Washington County a big contributor to PRA economic development ‘wins’

March 26, 2014
Paul Lombardo, president of Ness Technologies, second from left, chats with attendees at Pittsburgh Regional Alliance’s economic development “wins” day Wednesday at the Westin Hotel in Pittsburgh. Ness represented one of Washington County’s “wins” in 2013 when it opened an office in Southpointe II. - Michael Bradwell / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

PITTSBURGH – Southwestern Pennsylvania continues to show success in growing a widely diversified economy that’s attracting more interest from companies that are either expanding or locating in the region.

On Wednesday, the Pittsburgh Regional Alliance, the economic development marketing organization for the 10-county region that includes Washington and Greene counties, reported capturing 302 economic development deals during 2013, a 12 percent increase in activity over the previous year.

The PRA’s annual economic development scorecard, presented at the Westin Hotel, serves as a snapshot of all of the deals or “wins” announced in the previous year related to new facilities, expansions of existing companies, attraction and retention of companies and startups across the region.

The event also saw Washington County earning the No. 2 spot in economic development wins during the past year, with 42 counted by PRA.

Greene County’s 2013 economic development wins included announcements for a building for FMC Technologies Inc., a global oil and natural gas equipment service corporation, and a building for Irwin Car and Equipment. Both projects are in EverGreene Technology Park.

According to PRA, the 302 regional wins of 2013 spanned both announced investment and development projects totaling $2.4 billion in capital investment – the seventh consecutive year this total exceeded $1 billion.

Investment projects accounted for $671 million in announced capital outlay and were dominated by five projects costing in excess of $40 million. They include a regional headquarters expansion for Chevron, a distribution facility for Gordon Food Service and a CSX Corp. intermodal terminal. Development projects totaled $1.8 billion in announced outlay – the second-highest amount on record.

PRA President Dewitt Peart noted that, as in years past, investment was made across the region’s five key industry sectors: manufacturing; information and technology; financial and business services; energy; and health care and life sciences.

“Each county has benefited from investment, as has each of the five key industry sectors, the foundation of the region’s economy. There are investment ebbs and flows between sectors from year to year, but overall there’s balance.”

He noted that in 2013, 60 percent, or 124 of the deals involved the expansion of existing companies. Attraction wins increased from 44 in 2012 to 48 in 2013 and represent one-fourth of all the wins.

Highlights, by sector included

• Manufacturing. PRA said advanced manufacturing, driven by technology, is now a key driver of the economy and was the most active sector for deals in 2013, with 65 announced wins, an increase over the 59 recorded in 2012.

“The Pittsburgh region still makes things: specialty metals, medical devices, robots and turbines, to name a few,” Peart said.

• IT: Seeing a dramatic incrase from 33 deals in 2012 to 51 last year, the region’s information and communications technology sector saw its biggest growth spike since 2008 and took second place for number of deals.

One of those deals occurred in Washington County when Ness Technologies, a developer of software platforms for a diverse number of industries, opened a development office in Southpointe II.

Tony Dodds, vice president and controller at Ness, spoke briefly about their mission in the area’s technology sector.

He said following his remarks that the company entered its new offices last March with 30 employees and now has about 50.

Ness President Paul Lombardo said the global company hopes to expand its message that it’s here to work with U.S. companies that are developing new, specialized applications.

• Financial and business services: The sector, which includes asset management, banking, engineering legal and other business services, and now employs 230,000 here, has been a backbone of the region’s economy since Pittsburgh emerged as an industrial center in the mid-1800s. Peart said it is the largest contributor to the gross regional product, and recorded 39 announced projects last year.

• Energy. The sector is a key economic driver for the region and one that cuts across several other sectors, accounting for a total of 35 investment wins in 2013. Natural gas is a major industry within the broader regional energy sector, which includes traditional and renewable energy resources.

PRA noted that the first Marcellus Shale gas well in the region was drilled in 2004, and that by 2009, the Marcellus Shale opportunity had emerged in full force. Investments focused on new companies coming to the region or existing ones expanding. Those accounted for an average of 70 percent of all energy-related investment wins between 2009 and 2013.

“Currently, we’re seeing a maturation of the industry,” which recorded 35 wins, of which 24 were tied to midstream infrastructure, said Peart. “This is a big increase from only seven in 2011 when the industry was just ramping up here. It signifies maturation.”

• Health care/Life Sciences. The sector, which had 15 wins, employs more than 140,000 people and econcompasses a spectrum of companies of all sizes.

Michael Bradwell has been business editor for the Observer-Reporter since 1995, and was named editor of The Energy Report in 2012. He joined the newspaper in 1990 as a general assignment reporter in the Greene County bureau and has also worked as a copy editor. A 1974 graduate of Pennsylvania State University with a degree in English, he began his career at the Bedford (Pa.) Gazette. Prior to joining the O-R, he served as public relations director for Old Bedford Village, account executive at two Pittsburgh public relations agencies and copywriter for the country’s largest wholesaler of mutual funds.

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