Notes on the state of things

Notes on the state of things

There’s much anticipation surrounding news (first reported by the Post-Gazette’s Mark Belko) that a $2 million land deal could, as he writes, “spark the first development along the new Southern Beltway in Washington County.”

As the P-G reports it, Imperial Land Corp. has sold a 20-acre tract on Fort Cherry Road in Robinson Township to the Burns Scalo Real Estate firm, which intends to use the land to erect a 200,000-square-foot industrial building.

“This is the next frontier. This is where you’re going to see tremendous growth,” Burns Scalo president and CEO James Scalo predicted to Belko.

The tract is off the Midway exit of the recently completed 13-mile beltway, which runs along the Allegheny-Washington County border between Route 22 and Interstate 79 near Canonsburg. A previously completed part of the same toll highway connects to Pittsburgh International Airport.

But hold the trumpets. At least for now. As of this writing, there’s no signed tenant for this prospective industrial building. And Burns Scalo is trying to determine if it will go ahead with the construction on spec, in hopes of attracting a tenant, always a riskier way to go.

All this said, we hope there’s no public money being pledged to this speculative venture. In seeking great private rewards, it’s up to the developer to risk its own resources.

Should any government entity be thinking otherwise, well, it should think otherwise.

From the Allegheny Institute email inbox:

Denny Bonavita of Brookville writes that he read with interest our commentary about Pennsylvania Turnpike tolls in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star:

“I disagree with this statement: ‘The state Legislature created this mess and should take steps to remedy the situation,’ Frank Gamrat, the executive director of the free market-favoring Allegheny Institute for Public Policy, said.

“While the statement quotes Mr. Gamrat accurately, it should have been incumbent upon the author of the story to point out that the Legislature created the mess at the bidding of Fast Eddie Rendell, then the governor of Pennsylvania. It was Rendell’s scheme to avoid increasing taxes.

“In addition, I do not feel that the steps cited in the article would meaningfully reduce the catastrophic debt of the Turnpike Commission. The only action that will do so is for the state government to assume the debt — which, of course, would be political suicide for any executive or legislator to propose.”

As Gamrat, a Ph.D. economist notes in response:

“He’s not wrong — Rendell did pressure the Legislature to do it. But, in the end, it pulled the trigger with Act 44.”

Additionally, says Gamrat, “I don’t believe that the steps I suggested – getting control of mass-transit costs and instituting a registration fee for electric and hybrid vehicles that skirt the gasoline taxes — would eliminate the debt entirely.

“But it would be a help.  Something needs to be done to alleviate the ever-increasing toll increases that face all Pennsylvanians.”

Thanks for your letter, Denny.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (