CLARION — The Clarion County Economic Development Corporation (CCEDC) in collaboration with the Clarion County Commissioners are leading a regional effort to support the relocation of the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Education Research Services (ERS) headquarters to Clarion County.

In August, the Department of Agriculture announced its intention to relocate NIFA and ERS headquarter facilities from Washington D.C. to a more rural location which is closer to its customers. In line with Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue’s goals of efficiency and customer service, the USDA sought Expressions of Interest. “Commissioner Brosius brought the opportunity to my attention, and I sent it directly on to both business parks in Clarion County for their consideration,” said Shannon Barrios, Executive Director of the CCEDC. “This is a major development initiative that would revitalize the entire Western Pennsylvania region.” Commissioner Chairman Ted Tharan agreed that this is an enormous opportunity for Clarion County and the whole state. “Getting even one of these USDA operations to locate to Clarion County would be a game changer,” Tharan said.

Clarion Trinity Development Company and Miles Brothers LLC both submitted proposals to the USDA. The two Clarion County submissions, which are fully supported by the Commissioners and the CCEDC, were among 136 from 35 states. “Two of the four proposals that came out of Pennsylvania came from Clarion County, and we are doing everything we can to bring this opportunity to Clarion. We have been working on this for several weeks now and currently have letters of support from 13 other counties from Northwest PA, as well as numerous school districts, municipalities, Economic Development professionals, local public servants, and business leaders,” Chairman Tharan said. “We have a letter of support from Congressman Glenn Thompson’s office, and Commissioner Heasley has also been in contact with Senator Casey’s office for his support of the project,” continued Tharan.

Bids will be considered according to the following criteria: transportation logistics, workforce, community/quality of life, and capital and operating costs. “I believe Clarion is uniquely poised for consideration. Agriculture is at the heart of our heritage. We offer small town living with all of its perks, and with six exits off Interstate-80, it’s a quick and easy drive to major urban centers,” Barrios said. “Excellent schools, low taxes and a modest cost of living, coupled with abundant natural resources, and indoor and outdoor recreational activities make Clarion an appealing location for this project.”

This USDA move could bring upwards of 600 well-paid, family sustaining jobs to the area, and a preliminary decision is expected to come by the end of the year. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for our region, and we are pushing hard to get these jobs to Clarion,” Commissioner Tharan said. “A full-scale campaign to garner regional support for this initiative has been launched,” Barrios added. “We are encouraging business people, educators, political leaders, and local citizens to inundate decision makers with letters of support for bringing the USDA NIFA and ERS operations to Clarion County.” For more information on how to champion this project directly, contact Economic Development by email at Info@CallClarionPA.com.

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