DANVILLE — Mahoning Township Supervisor John Whelan spent 30 years working in Metso Minerals' former office building.

He was among 75 people who attended an open house held by DRIVE, or Driving Real Innovation for a Vibrant Economy, at the building where part of it has been renovated and DRIVE uses some space for its offices.

DRIVE owns the former Metso Minerals complex, at 418 Railroad St.

"I had several offices here," said Whelan, who retired from Metso as global product line manager where he traveled the world for after-market sales and service businesses. He said he attended for personal reasons "to see the place" and to represent the township. "Maybe there are things we can help them with and vice versa," he said. When Whelan began working for the company, it was Kennedy Van Saun Corp.

DRIVE Board Chairman Denny Hummer said the Metso property is where Danville philanthropist Thomas Beaver operated the Beaver Stove Works 175 years ago. He said DRIVE is harnessing the wisdom and infrastructure from its past to power real economic development for the future. 

Andrew Ramos, who represented U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, toured the building with Tim Hippensteel, office and project manager of DRIVE, during the open house last week. 

Karen Wood, chief experience officer of Service 1st Federal Credit Union, was there for the first time. "It looks like a great way to use the facility and it looks real functional," she said.

DRIVE has 23,000 square feet for fit-out and lease available and a 700-square-foot training room available for daily rental. There are also common area bathrooms, a lunch room and designated off-street parking.

DRIVE Executive Director Jennifer Wakeman said the open house also highlighted DRIVE's accomplishments since it was created in March 2017 as an economic development entity to serve Montour and Columbia counties. 

Besides the purchase of the Metso property with four buildings, DRIVE has brought a wireless broadband network to Montour County that currently serves customers in four townships with the capability of more. It was also involved with a project WebstaurantStore in Hemlock Township and a Columbia County real estate purchase, which is in progress. 

It has created or retained 473 jobs, retained or expanded 32 businesses, brought in $2.6 million in public and private grants and set up a $1 million trust for economic development investment.

Wakeman said the open house brought people so they could see what space they have available and possibilities for the available space.

DRIVE has two buildings on the property under sales agreements for a lumber company and a specialty kitchen products firm. Metso will rent a building on the property for two more years, she said.

A project to install rail siding continues at the complex with a ribbon cutting to be completed in November, she said.  A $1 million state grant is providing funds to bring rail access there and to improve truck access to the site. 

Montour County Commissioner Trevor Finn, who represents the county on the DRIVE board, said he couldn't be more thrilled about how DRIVE represents the community and the good work it has done to create and retain jobs. He said the organization is growing at such a rapid rate. "I anticipate great things in the very near future," he said.

Washingtonville Mayor Tyler Dombroski said DRIVE offers a lot of potential for economic development to Montour County and the surrounding area. 

Montour County Commission Vice Chairman Dan Hartman said the renovations to the office building look great. "I'm pretty excited about what they have to offer here and about what DRIVE has accomplished," he said. County Commission Ken Holdren also attended.

Besides Hippensteel and Wakeman, the DRIVE staff includes intern Aidan McDonald.

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