes in mobile application development; user experience research; consulting and implementation; content management solutions; custom software platforms and integrations; website design; user interface design; graphic design services; 3D modeling; animation and visualization; virtual reality; and augmented reality.

The move brings 23 new employees to West Shore Home, which has expanded into a national brand since its founding in 2006. It currently operates 33 locations in 15 states, with plans for additional growth.

A release said West Shore Home has become “an industry leader through its use of technology to simplify the home remodeling experience. This acquisition enhances its ability to innovate and improve the customer experience. Utilizing its Don’t Blink mindset, West Shore Home is reinventing home remodeling, allowing consumers to drive the process through its tech-driven platform.”

Most of its projects are completed in one day.

“One of our core values at West Shore Home is to Get Better Every Single Day,” said CEO B.J. Werzyn. “As we look to the future of the company, technology is key to our continued growth. Bringing this established, well-respected software designer under our roof furthers our vision of becoming America’s Most Admired Home Improvement Brand.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Lancaster County Workforce Development Board chooses new leader

After a nationwide search, the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board has selected Anna Ramos as its next executive director.

Ramos has been chief operating officer at LCWDB for two-and-a-half years, where her responsibilities include the overall management, implementation and oversight of federal, state and locally funded programs and services administered by the state Department of Labor & Industry, among other duties. Previously, she was business initiatives director with the Lancaster Chamber.

The Lancaster County Workforce Development Board was founded in 1999 to align fiscal resources and provide strategic direction for county job seekers and employers.

The hiring process for executive director began with the creation of a search committee, which chose Samaritan Consulting Group to oversee the process.

Samaritan Consulting Group then held conversations with 16 key stakeholders that included Lancaster County and city public officials, as well as local educational and business leaders.

A job description and profile was developed to fully encompass the duties of the position, as well as the qualities needed for success. Four final candidates were selected, final interviews were held the second week of June, and a recommendation to the LCWDB executive committee was made.

“I am excited and grateful for this opportunity to continue to serve my community as the new executive director of the Lancaster County Workforce Development Board,” Ramos said in a release. “With workforce being one of our county’s top issues, my vision for our organization is to be a leader, convener and consistently part of the conversation in addressing these challenges. I look forward to working with my team and elevating us to the next level as your workforce community partner.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer.

Pair of Lebanon County farms get state ag loans

Gov. Tom Wolf announced Friday the approval of $2 million in funding for five agricultural projects in four counties through the First Industries Fund.

The projects, two of which are in Lebanon County, will help farms expand their operations and bring in additional revenue.

Local recipients of loans are:

• Dalton, Dale and Kynel Himmelberger, through the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corp., who were approved for a $400,000 FIF loan. The money will be used to construct of two 31,500-square-foot broiler houses. The project site is at 10837 Jonestown Road, Jonestown.

• Clyde, Carolyn, Michael and Rodney Meyer, through the Lebanon Valley Economic Development Corp., who were approved for a $400,000 FIF loan. The funds will be used to construct a pair of 31,500-square-foot broiler houses as well. The project site is on Thompson Avenue in North Annville Township.

“Pennsylvania’s economy is deeply rooted in the agriculture industry and supporting projects that spur growth in these communities is important,” Wolf said in a release. “The funding provided by the First Industries Fund helps farmers in the commonwealth grow their operations. Ensuring our farmers thrive is an investment in Pennsylvania’s future.”

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer.

EDC posts banner year in 2021, helping hundreds of businesses 

A chicken house on Jarred and Sarah VanderPlate’s 53-acre chicken farm in Rapho Township. PHOTO PROVIDED.

Jarred VanderPlate has been farming – in one way or another – since he was 10 years old. 

“I always wanted to buy a farm,” he said, but “I never thought I actually would.” 

Thanks, however, to the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County and its EDC Finance Corp., VanderPlate and his wife, Sarah, were approved for money from the state’s Next Generation Farmer Loan Program, which they used to help purchase a 53-acre chicken farm in Rapho Township. 

The EDC team was as busy as ever in 2021, according to its annual report, approving millions in loans for dozens of Lancaster County businesses and farms so they can “stay and grow,” which is its core mission. 

Last year, 41 projects adding up to $155 million in total investment received more than $36 million in economic development financing. 

That includes 10 Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority loans – six agriculture and four commercial/industrial – as well as 15 Next Gen Farmer loans and 16 Small Business Administration 504 loans. 

The PIDA amounts ranged from $384,500 to $2 million, while the Next Gen Farmer loans were from $315,000 to $558,000. 

Among the SBA 504 borrowers, loan totals went from $448,000 all the way up to $4.252 million. 

The vast majority of recipients were from Lancaster County, while seven of the SBA loans went to businesses in Dauphin, York, Adams and Cumberland Counties. 

