By Francis Scarcella
The Daily Item
SUNBURY — Mayor David Persing announced the opening of a Keystone Innovation Zone incubator during his 2013 state-of-the city address to about 50 residents and officials on Wednesday at the Degenstein Community Library, 40 S. Fifth St.
“We need to market and invest in Sunbury,” said Persing, who is running for another four-year term this year. “We need help from everyone, and we have a place for everyone who wants to be a part of this city growing for the better.”
The incubator was established at 218 Chestnut St. “in hopes of developing all types of startup companies from information technology to diversified manufacturing and bio-medical life science ideas,” the mayor said.
The opening of KIZ will be supported by the Greater Susquehanna KIZ, Ben Franklin Technology Partners of NEPA, Bloomsburg University, the Central Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce, Geisinger Health Systems, the Rural Enterprise Development Corp., Susquehanna University and the Seiple Family Foundation.
The KIZ can assist businesses and entrepreneurs with research and development, networking, creating partnerships and relationships with existing business and provide financial assistance for those who qualify.
Addressing blight, Persing said the city has seized nearly 20 homes and has torn down six. He wants to have 100 seized by 2022.
Persing said he wants to expand his efforts to rid the city of blight by adding commercial buildings to his plans and forming an action team to lead the effort.
The “Mayor’s Action Team” is in place and Persing said he will be targeting abandoned business properties and trying to work with owners who are looking to sell commercial buildings. Among those is Albright United Methodist Church at South Fifth and Chestnut streets. Sunbury Revitalization Inc. has been working with the owners to try and find a use for the former church, he added.
Persing also told the audience he has been in contact with John Moran, of Moran Industries in Watsontown, in order to see what projects could be in store for the former Celotex site on North Front Street.
“Our largest industrial site has made huge improvements over the past three years by Moran Industries,” Persing said.
“There is still 50 percent of the site undeveloped and available for new industry such as a hotel, a convention center, a college campus, or even retail stores surrounded by a few homes. Mr. Moran is very open for suggestions as he continues to search for a new business or industry to improve his investment in Sunbury.”
Persing said he wants to continue to improve the recreational complexes in the city because of the number of people who visit Sunbury during the summer.
“These are people who leave and wonder why their towns don’t have the facilities we do,” Persing said. “These people are people who want to come back to the city.”
Persing closed by telling residents he is one of them and thanked all the nonprofit groups for making Sunbury one big family.
“There are parts of this city that we do not market,” he said, “part of our heritage that outsiders do not know except around the holiday season. We are blessed with diversity of neighborhoods that help places like Haven Ministries, Elijah’s Bowl, holiday meals, pay for laundry fees and neighborhood picnics throughout the summer just to name a few, the part of our community that truly defines a Sunburian.”
Notables in attendance were state Rep. Lynda Culver, R-108 of Sunbury and Northumberland County Commissioner Rick Shoch.
Both leaders said they were impressed with Persing’s enthusiasm and praised him for always being creative in thinking about Sunbury.