City to pay 2 consultants up to $300,000

Two economic development consulting firms seeking grants and working on business opportunities with a variety of investors and stakeholders in the city will get to continue their professional service under a renewed contract approved Thursday night by City Council.

Penn Strategies, of Harrisburg, and Rettew Associates, 418 Pine St., will keep working for the city over the life of the contract, or for the next two years.

The contract calls for the companies not to be paid in excess of $300,000 over that period. The companies worked last year under a $100,000 contract.

Councilman Jonathan Williamson, chairman of the city finance committee, said it’s a 50-percent growth in the size of the contract for the firms.

The companies helped the city obtain a $3 million state Redevelopment Capital Assistance grant for downtown economic projects, he said.

The city budgeted $100,000, and what amounts to $50,000 per year extra is not part of the general fund budget but will be paid instead by funding from River Valley Transit and the Williamsport Parking Authority, said William E. Nichols, city finance director.

The consulting firms’ representatives, Jason M. Fitzgerald, senior vice president of Penn Strategies, and Laura Templeton, regional manager of Rettew Associates, attended and appreciated the city administration and council’s confidence.

The state Office of Budget is using the application the companies submitted as a template on how to apply for the state grant. An application is due before the state Department of Community and Economic Development by mid-June.

Councilman Randall J. Allison observed how the companies had worked with the key stakeholders in the area and are interested in recruitment of diversified industries – including those involved in natural gas – but not solely energy-related businesses and industries.

Councilman N. Clifford “Skip” Smith said the company representatives are easily accessible and answer questions when asked. Smith said prior to these two firms getting contracts, the city had another company that it “fired” because it did not meet expectations and produce results for the tax dollars expended.