DuBOIS — Economic development was the focus when U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Mid-Atlantic Regional Administrator Joe DeFelice made a quick stop in Sandy Township and DuBois Friday, the final day of a three-day tour across Pennsylvania’s Northern Tier and adjacent counties.

Local officials meeting with DeFelice, along with Thomas Rossomando, national advocate for manufacturing and technology of the Office of Advocacy with the Small Business Administration, included Sandy Township Manager Shawn Arbaugh, Sandy Township Supervisors Jim Jeffers and Mark Sullivan, DuBois City Manager John “Herm” Suplizio and Lisa Kovalick, Clearfield County Planning and Economic Development community development specialist.

“I decided to get out and really see the region,” DeFelice said, explaining he visited 13 counties in three days. “Secretary (Ben) Carson’s big push is about Opportunity Zones.”

“Representatives of Sandy Township were very appreciative and thrilled that the regional administrator for the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, and the National Advocate of Manufacturing and Technology and their team took the time to meet with representatives of Sandy Township, the City of DuBois, and Clearfield County to discuss economic development in the Qualified Opportunity Zones in the Sandy Township/DuBois area,” Arbaugh said.

“It was an absolute pleasure discussing the various options we have to improve the economic climate here in the region,” Arbaugh said. “We believe strongly in the numerous economic development opportunities in the Sandy Township/DuBois area, and Sandy Township is committed to finding ways to get these projects off the ground and completed.”

Arbaugh said the township really loved their idea of hosting a roundtable with potential local investors and individuals from their offices to describe the details of the Qualified Opportunity Zones, and potentially assist with bringing investors to the table.

“These zones offer a great investment opportunity and significantly improve our potential to get grant funding for infrastructure improvements for items including roads and sanitary sewer extensions,” Arbaugh said. “The visit from the their team really generated a lot of excitement and energy for the Sandy Township/DuBois area. We are very much looking forward to working with them in the future.”

Suplizio said the city was pleased to see these officials visit the area and be given the opportunity to show them areas where there is potential for economic development in both DuBois and Sandy Township.

“Hopefully, in the future, the city and the township will be able to work with them to develop these areas and create business opportunities and jobs for our region,” Suplizio said.

After meeting at the township building, DeFelice and Rossomando, along with the local leaders, toured Opportunities Zones such as the township Industrial Park area located behind Lowe’s and the land owned by the city but in the township behind Doolittle’s Station.

The land behind Doolittle’s Station is a great business opportunity because it’s located off two main thoroughfares, one being Route 219 and the other being Interstate 80, Suplizio said.

Kovalick said Opportunities Zones were established by Congress in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, designed as a new community development tool. The Act required the county to recognize low-income rural areas back in 2017.

“Our state and federal government then qualified three of the four areas that the county commissioners submitted, as qualified opportunity zones,” Kovalick said. “Clearfield County is fortunate to have three qualified opportunity zones; one Census Tract in Clearfield Borough, Sandy Township and the City of DuBois.

“Today, officials from the Philadelphia regional Housing and Urban Development Office and the Small Business Administration made their way to Clearfield County,” she said. “I joined along with Sandy Township and the City of DuBois in touring zones and learning how we make community development activities a reality here. While the mission is broad, the possibilities are incredible, and I look forward to working with, and for these municipalities to further community and economic development in Clearfield County.”

During the week, DeFelice said he met with local leaders and toured HUD-assisted housing and community development projects. He has also spent time touring designated Opportunity Zones.

Since his appointment by President Donald Trump in 2017, DeFelice has toured 170 counties to see HUD’s impact on communities in the Mid-Atlantic region, which includes Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.

In this role, DeFelice works with federal, state and local partners to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. He is responsible for the oversight of a $39 billion portfolio of programs and services and nearly 500 employees.

Acknowledging that all of HUD’s services are delivered in the field, DeFelice has prioritized meeting with elected officials and community partners throughout the Mid-Atlantic states. He has surpassed his personal goal of visiting 50 percent of the counties in the region by the end of his first term. To date, he has toured in 170 counties, believing it is important for each regional administrator to champion HUD’s work in the field and to provide HUD’s leadership with that perspective.

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