Don Chappel: Looking Back – and Ahead – at Economic Development Success in Greene County

by on May 2, 2017

Part VIII 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 Don Chappel, executive director, Greene County Industrial Development Corporation 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?

“Rice Energy’s acquisition, mid-year, of Vantage Energy after Vantage was the successful bidder (earlier in the year) in winning a gas rights auction from Alpha NR in a bankruptcy bid. Rice’s financial standing enables the company to be better equipped to expand its drilling and pipeline activity in Greene County.”


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?

“Greene County is partnering with neighboring Fayette County to form a manufacturing consortium to assist manufacturers in both counties in connecting with workforce and job retraining groups, educators and other key players including Pitt’s and St. Vincent College’s Small Business Development Centers, Catalyst Connection, Innovation Works and the [federal government’s] “Partnerships for Opportunity and Workforce and Economic Revitalization” (POWER) Initiative.  The latter helps communities, formerly with coal-focused economies, find their way forward.  Greene County’s workforce strength is turning out employees who are skilled with their hands and show up for work.”


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

“Greene County IDC’s goal for 2017 is to develop a more cohesive economic development strategy, as well as to secure additional land sites for future business park development. Bringing together the many parts of economic development will be key for all of Greene County moving forward, particularly as the Shell ethane cracker project and the expansion of the existing oil and gas industry evolve.”


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.

“The PRA’s economic development partners across the 10-county region stand out to me as one of the best assets the region has to offer. All of the county partners have been together for 10-plus years.  We meet regularly at different state and regional meetings and have a personal working relationship with each other.  When that’s combined that with the interaction with the PRA staff, you have a winning combination and, to me, the best partnership the region has to offer.”


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?

“Over the last decade we have focused our collective southwestern Pennsylvania assets under the umbrella of the term the “Pittsburgh Region.”  In the coming decade – beginning in 2020 – a new highway will be completed from the south to the Pittsburgh International Airport corridor, the Shell petrochemical should be in full swing and a new generation of leaders will be emerging – placing even more emphasis on how we all stand to achieve even more when we’re banded together as one region.”


BONUS QUESTION (don’t be bashful!): If you were a fan of “Mad Men,” you’ll likely recall Don Draper’s concept – “New York: Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” – for a Bethlehem Steel campaign the Sterling Cooper agency was trying to land. When considering economic development marketing, the product that we’re selling in southwestern Pennsylvania is “10 counties, 1 region.” Channeling your inner “Mad Men,” what would be the headline on an ad you’re charged with creating to market our product – the region?

“All for one and one for all; together the Pittsburgh region succeeds.”


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.