Bob Shark: Looking Back – and Ahead – at Economic Development Success in Fayette County

by on May 16, 2017

Part X of a Weekly, 12-Part Series

Note:  The Pittsburgh Regional Alliance (PRA) invited each of its economic development partners from the 10-county region to share insight and maybe some hindsight about business investment and the economy’s growth – at the county and regional levels – looking through the rearview mirror at 2016 and at the road ahead and where it might be taking them, their counties and our region in 2017 and beyond.

Here are some of the responses that Bob Shark, executive director of Fay-Penn Economic Development Council, shared with us:

What do you count as the most strategically significant (not necessarily the largest in size or investment dollars) economic development-related deal or activity in your county in 2016? Why?

“The retention of approximately 50 software development jobs with PTC, a global IT company, in downtown Uniontown – made possible by the revitalization of a former VFW recreational hall into a state-of-the-science business center.  In addition to retaining existing jobs, there is now potential to attract additional PTC or other job investment to the building’s remaining space.  This development has also created a new anchor for the western portal to downtown, which is spurring additional revitalization efforts in that area.”


Last year, the Allegheny Conference released a landmark report, Inflection Point: Supply, Demand and the Future of Work in the Pittsburgh Region, detailing a dramatically changing workforce – both in numbers and skill sets.  What has your county done, is doing or planning to do to turn a regional workforce challenge into opportunity? What do you consider your county’s greatest workforce asset(s) to be and why?

“Fayette County participates in a number of workforce development initiatives at various stages of implementation.  One primary asset that presents an equal challenge is the effort to redirect a large population of downsized coal-mining employees into new career pathways.  The County is working on several ARC-related POWER projects to address this.”


What is one of your top priorities for your county, relative to economic development, in 2017 and why?

“A three-pronged strategic emphasis in 2017 is a top priority.  1. Business start-up:  establish a business accelerator focused on the AgTech sector. (Address lack of a current entrepreneurial ecosystem by focusing on an undeveloped niche market for Fayette County.) 2. Business expansion:  expand loan activity.  (Put more low-cost money in the hands of local small businesses to facilitate expedited growth.) 3. Business attraction:  implement a targeted marketing campaign to augment recently completed business park sites.”


How important is regional partnership to economic development success in your county and what do you count among your best partnership assets/allies for achieving success. Can you share a particular memory or reflection about a project when partnership moved the needle? If so, please do.

“Regional partnership is helpful when complementary priorities can be addressed.  The County’s best partnership is with the St. Vincent Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in Latrobe.  It is a true symbiosis in terms of lead generation and development and runs the gamut from business plan concept to new small business establishment and subsequent growth.”


What is better about the economic development/business investment climate in the region now, versus 10 years ago? Conversely, what do hope will be improved within the next decade?

“Development and investment are more strategically targeted now than 10 years ago, with more emphasis placed on early analysis and ROI.  Over the next decade, I hope more local economic development groups will come together to work on common goals without duplicating efforts.”


Read the complete article, “The Rearview Mirror and the Road Ahead,” featuring responses from all of the region’s economic development professionals.  The piece was originally published in the Pittsburgh Business Times as part of a supplement for NAIOP Pittsburgh’s 24th annual awards banquet in March.

Check back on the PRA Blog every Tuesday for the next installment in the series.