Midstate cities compete for new state economic development program

Written by Ben Allen, General Assignment Reporter | Dec 11, 2013 12:00 PM

Photo by Randolph Carney

(Harrisburg) -- Third-class cities across the midstate are competing for a designation that could mean more money for their community.

York, Lancaster, and Reading are all waiting to hear whether they earned one of two designations under what's known as City Revitalization and Improvement Zones.

Under the program, tax money from a designated area in a city would go directly into efforts to spur development -- meaning demolition of buildings, infrastructure improvements, or whatever else is needed in that area.

"Motion creates emotion and excitement from the standpoint that 'Wow, we're a city that's moving forward. We're a city that's actually taking the bull by the horns and using this designation as an opportunity to really develop and maximize sites in our community'. And also leverage other investment to come into York  and really take full benefit of the designation that CRIZ has to offer," says Shilvosky Buffaloe, York CIty Deputy Director of Economic Development.

While no explicit requirement is in place to ensure the money gets spent effectively, Republican state Senator Lloyd Smucker of Lancaster County says he's convinced the program will succeed.

"The model only works if you're starting with properties that currently are either vacant or under-performing and you're attracting additional business that will generate the revenue. So I think the program itself ensures that it'll be an efficient use of the dollars."

Smucker is the sponsor of the legislation establishing the CRIZ program.

The state Department of Community and Economic Development is evaluating the applications and a decision on the designations could occur next year.

The program is modeled after the Neighborhood Improvement Zone in Allentown, which has spurred economic growth in the city.

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