All posts tagged venango county

County Website—Content Development & Notifications


Last month, wcounty logoe shared that the County of Venango has launched a new website at www.co.venango.pa.us.  This month, we sat down with Bill Kresinski, MIS Director and the employee at the heart of the project. Bill manages the County’s IT services, which includes website management.

After consideration of several vendors, Civic Plus was chosen, noted for their specialization on municipal websites.  Work on the site started in the Fall of 2017 and proceeded on schedule. A total content management system, the new website brings central control to the MIS department, which insures brand consistency, accuracy of content, and security of control.

Bill shares that Civic Plus offers customers a multitude of modules, many that are already being utilized and others that will be as content is added.

Content development is perhaps the biggest challenge of any new website and it is no different with the County’s new site, as departments are charged with adding and updates information. The advantage is that across departments, knowledge of various services is vast.  There will be continued opportunities to make more information available and more accessible. The new site is mobile device friendly and includes a future mobile app, that will offer quick links to most popular features.

While not yet used, Bill anticipates a valuable feature will be “alerts” that will notify residents of urgent information. Users can subscribe to specific notifications, including these alert or updated postings and files added, such as departments adding meeting minutes, newsletters, job postings, and vendor opportunities.

We will continue to share information about the website and benefits to those who use it.  If you see information that needs updated of have feedback to provide, you can contact Bill Kresinski at bkresinski@co.venango.pa.us.

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s October 2018 edition of the VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Blight – Impact is Far Reaching


Blight seems to be a frequently talked about subject these days.  Common in our rural communities, economic blight is the visible and physical decline of a property, neighborhood, or city due to a combination of economic downturns, residents and businesses leaving the area, secular declines in real incomes, and the cost of maintaining the quality of older structures.

Most would agree that a blighted house will impact a neighborhood, beyond the obvious unattractiveness and potential lowering of property values of proximate homes, by taking away the motivation of others to maintain their properties or make improvements.  Blight in Venango County was propelled in the 1980’s when the out-migration of many businesses lead to consistent population decline, which has continued for nearly four decades.  A 2009 housing study revealed that Venango County has a significant overage of homes, with twice as many as needed to support median income families.

Addressing thPicture1is overage is challenging and expensive, but without a doubt necessary. The burden typically falls on the local municipality, once a property has declined to the extent that rehabilitation is unrealistic.  The sad alternative is that properties fall into the hands of absentee owners, slumlords, or those who use the building for illegal activities.  The cost of demolishing a home is often more than $15,000.

Maintaining the housing stock of a community is good for business! With the surge in local hiring, there is a renewed interest in attracting people to relocate to Venango County. Those looking to work here place high priority on living in clean, attractive, and, most importantly, safe neighborhoods. While home rehabilitation may not obviously seem like economic development, communities that can provide good housing stock are most likely to attract workers.

Recognizing this reality, the Venango County Planning Commission turned its attention to getting ahead of potential blight by securing a HOME grant in 2012. Specific to the communities of Rouseville and Clapp Farm (in Cornplanter Township) nearly $500,000 was directed to the rehabilitation of owner-occupied homes. Work was completed by 2016. Projects that qualified for funding were prioritized by “life safety,” such as roof, electric, heating, and necessary structural repair.

In 2014, the County formed a Land Bank, which empowers this authority with first option to purchase homes sold at tax sale, done typically at the recommendation of the local municipality. Once owned by the Land Bank, the property can be torn down or, in some cases, identified for rehabilitation, with oversight to ensure responsible use of the building. To date 23 properties have been secured by the land bank,Blight preventing them from further decay.

This year, the Planning Commission hired Josh Sterling as a Community Development Planner—a new position.  Josh will focus his attention on Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program funds, which can be directed to activities related to blight. The Planning Commission is responsible for administering the CDBG funds received by Cranberry Township, Sugarcreek Borough and Venango County. Additionally, the Commission has applied for a $300,000 HOME grant in partnership with the City of Franklin.

Understanding the impact of good neighborhoods and adequate housing for employees is good for business, especially those looking to attract long-term employees.  There are opportunities for businesses to benefit from supporting initiatives to improve homes and we’ll share specific strategies in future articles. If your business is interested in learning more now, contact Josh Sterling at (814)432-9547.

 

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s October 2018 edition of the VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

County of Venango Launches New Website


 

The County of Venango recently launched a new website that can be found at www.co.venango.pa.us. County Commissioner Chip Abramovic remembers seeing a demonstration of a neighboring county’s new website just a few years ago and recognized an opportunity to showcase Venango and provide better information for both residents and visitors.

County Website

After exploring several options, the County chose CivicPlus as the developer, based on their experience designing government sites. The new website is not only more attractive and user-friendly, but also easier to manage and has many features already built in. Many of the County departments are now responsible for adding and updating their own content. While the site is operational, information continues to be added and other features will become available in time.

The County once had separate websites for some departments which are now all centralized on the new site. You can find the Human Services, Regional Airport, Economic Development Authority, and Two Mile County Park, along with information from County departments and services.

One of the upgraded features is the expanded human services page, a resource for residents in need of assistance.

“The new format gives us more flexibility in how we present our services and programs to the public,” said Resource Communication Officer for Human Services Loni Beer. “The site is very user friendly and easily updated which translates into the public getting the most up-to-date information.”

The Human Services Department also includes an events calendar and links to the other community calendars. Another exciting addition is the three news flash areas which allow for breakout information to be displayed on the Human Services landing page.

