CLEARFIELD – C. Alan Walker is again trying to give Clearfield County an economic shot in the arm and got the support of the Clearfield Area School District on Monday night.
Two years ago, Walker requested for the district, Girard Township Supervisors and county commissioners to support a Keystone Opportunity Zone (KOZ) in Girard Township.
The KOZ program was created under former Gov. Tom Ridge, and Walker said it’s worked out extremely well. It takes an area of land and exempts it from local taxes for a period of 10 years.
He said the KOZ was heavily supported the first time around and gained approval. However, he said it wasn’t one of the 15 KOZs selected by Gov. Tom Wolf.
According to Walker, legislation has since been passed to allow for 15 more KOZs this year. The application deadline is Oct. 1, but he wanted to begin the process much sooner.
“The KOZ program was designed to help areas like [Clearfield County],” he said. “… That need a little shot in the arm.”
Walker said the county’s economy was once fueled by natural resources, but times have changed significantly and local leaders need to “think outside the box.”
He believes it’s time to pursue IT companies that are building cloud-based storage areas. He noted Google’s and Microsoft’s presence and association with Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh.
Not to mention, both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia are in the running for Amazon’s HQ2, which he said is proof of what Pennsylvania has to offer.
Walker is preparing to apply for a 375-acre KOZ and the up-front cost to the district would be $3,000 annually for the property taxes paid now, or a total of $30,000 over 10 years.
He said they’d get those funds back many times over and the property is ideal for this project. He said it has a major power line, water and sewer, etc., which are rarely available on rural properties.
He added companies also like the close proximity to Penn State University, Interstate 80 and Routes 322 and 219. He said it had the potential to be like Google discovering Pittsburgh.
It would bring a lot of jobs to Clearfield County, especially during the construction phase. “It would help transform our economy into a 21st century economy,” Walker said.
The Clearfield school board approved a resolution in support of the KOZ application, which will be submitted by Clearly Ahead Development.
Walker will also need approval from the commissioners and township supervisors. He said he’s discussed the new KOZ application with both boards, and both have expressed their support.