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Johnstown mayor lauds growing businesses

Says administration has a handle on blight issues

Johnstown Mayor Vern Jackson delivers his "State of the City" address Tuesday night at City Hall. (The Leader-Herald/Michael Anich)

JOHNSTOWN — The mayor lauded growing Johnstown business activity, while insisting his administration has a handle on blight, during his annual “State of the City” speech Tuesday night at City Hall.

Mayor Vern Jackson’s address kicked off the Common Council’s monthly business meeting.

“We will continue to keep moving forward and keep Johnstown a great city in which to live and work,” the mayor stated.

Jackson said that as 2020 starts in the city, he was “optimistic” the year will be just as good as 2019. He said the city’s revenue was up last year, but expenditures were also up, albeit the city “still finished ahead.”

“Because of this and the excellent work done by our department heads, and especially our city treasurer, we were able to present and approve the 2020 budget with no increase in the property tax rate,” Jackson said. “Thank you all.”

Jackson said it is apparent downtown Johnstown is undergoing what he termed a “revitalization.”

He mentioned several businesses during his speech, including West Main Street’s Toying Around. He noted that business’ annual Comic Con Superhero Block Party draws crowds to downtown, with many people from out of town. The mayor noted the Johnstown Downtown Business Association is becoming a “major player” arranging downtown activities, such as the Harry Potter Birthday Party celebration and assistance for the annual Johnstown Holiday Parade and Colonial Stroll. He said that December event is “most enjoyable” and draws huge crowds to the city.

Jackson also mentioned that in the “major business” areas of the city, Johnstown is seeing progress.

“Townsend Leather completed the total renovation of the former Diana Knit building, renaming it ‘The Stitch,'” Jackson said. “This was a multi-million dollar project and is now in full operation and also added 15-20 jobs.”

Palatine Dairy on Route 30A is continuing work to complete a makeover of the former Spray Nine building, he said.

“I have received word that the proposed La Cocina Restaurant has been approved for a Microenterprise Grant and should be open on Main Street later this year,” he said.

For that grant, Jackson acknowledged and thanked Ronald Peters, president and CEO of the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth, who was in attendance.

“Second Wind Coffee Shop is approaching its one-year anniversary and continues to draw many people downtown,” Jackson continued. “We also have a new hair salon on North Perry Street, a Mexican restaurant on North Market Street, as well as a new fitness center on Main Street. Everybody is aware that Peebles is leaving the [Johnstown] Mall. I have spoken to representatives from Space Store Inc. who own Peebles and they informed me that they will be opening a new retail store named Gordmans in the space.”

Jackson said Gordmans, which is hiring, will conduct a ribbon cutting ceremony at 9 a.m. Feb. 18.

Elsewhere in his address, the mayor recounted how in 2019 in conjunction with both the Downtown Business Association and the CRG, a joint, “successful” business symposium was held in the city.

“The event drew 25 individuals coming to start a new business in and around the city,” Jackson said.

Addressing blight, Jackson said, is still a priority in the city. He said some feel the city is “lagging” in addressing blight, but that is totally untrue. He said 2019 saw the number of city Department of Public Works employees decline by five due to retirements.

“Obviously, these were a group of our most experienced workers,” Jackson said. “With less staff, many work assignments were deferred to concentrate on the priority projects facing the city.”

But Jackson said blight complaints were still addressed and many issues resolved.

“As issues clear, there are always new ones being added,” Jackson said. “We are in the process of replacing the lost employees, but it takes time. Despite this, I have directed the proper city departments to commence a proactive effort to deal with this.”

Those attending the council session gave Jackson an ovation following the address.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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