New Membership Coordinator – Rebecca Borland

We have a new Membership Coordinator at the Alle Kiski Strong Chamber – Rebecca Borland.  Rebecca began with the Chamber on March 26th and has been busy gaining as much knowledge as possible about the Chamber and its members, meeting with members and developing plans for increasing membership.

Rebecca grew up in Natrona Heights but has been a resident of Arnold for the last 16 years. She graduated from Highlands High School in Natrona Heights and Thiel College in Greenville, PA earning a Bachelor of Arts in English. Rebecca has more than 20 years of experience in sales, customer service, business management, corporate training and curriculum design, and employee engagement event planning. One of her goals is to get everyone excited about the Alle Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce and to make sure that members are utilizing the Chamber benefits to the fullest.

It is an exciting time to be a member of the Alle Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce. We are always working on new networking and promotional opportunities to help our member businesses succeed and grow, including space to advertise on the Chamber website, business referrals, monthly networking opportunities, and continuing education.  Some great events that allow our member businesses to gain visibility include the HomExpo, Annual Golf Outing, Riverbration Boat Races and a new big event for early Fall (more information to come!)

Location of planned business incubator in New Kensington changes

| Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016, 11:40 p.m.

Penn State New Kensington plans to open its downtown New Kensington business incubator next summer in a different location than originally anticipated.

On Thursday, the Westmoreland County Commissioners are expected to vote to buy the former Social Security office building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Seventh Street, across from Eazer’s Restaurant, according to PSNK Chancellor Kevin Snider.

Snider revealed the new plan during an economic development workshop Tuesday morning sponsored by the Alle Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce at the Quality Inn in New Kensington.

In January, the college, whose campus is in Upper Burrell, held a demolition ceremony in an empty storefront at 951 Fourth Ave., which once housed Hart’s Department Store. Snider said the change came about because the county’s Industrial Development Corporation must own the building to take advantage of a variety of grants. The old Hart’s site is not for sale.

The Alle-Kiski Economic Generator will offer space for fledgling businesses, established companies looking for meeting space, commuters who occasionally work from home and the reported 3,000 people who telecommute in the Alle-Kiski Valley, according to Snider’s statistics.

“We think we can make enough money to sustain the space and to expand the entrepreneurial offerings,” Snider said.

He said the break-even point is to have 88 people pay monthly rent, which may be about $125 a month, depending on build-out costs.


The project is based on The Beauty Shoppe in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood, which is partnering with PSNK. The Beauty Shoppe owns co-opted space in Cleveland and the model is popular in large cities like Dallas, New York and San Francisco.

What’s more, Snider hopes the New Kensington project will be a model for other Valley towns.

“They want to see if they can develop a model to help smaller cities,” Snider said. “If it works, we can do it in other locations — Vandergrift, Tarentum. And it doesn’t have to be Penn State.”

Snider said he hopes the project will help rejuvenate downtown’s Fifth Avenue as an innovation corridor.

“We think we’ll be moving 100 people a day in an out of the space. They can walk to Kafa Buna, Claudette’s Kitchen and the Knead Café,” Snider said, mentioning other businesses that have opened or will soon open downtown. “We want startups to move to the city and revitalize New Ken.”

John Turack, executive director for the Smart Growth Partnership, which helps communities grow by providing education and technical assistance, said he believes the project will create significant impact.

“I really think there will be spin-off businesses with private investment that will be created here as a result,” Turack said.

Mario Guzzo is a freelance writer.

Copyright © 2016 — Tribune-Review (

Pittsburgh region’s ‘brand has never been better’

| Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2016, 11:40 p.m.

Dennis Yablonsky, CEO of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development, said he got to do the “fun part” of his job Tuesday: promote economic gains of the 10-county region that includes the Alle-Kiski Valley.

“All over, our brand has never been better,” said Yablonsky, who was the keynote speaker at an economic development workshop Tuesday sponsored by the Alle Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce at the Quality Inn in New Kensington.

