"This year has been ridiculously busy," Jim Becker summed up 2018 for Crawford County's lead economic development agency — the Economic Progress Alliance of Crawford County.

Becker's comments came at the alliance's annual meeting Thursday night in Meadville at Bessemer Commerce Park — one of the industrial/business park sites operated by the alliance.

The biggest project in 2018 for the alliance was renovation to and expansion at Crawford Business Park in Vernon Township to aid Acutec Precision Aerospace.

Acutec is a maker of aerospace parts and subassemblies that undertook an expansion program that included adding more than 80,000 square feet to the more than 188,000 square feet it already had, Becker said.

A $2.2 million state loan allowed the alliance to renovate 70,000 square feet at the Crawford Business Park for more manufacturing space for Acutec with the company providing $2.2 million as well.

In addition, a 13,000-square-foot building was added on the west side of Acutec’s plant for storage and shipping of finished aerospace parts plus about 4,700 feet of additional renovations with Acutec investing more than $10.7 million in new production equipment.

A speculative building of around 20,000 square feet is under construction at the Keystone Regional Industrial Park in Greenwood Township. It's expected to be ready for occupancy around midyear and already has drawn interest due to it being in a Keystone Opportunity Zone. The zone allows the elimination of most state and local taxes through 2027.

"We've literally had site selectors from Pittsburgh visit the site and it's now in their queue for their clients," Becker said. "The state of Pennsylvania — the Department of Community and Economic Development — sees that site as one of the better sites for companies outside of Pennsylvania to relocate to Pennsylvania. So they're actively marketing it."

That building also can be expanded from 20,000 to up to 58,000 square feet — if needed, he said.

Once that building is leased or sold, Becker said he'll approach the alliance board to repeat the process with a similar project on a five-acre site that would be adjacent.

There's also the potential for some other projects within the Keystone park to move forward in 2019 as well additional building activity within that park as well, Becker said.

The alliance also is looking toward continued renovations at the Cochranton Community Services Complex building, which opened in 2017.

The project — done in conjunction with Cochranton Area Revitalization Effort — has a pharmacy, physician offices and a credit union office, but only half the building has been renovated, Becker said.

Becker said state grants and low-interest loans are being sought to help renovate the remainder of that facility.

"We want to build out three or four more office spaces," Becker said. "We've been in touch with the CARE community group and talked with them about other community needs."

Hudson Companies of Hermitage has an option to buy a 1.7-acre parcel of land owned by the alliance that's adjacent to the Cochranton Community Service Complex for a 39-unit senior housing complex. If Hudson's project moves forward in 2019, the money from the land sale would be used for a parking lot and other improvements to the complex's site, Becker said.

Conneaut Lake Park amusement park, which day to day operations are overseen by alliance staff, will see continued maintenance and cleanup in 2019, Becker said.

The alliance manages the park under a contract with Trustees of Conneaut Lake Park, the nonprofit corporation that oversees its operations.

New roofs were installed over the amusement park's Kiddieland rides plus a new picnic pavilion was built within Kiddieland with a grant from the Meadville Rotary Club, Becker said.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

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