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Commissioners take first step in jobs creation plan

Another tool was added to the county’s toolbox to attract businesses to the area when the Lycoming County commissioners approved a jobs creation plan program.

The program, as it was presented Tuesday, would be available to eligible businesses that agree to create, from a negotiated start date, from 11 to a maximum of 100 new full-time jobs within the county. The businesses would guarantee employee hourly wages of at least 225% of the federal minimuum wage and maintain their business operation for three to five years from the start date. The program would allow $1,000 per year over a five-year period for each qualified employee.

Initially Commissioner Rick Mirabito questioned if the program was actually needed since several businesses have relocated to the county during the time since the program was first considered.

“I’m very torn on whether or not we should put together this program,” Mirabito said.

“This (program) arose as a result of conversations we had going on two years ago about how to attract employers to the county…since that time, a lot of things changed. Now, should things change in the future, this might be something in the toolbox that we would want to have,” Mirabito added.

He noted that employers such as Digger Specialties are moving to the area without any financial incentives.

“Are we better served by directing all the resources we have to new infrastructure?” Mirabito asked, citing various projects in county.

“So, at the end of the day, the (jobs) program, while it may have good intentions, may end up misdirecting scarce resources,” he said.

Other questions about the program arose, such as what happens if a company receives the grant and doesn’t stay for the five-year period stipulated in the plan, or eliminates the jobs they have received funding for.

“How do you get it back if they don’t keep those jobs?” he said.

In response to Mirabito’s questions, Commissioner Tony Mussare shared what had been happening in the county to precipitate the necessity for a jobs creation plan.

“We had no wins in this county…the last census shows we’re losing population,” Mussare said.

“That’s why having every tool available in that toolbox to be ready for launch, be ready for that economic development, is so important,” he added.

Admitting that things will change in the plan moving forward, Mussare said he feels it is a start.

“We must lay the roadwork for future commissioners to look at and change it if they need to, but have the funds there so that when that opportunity arises, we can bring in more people, build more homes, more businesses,” Mussare said.

“This lays the foundation to help job creation,” said Commissioner Scott Metzger.

“We have a major win now with Digger. We have more major wins coming. We have an opportunity here to grow the tax base. That’s what I want,” Metzger added.

Prior to approving the plan, the commissioners voted to add amendments relating to the issues raised by Mirabito. One amendment clarified that the amount available would be up to $5,000 per job. Mirabito also proposed that the commissioners develop additional regulations that will cover how to monitor the wages paid and how to get money back if employers do not maintain the jobs that have been funded.

Specific details of the program, such as where the funding would come from and eligibility requirements, will be revealed at a later date, according to the commissioners.

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