“We’re the most livable city, the best place for recent grads, among the 20 best places to visit worldwide, the third happiest in the country and No. 1 in bars per capita — the last two of which could be connected,” he quipped.

And just as Pittsburgh turned its red light district into its cultural district, Alle Kiski Valley communities have the potential to transform themselves into more vital entities with strong growth, Yablonsky suggested.

“It took a long time to get us here and it was a systematic effort,” Yablonsky said.

The event’s other sessions included presentations on how to launch “buy local” campaigns, improve transportation and access business funding.

Jim Struzzi, Indiana County Chamber of Commerce president, said volunteers from within the community were an integral part of a revitalization effort called Try Indiana County.

“You have to have people who step up and take leadership roles and let their voice be heard,” Struzzi said.

Personnel from Allegheny, Westmoreland and Armstrong counties touted the grant and loan funding available in each entity for businesses.

Entrepreneur Phillip Rhoades said he is glad his nascent Tarentum event venue is in Allegheny County, which seemed to offer the most access to various funding sources.

“This event seemed to offer a bird’s-eye view of different programs we can tap into,” Rhoades said, noting his company, The Clement, is located in the old St. Clement Church and school. He is seeking funding for renovations and startup costs.

But Michael Coonley, executive director of Armstrong County’s economic development department, warned that although money is out there, it may be in the form of low-interest loans, rather than grants.

“If it’s public money, it’s not going to be easy to use,” Coonley said. “But we have people who will help you through the hurdles and maneuver through the system.”

Samuele Bozzolla, Allegheny County project manager, said the counties may compete to land businesses, but do so in a position of cooperation.

“I call it coopatition,” Bozzolla said. “We all want to win, but we do work well together. Call us and we’ll plug you in somewhere.”

Marilee Kessler, chairwoman of the organizing committee for the resurrected Vandergrift Improvement Program, which is seeking to boost the borough, was glad she came with fellow VIP volunteers. Among other things, they are planning a Pokemon pumpkin party and parade at 5 p.m. Oct. 28.

“There were so many opportunities to learn about already implemented things available to us in Vandergrift where we’re on the verge of making a real revitalization effort,” Kessler said.

More than 50 people from around the A-K Valley attended the workshop, which chamber executive director Colleen Felentzer said won’t be the last of its kind.

“My goal was to get more of this type of program out to benefit the community,” Felentzer said. “It seems well-received, so we plan on doing this again.”

Maria Guzzo is a freelance writer.

Copyright © 2016 — Tribune-Review (

Program encourages business leadership education


While revitalization projects for communities are ever present, the PA-Leadership Alle Kiski Valleyorganization (LAKV) is looking to revitalize the community by focusing on educating community members themselves in hopes of helping them obtain leadership qualities and positions.

“Our mission is to be growing tomorrow’s leaders today,” explained Communications professional Chad McCutcheon. “We are looking to have a positive effect on the valley by creating future leaders in business through a leadership program.”

Sponsored by the Alle-Kiski Strong Chamber, this is LAKV’s 25th year of serving the community.

LAKV provides a nine-month program that focuses on leadership skill building, business networking, and community service programs. With emphasis on creating community leaders in business, the LAKV seeks to assist community members in informing them of regional issues, networking, and promoting and developing more extensive levels of community activity and awareness.

“The program is geared towards people who are in entry level to mid-level positions in companies who want to expand their own business or community profiles,” saidMc- Cutcheon. “We encourage people with those attributes to apply for this program. They’ll leave with a well rounded synopsis of what it is like to be in a leadership role.”

Those interested in the program are required to submit their application by Sept. 15. The cost of the program is $1,200 and includes a retreat, meals, and session materials.

“We don’t really turn away any applicants, but we look at the applications in order to consider what everyone’s goals are,” said Mc- Cutcheon. “The cost of this program is right on par when compared to some leadership programs. Compared to others, it’s quite a deal.”

