Calling all entrepreneurs. A renaissance is afoot in Southwestern Pennsylvania. It is going to change the way we do business in Washington, Westmoreland, Fayette and Greene counties.

And the industrial Mid Mon Valley is going to lead the way. You seem skeptical. It’s the Mid Mon Valley thing, right? I understand. After all, the Mon Valley is nothing but a bunch of destressed communities living in the 1960s that have never been able to come together on anything.

Well, to quote football analyst Lee Corso: “Not so fast, my friends.”

Perhaps we have forgotten that long before Southpointe, there was the Mon Valley. We were gritty and covered in soot, but we were there doing the hard work. We made steel and glass, and we were the center of commerce in the region. The downtown business districts in Charleroi, Donora and Monessen provided all the goods and services we needed. Oh, by the way, Frank Mascara, who is widely recognized as the “Father of Southpointe,” hailed from the Mon Valley.

The point is, we knew business then and we haven’t forgotten. We still have a lot going for us, not the least of which is a nearly perfect geographic location. With our most valuable asset, the Monongahela River, complemented by Interstate 70 and an interstate rail system, the Mon Valley has the intermodal infrastructure necessary for manufacturers to efficiently move their goods to market.

And the market? I’m glad you asked. Place an X on the map where the interstate crosses the river and railroad tracks and you will be within a day’s drive of 50% of the population of the United States.

Wait, there’s more. We have an abundant resource that you may have heard about – natural gas. It is the feedstock necessary to drive that manufacturing production and we are very close to a lot of that. So, all you entrepreneurs, pay attention. Regardless of your product or service, we have space for you in commercial and industrial buildings, or brownfield and greenfield sites. We have them they are very affordable.

We still have very good bones in our communities in the Valley. And we are finally investing in us. As a result, there is much is happening in the Valley in the critical areas of job creation and training, industrial site development, infrastructure upgrades, sustainability, community development, tourism, parks and recreation, commercial and residential blight remediation.

We are about to undertake a marketing effort to show who we are, beyond the outdated perceptions, and highlight the seeds of revitalization that are taking hold. Many people still think of the Valley as reeling from the steel industry collapse. But that renaissance is taking hold and the people we most need to believe in us are starting to see it. Again, that would be us. We go to Charleroi, Monongahela and North Belle Vernon and see we still have walkable business districts, with local entrepreneurs offering the same quality goods and services as they did yesterday.

We go to Donora and Monessen and see we still have work to do. But where we once saw dark and dreary, we now see a bright future because we know what those bones can become. The thing is, we finally realized that even though we were knocked down, we were never counted out. We are investing in ourselves and others are investing in us. The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the Valley. We are proud to offer low costs, variety of selection and quality of service.

You will feel it when you walk into the River House on McKean Avenue in Charleroi and order a Stoney’s beer. It’s on full display down the street in Perked Up Café. And the Washington County Local Share Review Committee sees it too. We, in the Mon Valley, appreciate the consideration given to our projects. Because without that consideration and the LSA investment, this renaissance may never have happened.

Jamie Protin is founder and principal of The Protin Group in Belle Vernon.

To submit business-related columns, email Rick Shrum at rshrum@observer-reporter.com.

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