SUN Tech students to get training for pipeline, bridge work

Daily Item | October 3, 2015 By: Marcia Moore

SELINSGROVE — Some SUN Area Technical Institute students will travel Monday to a training center in Lebanon to learn how to work on a pipeline or build a bridge.

Up to 3,000 new jobs will be needed to support the building of the Central Susquehanna Valley Thruway, the Sunbury Pipeline and the Hummel Station power plant, and Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce CEO and President Bob Garrett hopes to fill them with local skilled labor.

“These three new projects are a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for this area,” he said.

Putting to work the local unemployed, underemployed and people who have left the area for jobs is Garrett’s goal, along with luring new industry to the area.

“We don’t want a boom-to-bust situation,” he said. “If people get the technical skills, they can transfer them to the next job.”

About 60 people will take Monday’s bus trip to the Keystone Mountain Lake Regional Council of Carpenters training center under the sponsorship of the chamber. It’s one of what Garrett hopes will be several visits for vo-tech students, area school guidance counselors and local entrepreneurs to learn about the money-making opportunities in their backyard.

Work on the 4,545-foot, four-lane bridge connecting Route 15 south of Winfield to Route 147 south of Montandon could begin as early as November. The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation review of the $155.6 million construction bid submitted by Trumbull Corp., of Pittsburgh, should be finished by the end of next week, spokesman David Thompson said.

The thruway project alone will require up to 1,500 to 2,000 construction and support workers every year over the next nine years, he said.

UGI Energy Services’ proposed $150 million, 35-mile natural gas pipeline from eastern Lycoming County to the proposed Hummel Station power plant, located on a 200-acre site along the Susquehanna River in Shamokin Dam, is scheduled to begin next year.

Jim Barbarich, president of the M-C Federal Credit Union in Danville and past chamber president, created a conceptual economic opportunity impact map identifying areas to be tapped as the three projects are brought to life.

“The development by UGI of the pipeline to feed what will be one of the largest producing gas-powered plants in the U.S. will open up that KOZ industrial area,” he said.

“Industries look for these pockets of investments, and we can’t let anything go, big or small,” Barbarich said.

To benefit from the potential economic opportunities, municipalities have to invest in their own infrastructure and make sure roads are maintained, there is adequate sewer and water capacity and high-speed Internet is available, he said.

Housing is another area that will benefit from the construction projects.

The Bowen Agency has already started getting calls from executives looking for homes, and broker Art Bowen said the demand from an influx of laborers could drive up rental costs.

To handle the expected rising demand for housing in Snyder, Union and western Northumberland counties, the agency has hired a second, full-time rental agent, he said.

In Shamokin, retired broker and developer Joe Bressi doesn’t anticipate the Coal Region will see much economic stimulation from the thruway or pipeline construction.

But there is major economic growth potential in the Northumberland County Anthracite Outdoor Adventure Area, a 6,500-acre motorized and non-motorized recreation facility in West Cameron Township.

Bressi, who is developing a campground on a 123-acre lot adjacent to the park, said the facility has the potential to revitalize the economy by bringing national tournaments and thousands of participants and tourists to the area.

“People from Sunbury, Selinsgrove and Shamokin Dam have no idea what’s going on here and vice versa,” he said.