Swales Reviews Year in Economic Development at Annual Luncheon

CLEARFIELD – Area industry leaders, elected officials and business owners were among those attending the Clearly Ahead Development annual luncheon on Thursday at the Clearfield Masonic Lodge.

Joe Kelly Jr., Chairman of the Clearly Ahead board, stated that he is proud of the staff and board for all they have accomplished this year.

“They are making a better community for all of us,” he said.

Kelly was retained as chairman and two new board members, Jeannine Swisher and Paula Foradora will begin their service in January.

Rob Swales, Chief Executive Officer, noted that the term for three board members, John Kordish, David Schultz and Mark Breakey, is ending and he thanked them for their work with the board.

Swales explained Clearly Ahead’s success is the result of a “team effort” as he recognized his staff, Paul McCloskey, Vice-President of Energy and Business Development, Rhonda Bash, Vice-President of Development, and Cathie Ensminger, Development Assistant for their efforts to keep things on track while he is on a leave of absence.

In a power point presentation, Swales reviewed the progress Clearly Ahead has made in 2018.

Although he often hears there are “no jobs” in our area, statistics show an increase of 63% in new job postings in Clearfield County as of the end of November, Swales reported.

The tri-county area including Elk and Jefferson Counties is up 59%.

These statistics could be even better if we consider that some of the new jobs involved the hiring of more than one person, he noted.

Jobs referred to as “high demand occupations” in the area are in health care, food manufacturing, logistics and distribution, professional administration/management, accounting/financing and criminal justice fields.

Swales stated that 70% of these positions only require a high school diploma.

One of Clearly Ahead’s most successful community partnerships is with the Greater Clearfield Chamber of Commerce and Boy Scout’s Explorer’s program which educates 8th grade students on careers available in the area.

“You don’t have to leave the area to find a good job,” he noted.

From 2016 through 2018, there has been $59.6 million in capital investments here which helped retain 1,471 jobs and created 288 new jobs.

In 2018 Clearly Ahead connected with 212 local businesses, 139 companies out of the area, businesses in 27 other states and four industries from out of the country.  Clearly Ahead’s work involves not just reaching out to businesses, but creating partnerships with other groups such as the North Central Regional Planning and Development and Workforce Solutions of North Central PA.

Swales touched on Clearly Ahead’s development projects which includes the River’s Landing building as part of the River Front project.

The project is in the bid process and Swales expects construction on the Market Street property will begin in the spring.

It will be a two-story facility with “lots of glass” and a balcony overlooking the River Walk. He said they are working on finding a restaurant for the first floor that can also provide catering services to the second floor event center. The building will also have office space available.

The Commerce Park near Interstate-80 has had visits from several out of the area businesses that Clearly Ahead has been working with for about 12 months. Swales said he is optimistic he will have some news in 2019 regarding this industry.

With the development of the River Front project and the Commerce Park, “this has been a very busy year,” Swales stated.

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