Without deserting its “country charm and green space” – as County Commissioner Larry Maggi puts it – Washington County continues to increase its leadership in terms of economic growth and job creation.
At a Feb. 28 breakfast briefing, organized by the Washington County Chamber of Commerce, the Washington County Board of Commissioners were joined by more than 200 county business leaders to recap the robust economic development and tourism activity that occurred in 2012.
“Our business community announced $346,365,000 in new business investment which will account for an additional 2,530 jobs,” said Maggi. “This tremendous growth in business investment and job creation was driven by numerous sectors of our economy – energy, technology, commercial/industrial development, hospitality and manufacturing.” According to Dun & Bradstreet. Washington County has 280 companies involved in manufacturing.
“In an Energy Revolution”
Energy continues to be significant economic driver, with Washington County being ranked first the greater Pittsburgh region and fourth in the state in both natural gas wells drilled and drilling permits issued in 2012. The county’s booming energy sector’s reach extends far beyond drilling rigs, with the Southpointe mixed-use business park in Canonsburg as an example. It has become the epicenter of corporate activity that supports the industry – everything from regional headquarters to law firms.
“We are in an energy revolution, and Southpointe is in the middle of it,” said County Commissioner Harlan Shober. “Coal is anchored here with the world headquarters of CONSOL Energy, and more and more shale gas companies are arriving – nearly every month it seems.”
A sizeable energy-related tenancy at Southpointe has resulted in the Washington County Chamber’s opening of a second office location in Southpointe, a decision announced at the breakfast briefing by Chamber of Commerce Chairman Barron P. McCune, Jr.
“Many of our 1,100 members are located in Southpointe, and we wanted to ensure that they have closer access to our economic development programs, networking events and advocacy initiatives.” McCune said. “This is especially important with our natural gas and energy members as we work together on expanding energy opportunities and partnerships for our entire business community.”
Millions Make Millions [in Tourism Spending]
Tourism is creating energy of its own in Washington County, where that industry supports 5,740 jobs and generates more than $72 million in federal and state tax revenues, according to a Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development report. Tourism’s significant impact is seen in the Meadows Racetrack & Casino, which marked its five-year anniversary in Washington County in 2012. According to Commissioner Diana Irey Vaughan, it is one of the county’s largest employers with 1,400 employees hosting 4.1 million guests annually.
“The Meadows parent company, CCR, has invested more than $535 million in property since 2006 and now The Meadows is spending $18 million on goods and services in Washington County,” Irey said.
Improvements to Washington County’s infrastructure, business parks and community development projects are funded by revenue received through the county’s Local Share Account (LSA) Program, officials reported. The LSA is Washington County’s share of gross revenues from The Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Since 2008, county commissioners have directed more than $52 million in new projects which help to bolster the county’s economic development and tourism prowess.
Other major economic development investments highlighted during the briefing included Starpointe Business Park, Southpointe II, Alta Vista Business Park and the Washington County Airport.
“The successes we are experiencing in Washington County are not accidental,” said Washington County Chamber President Jeff M. Kotula. “While we did not foresee the tremendous positive economic impacts of the energy industry 15 years ago, the decisions made then to develop ready-to-go sites made our county uniquely positioned to take advantage of these economic opportunities.”