In addition to the financing aspect, the EDC team averaged about 85 active projects on a rolling basis, helping local businesses with site selection and land planning; partnering with local municipalities; and providing connections to workforce development services and overall business counseling. 

Lisa Riggs, president of the Economic Development Company of Lancaster County, said most EDCs have seen a lot of expansion as businesses began to rebound after the worst of the pandemic. 

2022 is off to a fast start as well, with eight or nine Next Gen Farmer loans already approved, she said. 

As to the PIDA loans, some of those were pushed through before interest rates reset at a higher level, Riggs explained. 

The EDC team is also unique in the region for its technical expertise with SBA 504 loans, which is why it will help businesses outside Lancaster County get approved. 

A formal memorandum with other counties allows that, she said. 

Additionally, last year saw $3 million in loans go to 159 Lancaster small businesses through the City Revitalization & Improvement Zone program, the EDC report noted. 

Being a conduit for special state programs related to the COVID-19 pandemic affected EDC’s volume as well, Riggs said. 

In partnership with the Lancaster Chamber, EDC Finance helped 316 businesses receive more than $6 million from Pennsylvania’s COVID-19 Hospitality Industry Recovery Program. 

Machine contractor Flex-Cell Precision Inc. Received a $1.48 million loan from the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority for a 23,500-square-foot addition in Lancaster. PHOTO PROVIDED

From manufacturing to agriculture 

With aid from the EDC team, Lancaster precision machining contractor Flex-Cell Precision Inc. received a Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority loan of more than $1.48 million. 

The money supports a multi-million-dollar expansion project – nearly finished – to add 23,500 square feet to the plant’s existing 17,500 square feet, said President and CEO Tony Fanning. 

Fanning, who started Flex-Cell in New York in 1991, moved the business to its current location at 1151 S. Duke St. in 2013. EDC was involved then, too, he said. 

Flex-Cell also worked with Chris Deascenti at First National Bank on financing the expansion. 

“We’ve always had steady growth,” Fanning said, and the extra space leaves plenty of room to accommodate that in the years ahead. 

The company employs about 50 and has a good mix of medical, military and commercial clients, mostly in the Northeast, he said. 

“It was great working with EDC,” Fanning said. “They’re a fantastic group.” 

Jarred VanderPlate said he and his family have been farming for about 10 months. The $552,000 Next Gen loan approved for him and his wife assisted in the $4 million farm purchase. 

There are a number of options for first-time farmers, he said, and the Next Gen route was what they chose. 

The VanderPlates’ chickens are pullets, which will be egg layers and supply Kreider Farms. Their farm has the capacity for 227,000 chickens, and is currently at a little more than 200,000. 

He said their five children – the oldest is 13 – help out. “They really enjoy it.” 

More industrial land needed 

According to the annual report, the EDC has also been working on analyzing what industrial land is available in Lancaster County, as sites to accommodate expansion for manufacturers are getting scarcer. 

This is building on the Lancaster County Planning Department’s Places2040 comprehensive plan “and has tapped into the knowledge and expertise of many local municipal managers,” the report noted. 

Riggs said half the county has been completed in the analysis, with an initial emphasis on municipalities with urban growth areas. 

Only 3% of land in Lancaster County is zoned industrial. And when that’s combined with an industrial vacancy rate is 2%, alarm bells go off, she said. 

The solution to this unbalance between supply and demand, Riggs said, will take time. 

“Companies that make stuff want to make more stuff,” she said. “There’s real value in those jobs.” 

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer. 

The Hershey Co. opens R&D center in Malaysia

The Hershey Co. announced the opening of a new research and development center in Johor, Malaysia, that will enable the confectioner and snack giant to quickly create, test and launch new products customized to the tastes of consumers in the region.

One of Hershey’s largest R&D facilities outside the U.S., it will be the corporation’s AEMEA (Asia-Pacific, Europe, Middle East, Africa) hub for innovation and technology.

The 10,400 square-foot center, which officially opened May 11, is a major investment in the Malaysian market and will house R&D laboratories as well as a packaging development facility. In the sensory area, Hershey will partner with innovation teams to taste-test and shortlist products.

“Our new R&D center reflects our ongoing commitment to understanding the preferences of consumers across the markets,” Herjit Bhalla, Hershey’s vice president, AEMEA and India, said in a release.

“This investment is just one example of how Hershey is continuing to reinvent the science of confectionery through internal and external innovation,” added Philippe Zehnder, senior director of international R&D. “The new facility will allow our talented teams to gain deeper insights into consumers by enabling them to conceptualize, test and develop some of the most innovative products across the region.”

Hershey has approximately 19,000 employees worldwide. Its 100-plus brand names in about 80 countries generate more than $8.9 billion in annual revenue.