Author: Steve Meredith, Manager, Business Finance.

On several occasions throughout the year, I will have a promising opportunity come across my desk, only to fall apart because the timeline for my organization’s economic development loans does not fit with what the client needs. While I can certainly understand the need to be flexible and work with clients, their sellers, and other financial institutions, there are a few aspects of economic development lending that can delay closing on publicly funded loans. This results in a tricky “dance,” in which economic development lenders, their borrowers, sellers, and often private lending institutions must participate to ensure the best interest rates and terms for small business clients.

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Pennsylvania will pay $23.5 million to replace the collapsed Fern Hollow Bridge, officials at the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission announced Monday afternoon. Even as they welcomed the news, many noted that the process to fund needed infrastructure repairs has historically taken much longer, and shouldn’t.

“The state has really stepped up in helping out the region and financing the cost for the new bridge,” said Andy Waple, SPC’s director of transportation.

The SPC is a metropolitan planning organization, which helps to coordinate the use of federal, state, and local funds to improve transportation and economic development in the 10-county region. All of the money to replace the Fern Hollow Bridge is federal, and will not require a match from local sources; that means the region won’t have to pull funding from other key projects.

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A grant from the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission will provide $450,492 in funding for a sidewalk and dedicated bike path along Saltsburg Avenue, White Township officials announced at a meeting Wednesday.

Communication specialist Chauncey Ross said the township will be responsible for $60,000 in engineering costs for design fees.

The grant will fund a project that will be developed this year, with ground likely being broken in 2023, Ross said.

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The U.S. Department of Transportation will announce a five-step program Thursday to reduce an unexpected spike in traffic deaths during the pandemic with a goal of eliminating them in the future.

The program, called the National Roadway Safety Strategy, marks a major shift in the department’s approach by recognizing that drivers make mistakes and will supplement educational efforts with safer roadway designs, vehicle technology improvements and better care for accident victims. Department officials briefed the news media Wednesday on the strategy that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is scheduled to announce in Washington, D.C., at 9:30 a.m. Thursday.

Mr. Buttigieg announced in October his department would spend the rest of the year developing a strategy to reduce traffic deaths after estimates through the second quarter of 2021 showed the highest percentage increase since the Fatality Analysis Reporting System began in 1975. An estimated 20,160 died in the first half of 2021, an 18.4% increase over the previous year, and the fatality rate increased to 1.34 fatalities per 100 million miles driven from 1.28.

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Pennsylvania is preparing for an influx of broadband funding expected from the federal infrastructure bill.

The new funding follows a pandemic that pushed many people online and revealed widespread challenges with broadband access. Federal legislators answered the call with $65 billion in the infrastructure bill, in addition to some broadband funding in pandemic relief packages. But this isn’t the first time large amounts of money have been pumped into broadband.

For many years, Federal Communications Commission programs have offered funding for broadband expansion. But many places still lack access, or affordable access, and in some cases, it’s not entirely clear where the money went. This time, states are hoping to make sure the dollars translate into access.

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The U.S. Department of Commerce announced that the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Coalition is one of 60 finalists out of 529 entrants for Phase 1 of the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) $1 billion “Build Back Better Regional Challenge”. The Build Back Better Regional Challenge provides transformative investments, up to $100 million per grantee, to develop and strengthen regional industry clusters across the country, all while embracing economic equity, creating good-paying jobs, and enhancing U.S. competitiveness globally.

“We’re proud to be partnering with the Allegheny Conference on Community Development in creating the Southwestern Pennsylvania New Economy Coalition and working together on these important projects. This new coalition will help leverage our region’s first-class and growing robotics and information technology sector into providing more economic development and job creation throughout all of Southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Vincent Valdes, Executive Director of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission.

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The Southwestern Pennsylvania Corporation, a 501(c)(3) corporation, on behalf of the Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission (SPC), is requesting Technical Proposals and Price Proposals (together, the Proposal package) for Regional Ridesharing Software Consultant Services. The selected firm or team of firms will provide SPC with a comprehensive and dynamic regional ridesharing software platform for the 10-county SPC region, along with staff training, software maintenance and technical support.

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More than two dozen residents attended a “Community Conversation” held at the Greene County Fairgrounds Monday evening to discuss broadband access and speed issues in the area and learn about an ongoing statewide connectivity improvement plan.

The event was coordinated by the Greene County commissioners and facilitated by representatives affiliated with Southwestern Pennsylvania Connected, an initiative created to develop a plan to bring equitable broadband access and high-speed internet to the area.

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Survey on internet access ends Sunday

The Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission, which covers Indiana and nine other Pittsburgh-area counties, is nearing the end of a survey seeking information about internet access and experience.

SPC’s Southwestern Pennsylvania Connected initiative is asking community members to take a brief survey online or by phone.

Eligible participants can win a $50 Visa gift card for completing the survey.

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Murrysville officials are considering using some of the municipality’s $1.9 million in American Rescue Plan money to expand broadband internet access.

“I think it’s vital,” Murrysville Chief Administrator Jim Morrison told Murrysville Council members this week. He encouraged residents to complete a survey being undertaken by the nonprofit Southwestern Pennsylvania Commission’s Connected Initiative to learn about broadband access across the six counties the commission serves.

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