This year’s program will run from October to June, kicking off with a retreat at the Ligonier Camp and Conference Center. The class will meet once a month at a different location each time, and have a different focus each session.

The topics of focus will vary from culture and community life, education, healthcare, government, law and justice, economic development, human services, marketing and fundraising.

“We’ll have speakers come in for every session and they lead the meetings,” explained McCutcheon. “We do this in order to have community members who are already in business leadership positions explain their own duties, and roles in their communities.”

According to McCutcheon, the program also requires participants to keep a monthly blog on the sessions, as well as shadow or observe a nonprofit board. The class will also be required to create, and coordinate a fundraiser in order to test their leadership.

Along with getting things started for this year’s program, and celebrating their 25 years, the LAKV also just brought Michele Pastrick on board as the new Program Manager.

“Michele has been a breath of fresh air,” said McCutcheon. “She has exciting ideas on how to guide the program in the future. We’re excited to have her leading, though we offer our thanks to our previous director Diane who kept us focused.”

“I like having the knowledge that the efforts I’m making are creating better opportunities to the citizens of the valley, and strengthening the region,” said McCutcheon. “The more education we provide, the more respected leaders we’ll have, and the stronger the community can be. Seeing working people seek to improve themselves and make the region stronger is really what makes me smile.”

Applications can be found online at Details or questions on how to apply can be directed to LAKV Program Manager Michele Pastrick at 724-681-4109.

Sponsorships are accepted on various tiers ranging from $100-750. In celebration of the PA-Leadership Alle-Kiski Valley’s 25th year, they are asking for alumni or personal donations in the amount of $25.

Sarah Steighner is a staff writer for the Leader Times. She can be reached at 724-543- 1303, ext. 1337

Alle Kiski Strong Chamber provides community with opportunities for growth


In 2014, the Allegheny Valley, Armstrong, and StrongLand Chambers became one organization, the Alle-Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce (AKS). Since the merger, AKS has persistently continued to provide services and programs to help benefit local communities, businesses, and individuals.

“You need strong communities to allow businesses to thrive, and you need strong businesses to allow the community to thrive,” explained Executive Director Colleen Felentzer. “We offer great networking opportunities, as well as events with strong educational emphasis, and even legislative representatives.”

The Alle-Kiski Strong Chamber serves 70 municipalities including all of Armstrong County and parts of Allegheny Valley and Westmoreland County.

The AKS has over 480 members and sponsors that they host or partner with in order to organize numerous year-long events, activities, and programs.

While many events are open to the public, some are exclusive to members. Membership to the Alle-Kiski Strong Chambers provides sponsors with training, education, referrals, legislative influence, and money saving discounts, as well as advertising, networking, and marketing opportunity benefits.

Membership price ranges from $100 for individuals, up to $1,500 for businesses with 501 or more employees. Membership prices in-between include $185 for one to 10 employees, $1,000 for financial institutions including all branches, $185 for nonprofit organizations, $250 for primary schools, and $500 for post secondary schools.

“The neat thing about our membership is that it’s very diverse,” said Felentzer. “We have something for all members whether they are municipalities, nonprofits, schools, colleges, small companies, or big companies. We offer great opportunities for the people to reach out and get those connections.”

Amongst the vast areas of community outreach that AKS participates in, they focus on networking, legislative advocacy, and educational areas of learning and participation.

“Everybody takes away something from each of our events,” said Felentzer. “However, our overall message is to help the region grow.”

Some of the recurring events that the Alle Kiski Strong Chambers is having this year include theConnections and Coffee series, as well as luncheon gatherings with local legislators.

“We hold a connections and coffee event whenever a business approaches us,” said Felentzer. “Members approach us if they want us to know about their shops or business. We provide the invites, and the business provides the coffee.”

These events are free but exclusive to chamber members. Members meet to network, pass out their business cards, and have the opportunity to discuss their business or organization.

