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New Middletown business group meets, wants your direction on moving forward

By Dan Miller

danmiller@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 3/7/18

Middletown’s new business association got off to a good start Monday night, with about 30 people attending the association’s inaugural meeting at Alfred’s Victorian restaurant. …

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New Middletown business group meets, wants your direction on moving forward

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Middletown’s new business association got off to a good start Monday night, with about 30 people attending the association’s inaugural meeting at Alfred’s Victorian restaurant.

The Middletown Business Association is now accepting members, with dues for the first year set at $75 for a company and $50 for individuals and nonprofit organizations.

The first five members signing up are the new association’s interim board of directors: Press & Journal Publisher Joe Sukle, Carol Kupp of Kuppy’s Diner, former borough councilor and current planning commission member Scott Sites, Alfred’s Victorian owner Robin Pellegrini, and Scott Miller, deputy director of business development and strategic marketing for Harrisburg International Airport.

Several board members attending the meeting stressed that what the new association is — and is to become — is up to people like those who showed up for the inaugural session.

“It’s your organization,” Pellegrini said. “We need you to come to us and say what you want the group to do. It’s up to you. Help us move (the association) forward. Let us know what you want to do.”

The next step is for the association to start brainstorming to decide what projects the organization should undertake.

That process is to begin with the association’s next meeting, a networking session set for 5 to 7 p.m. Monday, April 2, at the Black Horse Tavern, 101 E. Main St.

“Come with an idea,” Miller urged the group.

Miller and the other board members also emphasized that they see their own role as board members as being temporary, just to get the new association up and running. The objective is for a permanent board of directors to be chosen by the membership of the new association.

Going forward, the association plans to meet each month, with the meetings to be held at a different business in Middletown as a way to “give back to the community,” Sites said.

The association has a Facebook page (search for Middletown (17057) Business Association). A website is likely, but the new group wants to be up and running first, Sites said.

Sites in his remarks spoke of the need to capitalize on the economic development taking place just outside of Middletown along the Route 230 corridor, including the new hotels being built on HIA and next to the Linden Centre shopping center.

In Middletown itself, the long-planned development of Woodland Hills with its proposed 440 new housing units is finally coming to fruition, Sites added.

Kupp talked of the momentum Kuppy’s and other businesses in Middletown have been experiencing, with the growth of events in the town like Mayoral Madness, the Labor Day fireworks, the craft show in Hoffer Park in June, the Kuppy’s Cruise-In, and the downtown Christmas tree lighting. There’s talk of bringing back a New Year’s Eve event.

“It’s a good time to be involved in the town and in the business association,” Kupp said.

Among those coming to the event were people with a long-established business presence in Middletown, and newcomers who want to be part of what is happening.

Dr. Gregory Anoia, an optometrist, has had his practice at 120 W. Water St. since 2001. He’s seen what he views as a lot of changes for the better in Middletown just since then, especially regarding economic development in the western end of town.

A warehouse has been torn down to make room for the new Amtrak train station to be located along West Main Street. Across the road an entire new development for Penn State Harrisburg students has sprung up.

A new business association forming is a good sign for what’s to come, Anoia added.

“There’s a lot of ideas and a lot of energy. I think that bodes well for the economic future of Middletown,” he said.

One of the newcomers was Kathleen Frascona-Gonzalez, who moved to this area from Florida because her son wanted to go to Hershey High School.

An agent with New York Life, she likes what she has seen of the area so far and she sees the potential for a lot more.

“I would love to see this association breathe some more life into businesses and the community,” Frascona-Gonzalez said.

Rachel Marcus, the new branch manager of M&T Bank on South Union Street, came to the inaugural meeting to get to know and “connect” with business owners in Middletown.

The hope is to “build Middletown and liven it up” for the benefit of all, Marcus said.

With about 5,000 students already here and the campus continuing to grow, Penn State Harrisburg is viewed as key to the Middletown area’s future economic development.

Representing Penn State Harrisburg at the inaugural meeting was Katy Rush, director of career services at the campus; and Michael Melnyk, director of the student engagement office.

Each year during the first week of school, Penn State holds a “Welcome Week” to familiarize new students with what their new environment has to offer, both on campus and off-campus.

Penn State Harrisburg wants to “collaborate” with the new association to make the Middletown area business community more a part of the annual Welcome Week, Rush said.

For starters, that could mean bringing the students to businesses in the borough’s downtown, or bringing representatives of the businesses on campus.

“I hope over time we find (more) that we can build upon,” Rush said. “There’s definitely room for growth. That’s where this new relationship could be exciting.”