The interactivity of information regarding various County departments provides the opportunity to make online payments for items such as dog licenses. Commissioner Abramovic indicated that one of the most important features of the County’s new website is that information can be updated and displayed immediately. This creates tremendous efficiency and best serves everyone in the community.

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s September 2018 edition of the VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week (PFEW) Hosts 63 Venango County Students


PFEW1Your Venango Area Chamber of Commerce is all about business! We love supporting not only local business, but anything that educates our youth about business and future employment opportunities right here in Venango County. That’s why for years we’ve supported Pennsylvania Free Enterprise Week (PFEW). This award-winning program teaches students to understand and celebrate our American private enterprise system and provides a unique, hands-on learning experience that helps students develop the vital skills businesses need to succeed.

This summer, 63 students from Cranberry Area, Franklin Area, Oil City and Rocky Grove high schools, along with one home school student joined over 2,000 students from across the state to participate in the 40th annual PFEW summer program recently concluded in Williamsport.

At PFEW, students form management teams of approximately eighteen students and run their own manufacturing company, competing against other student companies. Throughout the week, world class speakers address the students on a wide variety of topics germane to the business world and their personal and professional development.

It is not only a powerful educational experience, it can be positively life-changing.

Here are several quotes from local students who attended this year’s program:PFEW4

“My time at PFEW can be summarized in one word: growth. I do not know how different my life would be if I did not attend this camp. Thanks to your selfless sponsorship, that uncertain future has developed into a confident, hopeful one.” – David Ferraro, Franklin Area High School

“This experience was very beneficial to me. Though I am an honors student taking AP level courses, I cannot think of another experience to prepare me for the real world. It was here that I learned to have more faith in myself, and all that I can accomplish.” – Rachel Bell, Cranberry Area High School

“Without PFEW, I didn’t know what my purpose was, but after the first few days, I knew this week would change me. I am leaving PFEW with new found knowledge of the business world and all it has to offer. You are who got me here. You are why I changed this week. You have given me a purpose.” – Saige Slater, Cranberry Area High School

The program is taught entirely by volunteer practitioners from the PA business community, and each year, over 200 volunteers are needed to put on this world-class program.

StudenPFEWlogoRGBclrts attend via a $625 scholarship donated by a local business, foundation, civic organization or individual. This year, ten Venango County organizations provided scholarship support for their local students to attend.

To get involved as a donor or volunteer, or to discover more about PFEW, visit their website at www.pfew.org, or call Scott Lee at 814-833-9576.

 

 

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s September 2018 edition of the VenangoWorks! Newsletter.

When Furious, Get Curious


When Furious, Get CuriousWritten by Ashley Cowles, Be Here Program Manager 

“When furious, get curious.” This quote from Paul Saginaw, co-founder of Zingerman’s Deli out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, can be applied to multiple situations, including thriving in Venango County.

What started as Zingerman’s Delicatessen in 1982, has become 10 different businesses over the years, including a bake house, catering and events business, creamery, coffee shop, and more. The business has eight guiding principles, such as great food, great service, a great place to work, and strong relationships.

Much can be learned from such a successful and growing business, including the meaning behind the quote at the beginning of this article.

In an interview with Business Insider, co-founder Saginaw said: “The assumption that others are out to get us, that something bad happened because of others’ ill will or malice, rarely makes for anything productive. Learning to breathe deeply, get grounded, and be sensitive to others’ suffering can help get us back to a more productive place.”

Is there something about Venango County that makes you furious? Maybe you think a nonprofit organization should be using their money on different projects, a specific business should be downtown, or a community leader isn’t making the right decisions.

It can be easy to get frustrated with these things and assume they happen because people don’t have the community’s best interest in mind. As a result, you may decide to share your opinion to friends and family or on social media where the whole community can see.

While it’s important to speak out, we encourage you to also be curious and productive. To be curious means to be eager to know or learn something. Rather than remain furious  not do anything, here are ideas for learning more and taking action:

Do your research

Before forming an opinion about something you think should be happening, do research to see if it already exists. We live in a smaller area, but there is a lot going on and it’s hard to stay on top of everything.

Ask questions

Part of doing research involves asking questions like: Does this already exist? Who is making the decisions? Why is it done this way?

Meet with community leaders

The best people to ask questions to are the movers and shakers in our area getting things done. The county commissioners, city councilmen, chamber directors, and other community leaders know what exists or why things are done certain ways.

You also have the opportunity to ask these leaders how you can impact change in positive ways. How can you help them be better at what they do, or how can you develop into these leadership positions yourself?

Volunteer

The best way to get an understanding of what is here and how things are done is to volunteer for local organizations or events. If you aren’t happy with the flowers chosen to beautify downtown Oil City, volunteer for the Oil City Main Street Program’s Safe, Clean & Green Committee. If you would prefer the 5K during Applefest was run differently, help out at the Franklin YMCA during registration. If you don’t agree with the speed limits in your neighborhood, attend a city council meeting or call or write to the mayor or city councilmen.

These are just a few examples of ways to volunteer and get involved, which can help you get informed and have a say.

Fill the void

After doing research and learning why things are done certain ways or what exits, there still may be a void that needs filled. This is your opportunity to step up and become an active community member! Whether it’s planning an event, starting a business, or becoming an ambassador for our region, it takes a whole community to create change.

So, how will you get curious?

(This article was originally published on the Be Here initiative’s website. Visit beherevenango.org for related content)

This article was published in the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce’s September 2018 edition of the VenangoWorks! Newsletter.