Upcoming Connections and Coffee events include one at Method Automation Services in Arnold on Sept. 21, one at Zone 28 in Pittsburgh on Oct. 11, one at Consulate Health Care in Cheswick on Nov. 9, and one at Kafa Buna Coffee-Tea Shop in New Kensington on Dec. 6.

Alle-Kiski Strong Chamber’s legislative luncheons, however, are open to non chamber members. From 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at a cost of $30 per non chamber member, the public is welcome to attend these luncheons and engage with the community and legislators.

“These events are great because it allows the community to be up close and personal with the legislators, and give them a chance to voice their concerns,” explained Felentzer.

Upcoming legislative luncheons will be held on Oct. 5 at the Willowbrook Country Club with CongressmanKeith Rothfus, Oct. 27 at the Belmont Complex with Senator Don White, and Dec. 14 at Zone 28 with Senator Randy Vulakovich.

Also free and open to the public is an upcoming economic development workshop on Oct. 18 at the Quality Inn in New Kensington. According to Felentzer, the event will feature various speakers and touch upon topics such as county funding availability, tools for manufacturing companies, tools for small businesses, an “economic forecast,” and a segment on “helping you make your town a better place.”

“It’s really worth becoming a member for all of these opportunities,” explained Felentzer. “We want to see the community grow, and we want to be a part of helping move everyone forward.”

Sarah Steighner is a staff writer for the Leader Times. She can be reached at 724-543-1303, ext. 1337

Riverbration is back after 20-year hiatus

Riverbration committee member Jeffrey Williams of Manor Township reaches speeds of 65 mph in his modified racing boat on the Allegheny River near Kittanning on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Williams was trying out his boat in preparation for the August Riverbration boat races.

Riverbration committee member Jeffrey Williams of Manor Township reaches speeds of 65 mph in his modified racing boat on the Allegheny River near Kittanning on Saturday, Oct. 24, 2015. Williams was trying out his boat in preparation for the August Riverbration boat races.

Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2016, 3:06 p.m.

Speed-boat racing on the Allegheny River in Kittanning returns after a 20-year hiatus with Riverbration, from Aug. 19 to 21 at Riverfront Park in Kittanning.

When construction of Riverfront Park halted the annual boating event in 1996, the community felt the loss.

“The racing is back after 20 years,” says Jeff Williams, Riverbration committee member and co-race director for Three Rivers Outboard Racing Association. “Racing stopped when park renovations began, and somehow it was never revived.”

Williams, 65, of Manor Township travels the country participating in boat racing and will compete in two classes with speeds exceeding 65 mph.

And he can’t wait.

“I am most excited that this event is returning to Kittanning. This town has had racing off and on since the mid-1950s and to be able to revive what hopefully will be an annual event for many years to come is especially meaningful to me,” Williams says.

Showcasing APBA Power Boat Racing, the three-day event is the result of a collaborative effort between Hose, Hook & Ladder Company No. 1 in Kittanning and the Alle-Kiski Strong Chamber of Commerce.

It will be hosted by the Three Rivers Outboard Racing Association.

Kevin Kline has spearheaded the project and serves as assistant chief of the fire department. He credits the entire Kittanning community with volunteering and uniting to bring Riverbration back to Kittanning.

“I am pleased that all three Kittanning fire departments and Kittanning EMS will be working toward the success of the event as well as the Kittanning police and public works department,” Kline says. “The event is extremely important as it gives (Kittanning) and our park the spotlight for the weekend and allows people to gather and enjoy themselves without breaking the bank.”

Volunteers have worked for months cleaning and prepping the riverbank in anticipation of Riverbration.

The closed-race river course runs about three-quarters of a mile and is situated in front of the amphitheater. Racing is prohibited around the Kittanning Citizens Bridge because of safety and security regulations.

“We will be racing American Power Boat-sanctioned hydroplanes and runabouts, many different sizes of boats and motors on a course in front of the park,” Williams says. “The racing hydroplanes and runabouts have outboard motors sizes from 9.9 HP to 50 HP.”

