The Power of 32 Site Development Fund is ready to invest $49 million to spur business investment in the greater Pittsburgh region.
Power of 32 is a project formed by a collaboration of volunteers from the public, private and nonprofit sectors to serve the 32 counties in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and Maryland—one of the largest geographic areas ever to create one regional vision. The Site Development Fund is one of their 15 initiatives aimed at furthering the area’s competitive edge.
When the Power of 32 group did a 12-year look back, they saw there was a lack of large, prepped sites—and this cost the region business.
“There was clear consensus—not just in Pittsburgh but in all 32 counties—that we needed to put more investment in infrastructure and especially get brownfield sites ready for reinvestment,” says William Getty, president of the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation and president of the Site Development Fund.
“This fills a real gap in the region,” says Dennis Yablonsky, chair of the fund’s board and CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, which spearheaded the fund’s creation.
The goal of the fund is to increase the inventory of shovel-ready sites. Many companies looking at larger sites of more than 25 acres want the land to be already surveyed and graded, the archaeological mitigation to be completed and the environmental remediation to be wrapped up—all those things which can slow the process.
“We have more companies that want to locate here than we have places for them to locate. When those companies are ready to commit and start building, they don’t want to wait for infrastructure,” says Yablonsky.
The first site loan was given to West Virginia’s Trimodal Terminal, a riverfront industrial park on the Ohio, some 45 miles from Pittsburgh. The $2.6 million will help Trimodal extend rail lines, get gas and water, and fund the clearing and grading of the 80-acre brownfield.
“These are patient loans. We don’t ask companies to pay the principle until they get revenue coming in,” says Yablonksy.
“There’s no place in the country—that we know of—that has a private fund that focuses on site development,” he adds.
Power of 32 began in 2010 with a vision process that included a series of more than 150 community gatherings where some 3,000 residents were asked: ‘It is 2025. What is it about our region that makes you most proud? What was key to getting us here?’
From the 15,000 comments collected, Power of 32 created 15 initiatives in areas such as the economy, education, the environment, community and transportation. The Site Development Fund is one such initiative.
The Site Development Fund’s 14 partners include the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation, the Henry L. Hillman Foundation, PNC, Highmark, Allegheny Conference on Community Development, First Niagara and Dollar Bank.