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Can we take advantage of business opportunities?: Editorial

Posted 3/14/18
We appreciate the aims of the new Middletown Business Association, which had its first meeting recently with about 30 people in attendance at Alfred’s Victorian restaurant. There is no …

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Can we take advantage of business opportunities?: Editorial

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We appreciate the aims of the new Middletown Business Association, which had its first meeting recently with about 30 people in attendance at Alfred’s Victorian restaurant.

There is no economic development engine that drives business matters in Middletown or the surrounding area, so any group with a goal of helping that endeavor is welcomed by us.

We realize that this group likely won’t be as strong as a full-fledged Chamber of Commerce, but even small steps would be a help.

We can’t help but think, again, about the opportunity afforded the area by the opening of two hotels in Lower Swatara Township this year. One will be connected to the airport. One is just across the road.

They are, of course, catering to the airport crowd. Will that crowd be likely to want to leave their little cocoon and venture into Middletown? It would be less likely, we would guess, for those in the Fairfield Inn & Suites that will be connected to the airport. But for those staying at the Comfort Inn & Suites, where you will be able to see the “skyline” of Middletown more readily, it might be a possibility.

Should a goal of the business association be to strongly target the new hotels to drive business into the borough? We think it’s worth a shot.

Remember, the other clientele at these hotels likely will be parents of Penn State students. These parents might be here multiple times over the course of four years. If they come into the borough once, it could build brand loyalty to last over those years.

But they will only build loyalty if there is something to draw them in to the borough.

The Tattered Flag Brewery & Still Works certainly fills that bill. Restaurants such as Kuppy’s, the Brownstone Cafe and Alfred’s Victorian have the ability as well, for their unique and attractive qualities.

But it would be great if Middletown had more — more variety, more options. It goes back to the discussion regarding what Middletown “needs.” What visitors need out of Middletown isn’t always what residents might need. Do residents need a coffee shop? Maybe not. But those staying at the hotels might come for one, as well as Penn State students. Do residents need a bike shop? Maybe not, but it might draw those same students who use bikes to get around.

The Middletown Business Association wants those who attended the inaugural meeting to drive where the group goes. That works for now. We hope those who attended follow that lead.

We also hope that the resignation of Diana McGlone doesn’t mean the end of the residential loan program she spearheaded.

Under the concept McGlone laid out, loans from $2,000 to $10,000 would be made available through the borough to residential property owners in Middletown, both for owner-occupied and rental properties. Loans could also eventually be made available to small-business owners.

The borough has $436,000 available to start the program. The money is from a state grant the borough provided to a developer to build Woodlayne Court apartments on Wilson Street. The developer repaid the grant to the borough in 2013.

While we are all for the residential loans, we don’t want to slight the potential of some small-business loans as well. It might be enough to sweeten the pot to get something rolling.

For now, let’s see where those who attended the first meeting take this new business association.