Optimal recommended viewing locations for spectators are the boat launch area and the amphitheater. Top speeds expected during some races will exceed 80 mph, says Williams, a 36-year veteran boat racer.

Newcomers watching from the riverbank can expect fast-paced racing, loud engines and a high level of excitement, Kline says.

Lynda Pozzuto, Alle-Kiski Strong Chamber vice president of events, estimates about 40 vendors and entertainers will dot the riverbank and spread throughout the park while the boats are in the water.

“Newcomers should be aware that they need only bring a chair to the park because there will be plenty of food and merchandise vendors to check out,” Kline says.

Food will include pizza, pulled pork, shaved ice, walking tacos, barbecue chicken, a beer tent, hamburgers and hotdogs and ice cream.

The live entertainment Aug. 19 will feature Damon Dash and Mary Lou Scherder playing acoustic guitar beginning at 7 and 8 p.m.

A lighted boat parade Aug. 20 will begin at 9 p.m. coinciding with a performance by the Free Peanuts Band.

A kayak race will be at 6 p.m. Aug. 21. This single race is open to all ages, and the course will be from the bridge to the amphitheater and back to the bridge. Cost is $20, with the winner taking all, Pozzuto says.

The second annual K-9 Kruise-Aid car show, sponsored by the Armstrong County Sheriff’s Department, will begin at 11 a.m. Aug. 21. Registration will start at 11 a.m. along South Water Street. A $5 suggested donation will benefit the K-9 fund.

“In the past, the boat races were something families looked forward to each August,” Pozzuto says. “It was a time of fun, excitement and community working together. With Riverbration, we are bringing that excitement back and showing what can be accomplished if we work together. “

Joyce Hanz is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.


When: Aug. 19-21, events all day

Admission: Free

Where: Kittanning Riverfront Park, North Water Street

Details: 724-224-3400 or

Armstrong Habitat for Humanity – Program Manager


This one-year VISTA position will oversee volunteer recruitment development for Armstrong Habitat for Humanity and will work to collaborate with other community partners in the Kittanning area to develop a three-year program for Wick City Neighborhood Revitalization. Throughout this project, the Program Manager will coordinate with volunteers and communicate with community partners and project sponsors to help refurbish, repair, and convert multiple low income properties into safe owner-occupied homes in the Wick City neighborhood of Kittanning Borough. The project also includes the creation of new planting areas, the installation of wheelchair accessible ramps, and sidewalk repairs to portions of Wick City.

If you are self-motivated, outgoing, possess strong organization and communication skills for community outreach programs – then we encourage you to apply. We welcome veterans, new graduates and those seeking a career change.

VISTA provides the perfect opportunity to network, gain valuable professional development and training, and is a good interim position for those who are interested in careers within the fields of community development, marketing and non-profits.

Program Benefits: Stipend, training, choice of Education Award or End of Service stipend, mileage reimbursement.

Program Start Date: 09/6/2016 – 09/6/2017

Work Schedule: Full Time.

Age Requirements: 18 or older.

Contact: Please send cover letter and resume to Michael McElhaney at

Allegheny Valley Hospital Seeking Patient Attendants

Allegheny Valley Hospital is seeking applicants interested in working as patient attendants. Patient attendants provide one-to-one observation of patients who may be confused or otherwise in need of someone to help keep them safe and comfortable. Candidates must have BLS/CPR certification. Hours are casual and arranged on an as needed basis.

If you or someone you know is interested, have them apply on line at

Highlands Middle School Receives National Designation


Congratulations chamber member Highlands Middle School for your “Schools to Watch” designation, and thank you for inviting the Alle Kiski Strong Chamber to your ceremony/celebration.

Schools to Watch® is an initiative launched by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform in 1999.

Through the Schools to Watch® initiative, the National Forum identifies schools across the United States that are well on their way to meeting the Forum’s criteria for high performance including academic excellence, developmentally responsive and socially equitable.